#JeSuisMilo: When Right-Wingers Became Every Social Justice Warrior Stereotype (Updated)
Back in January, on an otherwise quiet day, Twitter decided to remove the blue check mark denoting verified status from self-labeled Right-wing “journalist” Milo Yiannopoulos’s account (some have suggested that it’s for a tweet where he expressing no remorse for the victim of his latest harassment campaign, though Twitter won’t say). When proven harassment can get an account suspended or banned, losing a check mark — a largely meaningless privilege — isn’t that noteworthy. Yet Yiannopoulos took this as no less than censorship and ideological warfare, arguing that he was being targeted as a Right-wing voice. From the moment he and his followers took this stance, everything went downhill, as they began to turn into every strawman the Right wing has ever accused their enemy species — the notorious “SJW,” a label applied to just about anyone with a progressive agenda — of being guilty of. Starting with…
Anita’s Whining has Reached New Heights (The Ralph Retort)
If you’ve been following Gamergate, you might be familiar with the argument that victims of harassment are just whining, or are over dramatic about nothing. This isn’t exactly fair when targets are faced with hundreds of death and rape threats, or even have their home addresses posted online. So the accusation that “social justice warriors” are being whiny about nothing is a little murky in its truthfulness. On the other hand…
First, losing a check mark was an issue of free speech:
Next, fans began to popularize #JeSuisMilo, suggesting somehow that losing a meaningless privilege due to misbehaviour is akin to getting gunned down by terrorists. Rather than condemning this, Milo chose to retweet them.
Lastly, just in case you thought Milo and fans couldn’t go any further into self-parody, a White House Petition was set up… to have Milo’s little blue dot returned to him. But as much as he begged and pleaded on Twitter, this did not quite work out.
Throwing Actually Oppressed Groups Under the Bus
Again, if you’ve been following Gamergate, you might also be aware of #NotYourShield, a hashtag used by women and minorities who feel that they’re being used in the SJW agenda of increasing diversity in gaming. Ashley Lynch has a good take on this, so I won’t go into too much detail here, but the fact is that the few people from disadvantaged groups who don’t need diversity in their content don’t outweigh the very many who do.
Alternatively, you may or may not have noticed the many accusations that American Liberals are just screaming racism when Obama gets attacked in the media so they can distract us from his actual failings.
Anytime you see Milo or Right-wing allies talk about Milo getting unverified, you can bet it will turn into a story about Twitter attacking him for being proudly gay, because of their secret homophobia. Or attacking him as a conservative because of their secret Left-wing agenda (a popular tactic of internet harassers: “I haven’t hurt anybody — they’re just censoring my free speech because they can’t handle someone disagreeing with them!!!).
But let’s focus on that first part. How’s Twitter’s secret agenda to eliminate the gays going? Well, no one from one list of the most popular gay people on Twitter has lost their verification (Alan Carr laughs in the face of verification, and declined to get it in the first place).
But what about Stephen Fry, who mysteriously left Twitter just this February? Is Twitter working in the darkness to make its service intolerable for gays? Then they may be shooting themselves in the foot by actively working with LGBT rights groups like GLAAD to deal with abuse. The fact is, Twitter has no motivation to cull entire groups off its platform when it’s tanking, with the one exception of harassers. Do you see where I’m going with this?
It’s no coincidence that the brave gay man being punished here is a serial harasser, and for all the queer-identifying people that aren’t being “attacked” by Twitter, it’s a travesty that he chooses to use their common membership as a shield — especially for those he personally trolls.
Taking Advantage of Dead People
If you can’t already tell from the heading, this section gets a little dark.
Back in July, famous SJW target Anita Sarkeesian got accused of taking advantage of the death of beloved Nintendo CEO, Satoru Iwata, as these tweets were shared around the internet:
For anyone not familiar with Sarkeesian’s work, she criticizes the gaming industry as a whole for promoting sexism — not even being sexist, but just perpetuating sexist ideas. She doesn’t even suggest that the industry is any worse than film, which she’s also critiqued.
