On a Thursday night in August, with 75 days to go before the US Presidential Election, Hillary Clinton stepped onto a podium in Reno, Nevada, and attempted to strike a deathblow to Donald Trump’s campaign.
“A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party. This is not Republicanism as we have known it,” said Clinton. “These are race-baiting ideas, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant ideas, anti-woman – all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘Alt-Right.’”
Clinton drew ties between the alt-right and Brexit, the alt-right and the KKK, claiming Russian President Vladimir Putin as the “godfather” of the brand of extreme nationalism.
And Clinton laid the blame of the alt-right’s rise squarely at the feet of Trump, whom she said had been “dog-whistling” the fringe. She painted it as part of a bigger, more global picture – the troubling rise of hardline nationalism around the world.
Clinton was in the midst of enjoying a breezy lead over Donald Trump, both in national and swing-state polls. But her tangerine-hued opponent, a political rookie, had broken near-every common-sense political rule en route to winning his party’s nomination. And he did so with a record number of votes – more than (either) Bush. More than Reagan. More than Nixon.
Sensing the strength in his populist uprising, the Clinton campaign was loath to settle strategically. But to many pundits, her August speech seemed, at best, an odd way to beat-up an extraordinarily vulnerable opponent - citing and energising a fringe movement that most thought confined to dank corners of the internet.
As she spoke, global internet degenerates lit up with delight. Clinton cited Breitbart News, a rising and influential conservative media outlet, as an alt-right loving hub of hatred. Breitbart’s executive, Steve Bannon, had also been made the new CEO of the Trump campaign.
“Here,” said Clinton, “are a few headlines they’ve published:
“Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”
“Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?”
In response, one Twitter user prophetically chimed: “The #AltRight will long remember the day you helped make us into the real right.”
Over on Reddit, The_Donald, arguably the internet’s most active and fervent Donald Trump community, dedicated the day to posting “spicy” anti-Clinton, pro-alt-right memes featuring a frog dubbed Pepe. (At one moment in Clinton’s televised speech, a giddy man in the audience could clearly be heard shouting “Pepe!!”)
Across the Atlantic, in a London living room and with his phone lighting up with texts, snaps, notifications and tags from a legions of fans and well-wishers, Milo Yiannopoulos was in ecstasy - a hard-on of mind and body.
Hillary Clinton had just read his headlines to millions of viewers.
The New York hotel suite of Milo Yiannopoulos – everyone calls him Milo - is cramped with luggage. We count at least three leather Louis Vuitton bags, though it’s hard to see around the bespoke Savile Row suits he’s flung about the place. Draped over one bed – Milo’s bed – is a Trump campaign flag dominated by the now overly recognisable tagline, ‘Make America Great Again.’
Laid on another bed is a Trump branded bag packed with a half-dozen ‘Make America Great Again’ baseball caps (those which may or may not have been fabricated in the States) – a haul Yiannopoulos had couriered over from Trump Tower.
As Yiannopoulos – who almost always refers to Trump as “Daddy” – prepared to depart London to meet GQ Australia in Manhattan, he posted a Facebook snap of his Vuitton passport wallet alongside a Gucci retail bag, boarding pass and rather large coffee cup. His words, “New York here I come”, are met with a chorus of positive and excited comments.
“Sydney, when Milo Yiannopoulos?? There’s plenty of triggering you could do at University of Sydney and perhaps, Macquarie,” wrote Graham Huf.
A vast buffet of room service arrives. Milo’s on a strict keto diet to slim down and beautify before his impending American college tour. He’s concerned about his jawline and he has a full-time fitness trainer travelling with him.
Dubbed “The Dangerous Faggot Tour,” Yiannopoulos will travel to colleges the country over, “triggering” (a borrowed progressive parlance gone pejorative) the mainstream and fertilising the broad audience by criticising what he sees as a horribly feminised, multicultural society.
