If you look up controversial in the dictionary (as well as a number of other less-than favourable adjectives) you’re likely to find a picture of Milo Yiannopoulos. The self-proclaimed “internet supervillain” appears to have only one main objective in life, and that’s to cause mass outrage.
As the poster boy for the alt-right, Yiannopoulos’ pursuit to shock has largely been successful. Whether it be through his description of feminism as cancer, his denial of the gender pay gap, his severe opposition to same-sex marriage, or his claim that “behind every racist joke is a scientific fact”, Yiannopoulos plays a purposeful game of divisive, identity politics.
It’s why we found it more than a tad surprising to learn that Yiannopoulos would be welcomed as the guest of honour to a ‘special event’ in Canberra next month, hosted by everyone’s favourite Senator, David Leyonhjelm.
The invitation, extended to all senators by Leyonhjelm’s office encouraged members and their staff to secure places early to see a ‘thought-provoking’ Yiannopoulos speak, in an ‘unlikely to be repeated event’. It read:
“Dear Members, Senators and staff,
You are invited to a special event on Tuesday December 5 in the Mural Hall.
Senator David Leyonhjelm is hosting Milo Yiannopoulos for a conversation and an audience Q&A.
Milo is a thought provoking commentator, author of the New York Times best-seller, Dangerous and self-described cultural libertarian. He is currently on a capital city tour around Australia.
Secure your place at what will be a very interesting event that is unlikely to be repeated.
When: Tuesday December 5 2017 11am – 12.15pm
Where: Mural Hall”
Responding to Fairfax’s query about the peculiar invitation, Leyohjelm’s office said “Milo was already touring Australia and I thought it was a good opportunity to give those in Parliament (MPs, staff and media) a chance to hear from him there and put their questions to him.”
But why, in all seriousness, would MPs need to do this? What kind of valuable insights are they likely to gain from a man who describes rape culture as fantasy?
Greens Senator, Janet Rice aptly responded via a tweet to the invitation, saying she could not attend as she would be “busy stabbing myself in the eye with a fork”.
“Seriously though, why is Yiannopoulos being given a platform in our Parliament?” she asked.
Others, including Greens Senator Sarah Hanson Young, responded to the email with words of confusion.
Sarah Hanson-Young has started a chain reply to all parliamentary staff about the Milo Yiannopoulos event pic.twitter.com/CV977b1eRo
— Michael Koziol (@michaelkoziol) November 23, 2017
“I question how this man has secured a visa to Australia, let alone access to Parliament House. After all, aren’t we building a fence around the building to keep dangerous people out?” she wrote.
“It astounds me that a member of Parliament would roll out the red carpet to a white supremacist and paedophillia apologist.”
It’s a valid point.
Yiannopoulos isn’t merely a controversial figure with some wacky ideas and quick tongue. He’s a dangerous, divisive game-player with nothing left to lose.
His exposed fraternisation with American white nationalists left him ostracised from masses of his usual loyal followers, leading to his dismissal as editor of alt-right Breitbart News. He is now a wayward troll on a mission to inflict pain and panic on another region, appealing to the worst impulses of a shaky electorate.
And David Leyonhjelm, with gleaming eyes, is strapped in for the ride.