RED PEN

Milo Yiannopoulos’s brutal takedown by his own editor, via court filings

Milo Yiannopoulos is a 33-year-old British gay man who rose to prominence on an astonishing wave of “alt-right” nastiness. At Breitbart News, where he was an editor, Yiannopoulos wrote posts with headlines like, “Does feminism make women ugly?” and “Donald Trump would be the first real black president.”

Ahead of the 2016 election, Yiannopoulos, who fancies himself a provocateur, was featured in a pro-Trump “art show” called “Daddy will save us.” But in a post-Trump America, his antics began to have consequences. Yiannopoulos was famously banned from Twitter last year for harassing Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. A speech he planned to deliver at UC-Berkeley in February was canceled amid student protests. And in February he lost his job at Breitbart, an invitation to participate in CPAC, and his publishing contract with Simon & Schuster following outrage over resurfaced videos featuring his comments on sexual relationships between boys and men.

Simon & Schuster’s Threshold Editions had agreed to a $250,000 advance for Yiannopoulos’s book, Dangerous, after he was banned from Twitter. But the publisher canceled the deal back in February. In July, Yiannopoulos sued the company for breach of contract, and the two have apparently been fighting ever since. (Full disclosure: Scribner, another Simon & Schuster imprint, is publishing my forthcoming book.)

On Dec. 21, Simon & Schuster answered Yiannopoulos’s complaint by providing a Feb. 22 letter (pdf) from its vice president of contracts, Jeffery L. Wilson, stating that the manuscript was “unacceptable for publication.” The publisher included proof: the manuscript itself, marked up with unattributed notes, as well as emails between Yiannopoulos and Threshold Editions vice president Mitchell Ivers.

Quartz reviewed those notes, which paint an often comical portrait of an editor struggling to contend with Yiannopoulos’s incessant trolling. Here are some of the most brutal comments:

From a Jan. 14 letter from Ivers to Yiannopoulos:

  • “The gay chapter: This needs a better central thesis than the notion that gay people should go back in the closet.”
  • “The feminist chapter: This seemed to be the most problematic part of our discussion, but you will need to develop a stronger argument against feminism than saying that they are ugly and sexless and have cats.”

From the (increasingly exasperated) notes on the manuscript itself:

  • “Avoid parenthetical insults—they just diminish your authority. Throughout the book, your best points seem to be lost in a sea of self-aggrandizement and scattershot thinking.”
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  • “Delete irrelevant and superfluous ethnic joke.”
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  • “This entire paragraph is just repeating Fake News. There was NO blood, NO semen and there was NO Satanism. Delete.”
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  • “MAJOR POINT: Having sex with black people does not prove someone is [not] racist. You will have to address the charge of racism clearly and with greater depth, preferably early in the book when you discuss Leslie Jones more fully.”
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  • “No. You can’t say this. It actually exists and is used on both sides of the political spectrum.”
  • “This section needs to be cut or drastically altered. To deny the existence of fake news is preposterous. Too many people have seen—and fallen for—fake news stories for this section to have even a shred of credibility. DELETE.”
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  • “Not worth the weak joke.”
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  • “Don’t start chapter with accusation that feminists = fat. It destroys any seriousness of purpose in a chapter that will (obviously) be closely scrutinized by your critics. If you troll them, they won’t listen. You will be speaking ONLY to the already initiated.”
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  • “Um…like your MILO SWAG?”
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  • “No need to drag the lesbians into this! And DON’T use lesbian as a slur!”

  • “If that headline is hate speech, THIS WHOLE BOOK is hate speech.”

  • “Three unfunny jokes in a row. DELETE”
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  • “I will not accept a manuscript that labels an entire group of people ‘mentally ill.'”
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  • “Deleting this. It’s clearly the wrong joke in the wrong place. At a certain point, you have to decide that the importance of your message is more important than your irreverent side.”
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  • “So much inappropriate humor is irritating.”

  • “DELETE UGH”
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  • “This is what people say about you.”
  • “Too much ego.”

  • “The way you casually bring up the KKK makes no sense.”
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  • “YOU MUST ACKNOWLEDGE that this is EXACTLY what people accuse you and Breitbart of being: ‘a new age of partisan propaganda masquerading as journalism.'”
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  • “NO!”
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  • “This is not the time or place for another black-dick joke.”
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  • “Dumb.”
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  • “This entire argument is ridiculous.”

  • “All of this is pop psychology hogwash. You can’t say ugly people are drawn to the left. Have you ever seen the people at a Trump rally?”
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  • “NO. IT. HAS. NOT.”
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  • “This is a stupid way to end a terrible chapter. Not worth keeping in. DELETE.”
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Yiannopoulos eventually self-published Dangerous, which reportedly did not sell well. He is currently working on a new book, which he also plans to self-publish, called Despicable.

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