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It's time to end the hysteria surrounding Milo Yiannopoulos


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It's easy to develop an intense dislike for unnecessary and avoidable drama, which is too often ikept going only by the willingness of so many to indulge it.

For example, the furore over the assurance (or lack thereof) that EU citizens will not be deported en masse following the activation of Article 50. This should not be an issue; it has never been mooted or floated as a suggestion, except perhaps in the basement of some fat and cretinous votary of the BNP. The Prime Minister is against it, as are her party. UKIP is against it. The Labour party doesn’t need to be against it (though we can assume that they are) because they have made themselves irrelevant. The Home Office, which  took eight years to deport one particularly egregious criminal, couldn’t deport three million unremarkable EU citizens even if it wanted to. And the British people have demonstrated their passionate opposition to such a scenario, even though that scenario is fantastically unlikely.

This should be obvious, and obvious things shouldn’t need stating. The Prime Minister should no more have to assure us of it than remind us that water is wet, women exist and sweet potatoes are an abomination.

But we’ve all caught the hysteria now, and so every moment she delays is seen as evidence of a sinister and racist right-wing coup. Many people, ordinarily sane and clever, find themselves worrying about a development more subaqueous than the refloating of Atlantis. One wonders what these people will do when something bad actually happens. One almost wishes it would, out of curiosity.

Another transatlantic menace recently popped onto my TV screen: Milo Yiannopoulos, alleged ‘technology editor’ at Breitbart and bête noire of all things decent, appeared on Real Time with the eternally pointless Bill Maher on Friday.

I’d be quite happy if I’d never heard of Mr. Yiannopoulos. To this day I cannot think of a single positive quality he might be said to possess, and I long ago concluded (having done my bit to dissuade one or two good people who had been flirting with his fandom) that I would not allow his existence to take up any more of my time. Just another overrated bloviator making a pitch for prime-time, and we have more than enough of that sort.

This was a little more than two years ago. I vaguely recall hearing that he was ‘no-platformed’ at his alma mater here in the UK some months ago, but thought little of it. Many people have been ‘no-platformed’ of late, and I was more concerned by defending the principle of free speech (and some of the more decent victims of its violation) than with sticking up for specific non-entities.

You might imagine my surprise, then, when rampaging student ‘activists’ set fire to the campus of UC Berkeley earlier this month in an effort to stop Mr. Yiannopoulos giving a speech there. Somehow, in the two years since I first became aware of him, he has attained the label ‘dangerous’ and is ludicrously considered to be the vanguard of a new fascism.

So I decided to subject myself to Maher, and to stay tuned to the online-only ‘Overtime’ section that followed the programme. I wished to see for myself what this flamboyant man-child stood for, and what he could do, so better to judge for myself the threat he represents, and measure our reasons to be fearful. Was it, I wondered, time to update Susan Sontag’s famous formulation – “fascism with a human face” – for the alt-right age? Was Yiannopoulos, perhaps, the embodiment of “fascism with a pretty face?”

No, he’s not. By which I mean that he is not a fascist and he has not got a particularly pretty face.

But since that is the prevailing view, and though I appreciate the irony, I feel somewhat duty-bound to point this out:

If you can appear opposite Bill Maher and come across as a pouting, ageing, unfunny, unlettered, pseudo-pretty intellectual lightweight then, notwithstanding your rights under the First Amendment (which any sane and responsible person would uphold), you aren't worthy of anyone's time or consideration.

Cleetus the inbred farmhand has those same rights, yet no one is obliged to listen to his toothless yodelling.

That Mr. Yiannopoulos is considered 'dangerous' is evidence not of any particular skill he has for subversion (for anyone who's ever been within a mile of a drag queen has seen far worse/better) but of a society so caught up in its own self-righteous sensitivity that it cannot discriminate between radicalism and pathetic masquerade deviance.

If the new fascism is really reliant upon such fourth-rate provocateurs then we have nothing to fear but our own reaction, which has elevated such a little clown to a position of prominence. Parasites cannot survive without a host; cease indulging in the easy trap of virtuous offense-seeking melodrama and the malignant bacteria ceases to reproduce.

You might, then, say that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

The ‘Overtime’ segment of Maher’s programme, in which a swearing match ensues between three variants of pond-life, garnered over a million views in less than an hour. I decline to share it here, or to link to it, because it offers nothing to the points I've already made. All it represents is evidence that stupidity exists on both sides of the supposed political divide and its chief purpose is to make that alleged division irrelevant by lowering the whole concept of debate to the level of rival, brainless, diarrhetic beasts throwing disease at each other.

How do you solve a problem like Milo? How do you thwart this new fascism? It’s really quite simple: you call it out for what it is (which is anything but ‘fascism’), and you treat it no more seriously than you would any childish tantrum. With a haughty disdain, trust in facts and the ability to deploy them, and a firm and reliable sense of perspective. The only reason Yiannopoulos was on Maher’s programme is because he’s a successful provocateur, and the only reason he’s a successful provocateur is because so many people are so easily provoked. The answer must necessarily involve some climbing down on our part, because this species of creature only flourishes in atmospheres of sententious censoriousness. Allow him to speak; he has that right, just as you have the right to listen. But you have no obligation to listen, or to take him seriously, and therein lies the answer.

Leave him to scream into the void.

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