It's been a bad week to be Milo Yiannopoulos, whose Wikipedia page is about to include the word "former" in front of just about every personal achievement.
Milo Yiannopoulos at a press conference on 21 February 2017 (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Yiannopoulos — repeatedly cited as some sort of "provocateur" — was on track to massively boost his profile with the mainstream this week after being invited to give a keynote speech at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference.
But it all came crashing down, starting yesterday when CPAC disinvited Yiannopoulos. Then Simon & Schuster cancelled his upcoming book Dangerous, despite no shortage of outcry when the deal was first made public. And just before a personal press conference today, it was announced that he'd be departing from Breitbart, the far right media organisation formerly run by White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon where Yiannopoulos rose to prominence on the coattails of the GamerGate movement. All of this was the result of a year-old video from The Drunken Peasants podcast that resurfaced this weekend wherein Milo appeared to defend paedophilia within the gay community.
Break: MILO resigns from Breitbart pic.twitter.com/pSQnJ0b9vA
— Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) February 21, 2017
When journalists gathered before him on Tuesday, Yiannopoulos used their time to attack the media, touch on issues of censorship and harp on the perceived evils of "social justice warriors". In his defence, Milo pointed to an alleged double standard: The "jokes" he made in the video were no different than those heard in any "drag bar" — a ridiculous distraction from his own diminished career prospects. A podcast with more than 100,000 subscribers is not a bar, nor does anyone hold a stranger in a bar to the same standards as a public figure speaking publicly.
Anyone following Milo's improbable career might be wondering what changed to make his brand of brazen awfulness suddenly toxic. As a "a warrior for free speech" he revelled in being banned from Twitter after inciting harassment towards SNL's Leslie Jones. He has called women's liberation "probably a mistake". He has referred to terrorist attacks as "an expression of mainstream Muslim values". In the grand scheme of the career of Milo Yiannopoulos, a defence of paedophilia — something he vehemently denies making — is not at all unusual.
Part of the difference this time is that the attacks are coming from the right. It's strange to think Yiannopoulos's hate-filled remarks on other subjects were acceptable enough to be associated with Simon & Schuster, CPAC and Breitbart, but flippant comments about paedophilia were over the line. In the end, those who raised Yiannopoulos's profile were the same ones to bury it, showing that even those who benefit from Milo's crusade of offence have limits on what they're willing to cosy up to.
But the crown jewel of the press conference was Milo's announcement that without a website to publish him or a political party which dares to be seen with him, he would begin a "new media venture" built on his own miniature cult of personality. Yiannopoulos' last media venture, The Kernel, was sold after a protracted legal battle over unpaid wages to contributors, and much of the writing under Milo's byline at Breitbart was revealed to be written by a team of interns.
He also noted that "the book will come out as planned", though he failed to mention which publisher — if any — had expressed interest.
Try as he might to frame everything he's lost in the past two days as the start of a new beginning, Milo's star is fading, and it has left those close to him divided.
I am Milo's former manager.
I have defended Milo for standing up for free speech on many occasions.
Today, I cannot defend Milo anymore.
— Baked?Alaska™ (@bakedalaska) February 20, 2017
US 'liberals' today celebrate the censorship of right-wing UK provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos over teen sex quote.https://t.co/bz6dH0jyhk
— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) February 21, 2017
Twice during the press conference, Milo said, "I haven't ever apologised before and I don't anticipate doing it again." The attempts to sound defiant were undermined by how clearly rehearsed they were.
We reached out to Yiannopoulos for comment but had not heard back at time of writing,