Even the homophobes in Cleveland are hospitable. On Wednesday night of the Republican National Convention, I was sitting next to a middle-aged local at a no-frills watering hole called Nick's Sports Corner. I asked him his thoughts on Indiana governor Mike Pence, who was about to take the mic right down the block. I tell him I'm impossible to offend, and he really takes my word for it, going on a truly stunning and very laudatory rant that I would rather not reprint. His mug of America (formerly known as Budweiser) was sloshing over the rim as he pounded his fist against the bar.
"Damn right I'm a homophobe," he said before slamming down his glass and offering to buy me a drink.
The gesture seems incongruous, but then again so did the entire convention this year, given that televangelist Jerry Falwell spoke on its closing night, later followed by openly gay businessman Peter Thiel. I'd like to ask this Clevelander his thoughts on the sort-of unholy alliance that Trump is attempting to forge between gays and conservatives in the wake of the Orlando shooting, but I have to decline the drink, as I'm there prepping to meet Milo Yiannopoulos, who I first saw speak at the surreal "America First" Rally on the opening day, orbited again at his relatively boring LGBTrump party the following night, and now had finally nailed down for an interview. In fact, the self-described homophobe I met would probably like the 32-year-old platinum-blond provocateur, given that his whole schtick is railing against the idea that words and identity politics are meaningful. Although he's been a voice of the alt-right movement for years, he very recently received a ton of mainstream attention after allegedly orchestrating a campaign of Twitter abuse against actor Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the recent Ghostbusters reboot, and getting banned from the social-media platform as a result.
While I enjoy at least the idea of Yiannopoulos rankling hand-wringing liberals, I also think that his arguments give permission to people who want to say vile, racist, bigoted things. Meanwhile, I find at least some of his arguments compelling, like, for instance, the idea that we're at a unique moment where after the legalization of gay marriage, liberals now have to work for gay votes rather than just expect them. I spent about an hour discussing this with the infamous troll and challenging him to push me over the fence into full-blown conservatism. Here's what we talked about.
VICE: I'm gay, and I hate both the right and the left. I have been following you around and want to take this as an opportunity for you to convince me. Tell me why I should be more vocal about this at the risk of being socially ostracized.
Milo Yiannopoulos: This is a very strange interview.
I think you can make two choices in life when you have difficult things ahead of you: the easy one with the feelings, or the hard one with the facts. Science tells us that people tend to make decisions based on their emotions rather than reason and use reason to justify them later. It requires a significant degree of conscious effort to avoid that pitfall. Now it seems, to me, fairly obvious that if you are a homosexual, you can choose the mollycoddling and pandering and feel good maxims of the left, so that after a tragedy like Orlando you can buy into the rainbow Twitter avatars and the hashtags and feel good about yourself for saying, "Love wins." It doesn't really accomplish very much. And sometimes the conservative way is a little more counterintuitive—but more effective. Sometimes, actually, the compassion can be difficult to identify in it because it involves hard choices. It's not just about telling everyone that they're beautiful and wonderful and perfect.
I agree that Twitter avatars are not very effectual. What's the counterintuitive approach?
From my point of view, it's the conservative response to Orlando, for instance, a conservative response to the Islamization of Europe, which represents the best hope for gay people to be happy and safe and comfortable. Now that involves saying some unpleasant things about people you know—about Muslims, for instance. Now, not every Muslim you meet is going to want to firebomb a nightclub or take a gun to your head. But significant numbers of them do, and not really in minority. It's a significant portion of Muslims who simply find our way of life completely unacceptable. It's become dangerous to be gay in America for one simple reason, and that reason is Islam. [Editor's note: A Pew survey from last year found that countries with significant Muslim populations have an overwhelmingly negative view of ISIS. Pew also found that the vast majority of Muslims reject the idea of conducting violence in the name of Islam.]
So what do you make of the ways that both Trump and Hillary responded to the shooting? I've interviewed gay Trump supporters who say that the speech he gave after made them love him.
I looked at responses from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and something struck me, which is that the two responses from the left—one, denial, and two, feeling—led to almost nihilism, really. A denial that there was a link to Islam or a connection to an Islamic antagonism toward gay people. And the sort of Nihilism of "Love Wins." Well love doesn't win. AK-47s win.
Meanwhile, I didn't realize Trump had this speech in him, really. It was pretty much the most terrific speech he has ever given. It was remarkable, and I encourage everyone to read it. Trump's response proved to me, as a British person hoping for the best for America, that he actually had some answers. There was an opportunity there to elect a president who would do something. I don't see that from the political left.
What's a long-term solution if you believe gays and Muslims can't coexist? Segregation? I don't see the end game to this argument.
I'm not sure that I could get behind a full deportation, but I don't have a problem halting immigration in countries where it threatens, not just minorities or another Orlando, but Western culture—which is the best culture. Western democratic capitalism. Free capitalism of the likes that we used to have in Europe, that you still have in America—which gave women the vote, which means that gay people can have a nice life. The places in the world that don't have it—it ain't very nice to be anything but the prestige class. In this country, you can pretty much do what you want to do, and say what you want and go where you want. That's not the case in most of the world. What surprises me about the left is that it doesn't seem to realize where the good stuff came from.
