Right-wing demagogue Milo Yiannopoulos was set to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, organized by the American Conservative Union Feb. 22-25. He was also set to release a book entitled “Dangerous” with publisher Simon & Schuster.
Then Yiannopoulos suffered a reversal of fortune. He lost both deals after a video interview from last July surfaced in which he made several remarks condoning pedophilia.
Following publicity about the video and the loss of his CPAC slot and book deal, Yiannopoulos resigned as an editor of Breitbart News, the far-right media outlet. His claim that this was solely his decision seems unlikely given his other reversals.
While Yiannopoulos’ statements in the video were horrendous on their own, it seems no accident that his comedown took place after heroic anti-fascists took to the streets and shut down his speaking appearances at both the Davis and Berkeley campuses of the University of California earlier this month.
It was ultimately this militant resistance that exposed him for the fascist that he is. The video is not new; it had circulated before. If not for the protests, it may never have resurfaced.
Yiannopoulos is an openly racist gay man, known for harassing women and people of color on Twitter. He also has been known to harass transgender students, to fetishize Black men and to espouse anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric.
As a prominent journalist with Breitbart, Yiannopoulos had become a major mouthpiece for the so-called “alt-right” — a term referring to a wide array of far-right groups and individuals that all adhere to white supremacist beliefs in one form or another. Thus Yiannopoulos’ rhetoric and actions, much like Donald Trump’s, have emboldened white supremacists and fascists to terrorize immigrants, oppressed nationalities, transgender people and other oppressed groups.
Complicity of the media
Both the establishment and right-wing media accepted Yiannopoulos’ consistent anti-immigrant, anti-trans, misogynistic bigotry without criticism. In fact, all the corporate media helped Yiannopoulos, giving him a platform on TV shows and at events. In effect, the monopoly media normalized his fascistic views.
On “Real Time with Bill Maher” in late February, Maher greeted Yiannopoulos warmly and offered no opposition. They quickly found common ground in defending oppressive humor and dismissing anyone who might be offended. Although Maher claims to have many differences with Yiannopoulos, he is equally eager to use misogynistic insults to dismiss criticism of offensive speech.
Maher offered no opposition to any of Yiannopoulos’ bigoted beliefs, allowing him to voice without argument his transphobic views and even his completely fabricated lie that trans people disproportionately commit sexual assault.
Instead, the only criticism Maher and his panel were willing to voice is the alleged ties between Russia and the Trump administration. When Yiannopoulos praised Trump, Malcolm Nance, a U.S. counterintelligence officer on the panel, asserted that Yiannopoulos is in fact supporting “Russian spies.”
Instead of building genuine opposition to Yiannopoulos, Trump and the rising alt-right for their attacks on all oppressed peoples and workers, Maher and Nance spun the narrative to drum up hostility against Russia. They followed the agenda of the Democratic Party and the establishment media, which is not to resist Trump, but rather to redirect discontent to Russia, a major target of the U.S. ruling class.
It wasn’t the corporate media, comedians or “establishment” conservatives who struck a blow at Yiannopoulos’ career. It was the mass protests that showed he was losing his value as a voice for the right.
The demonstrators showed that fascism cannot be debated away; it must be smashed! When Yiannopoulos fabricates lies about transgender people, degrades Black people or slanders immigrants and women, he is not making good faith arguments in the interest of rational discussion. Rather, he is making these statements to incite violence and stir up right-wing bigotry.
Hate speech is symbolic violence that encourages physical violence. Debating, ridiculing and “exposing” fascists won’t make them go away. The goal should be to stop them. This can only be done with genuine, left-wing resistance on all fronts.
Ultimately, the only way to stop the rise of the far-right, whether that be the Trump administration or Yiannopoulos and Breitbart, is through militant, leftist organizing of the working class and oppressed. The Democratic Party and the corporate media will not do anything substantive to fight fascism and right-wing bigotry. They have facilitated its rise by normalizing the oppressive views of their ultra-right competition.
It is imperative to unite all anti-racist, anti-capitalist forces to build a strong leftist opposition to the rising far-right and the entire ruling class.