So, late yesterday Gamergates’s semi-feral pet journalist, Milo Yiannopoulos, received his most recent lifetime ban from Twitter. I’m given to understand he has collected almost the whole set now.
Yiannopoulos was banned for his part in inciting a racist hate mob against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. His supporters are predictably calling this a violation of his free speech rights, which treats us to such amusing spectacles as self-proclaimed conservatives calling for Congress (the government) to force Twitter (a private enterprise) to bow to their wishes.
The beleaguered Breitbart blogger’s minions, being part of that peculiar but segment of the alt-right that is vocally against justice, is trying the usual tactic of “using progressive’s rules against them”, something they learned from studying Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals in a deeply misguided attempt to understand the modern left, an exercise which now ironically informs their entire playbook.
Of course, since their whole schtick is an utter lack of human empathy or even a rudimentary theory of mind, they can’t actually understand someone else’s point of view enough to understand anyone else’s “rules” or “tactics” or the theories behind them, so their attempt to leverage identity politics consists of basically shouting, “He’s a gay man who has sex with Black people, so you can’t ban him!”
It took all of about five seconds for this to morph, telephone-game style, into them shouting “Twitter banned Milo for being gay, that’s homophobic!”, which is how they think “identity politics” works. And when it doesn’t work for them, they think they’ve uncovered some great hypocrisy.
The other rousing defense they offer of their… you know, I’m not sure what to call him. He positions himself as a thought leader, but a lot of the time? It’s literally just positioning. He doesn’t direct the crowd so much as run to get ahead of where he thinks the crowd will likely be. There is some element of self-fulfilling prophecy to this, inasmuch as he draws attention to easy targets of opportunity (as he did with Leslie Jones). I guess it’s fair to say he is leading the mob, with a philosophical side note that the leader of a mob is also part of the mob.
So the other rousing defense they offer of their leader is that all kinds of criminal activity happens on Twitter and Twitter doesn’t do a thing about it, so apparently Twitter has declared that “saying mean things” or (more spuriously) “having the wrong opinions” is worse than conspiring to commit terrorism, among other things.
But of course, it’s not that. The self-proclaimed conservative set love to crow about how liberals and progressives don’t understand consequences. Even Leslie Jones’s harassment wasn’t actually harassment. Nobody did it. It happened, paradoxically, because she should have known better than to respond when it started. In their mind, everything that happens to everybody else is a natural consequence of their own actions, and we should all know better.
But such consequences never seem to be the same for the alt-right, do they? No. They say “You’re punishing him for his opinions!” They say, “I guess he’s friends with the wrong people.” They say, “The leftist mob who runs Twitter (lol) can’t stand a conservative gay man who speaks his mind!”
But what happened to Yiannopoulos was not a result of these things, nor an indictment of his actions on an absolute scale of morality. What happened to him was a consequence of his actions, and a predictable one. He should have known better.
Imagine a crowded marketplace. There are shady deals happening. People are being ripped off, pickpocketed, maybe even forcibly robbed. Over in a corner, people are plotting a violent crime. There are a thousand conversations happening at once, some pleasant, some not.
Say policing is a bit lax in this marketplace, because those who run it would rather have the great crowd of people not presently being inconvenienced by violence and theft feel like it’s a safe, chill place, and because truth be told they make a lot of money from the rip-off artists. There are also some logistical difficulties inherent in keeping the peace in a place so big and boisterous and crowded, but they’re definitely not doing all they could do.
Into this marketplace comes a young man who, seeing a merchant he doesn’t think should be there, he goes over and upsets her stall. And this is not some rinky-dink peddler, but the stall of a great merchant house. He just knocks it over, and keeps knocking it over, and keeps knocking it over.
Is this the worst crime that’s happening in the marketplace?
Is it some great big heap of moral rightness that the authorities deal with this outright disruption of their marketplace faster than they do similar acts to smaller-time peddlers, or greater acts of violence that happen at the fringes, or the conspiracies to commit crimes that don’t actually disrupt the running of the marketplace, however heinous they might be?
Of course not.
But it’s realistic. It’s reasonable. It’s almost inevitable. It is the person who disrupts the orderly running of the enterprise who is the person most likely to be removed from it.
The “speech” (actually, conduct) of Yiannopoulos and those like him has the effect of making Twitter impossible, dangerous, or emotionally draining to use for many people. Luckily for him, so far the “lift” generated by the “engagement” he creates has been seen by Twitter as enough of a net positive to override the drag on it created by the people chased off or browbeaten into silence, or worse. This is a very clinical description of the calculus engaged in by Twitter, and it’s not an endorsement of it, but the conservative crowd is always telling us we have to deal with the “real world” the way it is, and this is how it is.
But when he turned his sights on Leslie Jones? He aimed too high. He struck too close to the heart of the marketplace. She was recently in a major motion picture, currently garnering impressive word of mouth on Twitter. She was recently the subject of a happy ending story generated by Twitter, when she used the social media platform to highlight the inequitable treatment she was receiving from snobbish fashion designers.
Even with that, because of some combination of Twitter’s laissez-faire corporate culture and systemic racism and sexism, it took Twitter far longer than most reasonable people would have expected, when not accounting for those factors.
So while we might well say that he should have known better, it’s entirely possible that he believed he would get away with it. After all, he always has before. If he believes the narrative he’s helped to promulgate, he might not have thought that Leslie’s star was truly too bright for the powers that be to be ignored.
Or he might have been counting on it, angling for the ban and muttering under his breath about what was taking them so long, just so he could have the next piece for his “poor little victim” routine. He’s so oppressed!
In the banning of Milo Yiannopoulos, conservatives got everything they say they want when they’re describing their most reasonable-sounding, least bigoted-sounding goals.
- A private business decided how to handle a situation.
- A man suffered the consequences of his actions.
- The outcome was dictated solely by economic pressures; i.e., what made the most financial sense.
What more could the right want?