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By Joshua Dietz
Milo Yiannopoulos is a man who needs no introduction. In fact, he is the kind of man whose persona precedes him. Before people have actually seen Milo’s talks or read his work, they’ve already been informed of precisely the kind of person he is. This prejudgment of Milo has served as his greatest foil, effectively creating an entire mythos with which to rebuff. Milo, the man, is brave, intelligent, iconoclastic, and a born rebel. Milo, the myth, is cruel, petty, ill-informed, and a degenerate. This tale of two Milo’s can be understood as an inability to comprehend the persuasive power of provocation. Provocation is vital to Milo’ communication style and a key component to his success. However, the failure of journalists, celebrities, and intelligentsia to understand this strategy has allowed Milo’s greatest strength to be weaponized against him.
Milo’s provocateur persona requires a level of bombast, or truthful-hyperbole as President Trump would call it. By adopting an extreme position, or employing strong language, an argument is transformed into a lightning rod for discussion. This is particularly true of critically important social issues such as equality between the races (a common topic at Milo’s lectures), where resolutions are mired by obfuscating rhetoric and political posturing. Provocation triggers strong emotional reactions. These emotional reactions then trigger ever more reactions in an exponential fashion. Given these effects, provocation is highly effective as a tool for reaching an audience and generating discussion.
In both his verbal and written communications, Milo delivers his perspective with an acerbic tongue, slicing through the quagmire called political discourse. He eschews the decorum and etiquette of polite political conversation with caustic tone, taking aim at a wide array of protected social targets. As a provocateur, Milo impolitely exposes failed political policies, destructive social conventions, and outright falsehoods masquerading as obvious truths. While on his college tour, Milo exposed dictatorial professors (West Virginia University professor Daniel Brewster), dishonest journalists (Shaun King, now a contributor to The Young Turks network), and hate-crime hoaxers (of which Milo chronicled over a hundred instances of faked hate crimes since 2007). Unsurprisingly, this tactic has created a frothing, and largely hysterical opposition eager to hurt Milo’s reputation, checking account, and whenever possible, his person.
At times Milo’s aplomb is his undoing. The blade of the provocateur can cut both ways, a fact evidenced by the recent ‘pedophilia’ controversy which cost Milo a spot at CPAC, his book deal with Simon and Schuster, and potentially his job as Technology Editor at Breitbart. In his perpetual attempt to be shocking and edgy, Milo creates opportunities to be victimized by his cultural and political enemies. In a Shakespearean way, Milo has been hoisted by his own petard. Ultimately, this is the fatal position all provocateurs eventually find themselves in. There are taboos (such as the sexual conduct of minors) so emotionally charged as to be too intractable, and therefore unresponsive to the persuasive language of the provocateur. While it is the job of the provocateur to push back against the eminent taboos of their culture, some taboos prove too monolithic to be moved by mere words.
(As an aside, It should be observed by the reader that if Milo’s critics cannot even spell the word ‘pedophile’, then it probably is not reasonable to expect they can process the nuanced language and coy dismissal of the subject as displayed by Milo in the embedded video above.)
The reporting of Milo’s ‘Dangerous Faggot’ college tour, his journalistic work, and interviews intentionally sidestep the performance aspect of Milo’s presentation. Taken at face value, Milo’s speech can be shocking, crude, and even inflammatory. By his own admission, innate to the ‘Yiannopoulos’ character (Milo’s birthname is actually Hanrahan) is the spirit of a stand-up comedian. Aside from being an effective strategy for communication, provocation is also essential to comedy. Ever-needling and chiding their audience – in prodding the listener for laughter, words turn to action. Comedians, like provocateurs are social gad-fly’s and Milo is both. Ultimately the point of provocation isn’t necessarily truth-seeking, but agitating. The provocateur travels to the edge of what is socially permissible, showing us a new and previously unimaginable linguistic terrain. Through their speech, provocateurs invite us to experiment with these exhilaratingly fresh intellectual paradigms. True and lasting social change lies in that new terrain, but we must embrace risk to realize that potential. To be a provocateur is to openly and enthusiastically court danger, and we as a community must rally around our provocateurs. The essence of provocation is free thought and free speech; people like Milo serve to remind us what exactly that looks like.
EDITOR’s NOTE: The views expressed are those of the author and are not representative of The Libertarian Republic
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