CLEVELAND, Ohio — Shortly after getting suspended on Twitter, Breitbart Senior Editor Milo Yiannopoulos took the stage at a “Gays for Trump” event here in Cleveland.
“There is a war on,” Yiannopoulos said. “And it is a culture war.”
The war, he explained, was not being covered by traditional media, but it was apparent that the left had already seized cultural institutions like universities and the news and entertainment industry.
“Most journalists are dorks, most journalists are idiots, most journalists don’t understand where the real battlegrounds are,” he said.
His suspension from Twitter, he explained, was just one more example of how the left was trying to silence those who wanted to challenge their monopoly.
“Having just gotten suspended from Twitter, they say permanently for getting in a fight with a black Ghostbuster,” he said laughing. “What a humiliating end to a wonderful run. I thought, It could have at least be getting into a fight with somebody serious, but no, it was a tertiary star of a fucking terrible feminist flop.”
In a statement, Yiannopoulos pointed out the hypocrisy of the company decision after a mob of social justice warriors demanded that he be removed.
“Twitter is intent on protecting free speech, as long as you are a Hollywood actress who bravely tweets about white people, or a New York globalist advocating for violence against Donald Trump,” he said. “They’ve made it clear that being gay and conservative doesn’t get me past the velvet rope into their free speech club, which is looking more and more like the same liberal echo chamber the mainstream media turned into decades ago.”
He spoke directly to throng of reporters who arrived to report on one of the most buzzed about events at the Republican National Convention.
“I know you’re listening, Twitter. I know you’re watching Fusion, Vox, Buzzfeed, Mic, Gawker, The New York Times,” he boasted. “Fuck the lot of you!”
Earlier in the evening, Yiannopoulos was dining with media colleagues and friends in Cleveland when he found out that he was permanently banned from Twitter.
Looking up from his phone he gleefully informed his dinner partners that the day of his social media martyrdom had finally arrived.
As a major dissident voice to the social justice crusades waged by the left on Twitter, @Nero had accrued over 338,000 followers before his banishment.
His offense? Exchanging insults with Ghostbusters actress and Saturday Night Live star Leslie Jones after excoriating her film in a review on Breitbart News.
The moment, it appears, was a perfect occasion for the left in Silicon Valley to give Yiannopoulos a public spanking. Twitter accused him for “leading” a series of nasty racist tweets directed at the Ghostbusters actress after she started fighting with her critics on Twitter.
The Breitbart editor completed and published his delayed review of the Ghostbusters film early Monday morning, prior to a his first busy day at the Republican National convention.
“The actress is spectacularly unappealing, even relative to the rest of the odious cast,” he wrote. “But it’s her flat-as-a-pancake black stylings that ought to have irritated the SJWs. I don’t get offended by such things, but they should.”
Yiannopoulos returned to preparing for his afternoon speech at a Citizens For Trump rally outside of the RNC convention.
Something strange in the neighborhood
Relaxing at his hotel room at the Ritz-Carton, Yiannopoulos noticed that evening that Jones was engaging and retweeting some of the more offensive racial tweets from her critics and adding colorful commentary.
“Some people on here are fucking disgusting,” Jones wrote. “I’m blocking your filthy ass if retweet that perverted shit. Just know that now bitches!!”
Yiannopoulos jeered in response.
“Ghostbusters is doing so badly they’ve deployed @Lesdoggg to play the victim on Twitter. Very sad!” he wrote at around 8:00 p.m.
in the course of the night, Jones proceeded to reply, tweet and retweet nearly a hundred tweets reflecting anger, fear, emotional distress, and finally sorrow.
“If at first you don’t succeed (because your work is terrible), play the victim,” Yiannopoulos tweeted at her. “EVERYONE GETS HATE MAIL FFS.”
(Yiannopoulos was likely referring to his own slew of hate mail and tweets peppered with obscenities, anti-gay slurs, and multiple death threats which he typically reads boastfully to his colleagues)
Jones responded by sending him a tweet riddled with spelling errors, informing him that she had reported his behavior to Twitter.
