Send In the Clown: Internet Supervillain Milo Doesn't Care That You Hate Him

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Photography by Jill Greenberg. Styling by Michael Cook. Prop Styling: Greg Garry. Hair and Makeup: Angela DiCarlo.

Editor’s Note: It should not need saying that the views expressed by the subject of this piece in no way represent the opinions of this magazine, but in this era of social media tribalism, the mere act of covering a contentious person can be misinterpreted as an endorsement. If LGBTQ media takes its responsibilities seriously we can’t shy away from covering queer people who are at the center of this highly polarized election year, and we ask you to assess Milos Yiannopoulos, the focus of this profile, on his own words without mistaking them for ours.  

It’s a humid, cloudy August afternoon in London, and the Internet’s greatest supervillain is having a spa day. After a few minutes in the tanning bed, Milo Yiannopoulos blithely trots to the shampoo sink for a deep conditioning treatment and blow-dry.

In the waiting room, sipping a latte, his personal trainer and traveling companion, Will, a 22-year-old jacked Alaskan in gym shorts and a tank top, sits giggling over his laptop. For the foreseeable future the two are on the road, a month here in London, a week in New York, then a four-month, 26-stop jaunt across American college campuses, for a project called the Dangerous Faggot tour.

When Yiannopoulos arrives on campus, there’s a potential for all hell to break loose. Many appearances are canceled because of student petitions. At others, protesters amass outside the auditorium. Women smear red paint on themselves. Attendees sound air horns to block out his voice.

In May, at DePaul University, activists stormed the stage where Yiannopoulos was being interviewed and snatched the microphone, threatening to punch him in the face while security stood idly by.

Once, he says, a man leaped from the audience, shouting “Go take a bath with a toaster!”

“That was really good. I was like, solid nine,” Yiannopoulos says.

A professional mischief maker and provocateur, he loves a grand entrance. Wherever Yiannopoulos goes, the Loki from London swoops in with rapid-fire talking points delivered in a playfulness so foreign—and intoxicating—to most journalists and Americans that they are left standing in the rubble, dumbfounded.

At universities across the country he has paraded into hissing crowds of students accompanied by a mariachi band and wearing a poncho while shaking maracas. He once ascended to the stage on a throne hoisted above the shoulders of a dozen young white men in Make America Great Again hats to chants of “USA! USA!” He sometimes dresses in a policeman stripper uniform.

At one event, claiming he feared for his safety from feminist activists, he hired as his bodyguard a porn star rumored to have the largest penis in the industry.

This year, Yiannopoulos skyrocketed to become one of the leaders in the cultural movement known as the alt-right, and one of the most reviled and perplexing figures to those on the left. He’s been called the Internet’s biggest troll, and his singular mission is to destroy what he sees as the progressive left’s culture of victimhood, identity politics, political correctness, and social justice.

“Nobody should be playing the victim,” he says. “Nobody should be doing this grievance, oppression bullshit malarkey. Everyone should just get on with achieving everything that they can in their lives.”

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This summer, Yiannopoulos made headlines when following a sensationally bad, anti-feminist review of the new all-female Ghostbusters movie, posted on the conservative site Breitbart News, where Yiannopoulos is employed as tech editor. Online, he referred to one of the stars, Leslie Jones, as “a hot black dude.” (On CNBC, in September, he went a step further: She looks “remarkably like one of my ex-boyfriends,” he told reporters.) A Twitter war ensued. Yiannopoulos’s followers took his insult as permission to descend into racist and violent threats. Trolls posted memes comparing Jones to a gorilla, tagging her with the caption, “I know you only wanted to protect that kid.”

Twitter found itself in a no-win situation: allow Yiannopoulos free rein and be perceived as condoning trolling, or silence him and become a lightning rod for the frustrations of the alt-right. On July 19, Twitter permanently suspended Yiannopoulos’s account, which had around 350,000 followers, for violating terms of service that prohibit inciting targeted attacks against other users.

“I’m only responsible for what I say,” Yiannopoulos says. “I am held to a totally arbitrary, unique, hypocritical double standard because people don’t like my politics.”

Overwhelmed by the deluge, Jones briefly left Twitter, after tweeting, “Ok I have been called Apes, sent pics of their asses, even got a pic with semen on my face. I’m tryin to figure out what human means. I’m out.” A month later, her Web site was hacked and personal photos were published online.

