What The Left Can Learn from Milo
Bill Maher and Larry Wilmore played Milo like a fool at his own game — a lesson we need to remember throughout this Presidency.
Free speech is not free of consequences, and Milo is finally seeing them.
Two days ago, this draft was titled “How To Kill Milo.” But between the smackdown by Larry Wilmore on Real Time, the rescinded invitation from conservative forum CPAC, and the broken book deal Milo Yiannopoulos is getting what’s coming to him. Now that we’re not so afraid of Brietbart’s (former!) British Boogeyman, can we finally figure him out?
It hurts to say it, but we have a lot to learn from Milo Yiannopoulos. Because our oversized reactions to this two-bit, wanna-be pundit were exactly what he wanted from us. Every time we shut him out of a speech at a liberal institutions (which Milo carefully picked for maximum outrage), we handed him more followers. All the alt-right (and, eventually, the mainstream right) could do was LOLZ. Even worse, some people began to sympathize with the twiggy jackass.
Then, voila! Give the ass-clown a microphone and pit him against an intelligent, funny adversary in Larry Wilmore and suddenly the problem takes care of itself. Well, there is also the pedophilia thing — but this is what happens when you let an asshole run his mouth.
This isn’t some “Milo has a right to free speech argument.” I’m not saying we give him 5 minute on CNN. I’m saying we debate him and his ilk for 20 on HBO, or at your College Democrat’s meeting. Stop backing down from semi-intelligent Trump mouth-pieces and actually challenge them.I’m saying we do a little trolling ourselves. Let’s stop being outraged and tear this half-baked, click-bait philosophy to shreds in person, every time.
We’re feeding the trolls (the Troll-in-Chief included) because we keep forgetting that their food is our liberal outrage. That every time we use language as a shield for a real argument we piss off more uneducated white folks. Because we keep forgetting that there are logical, pragmatic arguments for equal sexual rights, open borders, and inclusive language. Larry Wilmore calmly dropping history on Milo is a lot more effective at shutting him up than telling him to do so.
When the devil walks into heaven, you don’t kick him out safe and sound. You rip him to shreds.
Let Him Speak, Then Speak Back:
Bill Maher may have fondled Milo’s softballs, but Larry Wilmore wasn’t having any of it — and he left Milo uncharacteristically silent by the end of Overtime. He crushed him, but only because he was willing to sit with him.
Not two months ago, the left was all in a tizzy to be tolerant of the Trump supporters who bested us. Every pundit and his mother was talking about “listening to these people,” finding empathy, and understanding where they come from. Yet when these voter’s most important voice agrees to speak at liberal academic institutions we closed our ears. So he goes home, rails about how liberal elites hate freedom of thought and opinion, and gains 100 more followers. Great job being empathetic, guys.
Do you see how that only makes him stronger? How it shuts out the same people liberals claim to “empathize for?” We still don’t actually want to listen to these people — we want them to shut the fuck up.
How are we going to change these peoples’ minds if we protest their key spokesperson? And before you answer, ask yourself what you know about Milo from other articles, and how much of his own words you’ve actually listened to? It’s not great listening, but Milo’s no idiot. And you need to know your enemy, especially if you want him to shut up.
So how do we make these professional, pundit-trolls shut up? By extension, how do we counter a reality-TV president using the same tactics on the debate stage? Yiannopoulos hijacked our ability to be obnoxious, intelligent, progressive debaters — a skill we perfected under Bush and desperately need back. Do you think Malcom X would turn down a chance to verbally smack a white nationalist punk? What about Noam Chomsky — one of the best liberal debaters of the 20th-21st centuries? Would he back down? David Cross — Tobias himself! — can even paint the way hilariously forward.
I’m not suggesting that we give this anemic Twinkie a platform to spew his hate from— I’m suggesting we sit on the same platform and shit all over it. We need to convince the people who love Milo that they’re not following a free-speech martyr but the gay lovechild of Borat and Bill O’Rielly.
