Milo Yiannopoulos used to be a fairly well-known name in the political sphere. He was Steve Bannon’s favored firebrand at Breitbart, and he rode a wave of incendiary posts to relevancy, as demonstrated by his appearance on Bill Maher.
After an old clip surfaced of Milo defending pedophilia, the right wing that embraced his columns like Does Feminism Make Women Ugly? abandoned—or deplatformed—him, and as of December last year, he found himself $2 million in debt.
This all began in 2016 when Milo was kicked off Twitter, or deplatformed, for staging a harassment campaign against SNL’s Leslie Jones. In 2017, he resigned from Breitbart after the pedophilia comments surfaced on Twitter, and this kicked off a series of “deplatforming” events where he lost his book deal with Simon & Schuster, a spot on the Politicon panel and the cancellation of multiple speaking events, like his big plan for “Free Speech Week.” This widespread deplatforming is still ongoing, as he recently had another vendor bail on him, and he was even banned from Australia after his offensive comments about the Christchurch shooting. Milo simply has no platform to stand on in any arena anymore.
There is a certain kind of D.C.-centric Very Serious thinker who has a far too idealistic view of our political discourse, and they believe that any bad idea should simply be exposed to sunlight, so facts and logic can rule the day.
My counterpoint to that belief is President Donald J. Trump.
I too wish that people changed their mind based solely on logic and reason, but they just don’t. I spent my entire 20s learning this fact. If it weren’t true, I’d have more money right now. And I promise you, I don’t. It sucks.
I worked in sales, and I have an avalanche of paychecks proving the inadequacy of a 100% logic-based approach. I ultimately left sales because I wasn’t any good at it. The better salespeople always found a way to connect with the customer, so as to bypass the logic discussion altogether (“If I can trust this person, I don’t need to walk my way through the reasoning as to why this is a good choice for me”). I watched charismatic kids straight out of college rake in six figures making people trust them in the untrustworthy industry of merchant services. Beating people over the head with logic simply doesn’t work at scale. You must find a way to hide your logic in an engaging and flattering story to truly communicate it to the masses.
That’s what these so-called “alt-right” chuds understand so well. When they get invited to a panel with people who have more social capital than them, that means that they are being exposed to an audience they have not previously been exposed to. For them, it’s not about the debate. There’s no such thing as “winning.” It’s about getting their story out there, so as to recruit more people to their cause. Liberalism simply cannot reason away Trumpism—2016 proved that’s not how this stuff works. We must remove its power by limiting its exposure—treat it like a virus outbreak and try to contain it.
We also know that deplatforming works because we live in an age of vastly powerful tech platforms where massive ones like Google and Facebook are proven monopolies. It’s impossible to run a business without using either company to do your business, therefore removing anyone’s ability to use that platform will lose out on business. You can take this basic economic concept all the way down to even the smallest platforms. Platforms are…well…platforms. Without them to support you, you plummet into the abyss—like Milo has.
This is not trivial stuff. There is a right-wing turducken of white supremacist and white supremacist-adjacent rabbit holes on the internet—all reverberating with near-constant calls for violence—run by self-described “provacatouers” like Milo Yiannopoulos whose sole contribution to society is recruiting new angry young men into this universe. As the Christchurch shooting tragically demonstrated, shitposting is only shitposting until it’s not. There is no point in debating an ideology with its own independent un-logic. This is a war for hearts and minds.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.