Appearing on The Bolt Report on Sky News Australia, Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos discussed his suspension from Twitter, and how it has had the exact opposite effect to the one desired, with Milo’s popularity sky-rocketing after his ban, along with his fears for the future of social media for ordinary citizens, among other topics.
The host of the program, Andrew Holt, began by asking Milo what excuse Twitter had given him for permanently suspending him from the platform. Milo responded by saying that they had given none at all. “Twitter is run as Jack Dorsey’s personal political fiefdom these days. They don’t give any real answers. They make vague suggestions that you might have been responsible for co-ordinating harassment,” Milo continued. “This is all a bit of a misnomer… What they’re really engaged in is the business of censoring conservatives on their platform and censoring people who don’t like their latest favourite feminist projects. I’m just the latest victim of that.”
Holt then accused Milo of being “a bit rude” by calling the Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones “fat and ugly.” Milo’s initial reply was simply, “who cares?” He then proceeded to elaborate, noting that it “shouldn’t surprise anybody that a gay columnist is going to be a waspish little thing,” but that it was “certainly not cause to smear me with allegations that I’m somehow responsible for co-ordinating harassment against a Hollywood movie star. We don’t blame Justin Bieber when his fans cut themselves. We don’t blame Beyoncé fans when her fans go after Taylor Swift. Nor am I responsible, merely by dent of my popularity, for the things that the nearly 300 million other people on Twitter say, and it is absurd to suggest that I am.”
Milo went on to describe the real motivation behind his suspension, which is that Twitter is mounting a “campaign to rid the platform of those who have political views that Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s CEO, doesn’t like. This is going to worry investors, it should worry customers, and it’s going to destroy trust in the platform, because it demonstrates that he doesn’t really have a commitment to maximising shareholder value… [or] to making this the free speech platform he always claimed he wanted it to be. Instead he’s using it as a weapon, as an influential tool in the upcoming US elections, and if you step off the reservation ideologically, he will come for you.” Milo then made an interesting side note, in that he was not the first “prominent public person to have been banned from Twitter. More recently, Azealia Banks, the black female rapper, was banned. Why? Well she’d been pretty mean to a lot of people for a very long time, and the network had left her alone, until one day she endorsed Donald Trump. Two weeks later, her account was gone.”
Bolt reacted with incredulity to Milo’s statement, then proceeded to link back to his point on double standards, displaying a number of tweets from Leslie Jones mocking other users, proving that Jones could “dish it out” too. Milo agreed, but said that just like “all progressive liberal feminists, she can’t take it … I made some jokes about how she looks … very much like one of my ex-boyfriends. But commenting on somebody’s appearance isn’t as remotely as mean or as borderline racist as some of the things she has said about white people in general. I have said nothing even remotely comparable about black people,” which for Milo was very clear evidence that “there is a grotesque double standard at Twitter. If you are one of the progressive left’s protected victim categories… you can do no wrong. You can say what you want, do what you want, provided you have the right politics… [and] the right enemies.”
Linking the topic to Australian current affairs, Bolt brought up the case of the TV presenter, Sonia Kruger, who was inundated with abuse online for arguing that there should be a ban on Muslim immigration. A comedian claimed that she was a “proud racist” and wanted Muslim children to be attacked at school. Bolt put to Milo that if Milo was banned, “why isn’t he banned too?” Milo reiterated the fact of the double standards at Twitter, saying that it is “remarkable… that the suspensions, the punishments, the de-verifications, all go in one direction.” Left leaning professional provocateurs “can dish out the most appalling abuse and can say the most terrible abuse about their enemies, about men, about white people… but they will never be at risk of losing their Twitter account, because this isn’t really about abuse or harassment, it’s about politics.”
For Bolt there was a “real serious issue” that needed to be discussed as well, besides the double standards and the bias of Facebook and Twitter, in that they are “commercial companies… [with] the power… to ‘disappear’ people from the public sphere.” Milo was in agreement, as to him it is a “bit Orwellian and sinister about how Facebook and Twitter can ‘unperson’ you,” however, in the long term, he “is not too worried,” as whilst you cannot “commit a private enterprise to obeying the First Amendment… you can remind them that it is simply good business to do so. Once you start sending conservatives the message that they are not welcome on your platform… [or that if people are] too mischievous, dissident, bitchy, mean, sarcastic or catty… very quickly you’re going to find that your users will abandon you. They lose trust and faith in the platform, the brand starts suffering… all of the most interesting, fun and intriguing personalities will start to leave, which might be why people who I know who are really big into shorting stocks are looking very closely at this company right now, and wondering how long it really has left.”
Bolt proceeded to bring up a key problem in the fight against Twitter, as “the option of leaving and choosing an alternative only really exists when there actually is an alternative.” Milo responded by recalling what Aaron Schwartz, the founder of Reddit had said, in that “there was a point where censorship was meaningful outside of government actions, when a private corporation has a monopoly on certain kinds of speech, or when it invents entirely new spaces altogether. Twitter has definitely done that, and the reason Twitter worries some people, me included, is that it has a monopoly on the speech of journalists. It to a large extent dictates what is covered by the media and how it’s covered… In the short term it’s a worry.” Milo made a prediction that as Twitter gets more and more censorious, “journalists are going to talk to themselves and start ignoring the public more than they do already – they’re already closing their comment sections, they’re all pretending their readers are abusers and harassers and trolls, when actually their readers are just mocking them and picking up their factual errors and calling them out on their terrible politics – they’re going to get more and more introverted, the news business will become more and more irrelevant, and those people with a direct connection to fans, whether that be Instagram or Facebook or YouTube or Snapchat… are going to become even more powerful than before, because they don’t have that mediating layer of professional media between them.” Milo went on to argue that whilst everything would be fine for people like him, he is “really offended on behalf of… private citizens who are finding their accounts nuked by Twitter, for expressing perfectly respectable, reasonable, mainstream opinions, and that’s happening every day, it seems to me, with increasing frequency.”
Picking up on Milo’s point on journalists closing themselves off, Bolt mentioned how he thinks one of the worst things is “journalists writing for other journalists,” which for him is the “besetting sin of modern journalism,” along with noting that he saw “very few journalists actually putting up their hands in defence” of Milo. Milo revealed that this reaction “was not surprising,” given that one of his “favourite hobbies… is to call attention to the failings of the media.” Milo did however notice that “in the LA Times, which is probably the most left-leaning newspaper in America, even [they] said that this was a bad decision, that this was strategically stupid. I’ll tell you, when this happened to me, I was at the RNC in Cleveland, and it made me a sensation… I could not walk from one end of the media row corridor to the other without being accosted or assailed by other fans or journalists. I was doing 70 or 80 interviews a day,” which is exactly the opposite effect that Twitter would have been hoping for in suspending him. He finished off the interview by triumphantly declaring that “this has turned me into a household name in America.”
Jack Hadfield is a student at the University of Warwick and a regular contributor to Breitbart Tech. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.