Milo Yiannopoulos Promises to Sue Journalist Over “Gunning Journalists Down” Headline

Milo Yiannopoulos sends a text message to Davis Richardson, a journalist with the US Observer:

I’m suing you and the Observer. 233,000 tweets today accused me of being responsible for 5 deaths. That’s on you and your headline.

I didn’t want to spend the $3m it would have taken to get Simon and Schuster to court but you best fucking believe I am coming for you and I take you to the cleaners for this. Your life is over.

Yiannopoulos has posted the message online, under the commentary “This motherfucker is CANCELLED”.

The Observer headline concerned a previous message that Yiannopoulos had sent the journalist:

Milo Yiannopoulos Encourages Vigilantes to Start ‘Gunning Journalists Down’

Milo Yiannopoulos has started issuing reporters threatening messages when asked to comment for stories.

“I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight,” the right-wing nationalist told Observer over text message, in response to a longer feature in development about an Upper East Side restaurant he is said to frequent.

When asked to elaborate on who specifically had upset him, Yiannopoulos explained that the statement was his “standard response to a request for comment.”

Richardson notes that Will Sommer at the Daily Beast had received the same response when he asked about Yiannopoulos’s decision to join UKIP (1). Yiannopoulos made a screenshot of the quote as it appeared in Sommers’s article, which he posted to Instagram next to the ambiguous comment “Where is the lie?” He then mocked the media for reporting his comments, in quotes published uncritically by the Kremlin-backed RT:

‘Fake news a new standard, media drunk on hatred’: Yiannopoulos explains ‘gun journos down’ prank

Right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos told RT the threatening messages he sent to reporters asking for comment were a prank designed to “feed the media bait,” berating the media for “knowingly publishing” fake news.

…In an email to RT, Yiannopoulos confirmed his remark was facetious, saying that mainstream media outlets reporting it as a genuine call for violence “fell for it again.”

“Knowingly publishing false allegations and fake news is now standard operating procedure for journalists, who believe that no professional sin is too grave in the fight against conservatives,” Yiannopoulos wrote.

“But it isn’t working: thousands of readers contacted me yesterday to join in my amusement at how easy it is to feed the media bait,” the former Breitbart editor added.

“I used to think journalists were simply unintelligent. Now I realize they are demented, drunk on rage and hatred. And I’m loving it!” Yiannopoulos mocked.

However, Yiannopoulos is no longer “loving it”: the next day, as has been widely reported, a gunman killed five people at the offices of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. The suspect is apparently someone with a long-standing grudge against the newspaper, and there is no reason to suppose that he was inspired by Yiannopoulos or had even heard or him. Nevertheless, there was speculation that the killer may have been influenced by vicious anti-press rhetoric, and the juxtaposition of Yiannopoulos’s malicious fantasy and a real-life massacre of journalists just days later has proven damaging.

Thus Yiannopoulos now wants to sue over a headline that he previously found amusing, using the argument that subsequent events after it was published have put him in a bad light. The headline’s claim that Yiannopoulos “encourages” vigilantes is perhaps a bit of an extrapolation, but his decision to screenshot one of the stories and to add an ambiguous comment next to it falls far short of “mak[ing] it clear that I wasn’t being serious”, as he now claims on Facebook:

I sent a troll about “vigilante death squads” as a *private* response to a few hostile journalists who were asking me for comment, basically as a way of saying, “Fuck off.” They then published it. Amazed they were pretending to take my joke as a “threat,” I reposted these stories on Instagram to mock them — and to make it clear that I wasn’t being serious.

As I noted previously when Yiannopoulos backtracked from comments about underage sex, a provocateur who feels the need to explain himself after the fact has already damaged their brand. Of course he “wasn’t being serious” – the category of “being serious” is probably an alien concept. But he was being malicious, and no-one could reasonably suppose that such a message to a journalist – sent in reply to a request for a quote – would not published.

Footnote

(1) Yiannopoulos recently joined UKIP alongside Alex Jones’s UK sidekick Paul Joseph Watson and “YouTube personalities” Carl Benjamin (aka “Sargon of Akkad”) and Mark Meechan (aka “Count Dankula” and “the Nazi pug guy”). They were welcomed in a short video made by UKIP’s Neil Hamilton, in which Hamilton raised a glass of wine while promising a future of “truly dank memes”.

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