Thursday, November 17, 2016

Alt-right star Milo Yiannopoulos and what the movement is really all about

A YOUNG Donald Trump supporter and member of the “alt-right” movement pitched for the role of Press Secretary in a Trump Administration said he would relish the chance to turn briefings into a reality television show.

Senior Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who describes himself as “the most fabulous supervillain on the internet”, has made a name for himself as a leader of the alternative right-wing energised by the President-elect’s campaign and victory.

The UK-born shock columnist has recently seen his name added to a half-genuine list of contenders for Josh Earnest’s role — something Mr Yiannopoulos said he would love to turn Apprentice-style if given the chance.

“I would have everybody show up in my house, throw The New York Times and The Washington Post in the back room, have E! Entertainment Television and TMZ at the front and on Tuesdays only answer questions about fashion,” he told The Sunday Times.

“The more you stick your nose up to the establishment ... the more people are gonna love you for it.”

Now, the young commentator may well get his wish. He’s one of the main figures in the new alt-right powered by Breitbart news that this week confirmed a direct link to the White House with the appointment of former editor Stephen Bannon as Mr Trump’s chief strategist.

It comes alongside the selection of establishment Republican Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff and cements the status of the alt-right as the latest political force on the scene.

So who is Milo Yiannopoulos and what is the alt-right really all about? Here’s what you need to know.


Milo Yiannopoulos made a name for himself peddling shock tactics across US universities on his “dangerous faggot” tour where he defended hazing as a last bastion of masculinity, spoke about “why trannies are gay”, how “feminism is cancer” and the “election is rigged”.

He’s also produced podcasts and election videos railing against mainstream media and the establishment.

He didn’t doubt Mr Trump would “sail” into the White House off the back of the Brexit vote which proved “it doesn’t matter how loudly you call people bigots, racist and sexist, tell them that they’re being xenophobic — you name-calling them doesn’t work anymore,” he told the Times.

It’s an idea central to the new wave of right-wing politics championed by Breitbart which Mr Bannon described as the “platform for the alt-right”.

The site contains merchandise for sale and has been dismissed as “cheerleaders” for the far-right but is now set to become a major source of news on the Trump administration, with expansion planned in France and Germany to coincide with elections there next year.

In March, Mr Yiannopoulous and Allum Bokhari described the group in their “Conservative guide to the alt-right” as an “amorphous movement” of subcultures from “intellectuals” to “natural conservatives” and a “meme team”.

They’re “dangerously bright”, mostly college-educated men who live in a “manosphere” and revel in busting taboos on race, feminism, misogyny and any other kind of political correctness.

“Previously an obscure subculture, the alt-right burst onto the national political scene in 2015. Although initially small in number, the alt-right has a youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric that have boosted its membership and made it impossible to ignore,” the pair claim.

Those involved value homogenous communities over diverse ones, want stability, hierarchy and subversion, with some “young rebels” drawn to it “for the same reason that young Baby Boomers were drawn to the New Left in the 1960s: because it promises fun, transgression, and a challenge to social norms they just don’t understand”.

“Just as the kids of the 60s shocked their parents with promiscuity, long hair and rock’n’roll, so too do the alt-right’s young meme brigades shock older generations with outrageous caricatures,” their guide reads.

They also claim the alt-right is separate to outright racists and white supremacists including the so-called 1488ers who praise Hitler. They claim the rise of the group comes after years of political correctness and a “safe space” culture gone too far.

“Had [the Left and establishment] been serious about defending humanism, liberalism and universalism, the rise of the alternative right might have been arrested.

“Instead, they turned a blind eye to the rise of tribal, identitarian movements on the Left while mercilessly suppressing any hint of them on the Right. It was this double standard, more than anything else, that gave rise to the alternative right. It’s also responsible, at least in part, for the rise of Donald Trump.”

Critics say the movement is dangerous, riddled with racism, xenophobia and misogyny as shown through Breitbart content that has included headlines saying women don’t get jobs in tech because they “suck at interviews”.

Another claimed birth control makes women “unattractive and crazy”. The site has also defended Mr Bannon is a “friend of the Jewish people” after his ex-wife made claims he did not want his daughter “going to school with Jews,” which Mr Bannon denies.

Political analyst and author Thomas J Main has described it as the “main challenge” to America’s way of life — with the anti-gay, diversity, feminism and gun-control positions hiding a “truly sinister” ideology.

“Alt-Right thought is based on white nationalism and anti-Americanism,” he wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “The Alt-Right holds, in essence, that all men are not created equal, and that as racial equality has displaced white dominance, America has declined and no longer merits the allegiance of its white citizens.”

US Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblat also slammed the decision to see Mr Bannon installed in the White House saying: “It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ — a loose knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists — is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house’.”