“My dream outcome is the total destruction of political correctness in America and restoration of gay culture to its rightful place as the home of dissidence, mischief and subversion,” he later tells me.
The global neo-right could hardly have engineered a more exquisitely suited vessel for its messaging than Milo Yiannopoulos. 31 years-young, stylish and photogenic, he’s charismatic, witty and flamboyantly gay (the gleeful catch-all defence to cries of discrimination). He’s also mercilessly unflappable on nearly every hot-button political topic. His phone background is a photo of himself.
Born in Athens, the British-raised Yiannopoulos is, officially, a journalist. He dropped out of both Cambridge and Manchester universities, rising to dubious prominence as Breitbart’s tech editor. There, he waged war on feminist culture through the Gamergate saga. It was a quintessentially Milo moment - taking on pro-feminism journalists and pundits who bullied poor mens’ rights activists about gender equality in video games.
“Most of my fans are disaffected liberals who are pissed off at the excesses of their own side,” he offers. “Left-wing people like to say that the social justice warriors are just a tiny fringe. They like to say that not all feminists are hateful, misandrist, lesbian monsters. It isn’t true. The furthest ‘left bits’ of the Left have taken over the Left. That’s why you’re losing the war, that’s why it’s turning on you. The Left has capitulated to its worst elements.”
Unlike most journalists, Yiannopoulos has money. He invested in property early in life – amassing a personal wealth he estimates at about $8.6 million. He claims to run through about $50,000 a month on clothes, travel, room service and hired goons. Spend a day with him, and that figure is wholly believable.
“I lost a crucifix with $12,000 worth of diamonds on it a week ago,” he says while picking out socks. “It’s the second of only two bad things that have happened to me in my life. My grandmother dying - and losing that crucifix.”
Yiannopoulos received his largest dose of media attention after innumerable Twitter controversies that culminated in him being permanently banned from the platform.
Most notable was his ceaseless trolling campaign against the recent Ghostbusters remake, which rebooted the original 80s franchise with all female leads. Yiannopoulos and his peers saw this as typifying a post-feminist, misandry-laden world, rallying against the movie before, during and after its release.
Leslie Jones, an African-American lead in the film, was the target of much of the trolling. Jones deactivated her Twitter account after a sustained barrage of harassment from Yiannopoulos and his followers, including memes comparing her to a gorilla and attacks on her literacy.
Yiannopoulos’ subsequent ban from the platform lead to an even more swollen chorus of alt-right sympathisers wailing about “free speech” while starting a sustained #FreeMilo movement.
In late August, still disgruntled over the incident, keyboard warriors hacked Leslie Jones’ iCloud and website, posting nude photos of the actress. They distributed the photos, amongst other places, on Twitter, using the #FreeMilo hashtag.
“I’m sorry for being popular, but I am not responsible for what 350,000 people on the internet say,” he said of the incident. “Do you go after Selena Gomez when her fans send death threats to Justin Bieber?”
Yiannopoulos has been oft-anointed as the king of the alt-right – he their ‘fabulous’, sympathy-repelling troll-in-chief.
In reality, the movement’s a little more complex and disconnected.
The alt-right is a yawning, disparate group of nativist, populist nationalists whose cries are loudest in regards to immigration and feminism. They claim to support the preservation of white culture in the West. They’re radically anti-immigration, often misogynistic, more than often anti-Semitic. Though they prefer to label their obvious white supremacisism as “racial realism”.
Yiannopoulos considers himself more a well-wisher than a member of the movement, saying that he’s far more hawkish (he supported the Iraq War) and far less isolationist.
What Hillary Clinton and the mainstream media refer to the alt-right is better thought of as a diverse, kind of gross ecosystem of radical groups, each with their own unique focus. There’s the “gamergate” alt-right, who seek to protect bro-gamer culture from the ‘bastardisation’ of radical feminists. There are some not-so-gentle overlaps with the similarly misogynistic Mens Rights Activist communities, which in turn overlap with whatever bastard form the Pickup Artist community has mutated into nowadays.
