In news that is bound to be celebrated by some deluded liberals as a great moral victory, the publication of a right-wing book has been delayed. Yesterday, it was announced that the memoir of Milo Yiannopoulos was to have its release date shifted from March to June. This delay is due to liberal criticism of the work, for which the Breitbart “editor” (not a term that should be applied to any person who basically defecates straight into a content management system) was paid a US$250,000 advance, but not in the way that we’d hope. Milo is not taking a little extra time to tone down his “thoughts” (not a term that should be applied to any expression that basically defecates all over the best Western philosophical traditions), but to deride the liberal protest of them.
Yiannopoulos may not have great skill as a writer or thinker, but his talent for promotion is Barnum-level. In electing to defer publication, he gives himself time to truly transition from shit-posting nobody to legitimate star, a rise itself facilitated by liberal protest.
When this tool met with recent protests at U.C. Berkeley, pre-sales of his book shot up. In the few hours that have elapsed since Milo announced his intention to examine these very protests, he’s at number 45 on the worldwide Amazon best-seller list.
Has someone coined a new logical fallacy to describe this phenomenon, yet? They really should. Something like “appeal to antagonism”. To prove the veracity of, or at least to amplify, one’s argument by recourse to describing the hostility with which it is met has become a great sales tool. And it’s one used by both Milos and anti-Milos; last year we saw several liberal feminist memoirs moved to best-seller status by almost identical means. People are violently opposed to me, which means everything I say is right.
It’s easy to understand how writers come to this conclusion — when I’ve met with personal threats in the course of a day’s work, I sometimes put it all down to capitalist ideology, before acknowledging that I may not have convincingly argued my case. It’s very easy to understand why people would protest an abhorrence like Milo. The guy is viscerally offensive and appears as a good place to lob one’s very real frustrations. If you have been subject to sexism, racism, transphobia or any of the prejudices Milo presses into the service of his fast-growing celebrity, he seems a cathartic target.
But, the guy is growing rich(er) on this disdain, however legitimate it is. More than this, cartoonish and hateful “thoughts” of the type become more generally profitable.
The trick to effectively protesting Milo, surely, is to make him unprofitable, or at least to threaten someone’s profit. When she suspended her contract with Yiannopoulos’ publishers, Simon & Schuster, best-selling feminist writer Roxane Gay made such an effective protest. Perhaps those eager to see Milo consigned to history’s biohazard bin might consider suspending their Amazon accounts, or even their interest in The Washington Post, both entities owned by the world’s fourth richest person, Jeff Bezos. Jeff might dislike the alt-right and his newspaper certainly devotes many of its pages to its undoing/promotion. But he loves money way more than his apparently liberal morals.
I do understand that the playground advice to ignore one’s bully has been shown to be ineffective. “Pay him no mind and he’ll go away” simply doesn’t work in schoolyard interaction. It does work in the market, though, and it’s surely hopeless to keep calling a guy who has called his book “Dangerous” dangerous. I want this fascist glitter feral gone from public life as much as any liberal does. I suggest that such unified belief in his power is only a way to guarantee it.
If you read Milo, or any of his fellows, you find that he makes no sort of argument at all. To claim, as he does, that some of the Western world’s most marginalised people are also the “elites” makes no sort of sense. It makes sense only in a time where there is a growing class of people who fear the loss of their privilege.
People fear the loss of their privilege for good reason, especially in the USA. Whether liberal or alt-right, Millennials face student debt, labour insecurity and a guarantee that they will not, per the neoliberal promise, do better than their parents. More than half the US population sees less than $30,000 per annum income. To overlook this hard ground, as idealist liberal protesters are wont to do, and to see how “ideas” like Milo’s always take root therein, is the fundamental problem of self-described leftists.
Simply put, when most of the people have nice lives in the West, this shit has no traction. You either go on accepting that bad ideas just happen and take hold for no reason, or you get with the old and useful understanding that material conditions shape and talk to these ideas.
Milo is growing rich in a nation whose citizens are falling into poverty. His idealism — Milo holds entirely that it is the “bad ideas” of the politically correct that have got us into this mess — will not be undone with more idealism. He must be undone himself materially — tell Jeff Bezos that he’d better deliver on the promises of tolerance he makes via The Washington Post. A time that allows a twit like Milo to prosper can only be improved by the same means.