Gay marriage being legal is a moment that is pretty liberating for a lot of people. They don't have to be single-issue voters.
Don't you find it depressing?
Do you think that gay marriage being over and done with has caused that community to pivot to hand-wringing over other things that aren't necessarily issues?
I think the gay rights struggle is over, and it's time to shut up, stop, and go home, rather than continue to bleat and whine and police language and pivot to transgender pronouns and effectively start doing shakedowns. I don't want to see the Gay Establishment and gay charities turn into these sort of organized Al Sharptons, that go around policing the perceived homophobia, inventing grievances and victimhood where none exists, pretending to see insult and offense where none was intended. I don't want to see gay people be like that. That seems to me to be profoundly antithetical to the best spirit to gay dissonance of someone like William S. Boroughs. That seems to me to be so contrary to all of the best things about being gay. It's horrifying.
You advocate dropping the "T" from LGBT. It strikes me as maniacally self-serving to dismiss a group of people who basically started the gay rights movement as soon as it becomes politically expedient to do so. It's like hitting the lottery and then never talking to your old friends again, no?
Even the L and G shouldn't be together. Gays and lesbians don't really get on very much. We don't mix very much; we're not allowed in your bars. Lesbians and gays are horrendous about each other. Why are the L and G together, let alone anything else. There was a time, sure, in the 50s and 60s, when it paid to stick together. But that time's over. And all of these groups have different priorities. The very lesbianic third-wave feminism has very different priorities from gay men, it seems to me. Both of those groups have very different priorities to the trans lobby.
I kind of think that Jerry Falwell has less in common with Peter Thiel than a gay man has with a lesbian. Looking at the people speaking tomorrow before Trump, I can't tell if he's trying to move gay people into the party, or if it's just a sign that Trump has absolutely no ideology whatsoever.
I would say—I didn't finish my degree—but I went to a very good university in Cambridge, and I was taught that there were dozens of different ways to approach text. You could do a feminist reading, you could to an Lacanian reading, you could do all sorts of things. It seems to me that journalists are so poorly educated now, they literally have one prism through which to view the world, and it's the prism of oppression, bigotry, sexist, racist, homophobic—that's all they see when they look out in the world. I pity them because I would hate to see the world so monochromatically as they do.
But if you snap out of that and realize that the public actually is sick of the one-note preoccupations of journalists and that the allegations of sexism and racism don't have the power they had anymore, and that's good, and people are actually looking for a chaos candidate—I think the dysfunctional coalition that Donald Trump is assembling makes a lot more sense.
Why does this moment feel different than the political correctness movement in the 90s?
In the 90s, political correctness started to pop up, but it was beaten. It was beaten away. So now it's come back, and it's come back with a full force of every civil institution in the country. Politicians, the media, the entertainment industry, academia, the lot of it. But that's good, because that means if we beat it now, we beat it in its final form, in its strongest possible incarnation, and it will never return. That I think is happening by itself, but I'm happy to chivvy it along and also of course document that history as well. It's nice being someone who can give it a kick up the ass and then scurry around the corner and write about it as it comes around.
How does it feel, as a conservative, to know that a lot of the voter base fucking hates you?
Well, a lot of liberals hate you. I'm better educated on politics in Britain, but what I can tell you is––
Liberals don't stand on a street corner holding signs that say "God Hates Fags."
Oh come on, how strong is the religious right in this country, really?
Strong enough that Jerry Falwell is speaking on the final night of the Republican National Convention.
But what purchase do they have on the media? What has Trump said that's been influenced by radical evangelicals or anything like that? Realistically, the era of the religious right was the 90s. This was when people were saying that music and video games inspired school shootings on the basis of no evidence. Now it's feminists saying they can make you sexist with no evidence. It's the same ugly instinct, just from a different political direction. I don't like it anymore from the religious right than I do from the social-justice left. But to suggest that the religious right or that social conservatives have anything approaching the power that social justice has on the left in America is simply ridiculous.
And Mike Pence hates you for reasons that aren't even religiously motivated or easily dismissed as based on an old book. That's actually worse.
Mike Pence doesn't hate gay people. He's a family values and states's rights guy, and I am fine with that.
I wanted to ask you, if you could change whether or not you were gay, would you do that?
Yes. No. Well maybe before my career started taking off. Very honestly, if you did put the pills in front of me, if you really did it, if you said, "If you take this pill, you will be heterosexual," I think I would do it.
Well, it's not any of the things that people normally expect. People are always surprised by this answer, and it's amazing to me that this has never occurred to other gay people, but, when I'm fucking a person I love, I can't make a baby with them, and that's weird, and saddening, and confusing, and not a nice experience. When you're making love to someone who's most important to you in the world, you can't do what heterosexual couples do, which is create a child. Maybe I'm completely alone in that. But that bothers me.
I definitely expected the answer was yes, but not for that reason.
I don't know why this doesn't occur to more gay people, or if they just lie to themselves about it, or if they never get to that stage in their life or whatever.
There's a combination of things. I very much like the access to that wild abandon and freedom, particularly the cultural freedom that being gay gives me. I've obviously taken full advantage of that in my career. But when I think about where I want to be in 40 years, it's like, "Do I want to be happily married with my own children with the person I made those children with?" It's very tempting.
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