Milo Yiannopoulos seemed to hit the peak of his “career” as an advocate for hate speech against women, people of color, trans people, Muslim people, Jewish people, and other non-cis-white-men this weekend. His book, Dangerous — for which he’d earned a $250,000 book deal — was months away from being released on a Simon & Schuster imprint; on Friday, he appeared as a guest on HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher and got along splendidly with Maher, leading to plenty of media coverage; on Saturday, American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp announced that Yiannopoulos would be a speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) along with Vice President Mike Pence and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz.
And then, on Sunday, a conservative Twitter account critical of Yiannopoulos released several videos showing Yiannopoulos defending pedophilia in past interviews, and everything came crashing down.
On Monday, CPAC announced that they had dropped Yiannopoulos as a speaker, and Simon & Schuster announced that they had canceled Yiannopoulos' book. Yesterday, Tuesday, Yiannopoulos resigned from his position as an editor at Breitbart.
Many people have pointed out that we should look at these decisions skeptically — Yiannopoulos has not hidden his hate speech AT ALL, and a simple google of his name will bring up plenty of reasons not to hire him. Many have pointed out, correctly, that it’s telling that what finally brought Yiannopoulos down was his comments about the sexual abuse of young boys, not his past misogynistic, racist, transphobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic speech or actions. In a Tumblr post about why Simon & Schuster canceling Yiannopoulos’ book won’t lead her to publish with them, Roxane Gay writes:
When his comments about pedophilia/pederasty came to light, Simon & Schuster realized it would cost them more money to do business with Milo than he could earn for them. They did not finally “do the right thing” and now we know where their threshold, pun intended, lies. They were fine with his racist and xenophobic and sexist ideologies. They were fine with his transphobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. They were fine with how he encourages his followers to harass women and people of color and transgender people online. Let me assure you, as someone who endured a bit of that harassment, it is breathtaking in its scope, intensity, and cruelty but hey, we must protect the freedom of speech. Certainly, Simon & Schuster was not alone in what they were willing to tolerate. A great many people were perfectly comfortable with the targets of Milo’s hateful attention until that attention hit too close to home.
It’s probably too much to hope for that Yiannopoulos will now disappear — on Facebook, Yiannopoulos promised, “I'll be back with details of my new publisher, my new media venture and my new tour” — but maybe publishers and organizations will think twice about giving Yiannopoulos and other self-proclaimed “provocateurs” money and a platform. Free speech means that the government can’t put you in jail for what you say — it doesn’t mean that anyone has to give you money or a microphone.
Top photo: HBO
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