“Barely literate. America needs better schools!” Yiannopoulos replied gleefully.
An upset Jones responded by blocking Milo on Twitter, prompting Yiannopoulos to end the fight by replying snarkily, “Rejected by another black dude.”
Jones allies tried to tell her to ignore the trolls, but she appeared upset by the advice.
“Don’t tell me how to react,” she wrote. “Cause I have every right to be offended and pissed. So for right now I have to take a break. All this hatred giving me the blues! Outty 5000.”
But Jones wasn’t finished. Hours into the night she continued sharing her feelings online until she finally announced her resignation from the platform.
“I feel like I’m in a personal hell. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. It’s just too much. It shouldn’t be like this. So hurt right now,” she wrote. “I leave Twitter tonight with tears and a very sad heart. All this cause I did a movie. You can hate the movie but the shit I got today…wrong.”
Who ya gonna call?
The story of Jones and her failed war with her Twitter trolls grabbed immediate sympathetic headlines in the media.
Even though Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey personally reached out to comfort Jones during her social media meltdown, the media lept to her defense.
“Jones’s departure is yet another sad reminder that Twitter hasn’t figured out a way to handle abuse on its platform,” a disapproving Kurt Wagner wrote on the Silicon Valley blog Recode. “It’s bad for business to have users pushed out by other users. It’s bad for humanity, too. And you know it’s a major problem when high-profile, likable celebrities get chased off your service.”
“Leslie Jones And Her Racist Harassers Are Shining A Light On A Major Problem With Twitter,” blared a headline from Buzzfeed’s Susan Cheng.
“Thanks, Leslie Jones, for showing us how terrible Twitter can be — maybe now something can change,” read an article by Meera Jagannathan from the New York Daily News.
“For its huge user base, Twitter is still sorely lacking in ways to insulate a user from an incoming barrage of hate, and painfully slow to react to toxic users who use their accounts primarily to attack others,” lamented Rick McCormick on The Verge. “If the service wants to stop shedding customers, money, and share prices, it will need to take Leslie Jones’ advice and think about how it protects its users.”
“Twitter allowing so much racist—and while we’re at it, sexist—bullshit to remain on their site makes it a breeding ground for abusive content,” wrote Gawker Media’s Eve Peyser. “If the landscape of Twitter continues to be this unbearably shitty for women of color, the site will alienate (and ultimately lose) users like Jones.”
“[Jack] Dorsey’s response is remarkably tepid, and proves that Twitter’s response to targeted harassment campaigns needs to change.” wrote Tech Crunch writer Kate Conger. “Twitter is at risk of becoming the next Reddit-like swamp of racism, sexism and homophobia.”
“In 2016. Yes, we should all be shaking our heads. SOH, or whatever,” wrote Natalie Finn of E! News.
“When trolls traumatize us until the cost is too high, we remove ourselves from the public sphere. And when that happens, we are being silenced not only by the hordes of white men who want to bully us out of public life, but by the corporations who make millions off of our contributions to social media,” wrote the Guardian’s Ijeoma Oluo. “It is time for Twitter and Facebook to step up and embody the commitment to free access and free speech that they claim to hold dear.”
Jones’ personal tweet burst was already succeeding at shaming Twitter, where other actresses had failed.
Actress Lena Dunham vocally condemned Twitter in February for not protecting her safe space by restricting free speech on their platform.
“Many internet media platforms — social media platforms — have to be putting more barriers in place for what is ultimately the violent harassment of women,” she explained during a forum with First Lady Michelle Obama. “And just because it’s not face to face, doesn’t mean it’s not extremely dangerous emotionally, doesn’t mean it couldn’t transfer to something really kind of terrifying in the real world.”
Twitter, she explained, would have to implement more protections before she would return.
“I think that until new codes of conduct are in place, I’m not going to be able to return to looking at that platform freely,” she said.