One might wonder if the escalating tirade of abuse targeted at Jones would give pause to some of Yiannopoulos’s devotees: What purpose do such personalized attacks serve? What had their infantile campaign against a movie contributed to the greater sum of human happiness? Instead, the incident merely served to convince many of Yiannopoulos’s followers that the system was rigged by the liberal left to censor and shut down the right. The fact that the only other high-profile people to face permanent suspension were also Trump supporters (the rapper Azealia Banks and the right-wing troll Chuck C. Johnson) was grist for the alt-right mill. 

Back in the barber chair, a waifish young stylist lifts a strand of Yiannopoulos’s bleached hair and frowns. “You’ve got a lot of breakage from the dye,” he says. “I can give you extensions. I get them all the time.”

“Let’s schedule that for next Tuesday,” Yiannopoulos says. He’s not looking into the mirror. Instead, he is pounding away into his smartphone, held inches from his nose, as the blow-dryer purrs, making the final touches on his latest article for Breitbart News. The story is titled “How Donald Trump Made It Cool to Be Gay Again.”

“Like it or not, Donald Trump is bringing subversion, decadence, and troublemaking back to gay life,” he writes. “The domestication of the homosexual has been a disaster for leftists: Not only did the boring and stupid gays retreat into conservative institutions like marriage, but the fun and creative ones like me...are rebelling against the language policing and authoritarianism of the modern left and feeling ourselves drawn to the trollish chaos of the Republican frontrunner.”

Yiannopoulos considers himself a culture crusader, and rarely talks straightforward policy. His silver-tongued tirades madly skip over the surface, leaving in their wake a stunned armada of agape liberals. He is the right’s Kanye West, the NRA’s Kim Kardashian. 

When the alt-right throws support behind issues that flatly contradict his professed core values, he finagles reasoning to uphold the party line. So when prominent gay Trump supporter and PayPal founder Peter Thiel retaliated against Gawker Media for outing him as a gay man by funding a fatal lawsuit against the company, Yiannopoulos heralded it as a victory for free speech. Gawker’s trolling silenced people, he says.

That, of course, is exactly what Yiannopoulos does. (I witnessed this firsthand. Several people declined to be interviewed for this article for fear of getting harrassed by Yiannopoulos and his supporters.) 

Yiannopoulos is among Trump’s most prominent and gleeful supporters. “Donald Trump is such an obvious gay icon,” Yiannopoulos says in the salon. “He’s brassy, he’s outrageous, his taste in interiors is gaudy and exhibitionist. He’s a heavy-handed caricature of a billionaire. Everything about him is at once fantastic and camp. He’s the drag queen you can vote for.”

He toys with the idea of becoming press secretary in a Trump White House and says he’s met the candidate twice. The rise of the New York billionaire to the top of the Republican party has, to say the least, baffled many Americans. They view his ascent as a reflection of the groundswell of racism, xenophobia, and nationalism that he’s managed to tap into. But Yiannopoulos, who prefers to label himself as a “cultural libertarian” or “classical liberal,” does not believe these things exist on any measurable scale. Instead, in order to accurately see the Trumpian soul, one must accept the Trump movement’s defining philosophical point: that the media has become lazy and arrogant and suffers from a pathologically liberal bias.

“The whole Trump project, the alt-right project, Breitbart, we recognize the media as public enemy number one,” he says. “Is the media then going to report nicely about us? Of course not. At Trump rallies, the press pen is raised and at the back of the room and he’s pointing at them, saying ‘Look at this garbage, these slimeballs.’ And the whole crowd is cheering. You think those people are going to report accurately on what happened? Of course they won’t.”

He continues, “At least politicians recognize the fact that everyone hates them and nobody trusts them. Journalists haven’t yet worked out that everyone hates them. When people are ridiculing them and correcting them and calling them out on their bad behavior online, they dismiss it as trolling and abuse and harassment and they close their comments sections. They don’t stop and think, If 80% of the comments on 80% of our pieces are blisteringly negative, should we perhaps reflect on whether we are getting it right? The internet doesn’t bring out the worst in people—it reveals people for how they are. This is the nice, polite, politically correct middle classes at war with the working classes, who speak in a far more vulgar, direct, and explicit way. It’s a class thing.”

The alt-right is far from alone in a backlash against political correctness. In July, a Pew Research poll found that 59% of Americans agree that “too many people are easily offended these days over the language that others use,” although less than a majority of Clinton supporters agreed with the statement.  

