This is what happened, for the uninitiated. Donald Trump’s Brit cheerleader, self proclaimed supervillain and “dangerous faggot,” agent provocateur Milo had a talk scheduled in Berkeley, the once proud bastion of liberal thought and free speech, the place where the free speech movement and the Anti-Vietnam movement started in 1968. His speech was cancelled after volatile rioting broke out.
Arguably, the last eight years under Obama, as I mentioned in an earlier column, have been the most divisive since late Nixon’s Presidency. The President’s office has not been neutral, they have actively put fuel on the fire, with absurd demands of universities to uphold Title IX over and above other considerations, such the First Amendment. What has been unfolding on U.S. campuses — no platforming, race baiting, and outright censorship — has been left to spiral out of control while all the adults in these situations seem to have completely abdicated all responsibility.
Unfortunately for these radicals, however, Trump has come along and shattered their sense of power. And he has support in actual working-class America. What you see now is the fury of the privileged, petulant few, who are used to getting their way including censoring “others” for their “problematic” world views. The people who opposed Trump, the broadly liberal media, the Hollywood celebrities, the pundit and Twitter experts didn’t expect him to win, and their resultant convulsive shock, threat inflation and hysteria promotion, may actually lead to them to having blood on their hands, sooner that they can imagine.
There’s no point in dwelling on the irony of supposed “anti-fascists” pepper spraying a young woman for wearing MAGA hat, or beating a free speech activist with metal poles to a pulp, or random acts of arson and vandalism, all to censor a sassy gay Conservative, who once openly stated that his biggest fear is Islamists in the West trying to kill homosexuals. The shocking absurdity of rioting against someone speaking with a different viewpoint, and claiming oneself to be an anti-fascist, is qualitatively comparable only to a Women’s March led by a pro-Hijab, Saudi apologist, or a Science March led by gender studies advocates. They are all almost comically baffling, but true nonetheless.
The rage against Milo bears the hallmark of impotence that comes from the loss of a narrative. The entire narrative of the Western left is one of structural, systemic exploitation by the forces of patriarchy, economics, and social-conservatism. Milo, regardless of how odious and abhorrent some of his views may be, is a living antithesis to this narrative. He is a charismatic gay icon, with a tremendous ultra macho conservative/libertarian male follower base. His followers, contrary to conventional wisdom, include leftists as well as right wingers, classical liberals and neocons, both men and women, joined by a common cause of defending free speech and opposing Islamism.
Milo is not necessarily a good author, in fact his prose is often painfully mediocre. He is a much better speaker, which has a lot to do with his Gordon Gekko charm. But Milo is successful, and the left hates success. How on earth can a gay man, conservative, and have an independent brain of his own and not have solidarity with the only other notable class of post-modern designated victims, the Muslims of the Middle East? It’s not bafflingly complicated, in fact it is quite obvious why, given the prevalent view about homosexuality in Islamic world. But the Western left remains willfully obtuse.
The success of Milo lies in his carefully constructed persona, and his provocative almost borderline crusader zeal to take up causes, which are actually quite in tune with a significant majority of the Western population. For example, it is a persistent myth that the gender pay gap exists, and is repeatedly disproved by economists. But the media and the postmodern left still feeds that narrative, so Milo took it upon himself to point out the facts. The questionable wisdom of giving asylum to scores of male South Asian economic migrants with repressive sexual tendencies and violently orthodox social views, all in the name of saving refugee children from warzones, was left untouched by many. But Milo took up the cause. According to a latest poll, a majority of Americans support Trump’s clumsy but legal Executive Order of extreme vetting. But you won’t get that from the news or media — Milo, on the other hand, will take it up.
When the common public observe that someone like Milo reflects their ideas, rather than just spouting the established gatekeeper story-lines, they naturally flock around him. All Milo has to do is speak the truth and reflect the public opinion. Something which is essentially the job of everyone in the media — but which is is something that the media repeatedly fails to do.
If liberalism is fundamentally about freedom of expression against any sort of ideological orthodoxy, Milo is by definition the truest living classical liberal of them all. And the rioters are determined to prove him right, with his fundamental point that the left is terrified of free speech. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not right wing violence that is the greatest threat facing Western society but it the increasing, home-grown ultra leftwing authoritarianism. After all, no Tea Partier went and smashed businesses with placards like “Kill Trump”. As Molly Hemingway has written, resistance against a democratically elected leader is in essence resistance against the people. By definition, these rioters are the tyrannical minority.
To be fair, those who rioted are not liberals, nor are they working class. They are anarchists and Marxists, having an adrenaline rush and taking photos with their iPhone, led on by the masturbatory fantasies of Madonna blowing up the white house (no pun). But it is liberals who have allowed this to happen. The rioters against Milo, a handful of modern day puritans, who have taken it upon themselves to decide what’s best for the rest of the society, are a manifestation of what Pierre Pasolini once referred to as the revolution of the anthropologically middle class bourgeoisie.
One of the signs in the riots was “Become Ungovernable”, a slogan of the French students from the 1960s. Well, we all know what happened after that. Every revolution begs for a reaction, and human societies are by nature conservative and prefer order over chaos. Perhaps the current followers of Robespierre should read some Rousseau, or Auden or Solzhenitsyn. Order will be restored with brutal force, if necessary, as societal anarchy never stays for long. Unfortunately, those calling for war, might just get one in return.
Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, UK. His research is in Great power politics and Neorealism. You can find him on Twitter @MrMaitra.