The alt-right’s sworn enemies? Feminists, “social justice warriors”, immigrants, Lena Dunham, Islam, obesity, the “body-positivity” movement and “Cuckservatives” – a portmanteau of cuckold and conservative (“cuck”, the go-to pejorative of the alt-right).
In all this, Yiannopoulos views himself as a “virtuous troll doing god’s work”.
“I’ve come to realise that trolls are the only people telling the truth. It performs a very necessary and enjoyable function. The times have changed. I’ve become more necessary in culture. But also, I’ve got a hell of a lot better at it. So now, I’m not only at the top of my game – I’m brilliant at what I do – but also, the rest of the world’s caught up with me and realised that I’m necessary.”
He believes that Hillary Clinton was disingenuous when she read aloud his “satirical faggy provocations” and presented them as hateful, earnest seriousness. (Instagram caption: “#sorry for #triggering grandma”)
Yiannopoulos is undoubtedly influential – a star at the increasingly dominant Breitbart and a figure of reverence amongst Reddit’s Trump community, whjo’ve taken to to calling him the ‘Based Faggot’. Ultimately, his world-class trolling energises his base and enrages his enemies.
“I get shit through my front door all the time. Dead animals. Razor blades. Syringes. If anyone on the left got stuff that I got, you’d never hear the end of it. They get mean words on the internet, I get fucking dead shit in my mail. It’s actually dangerous being me.”
The media, unsurprisingly uneasy with the group’s views, enjoys painting members of the alt-right, and its adjacent ideologies, as sexless, basement-dwelling losers on the societal fringe - whose days are taken up harassing women and producing online frog memes; a minority as despicable as it is futile to gain influence.
But populist, nationalistic uprisings throughout the West suggest the group’s messages are gaining traction – from Trump’s nomination and legitimisation, to the wholly unexpected results of Brexit.
While most Trump supporters mightn’t be members of the alt-right, they’re often influenced by it, informed by it, and ideologically in tune with it. Indeed, a dream outcome for the alt-right is to get Middle America (and its international equivalents) “woke” – to have them question western society’s agreed-upon tenants. Look at local TV host Sonia Kruger’s comments on Muslim immigration.
For these far-reaching nationalists, Brexit proved a delicious denouement: proof that the cucks of the establishment – of politics, of the media – can be, as they say, stumped.
To be clear, our objective here isn’t to vilify Yiannopoulos – that’s been done ad nauseum to little effect or insight. Amway, you could easily argue he does a good enough job of that himself.
No, our goal is attempt to comprehend and wrap our minds around a worldview that’s at best unpalatable and at worst, dangerously abhorrent. While many will tut-tut at offering trolls, goblins and peroxide-haired provocateurs oxygen, we only really have two choices. Ignore them, or endeavour to understand what drives them.
Because the phenomena of Yiannopoulos and Breitbart and the_donald is real; the record-breaking number of votes cast for Trump is real. The shock of Brexit, the rise of France’s Le Pen and Greece’s Golden Dawn, the astonishment of One Nation winning seats… all of this is real. To quote a favourite catchcry of the_donald community: It’s happening!!!
If you’ve ever met a true narcissist, you’ve met Milo. Extreme self-love, an ability to twist anything to confirm one’s own superiority, familiar, concentric layers of ill-rationalised defences to ensure that a bruised core is never exposed to danger.
“I think I’m the best human that I know. I’m the best at being a person, a successful, well-rounded person. I’m incredibly self-aware, disciplined, driven, successful, handsome, popular, funny. I’m really good at being a person. There’s really not very much I dislike about myself.”
Yiannopoulos is also witty, annoyingly charming and highly entertaining – a most fucked up mutation of joie de vivre; his flair and callousness is that of a teen anarchist who never grew up.
We’re wandering down 5th Avenue, right by Grand Central Station and the Public Library. It’s the start of the Labor Day long weekend – America’s unofficial end of summer. It’s hot. It’s very busy.
