Predictably, it’s over before most of us knew it had even begun. The meteoric career of a cartoonish right-wing troll and social media shockmeister who happens to be gay—a sad human being who didn’t deserve a moment of serious attention—has come crashing down with all the sordid sensationalism that gave rise to it.
Like most people in the English-speaking world, I was blissfully unaware of this vacuous sham artist’s existence until about a month or two ago, between Donald Trump’s election and move into the White House. Chances are, he would never have enjoyed a sniff of celebrity beyond the well-lubricated dregs of Fleet Street if not for his opportunistic flirtation with the American zeitgeist. This loathsome little Brit with the catchy Greek surname, the fluttering eyelashes, the stupidly garish pearls, and the witless douchebaggery served up as camp, essentially became a darling of the so-called “alt right” by exploiting his own novelty as a flaming queen who torments the left. In times such as these, it is no surprise that such a person—a clickbait provocateur whose permanent expulsion from Twitter was his badge of honour—would become a rising star at Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News.
On the other hand, it is somewhat surprising that a venerable publishing house such as Simon & Schuster would sign off on a book deal for the autobiography of a 32-year-old hatemonger who boasts neither significant life achievements nor any discernable ideas, even sweetening the pot by offering him a US$250,000 advance. (Suck it up, people of colour: racism sells.) It is also puzzling that late night liberal talk show host Bill Maher would legitimize this odious twink by inviting him onto his show, knowing there were plenty of other right-wing contrarians who, in the interests of providing ideological balance for his panel, Maher could have invited instead. You know: right wingers who actually have ideas, wit, and basic decency.
Lowering myself to watch this spectacle online yesterday, I couldn’t decide what was more vomit-inducing: the odious twink’s whining to Maher about his other guests (“You always invite such awful people on your show—they’re so stupid!”) or Maher’s awkward attempts at flattery, comparing the odious twink’s empty juvenile provocations to the vastly superior intellect of Christopher Hitchens. Thank heaven for fellow panellist Larry Wilmore, who—upon realizing he wasn’t getting anywhere by using reasoned argument with such a vile, disingenuous twerp—restored some dignity to the proceedings by advising the odious twink to go fuck himself.
The end of this unfortunate character’s career came this week with the disclosure of videos in which he can be seen and heard making comments suggesting that sex between thirteen-year-old boys and adult men is just peachy. Before you knew it, Simon & Schuster—who didn’t seem to have a problem with the racist bigotry, the misogyny, or the transphobia he spouted at every turn—dropped the guy like a hot potato, cancelling his book deal. The Conservative Political Action Conference, which had promoted him as a featured speaker, withdrew the invitation. Finally, after other employees threatened to quit if he wasn’t fired, he resigned from Breitbart News. For a man who claimed to abhor victim culture, he seemed pretty pathetic in casting himself as victim, both of the paedophilic predators from his childhood he claims influenced his adult views on sex and of the right-wing so-called allies who, now that he had outlived his usefulness, were abandoning him in droves.
While some pundits predicted his permanent expulsion from the limelight, others declared him a suicide risk and appeared to delight in the prospect. This, too, is sad. Despite all the names I’ve just called him, I do not wish any misfortune on the man. I wish him only a life of quiet contemplation, free of cameras and microphones, where he might have a better opportunity for self-examination. If, for example, somewhere down the road he decided to change his name and appearance, lose the attitude, and devote the rest of his days to a glamourless life of total anonymity—volunteering, say, at soup kitchens and for refugee settlement organizations—I suspect the world might forgive him his trespasses.