The alt-right did not spring out of thin air. A decade ago, it was called the Tea Party. And while many would characterize the movement’s values as racist, xenophobic, and nationalistic, Yiannopoulos sees himself as standing up for the nation’s most oppressed. If one is to accept his view on the movement, the core philosophies are those that have always defined the right: small government, personal accountability, and a deep distrust of sweeping social movements and political correctness. Only now, thanks largely to Internet trolling culture and a swelling backlash against a culture predicated on “trigger warnings,” has the extreme right seemed to grab hold of its own identity and run with it.

Enter Milo Yiannopoulos, a 32-year-old shamelessly gay, British Catholic of Jewish descent, who now lives in Los Angeles. He stands over 6 feet tall and has a lanky, soft build. When he’s not dressed in tailored English suits, he’s usually sporting tank tops, flowy textiles, straight-leg jeans, and $1,000 Nike basketball shoes (“I wear these because the guys I want to fuck know what they are but can’t afford them”), dark sunglasses, his signature strings of Bahaman pearls around his wrist, and a pair of gold crucifixes about his neck. He has poor eyesight and is constantly reaching for his glasses. When he speaks, he lowers his chin and leans in intently, fixing a gaze with dark eyes that are at once doelike and cutting.

Yiannopoulos was born and raised in Kent, a mostly rural county outside London. He attended good schools, which likely helped polish up his accent. When he was 6, his parents divorced. He continues to know very little about his father, whom he compares to Tony Soprano, and who ran pubs and nightclubs in Essex and Kent. At age 11, Yiannopoulos worked the door at some of those clubs but lived with his mother and stepfather.

“I was admiring and also terrified of my dad, which is exactly the relationship you should have with your father—and your boyfriend. You should look up to them but also be very worried,” he says, giggling, as we stroll through a mall en route to lunch at Tiffany’s in London’s Canary Wharf. Perhaps, also, it’s a relationship one should have with one’s presidential candidate. His preferred pet name for Trump is “Daddy.”

Yiannopoulos has said his mother never accepted his homosexuality. At home, his stepfather was abusive, often physically, and left not-so-subtle clues that he wanted Yiannopoulos out of the house. When the subject of his childhood comes up, Yiannopoulos displays a rare moment of vulnerability. His posture shrinks and he folds his arms.

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“Everybody has bad shit happen to them, and you either use it to turn yourself into a star or you become a victim. And I don’t have time for victims,” he says. “If you allow the bad things in your life to define you, you will only ever be a parasite.”

In his early teens, he went to live with his grandmother, whom he compares to Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell—she always had fabulous, older gay men around. She died in the mid-2000s. He went on to university in Manchester and then Cambridge, dropping out of both in order to develop technology properties, where he made most of his money. In 2011, he launched the technology news site The Kernel, which quickly became embroiled in lawsuits from contributors seeking compensation. In 2014, the property was sold to The Daily Dot. Former employees complained of harassment from Yiannopoulos, one telling The Guardian that he threatened to publish an embarrassing photo and personal details about her.

Yiannopoulos went on to write technology columns for The Daily Telegraph. Around that time, Steven Bannon, the executive chairman of a small conservative news site called Breitbart News, was scouting for talent. Yiannopoulos had just thrust himself into the Gamergate controversy that erupted in August 2014 when male online gamers launched a trolling campaign to target women in the video game industry, including developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu, under the banner of pushing back against feminist intrusion in gamer culture and undeserved media applause of women in gaming.

The campaign escalated into widespread death and rape threats. Quinn’s personal information and home address were posted on the site 4chan. Her former boyfriend published a 9,000-word personal attack online filled with intimate details of their relationship, including full conversations over text. 

Bannon says Gamergate had little to do with his reaching out to Yiannopoulos. The two arranged a meeting at the Ritz-Carlton in Miami.

“I looked up at the bar, and there was a flamboyantly dressed guy, and he had been sitting there for a while. You know, I didn’t know if he was working the hotel or not!” Bannon says, laughing.

In August, following the resignation of his campaign chief Paul Manafort, after it was revealed that he had questionable ties to the Kremlin, Trump hired Bannon as his new campaign CEO.

“What I love about Milo is he is such a hard worker,” Bannon says. “Milo has such a big heart that even people he disagrees with, he can get along with. That’s why I think that he’s going to have real longevity.”

He adds, “[People’s] sexual preference doesn’t drive everything, and I think that’s what Trump is saying. Trump offers up a vision for America where everyone can kind of work together. I also think he takes very seriously things like radical Islam, which, to me, is the number one threat to gay people in the world, that we cover extensively at Breitbart. There’s been no broader acceptance of Milo than the readership at Breitbart. I mean, they love the guy. But that’s how change is made. You know why they love Milo? He’s a fighter. He’s absolutely fearless.”

