Milo Yiannopoulis Deserves All the Scorn He’s Getting Over Journalist Shootings & He’s Not Alone
Just days after he told reporters “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight”, neo-nazi sympathizer and former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulis wrote a Facebook post weakly seeking to absolve himself of any responsibility for the massacre of at least five journalists in the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis Maryland. Yiannopoulis, whose 2017 book was titled “Dangerous”, wrote a postscript to the media “You guys should decide whether you think I’m ‘disgraced, irrelevant and over’ or ‘so dangerous I inspire mass shootings.’ I can’t be both.”
To which I answer yes, you can.
You see, that’s the sad fact of gun violence – it’s a bad apple situation. The old saying goes that it only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole barrel. And it only takes a couple bad apples to get a lot of people killed. Bad apples like Mr. Yiannopoulis, a provocateur who seeks to promote himself through outlandish, extremist statements and other acting out, without regard for the consequences of others. Bad apples like crazy people, perhaps brainwashed by propaganda, perhaps damaged by a lifetime of abuse, or derision, perhaps disgruntled professionally, or spurned romantically, perhaps simply mentally ill, who get hold of a gun and when triggered themselves, go forth and pull the trigger over and over again. It only takes one or two bad apples.
And in today’s world of hyper connectivity within algorithmically defined reality bubbles where almost anyone who shows the artificial intelligences of silicon valley that they are susceptible to artificial “facts” will be fed a steady diet of them. Where anyone who shows the slightest predilection towards conservative or traditional thinking will be all wrapped up in a big fat bubble of bullshit. Where the media they see most will confirm their biases, while shoveling those prejudices back on them in a cycle of hate, fearmongering, and “alternative facts” which is only ever occasionally, and much to their fury, interrupted by a blip of dissent or deviation from that media diet. And when it is, it’s beyond easy to declare, as even the President does, “FAKE NEWS!!!” and slam shut the doors of their minds to any possibility that anything which doesn’t fit the narrative of the bubble might be the truth. In this world, those bad apples are just an electric pulse away from each other.
And so it doesn’t really matter if Milo Yiannopoulis is a washed up has been, he still has the ability to reach a certain audience that still follows him on social media. And it’s not just any audience, because the kind of audience that he sought to build, and which gravitated towards him, and which the social media algorithms heaped upon him, is a right wing audience big on guns and small on reason, and surely includes a share of delusional nutcases with itchy trigger fingers. And it only takes one.
So Yiannopoulis should have known better, just as Sarah Palin should have when she “trolled” democratic lawmakers by posting photos of them in a shooter’s crosshairs. Including then congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head by one of Palin’s delusional followers, which she survived with a lifelong disability. But a 9 year old girl, a young staffer of Giffords’, and a respected judge weren’t so lucky.
In fact, since Yiannopoulis should have known what happened to Giffords and those innocent bystanders, he lacks any excuse Palin could have made, however feeble. And while it’s still too early, as of this writing, for me to say whether Yiannopoulis bears any direct responsibility for inciting this shooting – there’s no question that his comments were irresponsible.
And do you know what else that may have led to this massacre that was irresponsible? Silicon Valley buying into the false equivalency narrative put out by the right, and throttling progressive opinion, which at it’s core is nearly always a call for respecting human rights, as if it were as caustic as alt-right opinion, which at it’s core is nearly always a call for disrespecting human rights. Which are not at all equivalent, and it’s about time silicon valley owned up to that FACT.
Related: Facebook Can’t Seem to Figure Out the Difference Between American News, and Russian Propaganda
If silicon valley would stop giving professional troublemakers like Milo Yiannopoulis and Ann Coulter a megaphone, the media could stop giving them interviews, and then maybe we wouldn’t have a media environment where the truth tellers are called “fake news” and “the enemy of the people” by firebrand politicians with their pants on fire. Maybe then we wouldn’t have their coat-tail riders calling for the gunning down of journalists. Maybe then we’d have people being presented with both sides of the issues equally, so that the truth wouldn’t get overwhelmed by lies. Maybe then the fringe would stay on the fringes.
There’s plenty of blame to go around here. The NRA that refuses to accept the reality of the danger, even as it becomes more a political tool, and even a stooge for the Russians. A President who declares anything that doesn’t flatter him “fake news”, much less that which incriminates him. Social media corporations which are as quick to censor good as they are evil. And maybe a prima-dona provacatuer who should have learned the lesson of Sarah Palin, and known better.
And there’s good reason to think that the shooter himself, and his deranged persecution complex, are all to blame. After all, it only takes one bad apple. But whether any evidence that the shooter was in any way influenced or triggered into action by Yiannopoulos’ comments comes to light, or not, it doesn’t change the fact that calling for harm to others, even as a “joke”, is irresponsible, foolish, and “dangerous”.
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images.
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