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Portrait of the Artist as a Young Troll

By: Jeremy Carl
January 17, 2018

ilo Yiannopolous’s Dangerous is profane, crude, obnoxious and offensive.  Known simply as “Milo” to his legions of fans and detractors, the flamboyantly gay provocateur has been one of the right’s most controversial figures since his Breitbart debut. A hedonist who delights in “triggering” his opponents, Milo has gotten himself banned from numerous university campuses by angry leftists.

Yet despite the offensiveness and poor judgment often displayed by its author Dangerous has rewards for those who approach it with an open mind. Amidst the gratuitous name-calling and overactive ego, the book is often remarkably serious, with sharp political commentary and penetrating insights into leftist cultural hegemony. Readers who latch onto the book’s most offensive, outlandish quotes (in or out of context) will miss the forest for the trees.

Dangerous references Schopenhauer and Wittgenstein, Gramsci and Leo Strauss, Flannery O’Connor and Tocqueville. There’s even a substantive discussion of the differing ways Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine would have approached abortion politics. Love him or loathe him, those who find only lightweight trash in Milo’s writings probably reveal more about themselves than him.

Preeminently a provocateur, Milo’s “Dangerous Faggot” tour of university campuses (the progress of which he lovingly outlines in Dangerous) caused apoplexy in liberal circles and smoked out the mainstream left’s vast reservoirs of violence and intolerance. Before the latest outrages put anti-conservative violence on the mainstream map, Milo was aware of the left’s violence-enabling culture, having experienced it personally, and he encouraged an often-listless conservative movement to fight against it. In Dangerous he notes that “under the banner of ‘antiracism’ the left is bringing the actual tactics of fascists—armed political violence—to America’s streets.” Now even Nancy Pelosi criticizes Antifa.

It’s ironic that Dangerous is most prescient in its discussion of the alt-right. From the beginning, Milo understood the trap that Hillary Clinton set when she criticized the right’s fringe elements during a campaign speech in Reno. Trusting the liberal media to go where she lead, Hillary’s sweeping attack threw out the baby with the bathwater. She knew the media would highlight the alt-right’s most extreme adherents and use them to define the entire movement. Hillary was most successful in tying them to Richard Spencer, who was thrilled to provide media quotes claiming ownership of the grassroots political movement of right-wing activists, few of whom embraced his white nationalist agenda.

But Milo’s subsequent difficulties with the alt-right label were a testament to Hillary’s strategy’s effectiveness. When BuzzFeed released a stolen cache of Breitbart emails, they revealed Milo’s relatively close relationships with some of the movement’s more unsavory figures (and MSM’s close relationship with Milo). Hillary exploited Milo’s failure to keep appropriate distance between himself and his sources and to draw an unambiguous line between reporting, trolling, and advocacy. Calling Milo—a gay man with Jewish grandparents who recently married a black man--a Nazi is absurd, but Milo left himself vulnerable to such charges through his relentless desire to épater le bourgeois.

Perhaps because of this, Milo sees that Hillary’s comments—and the feckless conservative response—have created a score of political refugees from what was once known as the alt-right. Quite understandably, they eschew association with Spencer’s white nationalist ideology. Some of them embrace the “New Right” banner, but the left continues to use the old, weaponized labels, thus helping to marginalize some of the most effective voices against liberal cultural and political hegemony.

Dangerous also covers other hot-button topics. The chapter on Islam is brutally tough, though Milo is less concerned about Islam itself than the liberal hypocrisy surrounding it: “Every noble principle the left claims to uphold—from rights for women to gay liberation, even diversity itself, dies on the altar of its sycophantic defense of Islam.” He ruthlessly details leftist institutions’ cowardice in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, including shameless attacks on free speech from the New Yorker and PEN, the free speech organization for writers.  His bracing attack on Islamism joins with other gay, right wing, European dissidents such as Bruce Bawer,and Douglas Murray who have warned that Islam’s rise threatens their basic freedoms.

Dangerous is also light-years ahead of the establishment GOP in understanding the dangers of “big tech’s” leftist bent. Google, Facebook and Twitter’s censorship of right-wing sites now raises alarms even in mainstream quarters (new FCC chair Ajit Pai has particularly championed this issue) , but Milo, who began his journalistic career as a technology reporter, was far ahead of the game. Dangerous declares that “there is no greater danger to free expression and free speech today than the far-left biases of Silicon Valley”—while promoting a number of tactics by which conservative grassroots and legislators can keep the pressure on tech companies.

Milo similarly devastates the Black Lives Matter movement with a fusillade of facts, decrying the epidemic of black on black violence and correctly calling BLM “one of the most destructive movements in our country’s history” and quoting devastating statistics outlining problems with criminality and violence that have devastated the black community. When Milo, who frequently and impishly mentions his preference for black men, writes that “many of the most cherished people in my life are black men…because I love and respect them I believe they deserve truth, not lies”—it is an unexpectedly sincere and affecting moment in a book generally thick with ironic distance.

As one might gather from his often-outrageous theatrics, Milo’s fight with the establishment right is more style than substance. He attacks “debate club conservatives” for their excessive faith in the power of pure reason to move voters. But he also understands their value—a favor they have not often returned. As he notes: “No movement has ever survived with just moderates and intellectuals and no movement has ever survived with just hellraisers—If we want to win—we need both.”

Milo also understands Andrew Breitbart’s famous dictum that “politics is downstream of culture” acknowledging that “we can’t let the left continue to dominate culture entertainment and the norms of everyday language itself and expect to win elections” In a bizarre way, just as much as Pat Robertson was the conservative culture warrior of the 1980s, Milo is a right-wing culture warrior of the present moment, able to activate previously unreached audiences and draw them to conservative politics and policies. .

Narcissist, crude, libertine, troll: Milo would have to plead guilty—at least sometimes—to all these charges. But he fights, and in Dangerous he often fights effectively using tactics and arguments that are  wrongly ignored by the debate-club crowd.

While Milo should reflect on how his overactive ego, careless personal associations and relentless desire to shock and offend compromise his overall effectiveness, his harshest critics on the right ought to consider why he became so popular, particularly among younger conservatives. For all its author’s flaws, Dangerous is a reminder that the conservative movement must challenge liberalism with flair, style, substance and even occasional outrageousness if we want to retake the commanding heights of American politics—and American culture.