Fencing Bear’s Day Out With Milo and the Boys

I got my wish! Remember how envious I was of Laurie Penny, getting to ride around with Milo in his “swank black trollmobile” last summer? Well. Let me tell you about the day I had yesterday with Milo and his boys!

It was just as Laurie Penny says. There was the “swank black trollmobile.” There was the posse of twenty-something young men. There were the incessant jokes about how much expensive champagne the band of pranksters drank the night before. There were the endlessly replayed videos of the bottle-smashing (Milo is half-Greek, after all). There were the tales about going to strip joints and how beautiful the strippers were. There was...absolutely nothing that made me nervous about any of this.

I don’t know Penny, but I have been writing about Milo for almost a year now, and I have never seen anything in him or his friends that she describes. Sure, they are boisterous. Sure, they are twenty-something young men. Sure, they spend time joshing each other – and Milo – and telling jokes. Perhaps it is because I am old enough to be their mother, old enough even to be Milo’s mother, but nothing that they said or did at all alarmed me. It just made me wistful for when I was their age.

Milo being Milo, everything that we did was perfectly symbolic. We met at – you guessed it – Trump Tower (okay, that was my idea, but they stayed there Saturday night). We drove in the “swank black trollmobile” (Penny’s words) up to the “best bakery in Chicago” (Milo’s words; one of his friends knew the baker). We got on the CTA to look for Milo’s book posters (“It’s like a cab but there are so many people on it” – Milo). We took photos with Milo’s poster at Wellington Station and then got back in the car, which whisked us to DePaul, where Milo and the boys performed their most mischievous prank of the day: filming Milo pretending to give a book to the library. It was hellish! The humanity! They didn’t even raise their voices, although Milo giggled a bit loudly when he slipped and fell while trying to sneak away from the book shelf. And then we went to a pub...where we talked about prayer.

You think I’m kidding, right? You would rather believe Penny’s version of the story because she “knew Yiannopoulos before he was Yiannopoulos,” and I only met him this year. You think he is as dangerous and sick as she does for telling the jokes that he did about being abused as a teen-ager. You think he deserves the humiliation he got back in February and, like Penny, you think his pranks hurt more people than they help. You think his young men are “playing with a toy dictator” and need to grow up. You think they are all the more dangerous because they are frightened and out of their depth with an irresponsible troll as a mentor.

Except she was writing about them in February just after they had been run out of town by the anti-fascists and cast off by the ::cough cough:: spineless c—s who had previously supported him. At the time when she – like practically everyone else other than me – was confidently predicting Milo’s permanent downfall. But five months later the core of his staff is still with him, and Milo’s book launched on Amazon for the second time this year at number one. Perhaps Penny was wrong.

Penny wrote in February about how she almost felt sorry for the young men who told her their stories about “how they got lost” (she calls them “Lost Boys,” with Milo playing the role of Peter Pan):
I hear stories of strict religious parents, sexual misadventures, a feeling of drifting in a world which has not offered them a clear way to be heroes. A desperate longing for something to belong to, for adventure and friends and enemies to fight. 
“It would be adorable,” she opines, “if it weren’t fundamentally chilling.” I heard some of those same stories indirectly last December when I met Milo and his boys traveling on the bus. That time, a couple of them tried some of the same things on me they seem to have tried on Penny (e.g. trying to convince me Milo isn’t gay or that they were when they weren’t), but by the end of our visit, I was giving each of them a motherly kiss. (Yes, I’ll be Wendy!)

Penny claims that Milo exploits these young men – not sexually, she is careful to admit – but “by whipping up the fear and frustration of angry young men and boys who would rather burn down the world than learn to live in it like adults, by directing that affectless rage in service to their own fame and power. This,” she insists, “is the sort of exploitation the entire conservative sphere is entirely comfortable with.” Oh, really? Penny clearly hasn’t met any of my conservative friends. (I agree with her about the “conservative moral outrage” that brought Milo down in February, but it has not affected his popularity with his fans. Conservatives, like liberals, have their own problems with their so-called elites.) I am not sure she has even met Milo. Certainly, she has not met the Milo I have.

Milo is not angry, nor are his young men. The ones I have met don’t seem particularly frustrated; they certainly aren’t afraid. Motivated, yes. Hard working, yes. Ridiculously talented memesters, yes. And, yes, like Milo, prone to jokes. Jokes which, by the by, are far from as childishly unscrupulous as Penny would like to assume.

For example, the little video we shot yesterday at DePaul.

You all remember what happened to Milo last spring at DePaul. (If not, see p. 215 in his best-selling book.) The College Republicans had invited him to speak, but minutes into his talk, a Black Lives Matter activist took the stage, seized the student host’s microphone, and proceeded to blow a whistle into it every time Milo attempted to recover the floor. Worse, the college police who were in attendance did nothing to remove the protestors, even when the protestors – not Milo – began threatening violence, one of them shaking her fist inches from Milo’s face.

(It was watching this video that won me over utterly; Milo never lost his good humor throughout the event. The absolute best moment was when he invited the young black woman Kati Danforth up on stage – “Madam, you want to come up? You want to come up?” – so that she could tell her fellow students what she thought about their “protest.” He later interviewed her and her fellow College Republican on his podcast.)

