If you’ve followed Breitbart News for some time, you know that it at the very least gives succor to racism. After all, its once-and-current CEO, Steve Bannon, has documented ties to racist and white nationalist elements both at home and abroad. He frequently quotes from “The Camp of the Saints,” a staggeringly racist French tome that claims white Europeans are the only true humans. Several former Breitbart writers claim that editorial meetings sound like white supremacist rallies, and that Bannon twiddled his thumbs while the comment sections filled with all manner of racist bile.
But a devastating report by Buzzfeed’s Joseph Bernstein suggests that Breitbart and Bannon are doing far more than just giving succor to some of the worst people in the world. A trove of emails and other documents reveals that Breitbart is actively engaged in a campaign to whitewash, normalize, and repackage hate and bigotry.
One of the foot soldiers in that campaign was Milo Yiannopoulos, who was supposedly Breitbart’s technology editor but was really one of the most notorious trolls on the Internet. In the spring of 2016, Milo was crafting a feature story on the alt-right. For feedback, he turned to three of the alt-right’s most noxious characters. One of them was Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, the system administrator for the Daily Stormer. Another was Curtis Yarvin, a software engineer who has openly called for a return to feudalism and authoritarian rule. Another was Devin Saucier, editor of the white nationalist journal American Renaissance.
While that story was being tweaked and polished, Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow told Milo to point out that the alt-right distanced itself from the full-on racists in its ranks. Never mind that Milo was actively seeking help on this article from three of those very neo-Nazis and racists. Milo continued to collaborate with these racists, particularly Saucier. On at least one occasion, Saucier suggested one story idea to Milo–how the vast army of pro-Trump Twitter trolls could help throw the election to Trump. Milo’s article on Brexit also bore Saucier’s imprint; Saucier approved of a sentence mentioning that “high IQ, high-skilled economies” like the UK should go it alone. One of Saucier’s stocks in trade is pointing out supposed IQ differences between races.
It was no coincidence that these articles came after Bannon sent an email to Milo that amounted to blowing a dog whistle into a megaphone. In the fall of 2015, Bannon urged Milo to turn his talents toward, as he put it, helping “save western civilization.” Soon afterward, Bannon introduced Milo to Robert and Rebekah Mercer, the right-wing billionaires who are part-owners of Breitbart. With help from the Mercers, Milo began doing more live events around the nation–often using the Mercers’ private security detail.
At times, Milo seemed to take Bannon’s directive to help “save western civilization” too seriously. Marlow found himself pruning out blatantly racist ideas and jokes. In a particularly egregious case, Marlow lined out a reference to gas chamber jokes. He also found himself outright spiking some of Milo’s ideas and stories. For example, when Milo asked Marlow to let Weev appear on his podcast, Marlow balked at letting “a legit racist” appear on a Breitbart platform. Marlow also deep-sixed a Milo article suggesting that the alt-right was “Western supremacist.” However, a lot of pretty ugly stuff was left in, or made even uglier. For example, Bannon told Milo to cut out a reference to “refugees” and replace them with “migrants.”
Even what was left in was enough for a number of media outlets to try to brand Milo as a racist and white nationalist. Why “try”? Well, anyone who tried to do so faced threats of legal action from either Milo himself or Breitbart’s PR firm, Capital HQ. Those were enough to make them back down.
But it’s not likely they would have done so had they known the extent of Milo’s collaboration with racists. And it’s not likely they would have done so had they seen footage of Milo singing “America the Beautiful” at a Dallas nightclub, while Richard Spencer and other alt-right personalities cheerfully gave Nazi salutes. No, this isn’t snark. Watch here.
In an email to Buzzfeed, Milo claims that his “severe myopia” kept him from seeing the Nazi salutes. He also claimed that “I always have” opposed white nationalism and racism. Really, Milo? You expect us to believe you when your work at Breitbart was chock full of racist dog whistles, and when you actively solicited the help of white nationalists for articles?
There’s a possibility that this will start anew very soon. Milo has told a number of people close to him that he expects to return to Breitbart after being pushed out for appearing to condone pedophilia. However, he remained close with the Breitbart team even after no longer officially being in the building. Soon after his forced resignation, Milo and Marlow came to the Mercers’ Palm Beach estate to discuss a venture called “Milo Inc.” Two weeks after his ouster, Milo received a wire payment–presumably for this new venture–from the Mercers.
But even if Milo doesn’t return, it has been amply demonstrated that Breitbart doesn’t just prop up racists. It’s helping mainstream them.
(featured image: photo art courtesy Emil Lendof, The Daily Beast)