Milo Yiannopoulos Meets The Barbra Streisand Effect

Yiannopoulos wants violent protests. He wants not to speak. He knows that the best thing that can happen to him is to be silenced.
02/02/2017 06:21 pm ET Updated Feb 03, 2017
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Does anyone seriously believe that Milo Yiannopoulos hasn’t gotten precisely what he wants?

Newsweek suggests that by violently forcing the University of California at Berkeley to cancel a speech by the right-wing activist, the Berkeley campus “reclaim[ed] its reputation as a crucible of radical activism.” If so, big deal. The left-wing goons who silenced a right-wing goon were on the same team as him, though they’re either too dumb to notice or too self-centered to care.

That’s where Barbra Streisand comes into play—the “Streisand Effect,” to be exact. What it means is that trying to silence something or somebody gets you more publicity than ever before. Years ago, Streisand tried to suppress photos of her house in Malibu. She sued. She wrote cease-and-desist letters. The result: the photos of her house were spread all over the Internet.

That’s basically what happened with Yiannopoulos. Let’s run down the exposure he’s gotten—publicity that he would not have received were it not for the violent demonstrations and cancellation of his speech:

  • Donald Trump threatened to cut off federal aid to the college.
  • Cancellation of the speech got coverage in numerous outlets, the New York Times and many others.
  • His idea for a white-male-only scholarship fund, which otherwise would have been ignored, was picked up by CNN.

The list goes on and on—all because he was silenced.

In an article in the Daily Californian, veterans of the “Free Speech Movement” accurately pointed out that banning him would play into his hands. New York made the same point. In an article that went online this afternoon, the magazine said:

What’s going on here is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yiannopoulos preened and joked and harassed his way into public-enemy-number-one status among some left-leaning folks despite the fact that his actual beliefs are, by the standards of mainstream reactionary conservatism, fairly boring and predictable. Just look around at his Breitbart author page: If you ignore the overheated headlines and constant references to his own greatness, it’s clear that Yiannopoulos is, for the most part, serving up microwaved portions of mass-market right-wing goonery.

That misses the point. The central issue here is not Yiannopoulos, it’s Streisand. Yiannopoulos wants violent protests. He wants not to speak. He knows that the best thing that can happen to him is to be silenced.

When will the left learn this? I would suggest that the answer to that is “never.” These are the same elements of the left that guaranteed the rise of Trump by refusing to coalesce around Hillary Clinton. In a sense, the people who silenced him are a mirror image of Yiannopoulos, in that they are also nihilistic and they get what they want, which is either self-gratification or, in some instances, violence for the sake of violence. The actual impact of the violence is beside the point.

And we know what the effect is: Yiannopoulos got publicity beyond his wildest dreams.

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