My colleague is a Milo Yiannopoulos fan. I found out via Facebook.
The next day I asked him if it was ironic, but apparently not. That night he linked me to a talk by Mr Yiannopoulos and, in an attempt to escape my very left-leaning echo chamber, I watched it.
Well. Forty-seven minutes of it.
I was sure that listening to someone like Mr Yiannopoulos would make me extremely angry. But it didn’t. He didn’t say anything at which I could get angry.
He didn’t argue against Left wing policies. What he did do (a lot) was insult left wing stuff, including left wing peoples’ appearances, leftist peoples’ weights and even Frosties cereal. But not the policies. Perhaps he couldn’t think of anything to say against them?
He didn’t defend any rightwing arguments either. Perhaps he couldn’t think of any good points about them?
It’s interesting that Milo chooses to verbally attack the physical appearance of people with whom he disagrees, rather than their politics. A person could have purple hair, blue skin and green fingernails but that wouldn’t affect their politics. Yet Mr Yiannopoulos seems to think that the way to counter someone’s views is to call them fat.
He also calls the POTUS “Daddy”, which is creepy on so many levels and makes you feel vaguely uncomfortable which is why, I suspect, he does it.
One of the few points he made was that safe spaces don’t work because “the way to overcome the issue is controlled exposure to it.” The point that he misses here is that trigger warnings are a way to control the exposure. Without them, people can unwittingly expose themselves or be exposed to something which can cause panic attacks, flashbacks or other psychological problems. With a warning, the person can prepare themselves or excuse themselves, allowing them to avoid the issues when they aren’t up to dealing with it. This lets them control their exposure so that they can work through it healthily, rather than being forced into a relapse.
I think that some people, on the right and left, misunderstand what “triggers”are. A trigger is not just something that makes you angry, or scared. A trigger is something that causes such a strong psychological reaction that the person is completely incapacitated, suffering flashbacks and reliving their trauma or having a full-blown panic attack. Trigger warnings aren’t to stop inconvenience; trigger warnings are there to allow people to function on a day to day basis.
The more I watched Mr Yiannopoulos talk, the more I realised: I know him.
Well, not literally him. But his kind.
He was the kid who, for whatever reason, always needed more attention. And when they didn’t get it, they’d say and do ever more stupid, ever more theatrical things to get their fix. They don’t care if it’s attention for doing something bad; being noticed is the important thing. It doesn’t matter what for.
And that’s what Milo is doing. You can tell because he absolutely came alive when addressing people who are protesting. He insisted on going out to talk to the large crowd of people protesting his presence on campus, despite the warnings of his security team. He doesn’t do what he does to further the cause of the right, or to smash the left. He does what he does for money and attention.
I have met several people with that character trait, and I like to think I cracked how to deal with them. It’s very simple:
This will make them worse in the short term. They will be angry at the lack of attention that they are getting, and shout and scream louder in the hopes of luring you and the attention they crave back to them.
However, if you stay strong and ignore them, they will eventually twig that you won’t pay them any more attention, and will leave you alone to sit in a corner and grumble at your treatment of them.
He has called himself a troll, and that’s an apt description. And what is the first rule about trolls? Stop feeding them. Protests and histrionics are meat and drink to the man. He has pushed back the publication date of his book so that he can include a section about people protesting his talks. So, for God’s sake, stop feeding him and he will starve.
I’m not saying let him get away with things, but don’t engage. Write a blog, do a vlog, talk to people about why his beliefs and methods are wrong. But don’t let him trick you into protesting him because that’s what he wants and besides, it gives him free advertising.
I can see why some people agree with what Mr Yiannopoulos say, especially people who are one or all of the following: straight, white or male. You have spent your life mostly just trying to get by, being as good a person as you can. And now all these horrible social justice warriors are shouting at you from all sides, telling you that you’re the reason for every problem, that you caused every bad thing in the world. It’s not fair!
And then someone brave, like Milo Yiannopoulos or Donald Trump, stands up and sticks up for you. Points out that these triggered special snowflakes are being ridiculous and they should shut up and stop whining. Phew. See? He understands.
Except he doesn’t. The trouble with living in a society which is built for people like you is it’s hard to see how this can make things difficult for others.
Try to remember a moment of injustice in your life. Perhaps your sibling blamed you for something. Maybe your teacher punished you unfairly. And other people in power, your parents or head teacher or whomever, took their side over yours. Remember how that felt?
Now. Hold that feeling. That is how marginalised people of all kinds feel most of the time.
Imagine how much better it would have felt if someone in power, that parent or that teacher, had taken the time to sit and listen to your side of the story instead of taking the side of the other person in power. Better?
That’s why people complain about injustice. Because they want someone, someone in more of a powerful position, to listen. They aren’t attacking you as a person; they just want to be heard.
The best thing that humanity can do for itself is to listen to each others’ experiences, learn from them, and make themselves better. Try it; listen to the story of someone different to you. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.
Lastly, Mr Yiannopoulos spent a lot of time laughing during his speech. But he didn’t say anything funny. I can forgive people a lot of things, but not making me laugh isn’t one of them.