Christina Hoff Sommers, a former philosophy professor and senior analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, came across Yiannopoulos’s writing during the Gamergate controversy. The two quickly bonded over their similar views on modern feminism. They appeared on panels together—twice forced to evacuate because of bomb threats—to defend the gamers. The pro-gamer camp argued that, while the press focused on the sociopaths at the fringes, reasonable gamers saw video game culture, violence in gaming, and, ultimately, male sexuality under threat by feminists.

“Shit-talking is a part of gamer culture,” Yiannopoulos says. “Feminists have been telling us for 30 years, treat them like we treat each other. Trust me, ladies, you do not want us to speak to you how we speak to each other. Taunting is how men bond. Men can shake it off—women can’t. They’ll cry in the corner and complain about abuse and harassment.”

“Milo is a lot of fun to be around during a bomb threat,” Sommers says. “During that time he was getting death threats constantly. He got an impaled mouse sent to him in the mail.”

On another occasion the two were leaving a discussion in Miami when Milo checked his phone and found an email from someone threatening to come in with a machine gun. “I said to him, ‘Are you afraid?’ ” Sommers recalls. “He said, ‘No, I just think I should tell them—don’t send an email to a busy person! If you’re a mass murderer, we’re going to get it too late!’ ”

Sommers describes her relationship to Yiannopoulos as mothering, if not mentoring, adding that he never listens to her advice. She regrets he’s in Trump’s corner. 

“He doesn’t understand American politics,” she says. “For him, it’s all theater and camp and funny—and it is, but up until a certain point. We are fighting something very serious on the campus—the censorship, the humorlessness. And it’s not even Trump that bothers me so much, but he’s insufficiently critical of the alt-right. It’s more dangerous than he seems to know or understand.”

She says Yiannopoulos is in denial about many of his followers’ behavior and needs to call them out for inappropriateness. 

“He is so smart and witty and intelligent,” she says. “He could be a model for how to confront the campus puritanical cult—that it’s much more effective to do it with evidence and humor. You don’t need vulgarity and personal assaults. He needs to work on it. If you’re going to be a Joan Rivers, you need to practice. He’s a lovely boy, except he can be deplorable!” 

At the Republican National Convention in July, Yiannopoulos held a “Gays for Trump” rally where he appeared in a bulletproof vest to discuss gun rights and his support for open carry laws.

“You know what, love doesn’t win,” he says, referring to one of the many rallying cries after the massacre in Orlando in June. “An AK-47 wins.” At the Trump rally, the elephant in the room was the issue of radical Islam.

When Yiannopoulos announced he was moving to the United States, Bannon asked him to reconsider, believing his voice resonated more powerfully from the other side of the Atlantic. But Yiannopoulos told Bannon that he was concerned by Muslims in London becoming radicalized. As a visible gay man and an outspoken critic of Islam, he feared for his life. 

Daayiee Abdullah is a gay imam and the director of the Mecca Institute, a nonprofit that spreads progressive Islamic theology. He says the widespread finger-pointing at Islam benefits media and oil profits and cites Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim state, as an example of the plurality and progressiveness of Islam.

“The problem stems from an internalized fear, and that fear quite often brings about radical political views,” he says. “When we give magic-bullet answers, you wind up coming up with false ideologies on how to deal with a much more complex situation. I think all the interfaith action since 9/11 shows that, yes, we can work together and it doesn’t have to be a hatefest.” 

In London, Yiannopoulos is speeding across town in the back of a Mercedes en route to his favorite tailor, Gieves and Hawkes, in Mayfair, to purchase a suit for his trainer, Will.

“Gays are smarter than anyone else,” Yiannopoulos says. “They’re overrepresented as artists and inventors, and there’s a reason for that. On average they have higher IQs, but also we have license to experiment and push boundaries where others don’t.” He is less generous toward the transgender community. “On the one hand, you have the trans lobby that’s all about control and oppression and misery and victimhood and grievance culture. And then drag queens, which is about taking the same kind of pain and expressing it through gender-defying comedy and transgression and subversion. I’m very much in the second camp.”

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With a sigh, he gazes out the window. He says he wishes more people appreciated the everyday humor in life. “You really expect me to believe that I shouldn’t laugh about trannies? It’s hilarious. Like, dude thinks he’s a woman?” He bursts into a fit of laughter, struggling to catch his breath. 