So naturally, fans of hers exposed to these tweets recognized these for exactly what they were: fakes. For someone who doesn’t even single out any “guilty” parties in pop culture sexism, tweets where she outright villainizes someone to the point of celebrating their death are completely transparent. Even people on 4chan, where the “tweets” originated, people fully admitted that they were passing around a lie, but didn’t really seem to care since she would totally say something like it anyway.
No such real tweets have ever been shown as evidence of this.
Fast forward back to this January: Milo’s check mark has just been removed, and he’s in full tantrum mode. There were eventual claims that the whole incident was a victory for him because it gave him thousands of additional followers, but with the dignity he lost along the way, it might have been a wash:
Milo’s long been a champion of “feminism is cancer” rhetoric. So much so, that he sells the phrase on products:
In case you think Milo hit rock bottom with that last tweet, I assure you, it only got worse from there. Shortly after Bowie, we tragically lost Alan Rickman — known for his roles as Professor Snape in Harry Potter and Hans Gruber in the original Die Hard — to cancer. When Harry Potter co-star Emma Watson noted his stance as a feminist, there was a disappointing, but not terribly surprising uproar from the internet, accusing her of taking advantage of Rickman for her own agenda… by quoting him verbatim.
Naturally, in a desperate plea for attention, Milo used Rickman’s death just as he used Bowie’s:
I’m so sorry.
It didn’t quite end there, however. Anything he’d done up to this point could be justified as “for the attention.” He wasn’t actually furious about losing his check mark, or desperate to get it back — he was just putting on a show for the boost in fans and the many, many articles he would be paid to write on the subject. It’s not like he started the White House petition or #JeSuisMilo himself. He was just keeping up the hype, and hype is good for business, right?
But if he wasn’t fully invested before, he went all in this March by taking the issue of his imagined censorship to the White House press secretary.
Bringing up his lost check mark again as evidence of an anti-conservative agenda on Twitter, Milo asks the press secretary to acknowledge the role that private corporations have in free speech. Secretary John Earnest agrees that free speech is important for social networks, if only for their bottom line, and informs Milo that he can always take his issues to the courts if he feels his rights are being violated.
Strangely, as of yet, no court dates have been set. It’s unimaginable why, when Milo could expose Twitter’s alleged conspiracy, vindicating himself and becoming a hero to free speech advocates everywhere, and all he would have to do is allow for the most basic scrutiny of facts. Facts he insists are completely in his favour.
One more update, hopefully the last: After driving Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones off of Twitter with a campaign promoting racist, misogynistic harassment, the social network finally caved and banned him permanently.
Needless to say, this was met with Milo alternating between bragging about the situation and hurling threats at Twitter, and of course you can’t find a comment section on the issue without cries of “what about free speech” and “they’re censoring him because he’s gay/conservative!” (See the articles I’ve linked to.)
In any case, does this make Twitter some form of social media heroes? Not really. As we’ve seen, this isn’t new behaviour from Milo: he was dogpiling people this January, and he’s been accused of doing so since the early days of GamerGate. Milo isn’t the whole problem, either. Ijeoma Oluo, who’s long faced harassment, told the CBC that she isn’t congratulating Twitter for their actions, not only because this is long overdue —and only happening now because a celebrity got involved — but because this is only the beginning of tackling the larger issue of harassment, which has been largely ignored.
Even Milo himself understands that harassment on Twitter is an issue. In an article where he talks about his future, he criticizes the network of ignoring the harassment he’s received, giving no credit to writers like Oluo and others who have been raising the issue of Twitter’s indifference to harassment for years.
The biggest twist, however, is that no one would be more content with Milo’s permanent ban than himself — that is, himself from four years ago.
Back in 2012, Milo seemed to understand that no one is entitled to interacting with other people on the internet, even suggesting that websites should go to lengths to take the privilege away from those who abuse it, arguing ironically that they should verify user identities to hold them accountable for their actions, and even ban them, recognizing that many abusive users no longer care about their reputations. Do these actions sound familiar?
Maybe there’s still hope for Milo to change back to the kind of person he was four years ago. But maybe not, and he’s morphed into some form of Kardashian/shark superbeast, dying if he ever stops moving through the public consciousness — he is, after all, looking at turning this event into reality TV, or a movie. Maybe the best we can hope for is a continued stream of entertainment, as he inevitably takes his crisis of free speech to the United Nations.