By Tuesday evening, it appears that Twitter executives were ready to act. And to use Yiannopoulos as their first public scalp.
Citing an ongoing process of reviewing their terms of service, Twitter indicated to Buzzfeed that a policy to ban people like Yiannopoulos would be released at some point to defend their decision.
“We have been in the process of reviewing our hateful conduct policy to prohibit additional types of abusive behavior and allow more types of reporting, with the goal of reducing the burden on the person being targeted,” the statement read. “We’ll provide more details on those changes in the coming weeks.”
“Of course I didn’t break Twitter’s terms of service, they have a whole team of cybersleuths on the Milo beat, so what would be the point?” he said in a statement. “Besides, I don’t need to break the terms of service to point out the mendacious hypocrisy of the left on social media. I suppose I did break Twitter’s unwritten rules by tweeting truths they’d prefer to leave unsaid. Twitter’s permanent suspension of my account makes a mockery of their claims to be a free speech platform.”
Crossing the streams
The timing of Twitter’s verdict coming down less than 20 minutes from his event was remarkable.
Excusing himself from his dinner in Cleveland, Yiannopoulos left the restaurant with his private security and jumped into a black SUV with his entourage.
As his security guard drove Yiannopoulos through the streets of Cleveland to the widely publicized “Gays for Trump” event, he typed furiously on his phone while it was blowing up with calls and texts from reporters, fans, and friends.
Twitter had already sent their message to Milo via Buzzfeed, telling him that this time he was banned for good.
“Like all acts of the totalitarian regressive left, this will blow up in their faces, netting me more adoring fans,” he wrote in a dispatch to his Breitbart team. “We’re winning the culture war, and Twitter just shot themselves in the foot. This is the end for Twitter. Anyone who cares about free speech has been sent a clear message: you’re not welcome on Twitter.
He continued to type on his phone as he entered the Wolstein Center through the basement, heavily guarded by private, federal and local security.
The event had already drawn the attention of law enforcement, who advised an increase in security for the politically charged event.
Yiannopoulos flashed a mischievous grin as he sauntered onto the stage with his Breitbart colleague Sonnie Johnson.
“Hello, I just got banned from Twitter!” he said as the audience roared.
Speaking to fellow gays Yiannopoulos urged them to reject the leftist agenda that favored Islam and Islamic culture over their gay citizens and their safety.
“I’m not the only person that recognizes that after a few decades of good work, these Republicans, that Donald Trump is the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history,” he said.
He referred to Trump’s speech after the terrorist attack occurring at a gay club in Orlando as the sign that he would take the threat seriously.
“I still don’t see the reason why the left mollycoddles and panders to an ideology that wants me dead,” he said.
He called for all gay people to seize back their cultural power from the left and restore a culture that valued freedom of expression and specifically directed his fury at Silicon Vally.
“We sort of did this, we gave the left their power that they have, we enabled them, we colonized the Hollywood and the media all of the other places where they wanted us to be,” he said. “But what we have given, we can take away. And it’s time for us to take it away.”
After leaving the podium, Yiannopoulos was immediately quizzed by reporters from the Daily Beast, Buzzfeed, and the Atlantic.
“I did nothing wrong,” Milo said afterwards in a statement. “Twitter has suspended me without evidence of wrongdoing and without explanation while allowing the most appalling abuses to continue on its platform. This is political, plain and simple. Leslie Jones ain’t afraid of no ghost– but evidently she’s allergic to bad reviews.”
Long after 1:00 a.m. a still energized Yiannopoulos smoked a cigarette in the parking lot and spoke at length with Vox’s Zack Beauchamp about the evening’s events.
“They’ve been coming for me since I’ve been on it. I knew that they were going to ban me, I’ve been preparing this for six months,” he said. “I don’t care about Twitter, I have a million different platforms that I could go on. People want to see me in actual life. That’s actual power … I don’t need a Twitter account to make that happen.”