Milo Yiannopoulos calls himself an “internet supervillain”. Others in the media tend to agree, but would no doubt add a few more names to the list. A racist, a bigot, a sexist, a paedophile sympathiser – even Milo himself admits journalists and commentators, particularly from the Left, have thrown every name under the sun at him. Still, he keeps coming back. It’s as if he gains more power every time he pisses someone off.
And now, he’s coming to Australia. What’s more, we at Penthouse are sponsoring the visit.
Why? That’s a question we’ve had a lot of people ask us over the last few weeks. The answer is simple – besides sharing Yiannopoulos’s penchant for mischief, we strongly believe in the right to free speech. Penthouse was founded during the sexual revolution in the 1960s and since then we have consistently pushed for greater freedoms: sexually, politically and socially. The right to free speech being the most important freedom of all.
Milo is an interesting character, not just for the controversial things he says, but also for who he is. He’s often been called a white supremacist, but he has Jewish heritage; he’s a conservative, but he’s also flamboyantly gay; he’s married to a black guy, but he’s been labelled as a racist. We have the unique opportunity to bring this provocative speaker to Australia to launch our speaking tour, Penthouse Forum, which will see controversial speakers from all sides of the political spectrum have a chance to air their views.
Milo is first cab off the rank and true to form, he’s already pissing people off. Take a look at his interview on Sunrise for the best example.
We caught up with the British-born provocateur to ask him about some of his controversial views. To start, he denies he’s being controversial, but rather says that he seeks to “reveal hypocrisy through ridicule.”
We’ll let you make up your own mind.
You’ve said multiple times that you’re not associated with the alt-right. Where do you place yourself politically?
I’m probably a sort of populist nationalist conservative, which means that I believe the nation-state is the best organising structure for a society, I think it works best for capitalism, works best for individual flourishing and for individual happiness. Donald Trump was right about that and it’s something that a lot of leaders in Europe, in particular, seem to have forgotten.
What is your association with the Alt-Right then? You’ve said before you are heading on the same path or same direction. Is this still true?
What I said precisely was that I was a solo traveller on some issues and really that was restricted to political correctness and feminism. I don’t agree with them on any of the race stuff. I’m a Western supremacist: democracy, property, liberty, capitalism, they’re the founding principles behind the best kinds of civilisations and the countries you’d want to grow up in. But my association, my fondness if you like, for the Alt‑Right stops where their racial garbage begins, and my crime in the eyes of liberal journalists is simply to have given them a fair hearing in 2016 and to have written the only comprehensive guide to the Alt-Right that I felt summarised all the different contours of the movement. Now the word ‘Alt-Right’ has come to mean something different, it’s been rebranded, and its meaning has been restricted. It’s now a synonym for ‘neo-Nazi’ and as somebody with a black husband obviously that’s not something I support.
in the book I sketch out a slightly different taxonomy of ‘trolling’, and I call it ‘virtuous trolling’ or ‘trolling for Jesus’.
You say you’re a Western supremacist and some of the racial attitudes of the Alt-Right make you feel uncomfortable. I’m interested in what it means to be a Western supremacist?
I think you can go further than just discomfort, you can say that I’m repelled and disgusted by them. Every time I wake up and roll over and look at my husband, I’m reminded why that’s a horrible way to look at the world. “Western supremacist” I like because I like to try to trick liberal journalists into thinking I said “white supremacist”. I’m a Western supremacist because I think that capitalism, property rights, freedom of speech and free expression – these are the things that make societies nice places to live – the First Amendment and the Second Amendment – as the founding principles of America is the stuff that makes America the greatest country in the history of human civilisation. I’m sure Australia is a close second. These are things I believe in.
You say you find the racial ideas of the Alt-Right repulsive, however, aren't there racialised ideas in being a Western supremacist?
I don’t think it’s racialised, I think it’s about values and ideas. I’m very comfortable as a gay man – somebody who went down to Orlando just after that shooting happened – with Donald Trump’s terrorism ban. I’m very happy with the hold on Muslim immigration but it’s not because these people have brown skin, it’s because they have disgusting ideas in their head and unlike most people on the political left and right, I don’t make as many excuses for Islam, I don’t mollycoddle it, I don’t pander to it, I don’t gingerly step around the subject – Islam as a religion, it is a system of ideas and I believe like any other system of ideas that it deserves to be scrutinised. I scrutinised it and I found it severely lacking, particularly for women and gays.
We have a lot of readers who are asking us why we’re promoting you. How would you answer that question? Why do you think you should get a platform here and why should people care about what you say?
There’s been a fundamental misunderstanding, and it’s the creation of the progressive left, which wants to drive all conservatives from public life, that just because you disagree with somebody’s ideas you shouldn’t engage with them, you shouldn’t talk to them, you shouldn’t interview them, you shouldn’t ‘hang out’ with them and you shouldn’t provide them with a platform. I prefer, actually, to hear from people that I don’t agree with because I want to know that my arguments are right. I want to expose myself to the opposing arguments in their strongest possible forms, which is why I’m constantly sending invitations to feminists and Black Lives Matter activists for debate. They of course never show up. I want to hear from people I disagree with because I want to be sure that I’m right. There’s a weird idea that has caught hold in popular consciousness and in the media that you should only provide platforms for interview, or feature people with whom you already agree. I can’t imagine anything more boring!
