Sunday, August 07, 2016

A Penny for Milo's thoughts

... You won't find them in the Guardian piece by feminist LAURIE PENNY, who snapshots alt-right free-speecher MILO YIANNOPOULOS but photobombs it herself.

Gays make the best women. In full Lily Savage fig, Paul O'Grady once met the über-macho Charlton Heston at a Hollywood party and asked if he'd got anything to eat. "I've got a hot dog in my pocket," grinned the hero of Ben-Hur, who kissed Savage's hand and went off in search of his wife. The incident cracked Robin Williams, who said that as a right-wing Republican the great actor "would have run a mile" if he'd realised "Lily" had a hot dog, too.[1]

There are advantages for a man, if he is a sexual southpaw. He does not feel compelled to agree with a woman as part of a program to get laid. Kipling knew the penalty for contradicting the fair sex[2], but to some that is no loss. I knew a very cultured and entertaining gay teacher who handled manipulative teenage girls beautifully: "There's no point in looking like that at me, dear," he would say, "I'm spell-proof."

And so we get to the second decade of the twenty-first century, in which homosexuality is mainstream; Conservative parties on both sides of the Atlantic find it convenient to co-opt gays as cover for their other, more illiberal agenda; universities have become censors of free debate; feminists have no-platformed their modern pioneer, Germaine Greer; and in some cases, journalism has become emojournalism, almost entirely devoid of fact and argument, so sure is it that you must agree with fashionable opinion.

Like all monocultures, "political correctness" is systemically vulnerable. Enter Milo Yiannopoulos, a preening British gay and defiantly Republican-supporting PC-baiter. Here he is at Rutgers University, New Jersey - and his act is very entertaining:

My father once worked with a union representative who, he said, would pour oil on troubled waters - and then set fire to it. This is Milo's technique, too, interspersing his opening remarks with inflammatory one-liners to provoke target social-justice groups, who cannot help but erupt noisily as he sips water and flashes blue eyes at us from under his brow like the sky-hued lids of a play-signalling red-shanked douc monkey.

Nevertheless his presentation is worth watching in full, for he does get to a serious central point: you should be able to say anything in a liberal institution of learning, and you should listen to others so that at least you know what you are disagreeing with.

Where he is mischievous is that he treats his audience as a practical demonstration of what is wrong with universities. He isn't trying to convert the downscreamers: he is winding them up so that others, especially we who are not there, can see what modern America is up against. He has literally cleared the room of the most intransigent before pitching liberalism to those already half-sold on his message.

But then, irony is a core element of his show, which he calls The Dangerous Faggot Tour. As a gay, he uses PC against itself, saying that he is "off the reservation" and his opponents can't easily pigeonhole him with their habitual personal slanders. To the right-thinkers of the left, the best punch is always below the belt; but Milo is too nimble for them, and they are so used to fighting dirty that they haven't got a second shot in their repertoire. They simply stand and splutter.

Which brings us to Laurie Penny, professional feminist and writer for both The Guardian and The New Statesman. You would think that as a fellow Brit, Penny could handle Milo's paradox and nuance; but not a bit of it. "I've always refused to debate Milo in public. Not because I'm frightened I’ll lose, but because I know I’ll lose, because I care and he doesn't—and that means he’s already won."[3]

How easily does that "caring" become an appeal to gang up on an outsider; some women readers may remember what is was like at school, living in the Non-Acceptance World. Penny's refusal is not defeatist, then - it's simply unscrupulous: "You're my friend, you'll hate him too, won't you?"

One of the most valuable exercises we had to do at school was précis -  reducing a passage of prose to perhaps a third of its original length to reveal the central structure. I did this a while back for Russell Brand's revolutionary manifesto, cutting about 92%[4]; so I tried the same for Penny. Her Guardian article runs to 1,865 words[5] and here is my first attempt:

Milo Yiannopoulos offered me a ride to the Republican national convention. Privately he is charming but what he says publicly is harmful. I hate him and everything he stands for. He abuses women and minorities but when I attack him he laughs and remains friendly. 

