On Wednesday Milo Yiannopoulos, the young, 32-year-old editor of Breitbart and self-described gay, Jewish provocateur and Trump supporter, found himself smack in the center of the culture war playing out in Trump’s America.
Yiannopoulos was set to speak at UC Berkeley Wednesday night, the latest stop on his “Dangerous Faggot Tour” (which refers to himself) of college campuses. Instead, he was evacuated from the campus when the ground floor of the building where he was preparing his remarks was breached by protesters armed with “concealed shields, weapons and things,” as Yiannopoulos, recalled shortly after the event to Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson.
“Milo’s hate speech is not allowed here. When it’s hate speech, our free speech is to shut him down,” U.C. Berkeley sophomore Jonathan Gow, 19, told the San Francisco Gate.
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Trump leaped to defend Yiannopoulos (who often referred to him as his “daddy”) tweeting, “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”
About 1,500 people had gathered to protest Yiannopoulos’ appearance, which university security cancelled two hours before its scheduled start, AP reports. Carlson called the images of protesters hurling smoke bombs, breaking windows and starting fires on the campus a “nightmare scenario, it looks like political violence, designed to squelch opinions the perpetrators of that violence disagree with.” Milo retorted it was “Heavily ironic”.
Milo Yiannopoulos is no stranger to controversy. He was permanently banned from Twitter in July 2016 for harassing African-American actress Leslie Jones, has been accused of misogyny (he has claimed feminists are just angry lesbians), Islamophobia, and is often described as the de facto leader of the so-called alt-right.
‘A libertarian gay Trump-supporting provocateur’
Born in Greece as Milo Hanrahan, Yiannopoulos was raised in Kent, southern England as a Catholic and has written about his difficult relationship with his mother, whom he claims has Jewish roots, and his step-father. He is not known to hold any degrees, but has published two books of poetry, one of which made headlines partly for accusations that he borrowed material from “Buffy the Vampire”.
In 2011 he co-founded an online tech magazine called the Kernel, and made headlines in the “gamer-gate” controversy for defending videogame culture against accusations of sexism, an argument that played out in many of the same forums that later helped give rise to the alt-right - Twitter, Reddit and 4chan.
He left Britain for the United States to warn America to “face its Muslim problem before it is too late. I myself am leaving the UK behind, as I no longer recognize much of my beloved London,” he wrote in Breitbart last June.
He openly states that he is a gay Jewish man who champions freedom of speech and expression - and supports Donald Trump, though Trump is well-known for his attacks on journalists.
During the Republican presidential primaries, Yiannopoulos was an early supporter of Trump - a gay male version of Ann Coulter, an image he has embraced.
In March 2016, Yiannopoulos published, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide To The Alt-Right” in Breitbart, arguing that the “amorphous movement” is a reaction to establishment conservatives’ inability to stand up for “common humanity in the face of black and feminist identity politics, for free speech in the face of the regressive Left’s censorship.”
He penned columns in support of Paypal founder and Trump supporter Peter Thiel’s takedown of Gawker even though the news site had never been proven to publish untrue stories, but in the same breath, claims his whole raison d'etre has been to stand up for free speech in the face of liberal censorship.
Asked how he reconciles that worldview and his own gay, Jewish identity with the accusation that racism and white supremacy is part and parcel of the alt-right, Yiannopoulos accuses the Left of delegitimizing the movement.
“The alternative right are a much smarter group of people [than skinheads] — which perhaps suggests why the Left hates them so much. They’re dangerously bright,” Yiannopoulos wrote in Breitbart.
On the Berkeley protesters Yiannopoulos echoed a similar sentiment. “You know I am not a scary far-right, you know some kind of Neo-Nazi, as some of the posters claim, you know they put those things on posters just to legitimize their own violence. Instead I'm just as a libertarian gay Trump-supporting provocateur,” Yiannopoulos said to Carlson.
Asked if he views himself as a leader of the alt-right, Yiannopoulos always says no, at most calling himself “a fellow traveler.”
“The press seems determined to label the alt-right this misogynist, hateful, racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic movement and at the same time tries to crown, you know, a gay Jew who never shuts up about his black boyfriends as the leader of it. Something isn't quite right,” Yiannopoulos responded on CNN about whether or not he feels comfortable within the so called Alt-right.
Yiannopoulos arrived at Berkeley a day opening applications for “The Yiannopoulos Privilege Grant,” officially announced back in July, which will award sums of $2,500 to the "minority group" of white men. To be eligible for the grant, white men simply need to submit a short essay about what they "plan to achieve in the future” with their education and a short video about how they'll contribute to America's future.
"It started as a joke, but if you're a woman, or you're black... if you're disabled, or you're Muslim, or a refugee... if you identify as an attack helicopter, you can get free money," Yiannopoulos said at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo recently. "But the facts say that actually it is young white boys who are educationally underprivileged.”
His provocations have won him a large audience. His upcoming book “Dangerous” doesn’t come out until March 17 but already topped the Amazon best-seller list. The Daily Caller claimed the book sales were driven in large part by “a liberal freakout over Simon & Schuster’s book deal with Milo Yiannopoulos.”