There might as well have been a red carpet leading to the Hopfingerbräu Beer Hall near the German parliament, where about 150 supporters of Germany’s populist Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) waited eagerly for the fashionably late guest speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos. These days, as one of America’s most controversial, censored media pundits, he’d be lucky to get any welcome at all to most parties, conferences and government halls in the United States.
Germans, unless they are conservative political junkies, may not have heard of the British-born “Milo,” as he’s known. The former tech editor of the pro-Trump outlet Breitbart, told the enthusiastic Hopfingerbräu crowd, “I’ve been called a racist, an anti-Semite, a misogynist, a white supremacist, a homophobe, a pedophile apologist and a transphobe. Only Islamaphobe is true.”
It’s that kind of in-your-face style talk that got the flamboyantly gay, platinum blonde banned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, PayPal, EventBrite, Shopify, Patreon, Mailchimp and Tumblr (to name a few).
As a Jew married to a black man, Yiannopoulos says he is amused by being called a homophobe, anti-Semite, and racist. The 34-year-old credits himself with being a game-changer during the 2016 presidential election when he famously called then President-elect Donald Trump, “Daddy.” The then sought-after speaker defied stereotypes of stodgy Republicans, coopting the entertaining language of the left to advocate for conservative issues and personalities.
But his big mouth got him into trouble among conservatives, too. He was fired from Breitbart after discussing his teenage sexual encounter with his pastor. Claiming that he never intended to condone pedophilia, he said that sometimes such relationships have a consensual element. He also lost his book deal with Simon & Schuster but ended up selling a quarter of a million copies of his 2017 book, “Dangerous,” through his own publishing house.
The morning after the AfD soiree, Yiannopoulos sat down at a hip West Berlin café to discuss Jewish identity and Israel, revealing a tortured relationship with his Jewish identity because of his tortured relationship with his mother, a Jew of German descent.
“I had a really s—– childhood and because I hated my parents so much it had a consequence of me not learning much about my family,” Yiannopoulos said, a crucifix dangling around his neck. He was raised by his Greek-Irish Catholic paternal grandmother and considers himself Catholic. Yet when he speaks about Jews, he often speaks in the first person, including himself as a Member of the Tribe, even attributing his biting humor to his Jewish side. “I tend to only wheel it out to irritate people in arguments and whenever they’re accusing me of insane things,” he said.
He thinks the Jewish community and the “Jewish lobby” would be well served not to “throw a gasket” every time someone — even a politician — throws out what may appear to be an anti-Semitic trope. “Just like I don’t like left-wing political correctness about women and blacks and Muslims, I don’t like right-wing political correctness about Jews and Israel.”
Citing freshman Democratic Muslim Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who tweeted that American support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins,” Yiannopoulos said Jews could nail Omar on a lot more than a tweet.
“People claim that really stupid things are anti-Semitic that are not really anti-Semitic, or they make more of a fuss about it than they need to.”
According to Yiannopoulos, since Jews are disproportionately influential in media, publishing, entertainment and finance — “it’s not conspiracy, that’s a fact” — he said, Jews often are perceived as enforcing taboos quite ruthlessly. “So if somebody says something about Israel, even if we kind of know that it was just a criticism of Israel, we can say it’s anti-Semitic to win the argument, right? And I feel as though a lot of the times when the left and right say something is anti-Semitic, it isn’t.”
He also believes some Trump supporters and right-wing activists also resent Jewish groups that disproportionately push for mass Muslim immigration and so-called “progressive” values. “There is definitely something weird about why Jews, despite their social values, vote left wing,” he said.
“Just like I don’t like left-wing political correctness about women and blacks and Muslims, I don’t like right-wing political correctness about Jews and Israel.” — Milo Yiannopoulos
Regarding Israel, Yiannopoulos calls himself a “paid-up Zionist” who believes Israel is a bastion of civilization in a region of Islamic tyrants, saying he’d be the first to advocate for a Jewish “super-state” in the Middle East. Still, he has “tough love” for Israel, where he’s partied in Tel Aviv.
“I’m perfectly happy with Israeli special forces and American intelligence and all the rest of it going in and assassinating every leader of Hamas tomorrow,” he said. “I would sign that as my first executive order as president, but I don’t think it aids the cause to overreact to things — as much pressure as there is to respond and to retaliate — especially when, for instance, no Israelis get killed or hurt.”
What he believes are Israel’s heavy-handed actions in Gaza he said, can make Israel come across as a “cry-bully. You can’t play the victim while actually having the biggest stick and you can’t pretend to be weak when everyone knows you’re strong, because you come across as disingenuous and you lose the moral high ground.”
He thinks the real anti-Semites (including Omar), find their home in the radical, anti-Israel Democratic Party. Still, he said, Omar’s tweet wasn’t objectionable enough to justify such hysteria. “I’m a free speech fundamentalist. I think you should be able to say whatever the hell you want.”
He also said he loves to test what can and can’t be said in a public forum without crossing into what he believes is honest-to-goodness racism. Conservatives, he said, must not cry over being de-platformed. Social media are a game. They must eventually make a clean break from left-leaning Silicon Valley and find new ways of reaching out. He is planning his own, indie late-night online talk show, a mixture, he said, of Bill Maher and Johnny Carson.
“I am perfectly happy to be a martyr, because it’s necessary,” he said. “And I’m perfectly happy to make that sacrifice because it’s necessary. I could perfectly, easily have had a television show by now if I had kept my mouth shut. There are plenty of people working in entertainment who have quite right-wing views who just don’t express them or who express the opposite. I can’t do that. It’s not in my nature to be able to lie for money.”
Yiannopoulos’ visit to Berlin might have lured him out of forced early “retirement,” with European populists granting him a fresh audience. “Given how systematically [conservatives are] being scrubbed out of existence in America, we’re becoming more readily available to Europe, which I think is probably where we’re needed most at the moment anyway, because we won the ‘Trump fight,’ and he’s going to have a second term anyway.”
At the beer hall, he told the populist Germans that urging them to rediscover the “heroic masculine virtues so mocked by today’s timid, weak, feminized German culture, isn’t a nostalgic appeal to darker times from our continent’s past. It is a reminder that without courage, confidence and strength, all that is good and decent about European civilization is at risk.”
And, according to him, among the greatest risk to European civilization is uncontrolled, mass Muslim migration. “Even the migrants’ hatred of Jews is overlooked,” he told the AfD crowd. “This is not the first time in Germany’s history that it has become a scary place to be a Jew.”
Even if Europe ends up rejecting him, Yiannopoulos said he has found unparalleled contentment in the New Jersey country home he shares with the “love of his life” and a llama.
“But I do get a little bit antsy not doing much around the house,” he said. “It’s probably a waste of talent for me to stop doing what I’m doing at this age and I think I can do a lot of good.”
Orit Arfa is a journalist and author based in Berlin. Her second novel, “Underskin,” is a love story of Berlin and Tel Aviv.