British-American blogger and far-right figure, Milo Yiannopoulos, is being feted by large sections of Australia’s media and even federal MPs this week but violent clashes have taken place during his speaking tour of the country as alt-right followers jostled with left-wing protestors and police in the midst of it all.
True crime author and newly signed True Crime News Weekly correspondent, Gary Johnston, was there on the ground in Melbourne for all the action while our editor, Serkan Ozturk, braved the crowds in Sydney to capture dramatic vision from the protests.
The late UK comedian Linda Smith, when referring to some loudmouth British politician – I forget who – once opined that not only did the (un)said blowhard not deserve the oxygen of publicity, he didn’t even merit the oxygen of oxygen.
Never was that viewpoint better illustrated than this week – first in inner city Melbourne and then Sydney – when self-styled ‘internet super-villain’ Milo Yiannopoulos ‘entertained’ a sell out crowd, some paying nearly a thousand dollars for the dubious privilege. Melbourne Pavilion, located in the defiantly multicultural suburb of Kensington, was the chosen venue for Yiannopoulos’ event in the country’s cultural capital.
Genuine full scale riots are – thankfully – a rare event in Australia’s most liveable city and whilst the mainstream media creamed itself by gleefully exaggerating the extent of the carnage, speaking as an relatively impartial observer, I can confirm that there was still enough disorder and random dust ups to register a solid seven out of ten on the fracas Richter scale.
If you’ve never heard of Yiannopoulos, it’s not through his lack of effort. Controversy is his middle name, even if he hasn’t legally adopted it, choosing instead, in his early career to call himself ‘Wagner’, a deliberate nod, or perhaps Nazi salute, to Wilhelm Richard Wagner. The composer was of course Adolf Hitler’s favourite theatrical polemicist, and a figure who, 150 years after the fact, still continues to represent a viewpoint beloved of the sort of people who admire strident opera, gothic drama and kicking working class people in the nuts.
The boy Milo still has some way to go to emulate his hero, but in the style of contrived provocateurs worldwide, he certainly won’t die wondering. Amongst his targets, Yiannopoulos, who describes himself as a ‘cultural libertarian’ – whatever that means – has focused on feminists, Islam, social justice, political correctness, and that’s just for starters.
In order to beguile his Australian followers, he’s now gone native, taking potshots at various mildly left wing commentators, including Julia Gillard and ‘The Project’s’ Waleed Aly, whom he yesterday labeled a ‘foghorn’, (who is) ‘dedicated to the destruction of Western civilisation’. (And I bet you thought that was Peter Hellier’s gig).
Not content with limiting himself to such easy marks, Yiannopoulos also decided his fans wouldn’t be averse to bit of Aboriginal baiting, taking on the mantle of an art critic by labelling all Indigenous art, ‘really shit’. Sophisticated, it wasn’t.
SOME OF THE FACES OF THE ALT-RIGHT WHO ATTEMPTED TO INFILTRATE THE COUNTER-PROTEST HELD IN SYDNEY BY LEFT-WING DEMONSTRATORS
With such an impressive – if you like that sort of thing – back catalogue, it was no surprise that the events in Melbourne and Sydney attracted some who did and some who categorically didn’t. His fans, such as they were, presented as a diverse bunch, from tattooed bikers and tidy young city executives, through to a sizeable group of mums and dads, with kids in tow, who possibly mistook the location for the nearby Melbourne City Zoo. Frankly, they weren’t far wrong.
Lining up in opposition were a far easier group to categorise: a miscellaneous band of left wing protesters, including a number wearing union t-shirts, and a sizeable cohort of recent emigrants, presumably emanating from the nearby housing commission flats.
Acting as umpires were the local constabulary, replete in riot gear, most of whom, to these eyes at least, looked ill-prepared, bewildered and somewhat apprehensive; not that you could altogether blame them.
Whilst it didn’t altogether kick off, a number of arrests ensued, even if most of the violence was of the verbal kind, with a hefty portion of pushing and shoving thrown in for effect. Whilst, you wouldn’t exactly call it handbags at 10 paces, the threat of mayhem was for the most part, like televised wrestling, more hinted at than actual – WWE rather than WW3.
POLICE AND PROTESTORS FACE OFF IN SYDNEY
Following the erection of police barricades, the event then went ahead in predictable fashion – Milo knows better than to disappoint his crowd – with lashings of expletives, assorted abuse and spiked slander sprayed indiscriminately, like dung on a farmer’s paddock. The crowd, overwhelmingly male – there’s a surprise – loved it.
Outside, some of the protesters stayed to the bitter end, raining abuse on Milo’s mob as they left, though by this time it was far more controlled, partly because the police were now on top of it and also because the opposition had dwindled to more easily handled numbers. It was a similar story in Sydney outside the scenic wedding function centre Le Montage more used to the shrieks of Bridezillas than alt-right fanboys and crusty anarchists.
Yiannopoulos, of course, fully achieved his aim: and that was to attract the maximum amount of media attention. Not a hard thing to do in Australia during a fairly dull news period, especially not when your schtick is winding up the left by telling people on the right the things they want to hear, but seldom do, by mainstream commentators at any rate. On that basis, he’ll be stoked, but apart from the police, who doubtless were on overtime rates, it’s hard to see how anyone else in Australia could be.
Freedom of speech? Freedom to protest? The debate will rage on, but both sides of the argument were there to be seen in both Melbourne and Sydney and frankly, despite its relative constraints it was far from an edifying sight. And this might just be the start.
Milo Yiannopoulos’s ‘Troll Academy’ speaking tour of Australia ends on the Gold Coast on Thursday, December 7.