Some people argue that you speaking or having a platform anywhere in Australia will promote bigotry, racism and divisiveness within the community, which could lead to violence. How do you respond to that?
It might well lead to violence, but it’s violence from the Left, and if divisiveness is code word for ‘people might disagree’, then good, I welcome it, please bring it on! I want people to be angry with each other. I want people to debate, I want people to argue, I want an open marketplace of ideas and a free exchange of ideologies – I want people to be rounding each other, I just don’t want to lay hands on one another. If divisiveness is the Left version of saying ‘Oh no, somebody in public life or in a concert hall near you might say something I disagree with’ – fantastic!
There’s a difference between standing for freedom of speech and believing that speech should have no consequences.
In your book, you describe yourself as a ‘virtuous troll’. But most people’s understanding of a troll is someone who harasses, bullies and annoys people on the internet, under the guise of anonymity a lot of the time, for the sole purpose of getting a rise out of them. From your perspective, what good do trolls do, what purpose do they serve?
Actually, in the book I sketch out a slightly different taxonomy of ‘trolling’, and I call it ‘virtuous trolling’ or ‘trolling for Jesus’. When I describe myself as a troll, the behaviour that I’m describing – the tactics I’m describing to you are me holding a mirror up to progressives and inviting them to consider their own hypocrisy. The reason that the Left gets so mad at me is not because I go out and say they’re ugly, fat morons (although of course, I do that because they are) the reason they get so upset about me is because I tell them the truth. I show them a picture of themselves in the mirror and they don’t like what they see. In addition, they are absolutely terrified by me because I will go and say all the things they’ve been bullying people not to say for 30 years. They have threatened people with professional ruin and social disaster for decades, for mentioning the wrong study or having the wrong political opinion or cracking the wrong joke. Well I refuse to believe them, I refuse to obey those laws and in fact what they’re worried about the most is that I have found enormous fame and success precisely by breaking them, and so did Donald Trump, by going out and spitting and laughing in the face of totalitarianism, by making the censors and authoritarians the object of ridicule. I demonstrated that they have no real power to damage people provided you never apologise, never explain, and never behave as though you’re afraid of them. They throw everything they have at me – they call me every name under the sun and what do I do in response? I laugh – and it is something that more people need to start doing, and when I virtuously troll I’m doing a sort of performance art, yes, but it is designed with a very serious purpose in mind, and it is to demonstrate to people that you don’t have to be afraid of cultural scold and you don’t have to be afraid of people who are trying to police how to live. Actually, you are the best judge of how you live.
If you want to do something outrageous or silly you should be able to and accept the consequences – that’s what Kathy Griffin did when she held the severed, dismembered head of Donald Trump – she should have been able to do that! I’m happy that she got to do it in public and she got the inevitable consequence, which is ‘You can’t do that and be a family entertainer at CNN New York doing a show for kids because those two things don’t really go together.
On one hand, you’re saying that it’s wrong for the Left to try and socially, politically, or professionally ruin other people. But Kathy Griffin had her professional life ruined as a consequence of expressing a political opinion. Is this fair?
There’s a difference between standing for freedom of speech and believing that speech should have no consequences. The Left believes that their speech should have no consequences. They can say the most outrageous, hurtful and disgusting things about conservatives, about me, about Donald Trump, and they should be free from consequence because they have a higher, virtuous, moral accord. Well, I don’t believe that I think people should be able to say, do and be whatever they want, but I don’t think that should come entirely free from consequence. How could it? And no classical liberal has ever believed that; JS Mill didn’t believe that! Nobody seriously holds that position. I want people to have to accept responsibility for their actions, and Kathy Griffin experienced that, but what I don’t want is people to be shunned from public life for having particular ideological persuasion and to crack a particular joke. In her case she did that – she said something, she allowed herself to be pictured in a way that would be incompatible with her role at CNN as a children’s entertainer. It’s not a violation of her free speech to say that she did something that made her position as a children’s entertainer untenable. Where I would be inconsistent is if I said that she should not be allowed to appear in public at all for saying anything negative about conservatives. I don’t believe that. She should be able to express her opinion however she wants and as forcefully as she wants. In any case, her crime was not saying something mean about politicians. Her crime was being unfunny. If she’d done something shocking, outrageous and amusing, people would not have come for her about it because everybody would be too busy laughing. That’s why I get away with it because I make people laugh. I wrap the truth up into a joke. I provoke and I ridicule, but I do it not only with a higher purpose, but I’m always twice as funny as I am offensive, at least enough people think so. What Kathy Griffin did wasn’t creative, wasn’t intelligent, wasn’t funny, wasn’t subversive, wasn’t anything really other than just a sort of nasty, hateful, pointless thing to do. I believe absolutely that she should have the right to do it in public but that doesn’t mean that I believe she can do it without consequence.
This is an excerpt of the full transcript of our interview. The rest of the Milo Yiannopoulos interview with Penthouse will be published in our December issue, on shelves 1 November.
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