“Hey! Breitbart?!” says a balding white man as he runs up to Yiannopoulos and shakes his hand.
This election is a difficult proposition for many American voters. Statistically, Trump and Clinton represent the two least popular candidates in election history. Not without her struggles, Clinton’s been criticised for evasion of the press (she hasn’t yet held a press conference in 2016) and attempts to conceal certain activities as Secretary of State (an FBI report revealed that her State Department aides “bleached” email records and destroyed several of her mobile phones with hammers).
But to be clear, New York is deeply a blue state. Clinton will win here. Many people we meet on this trip express deep scepticism about Trump’s chances, despite his climbing in the polls. But liberal New York is a safe haven for progressive politics –shielded from the realities of the United States’ true demographics. One British woman we happen across was astonished to hear that one of Brexit’s architects, Nigel Farage, had been on the campaign trail for Trump, delivering a speech to a raucous, appreciative crowd in Mississippi in late August.
We haven’t walked 50 metres before the bald man returns.
“Hey, do you think Trump can still win this thing?”
“Of course! Of course!”
Moments later: “I’m the only journalist I know that has fans, not readers.”
Preparing for the next series of photos, we ask Milo to put on his deep red ‘Make America Great Again’ cap. The consequences are instant. Sneers, not-so-soft-whispers from the sidewalk, from the windows of yellow taxis, from just behind us. There’s a very real chance someone could punch him in the face.
Yet the cap also attracts fans. Moments after one couple murmurs a Should we ask for a photo?, another giddy man runs up and unabashedly poses for a selfie.
Yiannopoulos is recognised and greeted and on the receiving end of a half-dozen “I’m a huge fan” throughout the day. For all the dismissals of Breitbart, this curious Brit and the alt-right, people also seem to take to it enthusiastically. At the Met, a security guard breaks rank, flustered and star-struck, to shake Yiannopoulos’ hand. All who approach this day are white. And all are men.
We jump an Uber and head uptown. Spread across the back seat, Yiannopoulos is explaining the alleged science that claims right-leaning women to be more attractive - and how right-leaning men have higher testosterone levels.
“What?” he says on noticing our scowl.
Really, the people who disagree with you must have low testosterone levels?
“Generally, yes. Cucks…. “This,” he adds, stroking his face, “is a very high testosterone jaw.”
Again our eyes roll and teeth bite.
“Let me see your hands,” he says. “Hmm, you have pretty high T-levels.”
At this point, we’ve spent the better part of four hours in Yiannopoulos’s world. It’s completely exhausting. Stupefying. Irrational. Bizarre. Relentless. Though you do begin to piece together his M.O.
Yiannopoulos believes that multiculturalism is a failure and that the West shouldn’t take immigrants from the Middle East. (“The reason is simple: western values are superior and incompatible with the authoritarian and oppressive systems of belief elsewhere in the world.”) He believes fat people need to be shamed for their own good. He believes we’ve gone well past the age of gender equality – and that the pendulum has swung the other way. He believes that distribution of IQ between men and women is different (again he cites science). He believes feminism is a “cancer” that makes both sexes miserable. He adores Mariah Carey, Kanye West and Jennifer Lopez.
He believes that Donald Trump is an “existential threat to political correctness” and wants him to be a “deity, an intergalactic god emperor”. He believes, based solely on what he’s seen on YouTube, Julia Gillard to be “repulsive”. Though he likes TonyAbbott. He also admires Australia’s firm borders and points-based immigration system.
He “fucking loves” the state of Israel (see: border wall, cultural purity, hardline hawkish-ness). He believes America is the greatest country on Earth. He really loves fucking black men.
Most of all, he believes that western values need to be preserved at all costs: that people should be able to say, do and be anything they want. And he believes political correctness has killed that.
Infuriatingly, a small window of admiration opens on the strength of Milo’s beliefs and the frantic, boundless energy he devotes to advocating them. But the consequences of being around those beliefs? They’re miserable. Everything is separated into black and white, blue and red, liberal and conservative, cucked and uncucked.
