Two days ago, Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones started retweeting her own racist trolls to show her followers what her mentions on Twitter look like. Noted king of controversy Milo Yiannopoulos was at the heart of the drama, insisting that the photos of semen, private parts, and apes that Jones was receiving were hate mail that everyone receives. He accused her of playing the victim and loftily maintained that people have the right to express themselves however they want. Jones blocked him. Twitter, on the other hand, banned him for life.
This was not the first time the man who self-describes as “the most fabulous supervillain on the Internet” has been banned, nor was it the first time he whipped up a fresh batch of controversy on (or about) the microblogging site. This time is just the most permanent and it looks like all of his fans who are tweeting #FreeMilo are doing so in vain.
Is that really what he would want them to do anyway? He’s happily playing the part of the “cool” young face of the alt-right now, but four years ago, he wrote the following paragraph in an article called, “The internet is turning is all into sociopaths“:
So perhaps what’s needed now is a bolder form of censure after all, because the internet is not a universal human right. If people cannot be trusted to treat one another with respect, dignity and consideration, perhaps they deserve to have their online freedoms curtailed. For sure, the best we could ever hope for is a smattering of unpopular show trials. But if the internet, ubiquitous as it now is, proves too dangerous in the hands of the psychologically fragile, perhaps access to it ought to be restricted. We ban drunks from driving because they’re a danger to others. Isn’t it time we did the same to trolls?
In the same article, he reiterated a point he had made previously about the need for real-life identities to be tied to online personas to make people more accountable for their hateful posts. Further, he wrote, “It’s clear that existing hate speech laws are inadequate for the social media era.” He even admitted that as lawmakers and webmasters debate the best way to handle hate speech online in an era when a person’s professional life is often partially dependent on their access to social media, “we are all, bit by bit, growing ever more fearful of the next wave of molestation.” Jones, who took a Twitter hiatus following her receipt of racist tweets, might agree.
There has been so much outrage from his fans in the first official day of his banishment from Twitter. #FreeMilo has been trending since last night, which is no small feat. In spite of the fury over Twitter seeming to trample on his right to free speech, he seems to have been on-board with similar punitive measures as recently as 2012.
How else are we to interpret “perhaps access to [the Internet] ought to be restricted”? How else should we understand “the Internet is not a universal human right”?
It is widely understood now that Yiannopoulos is essentially playing a character that was forged in the fires of disproportionate outrage on the left and while he writes and says endlessly shocking things, he is still a reasonable person who believes (or, at least, once believed) that like drunk drivers, dangerous trolls should be removed from the Internet.
He is a man who now calls himself a “dangerous faggot,” so by his own admission, he is dangerous. By his own admission, too, he who ridiculed Jones and sent his adoring followers her way should be removed from a platform that views his actions and words as similarly dangerous.
If his old writing is to be believed, maybe he doesn’t want Twitter to #FreeMilo at all.
[image via screengrab]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.