Earlier this month Brietbart journalist and famous provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos had his Twitter account @nero permanently suspended. It’s a long story, and to understand it one has to consider how Milo became famous in the first place. Yiannopoulos is a right wing tech journalist who developed a huge following after becoming one of the most prominent media voices to come out in support of GamerGate. Depending on who you listen to GamerGate is either a backlash against women in the gaming industry, or a backlash against a gaming press that was ideologically motivated and trying to push those ideologies on an industry and readership that they did not represent.
Gamergate and Milo Yiannopoulos do not have a problem with women. They have a problem with agenda art. And the new Ghostbusters has an agenda, big time. The tension about this movie has been building for a long time, so in a way it’s unsurprising that things would come to a head on the release of this film; it brings together geek culture, feminist and social justice activist-art, and the main stream. Yes, the movie has an all female ghost buster crew, but that’s not what got its critics riled. They were annoyed because a much loved cult film was being politicised and turned into a piece of propaganda – seriously, the director can’t stop talking about how everyone needs to write more movies with parts for funny women – and anyone who argued that wasn’t a good way to approach it was branded a sexist-misogynist-heteropatriarchal-dudebro.
Milo wrote a scathing review of Ghostbusters on Brietbart.com. At around the same time Leslie Jones who stars as one of the new ghost busters started receiving really nasty trolling from accounts that seem to belong to the alt-right, with which Milo Yiannopoulos is associated. Yiannopoulos then had a tweet exchange with Jones which was by no stretch of the imagination as bad as some of the racist tweets she was getting from other people, although he was being critical and there are some of his friends in the anti social-justice community who do think he went too far.
After this exchange the trolling received by Jones intensified and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey got involved, and justified the removal of Yiannopoulos on the grounds that he was inciting a mob against Jones. Quite a lot of people have looked in depth at their Tweet exchange so I won’t dwell on it too much here. One of the key issues is whether Milo was aware that some tweets from a fake account impersonating Jones that he retweeted were not genuine. Cathy Young, who is a moderate who appreciates both sides of this debate argues that he did know, however I do think there is room for plausible deniability here which would mean that Twitter should have taken some time to investigate rather than just pulling the plug – they are still not able to point to a single Tweet that encouraged his followers to pile in. Despite the lack of any evidence, websites like Buzzfeed claim that Yiannopoulos ‘led a tweeted harassment campaign against… Leslie Jones’.
The problem here is the appalling double standards and hypocrisy shown by Twitter when dealing with conservatives, echoing recent controversies over on Facebook. Twitter was essentially holding Yiannopoulos responsible for the actions of his followers, not something that happens to Justin Bieber when his fans send death threats to sexy women he’s worked with or Beyoncé when her fans go after supposed love rivals. Leslie Jones has previously sent many Tweets mentioning white people in a way that would certainly be considered racist were the word ‘white’ switched to ‘black’. She also sent a tweet that directly encourages her followers to target someone, which isn’t allowed by Twitter:
Soon after Kassy Dillon a female conservative and free speech activist decided to do a little experiment. She Tweeted the exact same messages as Leslie Jones to see what happened. Her account was suspended but restored days later with no explanation from Twitter after the hashtag #freekassy started trending.
Twitter took no action over the death threats she herself received.
This is the thing. Milo Yiannopoulos genuinely does receive all the same threats and nasty messages as people like Leslie Jones – but he doesn’t draw attention to them in the same way and people just don’t care as much when things like this happen to conservatives. This really shows up the social justice brigade for what they are, and it’s why people like Milo Yiannopoulos and Donald Trump get the kind of support that they do. We now live in a world where it is ok to be racist and sexist as long as your target is a straight, white man. Chances are it’s only thanks Yiannopoulos’ flamboyant homosexuality that he’s got away with his antics so far.
When news of the Twitter ban reached Yiannopoulos he was on his way to the Republican National Convention where he was hosting a Gays for Trump event, and the timing could not have been better from his point of view – he spent the next few days as a star, cavorting from press appearance to press appearance and getting in some pretty strong digs against Twitter:
In what might appear to be a bizarre twist of fate but is actually a result of Yiannopoulos’ savvy, the hardcore feminist writer Laurie Penny had been invited to attend the RNC with he and his team, and writes that she was in the car with them when news of the Twitter ban broke. She later wrote an article calling these people the ‘worst men on the internet’. Well I have something to say to Laurie. The internet is full of accounts and pages run by Islamic State. Would you get into a car with these people? Would you smoke cigarettes with them? Would you attend their rallies? No Laurie. Because they are the ones who are actually dangerous, not a gay man who laughs and jokes about politics with women like these:
But of course, the contempt of Laurie Penny’s article is exactly what validates Yiannopoulos’ message. Straight white men are sick of being ‘the only group of people you don’t have to be ashamed to look down upon’, and many women, gay people, people of colour and trans people are sick of it too. Does the left not understand that there’s a limit to how long you can demonise a group of people with impunity? It looks like the answer is no.