In a cucked world, it can be difficult to find something pure - something wholly, undeniably uncucked. Islam? Nah. Progressive rights? Cucked. Twitter – definitely cucked. Facebook? Cucked by Cuckerberg. Apple? Cuck-fest. Reddit (which houses the biggest online Trump community)? Cucked beyond repair.
Flicking through his personal social feeds and those of Breitbart – which he does most of the day – Yiannopoulos stumbles across a TIME article. He reads the lead out loud.
‘My brother’s pregnancy and the making of a new American family. My brother Evan was born female. He came out as transgender 16 years ago, but never stopped wanting to have a baby. This spring, he gave birth to his first child.’
“This is literal cancer. It’s not about the person involved – because I feel sorry for whatever fucking brain disease or dysmorphia disorder that he has. I’m angry at the journalist for writing it. I’m angry that it’s normalising psychiatric dysfunction. It encourages people to be mental and miserable.”
Stating that trans people have literal brain disease is unnecessarily mean and cruel.
“No, that’s a fact. And I would say that I’m necessarily mean and cruel.
"Liberals don’t leave them alone, so why should I? Liberals put them on magazines and say it’s a civil rights struggle. Well, no it is not. There’s something sick about a culture that puts people who are mentally ill on magazine covers and says, ‘Be like this person.’ When you put Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair, you’re not saying, ‘Look at this person,’ you’re saying, ‘Be like this person.’
“The left is turning dysfunction and unhappiness into aspirational lifestyle goals. They’re not aspirational lifestyle goals. My issue is with the editor of Vanity Fair, not Caitlyn Jenner. Would they do it with bipolar disorder? It’s sick.”
At this point, that same window has opened to a sense of sadness. A tristesse for Milo’s brain – which has clearly been put to waste, filled to capacity as it is with snark and hatred and pseudoscience. Sad for that trans guy. Sad for our African-American Uber driver, who’s played witness to 20 minutes of Milo’s unfiltered bile.
It’s definitely a cuck-ish moment. Who cares about the Uber driver? Or the transsexual? For a moment, we’re stumped. The excess empathy (“white” guilt) is a tell-tale sign. Those T-levels must be lower than Milo thought.
Back at Yiannopoulos’ hotel lobby, we rally. Channelling every bit of T in this GQ jaw, we attempt to dig a little deeper beneath the ID.
What’s the most anxious you’ve ever felt?
“Getting beat up at age 11 by my mother’s new husband wasn’t the best thing in the world. But it toughened me up enormously. I already had a rhino hide before that. But rejected to the whole idea of it – I felt like it was beneath me. I wasn’t scared of him, it just made me feel low rent,” he recalls, laughing. “It was aesthetically offensive to me. I was such a beautiful, well-presented child.”
He delivers the anecdote with unsettling breeziness. When pushed, he insists there’s no bad blood. So, we push harder, asking Yiannopoulos what he thinks of articles alleging him to be sociopathic.
“Oh, I probably am. Society needs its sociopaths. Sociopaths are doctors, lawyers and journalists – all of the people that keep society ticking over. The people we really fucking need. I don’t understand why sociopathy has this weird stigma attached to it.”
After seven hours that are completely absent of any inkling of vulnerability or sensitivity, it comes.
What would your fans find to be the most unexpected thing about you?
Yiannopoulos stares at the marbled floor, shyly, before breaking into a thoughtful, knowing grin.
“My best friends in the world? They’re all women, they’re all feminists, and they hate what I do for a living. They’re annoying,” he says, shaking his head. “And I love them.”
His face softens. It’s as though he’s momentarily forgotten his jawline and hair, Islam and the alleged radical, man-hating and overweight shadow that feminism’s cast over society.
“I really love them.”
And just there, just for a fleeting moment, Milo Yiannopoulos is a fucking cuck.