Leading figures and activists on the alt-right have split over controversial comments made by one of the movement’s champions.
Milo Yiannopoulos is a passionate supporter of Donald Trump and rose to fame as an editor at the right-wing website Breitbart. His extreme views on feminism and Islam made him a darling of the American alt-right – a loose collection of anti-immigration, anti-political correctness conservatives including many white nationalists. Although Yiannopoulos has consistently said he is not a member of the movement, in March 2016 co-wrote a much-cited defence of the alt-right.
But now he appears to have crossed a line with his views after videos surfaced in which he appeared to condone paedophilia, and some of his former allies have turned against him.
The footage showed him discussing the merits of gay relationships between adults and boys as young as 13. Yiannopoulos will no longer speak at a US conservative conference and a book deal, reportedly worth $250,000, has been cancelled.
On Tuesday he resigned from Breitbart. In a statement he said his “poor choice of words” was detracting from the work of his colleagues.
While many grass-root supporters are standing by him, a number of high profile right-wing figures seem to have decided his latest comments are a step too far.
Tim Treadstone tweets under the name Baked Alaska and ranked number eight on Time Magazine’s most influential Twitter feeds of 2017. He was one of the first alt-right activists to openly criticise Milo.
Gavin McInnes, a co-founder of Vice Media and now a leading anti-feminist campaigner, was also quick to distance himself from Milo’s comments, but at the same time claimed that the Breitbart editor was being targeted by establishment forces.
“Advocating sex w 13-yr-olds under ANY conditions is indefensible but this is ultimately about the old right’s disdain for the new right,” he tweeted.
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The white nationalist Richard B Spencer, one of the leaders of the movement and someone who had previously described Yiannopoulos as “alt light” was dismissive.
Yiannopoulos did though get support from some parts of the far right. Alex Jones, who runs the far right Infowars, uploaded a video defending Yiannopoulos, blaming the mainstream media for taking his words out of context.
Debate has also been raging on the social media site Gab, which as BBC Trending has previously reported, is a favourite hangout of the alt-right. Users seem divided over whether Yiannopoulos deserves sympathy or condemnation.
“Yes, Milo is a flamboyant provocateur, but this coordinated attack on him by the #FakeNews is disgusting,” wrote one user who signed off with the hashtag “Stand with Milo.”
Another wrote: “Please let’s not lose this guy. Nothing is worse than serving a cause, and getting chewed up and spit out.”
While most of the messages on Gab defended Yiannopoulos, many users were critical: “Regardless if recent events are justified or not, I haven’t liked that many were hitching the movement to Milo. He’s always been a bit of an attention whore.”
“Milo has always insisted he isn’t #altright, he recently disavowed white identity and on Maher said he wasn’t even conservative,” wrote another. “He basically disavowed the entire right so what are we defending here exactly?”
Blog by Will Yates
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