By Greg Drobny
By now, everyone has not only heard about Milo Yiannopoulous, but they also have an opinion about him.
And not just a regular ol’ opinion—one that ranges from him being the greatest thing in the world to him being, quite literally a fascist Nazi. Very little exists between these two extremes, from what I’ve read.
But that is exactly the climate we occupy now. No one knows anything until the moment something becomes headline news, at which time everyone is suddenly an expert and there is absolutely no nuance whatsoever in any commentary about that particular subject.
Milo is just the latest example. Think about it: 6 weeks ago, very few people were talking about him. I had heard him on various talk shows and mostly dismissed him—not because I thought he was wrong, but because people who are overly dramatic, flamboyant, and clearly seeking controversy are very rarely the kind who have any intellectual staying power, so they don’t move my compass one way or another.
Yet time and again I see people like Milo rise to the spotlight in rapid fashion, only to have some pretty dark demons in their past discovered, and then publicly crucified for having them.
The Political Right ™ who cheered this guy on did so because he was a perfect voice for the right time. He’s a hyperbolic gay man who shouts down the LBGT community in excitable fashion and does so at the same time a guy like Trump gets elected President. Of course this is going to resonate with people.
But as soon as those skeletons come out of his closet…BAM! Burned at the proverbial stake—in this case, let go from speaking at CPAC and fired from Breitbart.
Because they loved him for his overly-dramatic, controversy-inspiring rhetoric until they found out that it came from an overly-dramatic, controversy-filled guy…?
The Political Left ™ wasn’t any better, of course. While taking the “hey, this guy looks like he’ll probably self-destruct. We should just let him,” approach would have been the reasonable (and obvious) course to take, they opted instead for the option of burning a lot of things and throwing rocks while audaciously claiming the moral high ground by flinging the “but he’s a fascist!” line of reasoning in their defense. All the while they completely missed the fact that they played directly into Milo’s hands by giving him tremendous publicity.
Lost in all of this, as per the usual, was any amount of nuance. No one looks at personalities like Milo and says, “well, I can see his point here and here, but he seems a bit extreme, so I should probably check out his claims thoroughly before making a decision about him as a person.” Instead what we get from the Political Left and Right are an instant choice to fully support or decry someone based on very little information, which almost always results in either total embarrassment or feeling of vindication, depending on which side came out on top.
From my perspective, I care very little about what Milo Yiannopoulos has to say, but I do care very much about the reactions to him, simply because the responses of the public to events and people fascinate me and carry with them ramifications that often go far beyond that particular individual. He may not matter, but the hoopla that surrounds him certainly can because it plays a part in our culture, for better or worse.
The Trump Presidency, whether you support it or not, is inherently divisive simply due to his persona. He’s a polarizing guy and, as a result, will attract more like him—both in support of him and as detractors. The media will latch on to these people for the same reason they did with Trump—it’s great for ratings. People either love people like that or they love to hate them. Either way it’s a boon for the product that media is selling.
What does this mean for the future? I can’t tell you for certain, but I can offer some advice (for a taste of your whiskey).
Don’t be drawn in by over-the-top, hyperbolic, divisive rhetoric from over-the-top, dramatic, hyperbole-spewing people. More often than not they burn out quickly and, when they do, take others down with them—like those who championed them as the greatest thing since Jim Beam and Cola in a can. If you start cheering on people who are obnoxiously loud and make outlandish claims, expect to be disappointed very quickly and on a large scale.
Guys like Milo are like the one-hit-wonders in the music world. They seem really catchy for a couple months until you realize that some media mogul was manipulating the playlists at the radio station so you heard them way more than you would have by choice, so it becomes some sort of weird, Pavlovian response to listen to it.
So in other words, don’t be the dog and ring the bell. You’ll thank yourself later.