Protesters clash during a demonstration outside Milo Yiannopoulos' sold out show at the Melbourne Pavilion in Melbourne, Monday, December 4, 2017. Erik Anderson/ Press Association. All rights reserved.
non-ideological right exist? Is there such a thing as rebellious
conservativism? Can being a member of a sexual minority be used as a shield to
hold in front of you when you attack the forts of (supposedly) traditional left/liberal
political correctness? These are the questions we should ask in relation to the
quasi-invitation of Milo Yiannopoulos, a celebrated star of the Trump (online)
subculture and a figure almost completely unknown in Hungary, to a conference
organized by the Hungarian government.
Typically, in the
current reality of Hungarian politics however, we tend to respond to such
crisis identities and crisis-political products of (post-)modernism as those of
Milo by hysterically stigmatizing the phenomenon as far-rightism. To quote the
dialogue of Péter Nádas and Richard Swartz: "Verdicts appearing in the clothing of
finality are valid for one day only (…). They are final verdicts based on the
prejudices derived from contemporary taste."
Let us examine why
Milo should be considered more than just a "far right" provocateur,
and why he may instead be a product of the crisis of postmodern politics.
Starting his career
as a tech journalist and gaining dubious fame for his extreme acts and statements,
and actually becoming a real opinion shaper as communication between such
individuals and the public became increasingly privatized, Milo reduced public
political discourse to the language of social media, thus becoming the face of
an "alt-right" that concurrently denies the validity of ideologies,
is anti-elite and xenophobic as well as heavily reliant on the fear of
postmodern identity-driven politics. He is the face of a right the political
essence of which may perhaps be most validly described as ‘troll politics’.
Earlier on, a
significant part of Milo's activities was that he went to anti-Trump rallies
with his camera during the presidential election campaign, and while the
participants of these events were demonstrating for peace, solidarity, and
compassion under the flag of a tolerant America, they often reacted arrogantly
and violently in Milo's videos. This was the way the Trumpist online network
was able to "deconstruct" the self-image of Democrat supporters.
Shared at an exponential rate within minutes, these videos, albeit aired with
less significant viewership compared to the total American population, managed
to reach where they needed to (and even farther), via the new online marketing
So the point of
these actions was to quickly and widely "deconstruct" or undermine
the image that the democrats attempted to convey about themselves. Recording
the scene with his mobile phone, Milo accosted democratic protesters who
gradually lost their "political temper" to the point when one
particular demonstrator began to pound Yiannopoulos with a "Peace"
sign, while Milo was broadcasting the whole thing live on Facebook, thanks to
This kind of
"systematic upsetting" could not have worked so well in the time of the
slow-response print media. The camera crews of major networks were sometimes
unable to cover demonstrations in the era before online media dominance but the
appearance and widespread use of (smart) phones has even rendered them
unnecessary. Due to the new technology, opinion narration is privatized and the
impact of the New York Times opinion column is less significant in the era of
visual images (used as [counter-]evidence). We are stepping from one media
bubble to another, finding ourselves in the narrative quarantines of meta-realities
of whose real or supposed impact we don't really have any idea.
The context of the
above is described by Péter Csigó as follows: "Collective speculation in
financial markets has not been the sole case to manifest the systemic crisis of
feedback (or “responsivity”) mechanisms in late modern society. Similarly to
financial investors, today’s political actors are also immersed in a
self-referential speculative game, a “bubble” that retreats from reality and
follows its self-justifying inner logic. While finance actors speculate
collectively on financial asset prices and on to what extent these prices
faithfully represent underlying “fundamental” processes, the system of
“mediatized populist democracy” nurtures a collective speculation about “the
people” and “the popular.”
experts, and observers commonly speculate on how to win the “popularity
contest” of politics, how to win the hearts and minds of their popular
media-using constituencies. However, this speculative process has detached
itself from the real trends of public opinion formation – and it has betrayed
the “fundamentals” of the political field just as has been the case with
financial bubbles and the real economy."
democracy struggles with structural feedback and responsivity defects, which
then exaggerate the perception of events, individuals and scandals, and the
"impact" of which is further intensified by the reactions of a
This is how Milo,
who is not simply a troll but the product of the crisis of mediatized politics
and the consequence of the disintegration of self-evidence, becomes well-known,
popular and even a point of reference.