“I’m not saying I want them to be locked up or castrated or God-knows-what. I want the opposite. But we can’t admit that it’s funny? Being gay is funny! Lesbians are fucking hilarious.”

In another era, might Yiannopoulos have been on the left, on the side of the civil rights movement or the Vietnam War protests?

“Yes, I think so,” he says. “And in the 1990s, when the religious right was oppressive to culture, I would have been against them, too. But today the left is a very powerful enemy that is entirely antithetical to gay culture. I find nothing more tiresome than people talking about their own identity endlessly.”

In the summer of 2015, when Shaun King suddenly became the nation’s top trending topic on Twitter, he had never heard of Milo Yiannopoulos. King was new to journalism. The previous year he was working for a green energy nonprofit in California when a friend emailed him a link to a video of a police officer choking a man on Staten Island. King had never seen anything like it. He wasn’t even sure if it was legal for him to be watching it. The man in the video was Eric Garner, and by that point, it had amassed only a few hundred views on YouTube. King decided to share the video relentlessly on social media. Two weeks later, in Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown would be gunned down by a police officer, followed in succession by the deaths of Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and scores of other unarmed black men murdered by police officers.

King got involved with social justice activism. By the beginning of 2015, in his new role as a writer for the liberal site DailyKos, King was receiving death threats and racial slurs on a nearly hourly basis through social media. Doctored photos of his five children being murdered were posted. Then a series of bizarre events unfolded, beginning with the strange case that spring of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman in Spokane, Wash., who ran the local NAACP chapter and had been posing as a black woman. King, who is biracial and identifies as black, began seeing occasional online comments questioning his own ethnicity, but thought little of it. For months trolls had been making outlandish claims about him—questioning the number of children he has, accusing him of lying about recent surgery—though none had caught traction.

Then a troll named Joshua Goldberg contacted Yiannopoulos with a tip: Social justice warrior Shaun King is actually white. Yiannopoulos ran with it. (Later that summer, Goldberg was arrested by the FBI on the grounds he told a would-be terrorist how to make a bomb for a 9/11 anniversary attack. It also was revealed Goldberg had multiple, fake online personas, ranging from an Islamic radical to a feminist.)

The claims against King were untrue but leapt to the top of the news cycle. Appearing on MSNBC, correspondent Joy Reid revealed one of the most intimate parts of King's life: that both his parents are listed as white on his birth certificate because he doesn’t know the identity of his biological father, a black man.

“A lot of people follow what Milo does. When he decides to attack somebody, thousands of other people join in. He’s aware of that,” King says at his home in Brooklyn. “And so it then became not just a thing of Milo or Breitbart, but then thousands of other people just doing it because, hey, Milo must be right.”

King says Yiannopoulos continues to go “in and out” of posting harassing content about him, sometimes lying dormant for months and then reappearing with fresh menace. “I don’t respect him. I don’t know a lot of people who respect him, because he kind of lacks just basic human decency in the way he harasses and attacks people.”

King, now on staff at the New York Daily News as senior justice writer, has since become a superstar journalist of the progressive left and a sort of photo-negative version of Yiannopoulos.

“Milo is not a free-speech crusader,” he says. “What he does is consistently ugly. It’s often very bigoted and racist. He almost exclusively attacks people of color, people who he somehow has decided are enemies of the things that he believes in. He’s so far removed from the pain that he causes people that he doesn’t even believe that it’s real. He’s just so desperate for attention. It’s like a bad circus act.”

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Yiannopoulos attempts to dismiss claims of his being racist by saying that he has sex only with black men. Might that simply be fetishism, and therefore dehumanizing and racist?

“If I were an artist creating fetishized images of black bodies, like trying to compare them to animals in some way, yeah, that could be racist,” he says. “Let’s have that conversation. But the fact is, I just like fucking blacks and, ergo, [am] unlikely to be a racist.”

He calls the Black Lives Matter movement “hugely destructive and counterproductive for black people,” saying it perpetuates negative stereotypes in American culture of black people as violent, irrational, and angry.

“It has achieved nothing else but to divide people and to fuel racism,” he says. “It’s just not the right response. If you have a community with a reputation of being aggressive and obnoxious and unreasonable and wallowing in victimhood, that’s the last thing you do. They should be getting under people’s skin. Get under the skin of conservatives, make people uncomfortable and do it by being better-looking and funnier and smarter and more interesting than everybody else. That’s how I do it, and that’s how to win in culture.”