Be Funnier than He Is:
Milo’s supporters are pimply Internet trolls & “conservative” Middle American workers ironically begging for a Trump-government handout. To reach them, he built a career as a nightmare version of the Redneck Comedy tour. Have you ever actually watched his speeches? They’re less intellectual diatribes than shitty stand-up shticks. He’s an outrage comic, like some political version of Jackass where he barfs on Jews instead of Steve-O. Exposing the trans-student in a speech wasn’t calculated hate, it was a last-ditch and poorly thought-out attempt at LOZ (and it fails, thank god). Just watch the rest of his “speech” — he was bombing until the protestors bailed him out.
The fun part about engaging a troll is that they give you leeway to insult them back. This returns me to an older post where I argued that the left needs to get its swagger back and stop treating people like this with anything other than contempt. This isn’t about empathy anymore, and I’m not saying we make fun of these racist, toady rednecks for pure “lulz.”
I’m arguing that we do it for the children.
Talk all you want about the older Trump voters who skewed the election, but they’re going to die soon. Good. The problem the left keeps ignoring is all the young people who support Trump, the very real contingent of Milo’s readership that loves him, shitty views and all, for the comedy. And we can’t pretend that Trump didn’t ride this exact same wave. The left’s senses of humor is hijacked, and we’re no longer the revolutionary punks and (sometimes) assholes that kids want to hang out with. Milo, on the backs of 4Chan, has taken our funny. He used the progressives left’s main tool — subversion of the old order, rebellion against norm, willingness to rile feathers — and fashioned into some sort of Ann Rand amateur night talent show. When people can consider 4Chan “the skeleton key to the rise of Trump,” maybe we should find a way approach that community on their terms.
Things you’re not allowed to say are funny. Pissing off grown-ups, especially over the internet, is funny. Especially for kids. Starting riots just because you want to speak somewhere is badass if you’re a frustrated teen.
We need to do the same thing, painting the alt-right as a bunch of impotent, stuck-in-the-50’s old assholes that no kid in his right mind would join up with. Milo kept occasional distance between himself and the racists, anti-semites, nationalists in his audience because he knew that it would drive away his core audience of young, internet-savvy hooligans. We need to expose him and his cohorts — we need to unmask this generation’s Dan Whitney.
Growing up in Georgia during the Bush administration, my entry into politics came from “F: The President” stickers, David Cross specials, and Rock Against Bush punk compilations. It came from calling a conservative kid “Republican Boy” until I got sent to the principal for it. It was about being funny and a bit of a dick when I knew I was right (still looking for those WMDs, Republican Boy!), because this riles people to action. Especially kids. They want heroes, so let’s not make them douche bags like Milo.
But the self-righteousness of the left, where we can’t even let a troll like Milo speak for fear he’ll outmaneuver us, has made conservationism (or what passes for it) the only way to be subversive. Milo even says so! We need to take that subversive spirit back from him, and the only way to do that is to confront the man and break him down. Expose him not as a revolutionary or even a racist, hitting him where it hurts instead — his LOLZ. You need to tell him to “go fuck himself,” a couple of times, to raucous laughter, until he spends the rest of the panel pouting on the sidelines.
Because Milo isn’t a revolutionary. We just keep making him out to be, propping him up as a martyr for right-wing supporters and impressionable kids who love a good lol. He’s just a neo-con, old-school, stuffy conservative of the morals-first variety. He’s a boring, regressive dickhead. Stop making him seem so cool by banning him. Let’s wipe the floor with him instead.
We need less trolls in public forums, yes. But we shouldn’t be afraid to troll these assholes back when they step into our arenas. Just like liberals are finally waking to the need for action instead of passive activism, we need to be verbally caustic when confronted. If they offer to come to a liberal institution, one where they really can’t do that much damage, we can’t cower in terror. We need to laugh at them.
Nick Geisler is a writer and filmmaker currently living in Los Angeles. You can see his work at NickGeisler.com. Please click the heart.