Milo has just been suspended from Twitter. He is delighted because this will increase his fame. 

Donald Trump has just been confirmed as the presidential nominee. He is a psychopath. Milo supports him and calls him “Daddy”. 

The VIP room is full of unpleasant right-wing people who are celebrating gay Republicans. I surprise another of Milo’s invitees by agreeing that gay men should be able to adopt children. 

Milo gave a successful speech that decent people will deplore. 

Milo does not believe his own utterances, but his followers do. They are dangerous. They feel threatened by Muslims and immigrants. They are speaking for many fearful and ignorant Americans. Donald Trump is merely a mouthpiece. There is much hatred in the country and this will end badly.

Suiting that newspaper's house style, her piece is full of self-regard and hip jargon. Even the précis cannot eradicate the passive-aggressive, self-righteous egotism, but how far can one go? Can one summarise the argument of someone who refuses to argue?

Condensing her writing is like dehydrating water. Essentially, she seems to be saying this:

I hate everything Milo stands for, but I won't tell you what it is.
He gave a successful speech, but I won't tell you what he said - or even supply a link.
He does not believe what he says, but I will not say how I know that.
His supporters feel threatened by Muslims and immigrants. I need not explain why this is wrong, or why they might feel like that.
My tender feelings trumped my duty as a journalist to stay in the room and report on the whole meeting. My friends felt the same way, so that's all right.
Hate is a bad thing if I encounter it at a political convention. This is consistent with my hating Milo, despite his charm and friendliness towards me.
He is a bad man. They are bad men. America is a bad place.

Infuriated by her inability to out-reason Yiannopoulos, Penny resorts to emotional appeal. It is all about her and her Care Bear heart, and if you do not fall into line with her autocratic limbic rule you are, well, damned.

This is the end stage of the New Journalism of the 1960s. The ground was broken in writing that was experiential, impressionistic and essentially narcissistic. The Age of Reason was swept away in a new Children's Crusade against the old order. Now we have arrived at the Age of Unreason, where (for example, during the Brexit referendum - for some, still ongoing) the mere expression of feeling is sufficient to justify oneself and call others to arms. Audience members on BBC's Question Time can say they are "disgusted" at a speaker's stance, and think that will do.

Democracy is founded on a centuries-old assumption of rationality, but like the worm Ourobouros, it is eating itself. Welcome to the feast, but leave early.


[1] "Open the Cage, Murphy", by Paul O'Grady, Penguin Books, 2015 [pp. 350-1 in 2016 Corgi edition]
[2] "The Female Of The Species" [1911]:
      She is wedded to convictions—in default of grosser ties; 
      Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!— 
      He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild, 
      Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.
[3] This admission is omitted from the Guardian version.

A note on publication:

The above article, without the sub-headline, was first posted at 08:08 UK time on Friday 5 August, with the title "The Guardian: Content is free - of facts". 

Although I was writing from Vienna via rather than, it appeared on the blog as normal. 

What wasn't normal was its failure to register on the Martin Scriblerus bloglist (right-hand sidebar), certainly not for the next 2 1/2 hours or so before we went out for the day. Yet a later piece by "JD", scheduled for 5 p.m. the same evening, did register.

I edited the above post to reschedule it for 19:40 the same day. Again, published fine but no show on the blogroll. By 4 a.m. the next day, it still hadn't appeared.

I began to suspect that like Twitter, but rather more subtly, Google was working to deny Milo "the oxygen of publicity" - by reducing access via blog subscription. So at 04:21 on Saturday I rescheduled/republished, substituting the name of John Wilkes (the scurrilous pamphleteer and libertarian) for Milo's. If anyone saw this via the blogroll, please let me know - I didn't.

This time, I am reinstituting Milo's name, but publishing as a new piece (copying and pasting the html from the old) - the only other changes are the new title/sub-heading, and this note about publication. 

Let us see what happens.


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1 comment:

James Higham said...

The real issue is SJWs, the information lite and at the same time, refusing to allow other views.