The Bulwark Presents
The Triad by JVL

Finally, Some Good News!

September 11, 2019
Featured Image
Conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos is escorted to the University of California, Berkeley campus where he is expected to speak to dozens of supporters on September 24, 2017. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)

1. Happy Fun Time with Milo

I do not normally share good news with you. Perhaps you’ve noticed. But there’s a piece in Vice that’s maybe the happiest story I’ve seen in months:

Headline: “Milo Yiannopoulos Says He’s Broke”

Subhead: “I can’t put food on the table this way.”

You know that feeling you get when watch a video of otters holding hands? Or baby polar bears playing around?

Well go click on the Vice piece, because you’re going to get that feeling, times a thousand.

I should say that I do not ordinarily take pleasure in the misfortune of others. But what’s great about this story isn’t the fact that Milo is broke. That’s actually kind of sad and I wish him well on this front.

No, the good news is that Milo has discovered that he can no longer make a living being Milo.

And this is basically the greatest thing, ever.

The incentive structure for media-type figures created by the internet has been deeply, catastrophically unhealthy.

You’re a good reporter who goes on the road and finds interesting stories? Good luck finding a job, bro.

You’re a narcissist who gets off by setting your hair on fire and saying the most outrageous things possible—and then you get fat off of hate clicks? That’s a growth industry!

In fact, for the last decade or so, that’s been the only growth sector in media.

The internet has pretty much become a machine that rewards people for being toxic.

Milo’s current predicament suggests that maybe we’re in the opening stages of dismantling this machine:

The disgraced right-wing troll is complaining that the major social media companies have effectively cut off his alt-right audience — and crushed his ability to make a decent living.

The former Breitbart tech writer shared the complaints on Telegram, a messaging app where some alt-right allies have set up shop after getting the boot by larger tech platforms. Yiannopoulos was banned from Twitter in 2016 for directing racist abuse at the comedian Leslie Jones, losing nearly 400,000 followers. He was banned from Facebook in May.

“I spent years growing and developing and investing in my fan base, and they just took it away in a flash,” wrote Yiannopoulos, who’s previously rubbed shoulders with neo-Nazis and white nationalists. “It’s nice to have a little private chat with my gold star homies but I can’t make a career out of a handful of people like that. I can’t put food on the table this way.”

While Telegram allows Yiannopoulos to share such important commentary with more than 19,000 followers directly, it does not offer the mass reach of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. The same goes for Gab and other social networks set up in protest of Big Tech’s increasingly aggressive content-moderation efforts.

“I can’t find anyone who’s managing to grow a really big channel here,” wrote Yiannopoulos, whose Telegram posts typically reach around 2,000 pairs of eyeballs. “Everyone is hitting a wall. There’s no future to Telegram for social media refugees if this is the best it gets.”

And that, my friends, is a win-win situation. No one has curtailed Milo’s free speech. He can still say whatever he wants. He just can’t say it on the platforms that believe he’s a net negative to their businesses. It’s the free market in action!

Meanwhile, Milo is free to jabber and provoke on Gab or Telegram or whatever. It just turns out that he can’t make a buck by being an asshat.

Which is great. Because, in general, we like it when the market place does not incentivize bad behavior.

I wish Milo Yiannopoulos all the luck in the world. I hope he becomes a successful architect or plumber or coder or electrical engineer—whatever. I hope he gets a great, fulfilling job and goes on to have a happy life.

But the fact that he can no longer get rich poisoning the public square is the most encouraging development I’ve seen in media in a very long time.

2. The Three Horsemen

I did a long piece yesterday about Weld, Walsh, and Sanford. I don’t want to spoil it for you. Just go read the whole thing.

It’s pretty good.

A couple things that didn’t make it into the piece:

(1) When you’re looking at electoral politics, never trust what people working for the campaign say.

Back in June, the Atlantic did a long profile on Kirsten Gillibrand where one person “close to the campaign” said, “As long as she’s got money for a bus ticket in Iowa, she’s in it to win it.