In a post published to Slog on December 29, 2016, we identified Milo Yiannopoulos as a white nationalist in the headline: "White Nationalist Lands $250,000 Book Deal."
That headline was incorrect and it has been changed. Milo Yiannopoulos is not a white nationalist. He is a prominent figure in the alt-right movement. (Incidentally, he claims he doesn't identify as alt-right. But he's senior editor at Breitbart.com, which Stephen Bannon, former executive chairman of the blog, described as "a platform for the alt-right." In other words, Yiannopoulos claims he isn't in the circus, but to the outside observer, he is a ringleader.) Anyway, The Stranger regrets the error.
I’d like to go further, though, and say that the mistake is particularly embarrassing for me. Just last week, I urged readers to follow George Orwell’s advice in “Politics and the English Language.” Like Orwell, I think using precise language when talking about politics is critically important. The term “white nationalist” means something. It’s pretty simple. White nationalists dream of a white nation.
Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, which the Southern Poverty Law Center declares an “academic racist” organization, is a white nationalist.
"White nationalism calls for the establishment of a country exclusively for white people," German Lopez writes in Vox, "even if that means forcing people of other races to move but not necessarily be killed—what Spencer once called a “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”
In November 2016, Spencer told NPR’s Kelly McEvers that his ideal world is a “safe space effectively for Europeans.” He explicitly calls this space “a big empire that would accept all Europeans,” naming Germans, Slavs, Celts, and white Americans explicitly. That’s a white nation.
On TV One, Spencer called white Europeans “geniuses” and stated that they “don't ultimately need other races in order to succeed.”
All white nationalists are racists, of course, but not all racists are white nationalists. Spencer is a white nationalist. But Yiannopoulos is… well, let’s see what he is.
In a piece defining the alt-right movement for "establishment conservatives," Yiannopoulos and his coauthor Allum Bokhari wrote this:
The alt-right’s intellectuals would also argue that culture is inseparable from race. The alt-right believe that some degree of separation between peoples is necessary for a culture to be preserved. A Mosque next to an English street full of houses bearing the flag of St. George, according to alt-righters, is neither an English street nor a Muslim street—separation is necessary for distinctiveness.
So Yiannopoulos endorses "a degree of separation" of people of different races, but presumably not a whites-only nation.
In that same piece, however, Yiannopoulos appears to sympathize with those who are concerned about the United States becoming a majority minority nation:
In response to concerns from white voters that they’re going to go extinct, the response of the Establishment—the conservative Establishment—has been to openly welcome that extinction.
The extinction of the white race is a popular theme among white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and crazy white people.
And while Yiannopoulos objects to being identified as a white nationalist (because he isn't one), he doesn't reject white nationalists or white supremacists.
"Yiannopoulos says white supremacists make up a tiny fraction of the alt-right," Joel Klein wrote in a Bloomberg Businessweek profile of the alt-right leader, "and he doesn’t approve of them, though he’s not going to kick Spencer out of his events. 'I don’t see it as a bad thing that I surround myself with edgy people,' he says. 'Because they’re interesting. I’m not going to not hang out with someone because the New York Times calls him racist.'"
In a speech he gave at the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs on January 26, 2017, Yiannopoulos also said this: “White pride, white nationalism, white supremacy isn’t the way to go… You shouldn’t give a shit about skin color, you shouldn’t give a shit about sexuality, you shouldn’t give a shit about gender, and you should be deeply suspicious about the people who do.”
Spencer definitely gives a shit about skin color, but Yiannopoulos is strangely unsuspicious of him and happy to hang out with him.
Yiannopoulos is also strangely unsuspicious of himself. On January 31 of this year, he launched “The Privilege Grant,” a $2,500 scholarship that is “exclusively available to white men who wish to pursue their post-secondary education on equal footing with their female, queer, and ethnic minority classmates.”
He's the president of the grant-giving organization, the idea for which popped up originally in January of 2016. The project is notable so far for having collected tens of thousands of dollars and given out no money. According to the Guardian, former bursary Margaret MacLennan, who said she was not paid for her services, says "the funds were mismanaged." Yiannopoulos claims his busy schedule interfered with his ability to hit his deadline. (A request for comment was not returned by press time. We will update the post if we hear back.)
Spencer, like Yiannopoulos, seems to think white people suffer from the social advancement of other groups: “What I’m actively worried about right now is that these institutions are trying to discriminate against white people in terms of hiring," Spencer says in that interview with TV One.
For his part, in a speech he gave at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, Yiannopoulos asks, “If white privilege were a thing, why do so many people work so hard to be black?”
If Yiannopoulos doesn't think "white privilege" is a thing, he might ask the troll horde that sent racist tweets to comedian and Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones why they think it's funny to relentlessly bully a black woman:
But I understand Yiannopoulos was too busy fanning the flames of the firestorm he lit to pause and reflect on the ways promulgating racist worldviews licenses bad behavior by others. WaPo: "On Monday, Yiannopoulos started making fun of Jones, particularly her response to the racist abuse she was getting. 'EVERYONE GETS HATE MAIL FFS,' one tweet read. Another called Jones 'barely literate.' Later, he shared faked screenshots that made it appear as if Jones were making profane and offensive postings."
Milo had this to say during his speech in Wisconsin: “Behind every racist joke is a scientific fact."
Backing up: Spencer seems to agree with the sentiment at the back of Yiannopoulos’s rhetorical question about privilege. In an interview with Al Jazeera, he said, “A new Hollywood movie comes out [and people say]: ‘Oooh, isn’t it great that there’s less white people in the cast of this comic book film? Maybe the new James Bond should be black’—we talked about that for a whole year. The arrow is pointed against white identity, it’s pointed against white people defining America culturally and socially.”
In that same interview with Al Jazeera, Spencer says he loved Germany when he visited as a student. “It was a more traditional place than the United States… When you see images of after the Syrian refugee crisis, just these waves of people coming in, you just see that this country is being radically transformed. This transformation of societies and cultures is the most important thing happening today. You can call it the great erasure. It’s a radical transformation of the white world.”
While Yiannopoulos rejects the white-supremacist label, he is an inspiration to white supremacists like Spencer. CNN: "Spencer, the white nationalist, told Mother Jones that watching one of Yiannopoulos's speeches at the University of Houston in September was a 'huge inspiration' and helped him realize 'what we are doing is known to people, it's edgy and dangerous, it's cool and hip. It's that thing our parents don't want us to do.' Spencer spoke at Texas A&M University in December and says he's planning to do his own college tour."
So just to sum up: Milo Yiannopoulos definitely isn't a white nationalist. He pals around with white supremacists and white nationalists and he inspires them, but he isn't one of them. The fact that in some ways his thinking about race and immigration aligns with Richard Spencer's thinking about race and immigration in no way means Yiannopoulos is a white nationalist. Given the white-only scholarship program he founded, you could say that Yiannopoulos has embraced the kind of identity politics he once condemned. But that doesn't make him a white nationalist, and you'd be a fool for thinking he was.
Just to be clear: My characterization of Milo Yiannopoulos as a white nationalist in that headline was incorrect. The Stranger apologizes to Mr. Yiannopoulos unreservedly.