March 8th, 2017

So, I haven’t paid a great deal of attention to Milo Yiannopoulos in much the same way I rarely notice other drama queens and attention sluts. Matt Taibbi, however, writing in Milo Yiannopoulos Isn’t Going Away for Rolling Stone, makes an important point in his conclusion:

A dynamic that all good swindlers understand is that once you’ve gotten a person to make one embarrassing decision, it’s easier to get him to make the next one. A person who loses 10 grand trying to buy the Brooklyn Bridge is a good bet to spend 20 more chasing the loss. Con artists call this “reloading.”

The Trump phenomenon has been like this. Megachurch moms and dads across the country grit their teeth when the “grab them by the pussy” tape came out, quietly convincing themselves that “locker-room talk” was less horrifying than a Hillary Clinton presidency.

When they cast their votes weeks later, it was like a secret transgression that bound them to the new leader. This counter-intuitive brand of politics is very effective. It’s why no one should be too quick to put this week’s seeming fiasco with CPAC in the Republicans’ loss column.

One would think the last thing you’d want to do if your intent was to hold a fragile Republican coalition together is pitch Milo Yiannopoulos as a defender of family values. Why would the Mike Pence crowd ever rally behind a Brit with frosted hair who brags about getting blowjobs from priests? It seems preposterous.

But watch it work. A week from now, the same conservatives who are beating their breasts about Yiannopoulos now will go crawling back into the Trump camp to fight the hated liberals on a dozen other issues. They will look weak and indecisive, and privately will be demoralized, while the Trump/Bannon/Milo crew will look like poker players who won a bluff. It’s always about the next news cycle with these people.

Trolling doesn’t take brains. But it works, and it will keep working, until we learn to see through the provocations in real time.

I’m not sure failing to see through the provocations is the challenge here. I think we see the provocations, we just don’t invest the time to take a few deep breaths because in the time those breaths take, the story has morphed and moved on and we have a new provocation to process. Over the years I’ve learned that trolls understand how to avoid questions by asking other, often unrelated questions, of their own. They behave like Ritalin-deprived adolescents unable to focus more than 30 seconds on thoughts that don’t fit their personal happiness narrative.

Crafting a response in real time presumes that the provocateur gives a shit about the response.

Milo, and his ilk don’t.

They just need to believe that they matter.

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