Milo Yiannopolis is an egotistical asshole – but an entertaining one. A self-proclaimed “internet supervillain,” Milo is most (in)famous for catchy, offensive slogans such as “Feminism is Cancer” or the headline of his recent college series, “The Dangerous Faggot Tour.”
Now, Milo has entered the world of self-publishing with his first book, Dangerous. Unfortunately, I found his book to be anything but. Half-autobiography, half-political commentary and half-humor, Dangerous struggles with its own identity.
The book is centered predominantly upon the Milo himself. This is obvious throughout, from the table of contents (‘Why the Progressive Left Hates Me’, ‘Why the Alt-Right Hates Me’, ‘Why Feminists Hate Me’ and so on) to the repeated use of personal anecdotes to explain his opinions. Yiannopolis keeps himself seated unashamedly at the center of attention. (Indeed, this is part of Milo’s ‘act.’) Each chapter shares anecdotes regarding his interactions with specific social or political groups, his opinion on the chapter’s subject, and then arguments or statistics.
Milo characterizes himself and his beliefs as a libertarian rebel, a sort of present-day (male, gay) Ayn Rand. Her influence is clear in his ideology. As he himself states: “one day, while attending Manchester, I was told I could not read Atlas Shrugged” after which “my need to rebel … hadn’t changed, but the establishment itself had morphed” (Foreword). While Yiannopolis claims he is a “sensible moderate” (Ch.2) his method of self-insertion and knack for immensely quotable rhetoric positions himself to be a direct heir to Rand’s fiery style (if not her intellectual legacy).
And Ayn Rand was hardly a political moderate.
Yiannopolis is a creature of the internet. As such, he interacts mostly with political extremists on both the left and the right. The natural anonymity or pseudo-anonymity provided online is well known to bring out the worst in otherwise well-meaning people. Considering the interactions Yiannopolis retells in Dangerous, it’s no surprise that he considers himself to be a moderate. He interacts mainly with people like himself, and his opinions are shaped by those interactions.
This is where I think Dangerous fails most dramatically. Yiannopolis spends a great deal of time talking about what other people think, but really doesn’t present that much regarding his own beliefs and ideas. At most, we just get that he believes “in free speech, [and] freedom of lifestyle,” (Preamble) which quite comfortably encompasses a libertarian or centrist/moderate position, but is nonetheless vague.
Dangerous doesn’t address how Milo thinks the world could be better. Constructive politics requires presentation of beliefs about what actions will lead to a better world. Dangerous just presents content from its opposition (in particular, identity politics and intersectional theory), and points at it, laughing.
Which really is unfortunate, since it seems to me that Dangerous has the potential to offer interesting arguments about what can and should be said. Milo’s on-stage circus act has been an effective method of advocating for free speech – but his writing just copy-pastes his lecture/stand-up hybrid onto the page and calls it humor.
The problem is that Dangerous just isn’t funny. Milo’s focus on oral presentation is present all over in his writing, with awkward sentence patterns and throwaway quips when he’s been serious for too long. It’s like he feels worried that he’ll lose his audience if he goes too long without making fun of Lena Dunham, or Leslie Jones or whomever. With throwaway lines such as “Kardashianism, I mean narcissism…” or “Yeah, like those uber-dykes at NOW could get anyone to put a baby in them” the book reads like transcription, not prose (Prologue; Ch.4).
All in all, I do feel that Dangerous is worth reading, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with Yiannopolis’ antics. Perhaps not purchasing (although I think it is telling of our political climate that this book has rapidly climbed the best-seller charts), but reading for exposure to a popular counter-cultural voice. Milo summarizes it best: “social taboos for the past fifteen years have all come from the progressive left … Libertarians and conservatives are the new counter-culture.” Like it or not, Yiannopolis is an influential voice from the growing conservative counter-culture, and one which likely deserves attention.