So, yes, Milo thought it would be a good joke to take a copy of his book to the library. He and the boys talked about it on the drive over from the train station. “Let’s have me go into the library and go up to the librarians and tell them I am here to give them my book because I know they won’t buy it,” he proposed. We arrived, everyone piled out of the “swank black trollmobile” (Milo, ever courteous to the driver, made sure he understood our plans), and the boys went into the building to scope it out.

Meanwhile, Milo was rethinking what he wanted to do. “Maybe it would be better just to film me going into the library and reading the book. Or perhaps putting it into the shelves. It doesn’t seem quite right to make fun of the people at the desk by putting them on the spot in that way.” I know, can you believe it? The “Most Hated Man on the Internet” has a conscience about whom he involves in his jokes? Who’d’ve thunk?

At which point, the monstrous “lost boys” came back with their description of what the library looked like, and we all charged in...quietly, keeping our voices down, so as not to disturb the students who were studying. We worried for a moment about whether we needed to have library cards to get in, which, as it turns out we didn’t. So we all filtered into the main lobby and had a seat.

Milo and Pizza Party Ben talked for a bit about what would be funniest, and then Will started directing Milo about how to play the different scenes they would need. I got to hold the iPhone for one shot – the one where Milo and Ben are pretending to read (at right). The most impressive shots were the ones Will did of Milo sneaking down the hallway to the library door and then, in reverse order, the one of the car driving up to the building and Milo getting out. It was all so...professional. As if Milo and his team actually, you know, knew what they were doing.

Milo sent the clips off to his cameraman for editing after he and Will talked over what would make the sequence funniest – what kind of music, how to use the outtake of Milo falling. And then we all got back in the car, and Milo thanked the driver for his role.

No, I do not think Milo and his boys were on their good behavior just because I was there. There was no reason for me to be there other than that Milo appreciates the writing I have done for him this year. I had met his trainer Will in December, but the others did not know me. It was a little awkward in the first minute or so when they introduced themselves to me and clearly weren’t quite sure who I was. But then I handed one of them Fencing Bear (the toy), took a picture of the group, and handed out Fencing Bear prayer cards, after which I explained a little bit about how Milo and I met. Which seemed to satisfy them, particularly when Milo was so clearly attentive to me.

Over the next few hours, I made the kind of small talk an older woman who happens to be both a mother and a college professor makes with young men her son’s and students’ age. I asked what they were doing: just out of school, in a band, in the army, working for Milo since last year. And so it went until we got to the pub, and Milo and I started talking more seriously about some of the things I think he might like to read to prepare for the next edition of his college tour. I had been talking about the importance of Christianity for the argument that he and I need to make for the future of Western civilization, when I happened to glance to the side and saw one of the boys – no, young men – reading the prayer card I had given him.

You know what it says if you know my blog; it’s there on the side bar. It’s the quotation from Augustine’s commentary on the psalms:
You grasp my soul, and topple my enemies with it. And what is our soul? A splendid weapon it may be, long, sharp, oiled, and coruscating with the light of wisdom as it is brandished. But what is this soul of ours worth, what is it capable of, unless God holds it and fights with it? Any sword, however beautifully made, lies idle if there is no warrior to take it up... So God does whatever he wishes with our soul. Since it is in his hand, it is his to use as he will.
And the next thing I knew, this thoughtful young man was asking me about what I had learned from Jordan Peterson’s descriptions of spiritual discipline (okay, my words, not his; he said it better) and telling me about the breath-control prayer practice he was learning.

Lost boys? Yes, but not for the reasons Penny would insist. These boys – these young men – are lost (if they are) because our contemporary culture has abandoned them. Because women like Penny have told them over and over that they are the bad ones because they are men and because they like jokes and pranks and drinking and beautiful women. (I got a stern talking to from the whole group about how much money the strippers are able to make. “They’re smart women,” they insisted. My dad always used to say the same thing.)

These young men are not the problem. Penny is, along with all of the feminists who agree with her: That it is masculinity as such that is toxic. That it is men to blame if they recognize – like Milo – that men and women are different, and say so. That it is the patriarchy to blame for things like women’s desire for families and children – oh, sorry, do we desire such things? I do. And so, apparently, does Wonder Woman, even if she is a goddess. (The boys and I talked about her, too.)

I happen to like it when Milo teases me and says, “Oh, you are such a woman!” Because he is right: I am. But I like it because he is also a gentleman and treats me like a lady whenever we meet. And then he listens to me with the utmost respect when I speak to him not as a woman, but as a professor, because even more than he is a gentleman, he is a scholar, willing to learn. From me. A woman. Like, you know, his other great friends, Ann Coulter and Christina Hoff Sommers. Also, you know, women. Some misogynist, eh?

Milo thanks me in the acknowledgments to his book for “constant intellectual nourishment,” which I have been more than happy to provide. Because when I wrote to him back in September after watching the video of what happened to him at DePaul and told him, “Dear Mr. Yiannopoulos, I teach at the University of Chicago,” he wrote back instantly. Almost as if he knew how much he could learn from being in touch with me.

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