Today Twitter permanently banned the account of the Breitbart Tech Editor Milo Yiannopoulos. Many Twitter users were up in arms, as many Twitter users seem to be about anything and everything at any given time, this time arguing that the censorship of Yiannopoulos and his ability to Tweet was a violation of his freedom of speech and evidence that conservative chaps like him were victims of clear discrimination.
As has been widely recycled by larger newspapers, Yiannopoulos told his own publication that
With the cowardly suspension of my account, Twitter has confirmed itself as a safe space for Muslim terrorists and Black Lives Matter extremists, but a no-go zone for conservatives. Twitter is holding me responsible for the actions of fans and trolls using the special pretzel logic of the left. Where are the Twitter police when Justin Bieber’s fans cut themselves on his behalf? Like all acts of the totalitarian regressive left, this will blow up in their faces, netting me more adoring fans. We’re winning the culture war, and Twitter just shot themselves in the foot. This is the end for Twitter. Anyone who cares about free speech has been sent a clear message: you’re not welcome on Twitter.
Though he tours universities regularly, Yiannopoulos is a well-known figure to students at the University of York. When the University responded to an open letter critical of the administration's decision to celebrate International Men's Day and cancelled the event, Yiannopoulos wrote an article about the lack of support for male students there, seeing the suicide of a York student as the perfect example on which to make his case. Yiannopoulos also placed some blame for the student's suicide on a Women's Officer of the student union, making this clear on social media.
Yiannopoulos was invited to speak on militant feminism at the university by the student union's UKIP society, but, when the society could not afford the security nor the room, Yiannopoulos's attendance was cut. Another planned visit from Yiannopoulos was cancelled - some said he had taken ill whereas others indicated that it would be far more profitable to tour American universities instead.
Many York students will likely be delighted to know that the journalist's Twitter account has been permanently suspended. Yiannopoulos holds a number of political opinions contrary to most students, be it his vehement criticism of third-wave feminism, his enthusiastic support of Donald Trump's bid for American presidency, his hand-waving attitude to the 'T' element of the LGBT rights movement or his typical criticism of the "totalitarian left" and its "social justice warriors."
I'm going to be blunt: Yiannopoulos makes news by being an arse. To be sure, I don't say this because I disagree with his political views: he believes many things that I do not, but that does not make him an unpleasant character. Maybe inequality, discrimination and sexism are not as bad as people think; Yiannopoulos is perfectly entitled to make that case and it is only courteous to listen. The trouble is that Yiannopoulos is not courteous in how he composes his opinions: he thrives on being a provocative, insensitive rascal, deliberately annoying people with whom he disagrees. It's not the fact that he is critical of feminism that is frustrating; it's far more his mocking and rude attitude, all of it intentional, towards feminists (yes, he lumps a tremendous amount of feminist positions and groups into single descriptions, a habit I detest).
Both his sincere followers and his sworn nemeses will be quite emotional about the suspension of his Twitter account, but this is all in a day's work for Milo Yiannopoulos; there really is no such thing as bad publicity for him, because his persona is intentionally engineered to be a walking joke. The Milo Yiannopoulos Privilege Grant is a bursary intended to support white men attending American universities, but its chief patron constructed it for a laugh. Yiannopoulos informed Buzzfeed News that it was the result of an idea designed to rile social justice warriors. Breitbart noted that it would be a move "certain to infuriate the left".
Yiannopoulos is not alone in his insincerity. Promoting the Privilege Grant was another well-known right-wing Internet personality, Steven Crowder, who anticipates counterarguments from "the SJW leftists". Looking at Crowder's website, subscription to his content is recommended if the reader enjoys "laughing at liberals." Elsewhere, Yiannopoulos has been posing in shirts promoting Trump's Mexican wall with another conservative pundit, Ann Coulter. They think it is amusing and witty to make merchandise out of the presidential candidate's extraordinary pledge to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the United States.
It is much easier to appear superior in an argument if your opponent's case seems to be ludicrous. If it isn't already ludicrous, Yiannopoulos, Crowder and others necessarily make it so. It is effortless to make fun of someone's position rather than actually engage with it. Perhaps they could offer sophisticated critiques of feminism, egalitarianism and the like, as opposed to talking about times when "SJWs and the regressive left went full retard", as Paul Joseph Watson puts it. Perhaps they'd like to engage with people's ideas without calling them "Stupid butt-hurt millenials" (another Watson description. Watson also enjoys using high-pitched voices when reading out quotes from "idiots," another way of mocking them). I doubt it.
The destruction of Yiannopoulos's Twitter account will be a single bum note in the complicated concerto that is his career. If anything it will be an opportunity for him to become even more famous. Causing a scene and poking people rather than engaging with their beliefs is how Yiannopoulos rolls.