This week on Sunday Long Reads we have author Laurie Penny's piece in Medium about the "attention economy", the world of professional right-wing social media trolls who only exist to self-aggrandize and cause as much chaos as possible to their own benefit. Donald Trump has lead the way on monetizing this mindset, and if Trump is king, the Crown Prince is right-wing bomb-juggler Milo Yiannopolous.
This is a story about how trolls took the wheel of the clown car of modern politics. It’s a story about the insider traders of the attention economy. It’s a story about fear and loathing and Donald Trump and you and me. It’s not a story about Milo Yiannopoulos, the professional alt-right provocateur who was just banned from Twitter permanently for sending racist abuse to actor Leslie Jones.
But it does start with Milo. So I should probably explain how we know each other and how, on a hot, weird night in Cleveland, I came to be riding in the backseat of his swank black trollmobile to the gayest neo-fascist rally at the RNC.
Milo Yiannopoulos is a charming devil and one of the worst people I know. I have seen the death of political discourse reflected in his designer sunglasses. It chills me. We met four years ago, before he was the self-styled “most fabulous supervillain on the internet,” when he was just another floppy-haired right-wing pundit and we were guests on opposing sides of a panel show whose topic I don’t remember and can’t be bothered to look up. Afterwards we got hammered in the green room and ran around the BBC talking about boys. It was fun.
Since that day, there is absolutely nothing I have been able to say to Milo to persuade him that we are not friends. The more famous he gets off the back of extravagantly abusing women and minorities, the more I tell him I hate him and everything he stands for, the more he laughs and asks when we’re drinking. I’m a radical queer feminist leftist writer burdened with actual principles. He thinks that’s funny and invites me to his parties.
“Feminism is cancer” is one of Milo’s signature slogans, and yet it took him only seconds after learning we’d both be at the Republican Convention in Cleveland to offer me a lift to his ‘Wake Up!’ rally, billed as the most fabulous shindig at the end of America. This time—god help me and the things I do for journalism—I said yes.
So here we are at the Convention, where howling psychopath Donald Trump has just been confirmed as the presidential nominee, to the horror of half of the party and every remaining moderate conservative in America as well as the 15,000 members of the international press who flocked to see the circus in realtime. Milo is loving every second of it. He lost no time climbing on the back of the clown car of the billionaire demagogue who, with ghoulishly oedipal glee, he calls ‘Daddy.’
These are the nihilists and nutjobs riding the Trump Train, and they're surfing the wave after destroying the dam and flooding the country with chaos and hatred. Some of Milo's fellow travelers are convinced he'll help them build a new twisted version of America, but Penny is right about Milo himself.
Some people just want to see the world burn.