Milo Yiannopoulos’ experiences as a survivor of sexual abuse could provide his critics with some much needed context.
I’m not going to bother wasting time listing all the horrible things that Milo Yiannopoulos has said and done, mostly because I don’t think we’ve developed the technology to allows us to store that much information. From encouraging thousands of people to harass someone for the heinous crime of making a film he found mediocre (Katherine Heigl is currently in hiding, hoping he doesn’t stumble on to any of her work) to threatening ex-colleagues with the release of private and intimate photographs if they didn’t comply with his demands, it’s safe – and generous – to say that he can be fairly sinister.
Before the recent furore over his paedophilia comments (or as the people over at NAMBLA are keen to stress – hebephilia comments) he had drawn ire by allegedly pocketing donations he had collected to fund a scholarship for poor white men – although this could have just been seen as an attempt to imitate the man he calls “daddy”.
Sadly for Milo, his actions (or, to be more succinct, his words) have had consequences. For him, I mean. Previously, they’ve had a lot of consequences for a lot of people, mostly negative. But it is here that I begin to struggle with my feelings on this. I clearly dislike Milo Yiannopoulos, or at least the perception of himself that he has created. I think he’s a bully and a professional wind-up merchant; a proverbial Pandora’s box, dredging up horror and negativity for the occasional and relatively worthless nugget of showing somebody else up as contradictory.
And yet, I feel perturbed by the gleeful mob outside his door, baying for his blood. Of course, I understand where they are coming from. There is nothing better than the supposed comeuppance of a particularly odious character. But that only seems like a reasonable way to judge the situation in a vacuum.
This does seem to be about an abuse victim rationalising what has happened to them and attempting to cope with it. Of course, Milo says that his relationship with an adult was consensual when he was a teen, even going as far to say as he felt the aggressor. That all may be true and his comments did appear to minimise the impact of abuse, but it also sounds suspiciously like somebody trying to cope with trauma by normalising it and re-imagining the situation with the power struggle reversed. Thus, his comments can be read as an attempt at rationalisation – and this is one of the many reasons that help us to understand why the abused often end up abusing others.
This doesn’t change the fact that he has done and said horrible things, nor does it negate the impact of his comments. He also has previously threatened a journalist trying to expose child abuse rings. Moreover, his supporters are suddenly righteously indignant about people being abused, which is infuriatingly hypocritical. However, he is still a victim, although he spends his entire life fighting that label. As such, shouldn’t we be trying to understand him better, and seeking to eliminate the factors that made him a professional troll?
We on the Left have spent hours debating with others that Islamic suicide bombers and others of their ilk are shaped by their circumstances, and even though we don’t think they have a leg to stand on morally, you can at least comprehend why they might be driven to bombing the West (it’s because the West bombed them first). If we are willing to give the courtesy of context to literal mass-murderers, then why can’t we offer it to an abrasive ass like Milo? After all, his stances on a lot of things are almost Scandinavian in their liberalness compared to Daesh.
This is why the unadulterated enjoyment of the spectacle of his downfall makes me uneasy. I truly do understand why people are happy about Milo’s hypocrisy catching up to him, but if we are going to jump on the misery of others and espouse hatred then we’re being inconsistent. Yes, Milo does not play fair, and therefore you might not think he deserves the courtesy of our rules of discourse, but we should continue to extend them regardless – because that’s what the liberal left is supposed to do: understand. Hounding and harassing him will only entrench the behaviour of his supporters further as well as hammering home the idea that his critics are hypocritical liars.
In these tumultuous times we must try to understand rather than revel in suffering – even if the guy you need to understand spent his whole life doing just that.