Don’t feed the trolls: What happens when Milo visits
by Broderick Hooker
Politics has a complicated relationship with violence. Recently, there have been a series of riots on college campuses in response to some controversial figure coming to speak. The most famous in recent memory are riots at UC Berkeley to protest Milo Yiannapolos, a writer and editor for Breitbart News. The right decried the riots as an attack on free speech rights, and some on the left defended them as a righteous response to hate speech.
Milo originally rose to fame during the Gamergate controversy several years ago, but this presidential election has skyrocketed him into stardom as a right wing provocateur. His most recent controversies involve supposedly outing transgender and undocumented students, and for encouraging the harassment of Leslie Jones on Twitter, which got him banned from the site. He sees himself as a crusader against political correctness, facing the dark foes of leftist social justice and identity politics. He calls Donald Trump “Daddy.” His opponents see him as being in league with the Alt-Right, a gay man who has betrayed the LGBTQ community, a scoundrel of the lowest sort. If you ask me, the truth is far more boring. Milo is a troll, nothing more, nothing less. Ideology, the fate of Western Civilization, are not the important things, but rather pissing people off is. This is why riots in response to him are his greatest asset.
He sees these responses, and him, along with the rest of the right, and can point to an unhinged leftism, disconnected from reality. After all, riots do have consequences. Property is destroyed, and people get hurt, sometimes killed. But the whole of America is not descending in anarchist mob violence, yet it doesn’t need to for Milo to paint himself as a victim of dangerous SJWs, or for Donald Trump to crack down and increase his own power. Every broken window, every Molotov cocktail, are weapons in Milo’s hands, not his opponents.
People speak about Milo as a central figure of the Alt Right, along with Richard Spencer, Steve Bannon, and others. But when you look at what all of these people believe, it is difficult to actually put them together as one coherent movement. There seems to be two main groups, whose goals may or may not intersect. One of these groups, we have figures like Richard Spencer; Intelligent, well spoken, and teeming with dangerous and wildly illiberal ideas. On the other end of the alt-right spectrum we have Milo, essentially a libertarian with atrocious manners. This is not to say that his actions or beliefs are defensible, but to put him into the same camp as Richard Spencer and other white nationalists is a bit dishonest.
You will not find me inviting him to the Loras campus, or attending an event of his, not because I find him to be a great ideological enemy (though we certainly would not agree on everything) but because he is distasteful. He treats people cruelly, and that is not a man I need on my side. If the Milo loving edgelords and the revolutionary left want to beat each-others brains in, I can’t stop them. Milo and his opponents are both playing a zero sum game, where each lumps reasonable and common sense principles with lunacy. The more unhinged and vitriolic the left becomes, the more Milo can justify his own nastiness and vitriol. No matter how hungry that troll looks, don’t feed it.