King scoffs at the criticism. “Black folk are not playing roles in a show,” he says. “Milo thinks that because he is an actor. He’s a clown. It’s a role he’s playing. And so he thinks everyone’s playing their role. Everyone’s faking their part, because he lives that every day pretending to be this man. But there are real victims in this. He hasn’t experienced the pain or seen it to understand it.”

At the tailors, Yiannopoulos picks out a blue suit for Will. He has virtually no close friends left in London, he says, and it’s difficult to imagine, with his relentless travel schedule, he’s made many new ones in Los Angeles.

When he interacts with his staff, almost entirely comprised of young men (one is like a twink carbon copy of him, decked out in identical dark sunglasses with a string of pearls around his wrist), a gentle fatherly, or drag-motherly, side to Yiannopoulos emerges. He admits to being a nurturer, perhaps even with a bit of a Christ complex. 

“I’m more of a nuanced character than people realize, because I play an asshole in my columns,” he says. “My work comes out of a deep compassion for human beings who I think are being lied to and lied about.”

When they leave the tailors, Will—a sweet young straight man who had never left the United States before this trip—asks if they can go shopping for souvenirs. Yiannopoulos hails a cab. They’ve spent the month indulging Will’s desire to sight-see. The last thing one could imagine, despite his reputation, is Yiannopoulos ridiculing someone like Will.

“I’ve never cared about having the hottest, or trendiest, friends,” Yiannopoulos says. “Most of the people I write for and who like me are not particularly fashionable. They may not be the hottest people in the world, they might not be the sexiest or the most socially fluid, but I like them. They’re decent, real people, and they are being shat on by everyone else.”

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The following week, at a sun-drenched table at Cecconi’s in London’s Mayfair, Yiannopoulos is having breakfast. He is feeling particularly high on himself. Fewer than 24 hours before, Hillary Clinton, at a speech in Reno, Nevada, in which she castigated Trump’s decision to hire Bannon to lead his campaign, read aloud two of Yiannopoulos’s headlines published on Breitbart News: “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?”

“According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, Breitbart embraces ‘ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right.’ This is not conservatism as we have known it. This is not Republicanism as we have known it,” Clinton said in the speech on August 25. “These are racist ideas, race-baiting ideas, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women—all key tenets making up the emerging racist ideology known as the alt-right. The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump campaign represents a landmark achievement for this group, a fringe element that has effectively taken over the Republican party.”

Later that day, in his response on Breitbart News, Yiannopoulos wrote, “This is precisely what the alt-right is responding to. They post offensive memes because they know it’ll wind up boring, grouchy grannies like Hillary.”

His next story posted to the site is headlined “How to Make Women Happy: Uninvent the Washing Machine and the Pill.” He calls himself a feminist, but a second-wave feminist, believing in a clear and equal division of the sexes, and lists Camille Paglia, alongside Christopher Hitchens, as the thinkers who have influenced him the most. Madonna and Mariah Carey are among his role models. His favorite female icon in popular culture is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “She saves the world over and over again, and female vulnerability is part of her strength,” Yiannopoulos says. “That’s why Ghostbusters failed, because women aren’t like that. In the opening 10 minutes they’re making queef jokes? Women don’t behave that way. And none of the women men want behave that way. Ghostbusters didn’t fail because men hate women—it failed because these were inauthentic caricatures of lesbians, basically.”

Among his most trolled public figures are Lena Dunham and Amy Schumer. Dunham recently came under fire for comments perceived as racist about New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in which she suggested that, at a recent event, the reason he didn’t want to have sex with her was that she was wearing a tux.

“The people that we are encouraged to think of as complex and interesting on the left, aren’t,” Yiannopoulos says. “Amy Schumer and Lena Dunham are intensely dull, boring people, but we are required to look at them from a million different angles from a million different profiles in saturated media coverage. But things are starting to change. And I am one of the primary engines of change in American culture because I’m demonstrating that someone sassy and silly and gay and flamboyant who loves RuPaul’s Drag Race and sucks black dick doesn’t have to vote Democrat. That matters. That’s really important.”

I question to what extent his assertions about the mission of the alt-right are based on reality, or if he may be projecting a nonexistent, nuanced politics onto an amorphous, disgruntled mass. Yiannopoulos, with the stilted morning light of late summer filtering through the window, considers this for a moment. Finely groomed men in suits march on the sidewalk outside. A woman in full burka kneels to tie her son’s shoe.

“I see things happening first, because I’m on the edge of culture,” he says and takes a sip of his coffee. “I’m the canary in the coal mine.” 

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