Supporters of British alt-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos clash with left-wing protesters in Lilyfield, Sydney, Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Danny Casey. Press Association. All rights reserved.
On the other hand,
if you really look into it, the aura of this product of political crisis is not
very far-removed from the political technology of contemporary leaders
considered as right-wing populists. The primary goal of this political activity
is not to promote the common good but to maintain a grip on power by occupying
and monopolizing certain sectors (media, entertainment, etc.) and transferring
them into the hands of the business elite collaborating with the holders of
power, so that the thus "captured" state can manipulate the public
through soft censorship.
Despite the many
differences (that are equally important but not emphasized here), the above
political technology seems to work in such countries as Russia, Hungary, Turkey
and the United States. The intensity and grade of organized resistance to it
depends on the individual features of the given region.
However, this is
not the only area where the radical innovation of an alternative and populist
right manifests itself. It is also demonstrated in understanding the negative
effects of postmodern politics. Liberalized by the new leftist movements of the
1960s, the left lulled itself into the illusion that the working class and
their attendant social groups had disappeared. The postmodernism of the 1990s
basked in the un-narratibility of the world (including the ego) and the diffusion of values (and the ego).
At the collapse of
the Eastern bloc, the (neo)liberals of the post-bipolar world were celebrating
the onset of the eternal peace so desired and the multi-coloured democracy of
identities as well as the conforming triumph of the market. In the meantime,
the contemporary right attempted to modernize, while also preserving their
original meaning, the ideas (nation, family, community) that formed the natural
foundation of their political efforts.
These values were
typically met with irony from progressives, who were using forms of political expression that were coming into line
with the principles of marketing (i.e. politicians are to be advertised the
same way as detergents) and making tabloidism a key device of political
communication. At the time, they were right in thinking that they would be able
to dominate the language of political postmodernism. However, that political
thought relied on the indomitable nature of political correctness, that is, its
applicability to all situations. But this failed to integrate the impulses and
the sometimes extreme self-expressions of those at the bottom of the pile, who
were thus ashamed of them and therefore suppressed them.
were liberated by the populist (pop-political) right. In its communication, it
preserves the traditional ideas of political conservativism and blends them
with the expressions of live speech imitating the language of social media,
including its slang components.
its rhetoric, this passionate language is rooted in the sentiments of the
oppressed. It is no longer just tabloidism: not only does it open its bedroom
doors wide; it also exposes bedroom activities completely unveiled for the
In the context of
"official politics", the Milos of the world are trolls. However, they
don't care whether their statements correspond to the reality or the experience
they identify reality with. Ignoring debates, they cause scandal and create chaos
to force their way into the political discourse, click by click. They no longer
want to defeat or surpass postmodern intellectual narratives. Instead, they
want to make them their own, turn them upside down so that they could
eventually hold them up to the progressive elite as a mocking glass.
Ultimately, this ideology-deprived politics aims to sell itself as the natural
addiction of the "people" and the amplifier of the voice of those at
the bottom – which also sounds all too familiar in Hungary.
British alt-right commentator Milo Yiannopoulos speaks during an event at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, December 5, 2017. Lukas Coch/ Press Association. All rights reserved.
Yiannopoulos take himself seriously? He doesn't need to. Do Orbán's people take
him seriously? They may, but probably just as much as they have realized that
postmodern liberalism must be defeated using postmodernism as the
"means", by creating chaos, upsetting or even ridiculing values and
throwing around ideological inconsistencies.
heralds the era of a new politics. He is consciously spontaneous, innovatively
conservative, a trend-setting extremist. A troll who might as well be the new
prototype of the 21st-century politician.
What Milo does to
us is what we have done to the world.
Therein lies the