Hate him or love him, we can all admit that Breitbart Tech Editor and anti-social-justice warrior Milo Yiannopoulos has a lot to say that clearly appeals to a lot of people. The question is, certainly for the people that hate him, what is that appeal exactly? Paragraphs and pages could be written about the alt-right and its rhetoric, but none of them would hit the root point. What really drives Milo and his rabid fanbase was revealed in a recent Out Magazine feature where Milo discussed his past:
“Everybody has bad shit happen to them, and you either use it to turn yourself into a star or you become a victim. And I don’t have time for victims. If you allow the bad things in your life to define you, you will only ever be a parasite.”
Ultimately, beneath all the trolling and showmanship, Milo is fighting for our culture’s soul, or, to say it in more secular terms, he is fighting for our general disposition. The brilliance of his statement is necessarily linking the victim disposition to being a parasite. In other words, if you see yourself as a victim, you will also be a parasite. Why? Because if you see yourself as a victim, you see the control of your life being in someone else’s control. If someone else controls your life, you have no choice but to live off of them. They’re the only ones who can affect any sort of change on the world, not you.
To illustrate this point, I’ll point to another article that was released this week on a frequent subject of mine–ESPN’s coverage of Tom Brady’s return to the University of Michigan. (Yes, I read ESPN. No, I won’t link to it.) ESPN Senior Writer Kevin Van Vulkenberg recounts how Brady was forced to split time as starting quarterback his senior year and how that decision seriously damaged the relationship between Brady, his alma mater, and the yellow and blue fans. Vulkenberg then discusses how we can use Brady’s reaction to this experience to understand him and his success:
“Slights, old and new, are woven into [Brady’s] DNA. He does not forget the times he has felt wronged, and he will ruminate on them for months, even years. This is typically a blessing. It has made him the player he is. He can, even now, name all six quarterbacks drafted before him in 2000, and from memory, he can tick off exactly where each was picked. He will hear a snide comment from an opposing defender, file it away for half a season, and pore over that player’s tendencies in private, biding his time until he has a chance to enact a surgical revenge. His greatest asset, as a quarterback, has never been his physical skills. It’s how ruthless he can be when he feels snubbed, or when his integrity is questioned.”
What Vulkenberg is describing here is exactly what Milo means when he says you can use the “bad shit” to “turn yourself into a star.” Brady remembers the bad things and uses them as fuel for action to create a different and better outcome for himself. In contrast, a victim remembers the bad things and uses them as evidence of what’s wrong with himself or the world. To Brady, the bad things are changeable (and he is the one who can change them). To a victim, the bad things are immutable (except to whoever is responsible for them). That dichotomy, that choice of psychological approach to the world, is what is both at stake in and driving our current culture wars.
No one reasonable will deny that bad things happen. They happen, and they will happen to you. The question is, when they do, will you be a victim? Will you be a parasite? Or will you be star? Will you be Tom Brady?