Waiting in a slightly chaotic line outside Milo Yiannapoulos’s book party on the Lower East Side last week, a rumor spread that Ann Coulter would be in attendance. “She has a condo in Manhattan,” reported one Milo fan. When I wondered aloud if we’d see Miss Coulter dancing, a security/line minder said “She may be here but she won’t be dancing.”
Inside later as far as I could see there was no Coulter, dancing or otherwise, among the Milo fans, nearly a thousand of them, mainly tall, youngish, good-looking, and often rather jacked. Slightly more male than female, and probably slightly more straight than gay, with a goodly sprinkling of fans who were not white, despite critics’ claim that Milo is a promoter (along with President Trump and anyone else who challenges “liberal” orthodoxy) of white nationalism.
Still, there were other celebrities-we-love-to-hate in attendance. I had a drink with a very charming (and upbeat, despite news reports) Martin Shkreli, the multi-millionaire investor who now faces legal problems. Shkreli, who had made a non-endorsement endorsement of Trump toward the end of last year’s presidential campaign, also famously tried to donate to the Bernie campaign, only to have his check returned. I asked Mr. Shkreli: “Trump, Bernie, but no Gary Johnson, no Jill Stein, but you dislike Hillary?” His replies: “I like to keep an open mind,” and “My main issue is capital gains taxes. I asked McCain, Obama, and Hillary about capital gains. McCain said he would lower them; Obama said he would raise them a little. Clinton talked for an hour and never answered the question.”
Mr. Shkreli was worth $70 million before his legal troubles. Miss Coulter is reported to be worth just over $8 million. To date, the way Coulter makes her money doesn’t entangle her in the web of trip wires of the regulatory state, thanks to the First Amendment, though Antifa and other rioters on the left are keeping Coulter and Milo from speaking on major college campuses. Milo is reportedly only worth half as much as Coulter, in a way proving one of his contentions — that the gender wage gap does not exist.
Still, Milo is catching up with her. The party began with an announcement that the first run of his new book, “Dangerous,” had sold out of its first printing of 100,000, just by pre-orders. So even though Coulter is taller, and thinner, and richer, and a natural blond, Milo is catching up. Which is good since his new director of research, Chadwick Moore, keeps organizing these events with hundreds of guests with open bars featuring signature cocktails and handsome caterers passing out plentiful hors d’oeuvres. The stories covering the parties are no doubt worth it as advertising, but Milo Inc. now has about 30 staffers, including a director of revenue and a chief events planner.
Milo’s success is based on the same formulae that fuels Coulter’s sales and Trump’s electoral victory — blunt, and often comic, talk (or tweets) about topics the mainstream media, academia, and “liberal” orthodoxy say you can’t speak about. Milo does this with a certain flair calculated to excite his various fans. His critics both misunderstand him and also want to smear him as a racist, Alt-Right campaign strategist, political journalist, or media critic. He is instead rather self-consciously Oscar Wilde touring America — though in his case he wants to become a permanent resident. Appearing on stage at the Delancey Street book party in custom couture, a dazzling jacket that could have come from the wardrobes of Liberace or Elvis Presley, amid midgets wearing name tags identifying them as conservative writer and speaker “Ben Shapiro” (there is a feud there), and ISIS Varga girls in fishnet stockings, hijab, and black bikinis, it’s clear that Milo is a performance artist first, and a political philosopher, if at all, second.
Talking to the 20- and 30-somethings at both the book launch and at Milo’s “Coming Out Conservative” party (held a few weeks before at a secret location on the Upper East Side), the modal political position of his young fans is that they are “libertarians…but” with the but usually being immigration, and sometimes abortion. (At the second party a handsome young law student quizzes me about what publications I write for and what my politics are, and sums it up as “you are either a globalist or a nationalist.”)
Milo’s actual beliefs might some day turn out to surprise some of his followers, much as libertarians are sometimes reminded that one of their Nobel Laureate economists, F.A. Hayek, actually supported a small welfare state and modest redistribution of wealth, even while opposing central planning and regulation of markets. Yiannopoulos inflames the left simply by opposing identity politics and political correctness that tell people what they are supposed to believe based on their group identity, and what they are allowed and not allowed to say. This alone makes him Dangerous to a ruling political class that sees electoral losses and falling support in polls, and doesn’t want to lose its hold on the young and hip.
But if one listens closely to Milo interviews, it’s not clear he goes as far as some libertarians or conservatives might, despite his support of President Trump. In his interview with David Rubin it seems that despite his criticism of feminists, Milo is supportive of equal pay for equal work laws — which mean the State will be analyzing and classifying which jobs are equal to which. But, this won’t deter his supporters, who like Shkreli simply want the freedom to have an open mind, and cheer Milo on for breaking down any barriers erected against that.