Even former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro told TIME Mr Bannon “regularly abuses people” and “sees everything as a war”. “Every time he feels crossed, he makes it his business to destroy his opponent.”

University College London US politics professor Iwan Morgan told Mr Trump is definitely in for a wake-up call when he will have to reconcile different expectations of his presidency.

“Every president finds what got you to the White House isn’t what’s going to make you good in the White House. There is a sense now of anti-cosmopolitanism and nativism back in vogue. The sense of Making America Great Again is tied up with not only stopping change but reversing change.”

While “it’s very difficult to prove there wasn’t an anti-women vote in 2016,” he said there is a possibility that the first black President and the potential for a woman may have left some Americans feeling “that sequence was possibly too much change”.

“This is a 50/50 nation and the problem is that the 50 per cent who voted for Clinton can’t believe the other 50 per cent voted for Trump and the 50 per cent who voted for Trump can’t believe the other 50 per cent voted for Clinton.,” he said.

“Trump can be a unifier, he just hasn’t showed it yet and I suspect he would find it difficult. He’s going to have to find a way of persuading people to do what he wants.”



At conference, political consultants wonder where they went wrong

Amusing to see the know-alls realizing that they know nothing

Just days after Donald Trump’s surprise presidential victory, the nation’s professional political forecasters and persuaders — the pollsters, the ad creators, the campaign strategists — gathered in Denver for their annual convention.

It was supposed to be a celebration of big data and strategic wizardry for a multibillion-dollar industry that has spent nearly a century packaging political candidates.

Instead, the conference of the International Association of Political Consultants felt like a therapy session for a business in psychological free fall.

At the governor’s mansion in Denver on Friday, Emmy Ruiz placed a hand on the shoulder of a fellow Hillary Clinton operative. “It’s like we’re at a funeral,” said Ruiz, dressed — perhaps coincidentally — in black.

Participants seemed eager to take part in the post-mortem analysis of what went wrong.

“I need to make sure I state this very clearly so that nobody thinks that I feel otherwise: I got this really wrong,” said Chris Anderson, a Democratic pollster who had predicted a Clinton win, speaking during a session before the gathering at the governor’s mansion.

“We’re going to continue to learn from Donald Trump how to effectively message. Because he can do it really well,” Anderson said.

Political consulting was born, many say, in 1933 when newspaper writers Clem Whitaker and Leone Baxter were hired to defeat Upton Sinclair in his antipoverty bid for governor of California. When Sinclair lost, he blamed the defeat on a “staff of political chemists.”

The industry has since evolved into a sophisticated army of data analysts, message crafters, and others whose firms turn billions of dollars given to candidates and their surrogates into services. Television advertisements. E-mail lists. Get-out-the-vote strategies.

But everything about this election seemed to throw into question the value of those tactics — and even of the consultants themselves.

In the end, Clinton’s battalion of advisers was defeated by a wild, seemingly unchoreographed candidate who, according to the most recent data, spent more money on shirts, hats, signs, and similar items than on field consulting, voter lists, and data.

Over the weekend, 150 or so participants moved between a high-ceilinged conference room at the Westin hotel and other activities, including the reception at the governor’s mansion and a dinner at an adobe fort in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Organizers canceled a tour of a marijuana grow house after too many people expressed interest.

In one session dedicated to polling, three panelists who had predicted Clinton would win took to the stage, framed by a royal blue backdrop.

Instead of PowerPoint presentations and state-by-state voter analyses, there was self-flagellation, as some admitted they had spent the election seduced by “magical thinking,” unable to envision a Trump presidency and therefore blind to the story in front of them.

Margie Omero of PSB Research theorized that pollsters had held back Trump-leaning data, unwilling to release something that looked like an outlier. Or that Trump supporters had simply not told pollsters the truth, either embarrassed by their choice or angry at callers whom they perceived as part of a conspiracy against him.

“It was impossible to conceive of an incoming President Trump,” said Omero, whose firm has worked for both Bill and Hillary Clinton over the years.

In one of the more raucous portions of the conference, consultants assembled for a post-mortem session on campaign strategy.

Onstage was Ruiz, who ran Clinton’s operation in Colorado, and Rich Pelletier, a deputy campaign manager for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, whom Clinton faced in the Democratic primary race. Between them was Wayne Allyn Root, a Trump adviser wearing a pinstripe suit, a red tie, and a very, very broad smile.

“He was going to win from the beginning. Nobody got it. And I got it. I knew it,” said Root, describing a campaign strategy based more on gut and anecdote than science. “No matter how bad the polls look, they are meaningless because the anger and volatility of this electorate does not show up in the polls. My people are not telling the pollster they’re for Donald Trump.”



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