There is no more exciting time to be alive than now. We are living in an age of heroes, villains, and revolution, and no one quite knows where the next uprising will come from. (Dangerous 243)
If you don’t know who Milo Yiannopolous is by now, you need to pay attention. His new book, Dangerous, is the best-selling book on current affairs in the world. Until now, this commentary has only been available through online orders. Barnes and Noble have decided to lift their ban on selling his book in stores due to overwhelming demand, and copies will be available in stores by next weekend. Intrigued? I was, which is why I ordered a copy last week. I can’t help it. I love subversive literature, and nothing stimulates me more than indulging in thoughtcrimes, and examining ideas that are forbidden by the status quo. His self-proclaimed, “Dangerous Faggot” tour has rocked academia, and he is the new face of the conservative angst of “Generation Next.” He is a provocateur, journalist turned internet troll who is an adamant supporter of freedom of speech. His style is abrasive, but effective. Like the featured image for this piece, he holds a mirror up to contemporary culture and calls out the cracks in the narrative of political correctness. The Left hates him, as he rejects identity politics, although he is gay, half-Jewish, and dates every ethnicity except whites (his own assertion). Establishment Right can’t stand him either because he calls out conservatives for losing the culture war, and ignoring the young voters that are vital to the future of his party. Google him. He is a complicated character, and all efforts to beat him down seem to only strengthen his position, and make him buckets of money.
Power and taboo are fascinating subjects for me, and Dangerous did not disappoint. Its an autobiographical piece documenting his rise to fame and stating his position on many hot topics, and describing several controversies he has been involved with, or reported on, during his time at Breitbart and beyond. He clearly defines his views rejecting feminism, the Black Lives Matter movement, establishment media, Islam, and his number one target, political correctness. Covers a lot of ground in approximately 250ish pages, but its a quick read. Worthwhile for several reasons. The first is that regardless of whether one agrees or rejects his positions, Milo is the darling of the alternate press at the moment. He is the Dark Horse that has helped burn down the iron grip of establishment media narrative on many topics. Number two: Milo was a very strategic voice rocking the youth vote in Trump’s direction to win the presidency. And last but not least, his book was banned before it even hit the shelves in several continents, and in less than a month folks are demanding access. Do you want to know how Trump got elected, why less than 1 in 5 women in America identify as feminists, and how political correctness is killing free speech? Read the book. Don’t succumb to the echo chamber. Form your own opinion. Pollute your mind and dive into the hottest conversation on the planet.
So what does this have to do with Witches? Quite a lot actually. Many of the things Milo detests are ideals that Paganism has embraced and endorsed, and yet, his words resonate. Like salt on a wound, there is a burn that occurs when someone identifies a problem that effects you, and exploits it for fun and profit. I am tough enough to bow my head and acknowledge that he is spot on describing how the execution of certain ideals in contemporary culture have been detrimental to the goals of the movement. Milo is absolutely agitating, but that is the point. His criticisms are designed to get thoughts moving, and people talking. Reading his book reminded me of some recent trends in Paganism and Witchcraft. My main take away from this book is that silence is consent. So I have featured some quotes from the book, and paired them with topics that keep coming up for me in private conversations concerning the future of the movement. I know this was not the author’s main intent, but subversive thought is open to interpretation, so here we go.
This is a hot button in many ways for Pagans, but Witches in particular. This is because many of us were raised to keep everything secret and happy to do so, and then along came the Internet. While the glorious information revolution did make finding like-minded folks easier, the amount of nonsense knowledge and bogus claims/power struggles skyrocketed as well. The folks who distrusted technology went underground, and those who had a knack for this new tool embraced it. This dichotomy has created schisms about the line between what is private, and what is public. Fast forward 20 years or so, and we now live in a time where many folks get spiritual guidance through their favored handheld device. It’s pretty trendy right now to be a Witch, the proof is in websites such as these. Contemporary culture in the West is FAR friendlier to occultists than it was just a scant 12 or 13 years ago. I know this because I narrowly avoided getting outed at work when I was working at a bank in college, and feared losing my job over it. Now I am back in finance and my religious choices are just another check in the rainbow scorecard that employers keep. This is super cool, it is a good time to raise kids and be a Witch.
While I am happy to live in these enlightened times, I am not blind to the fact that the pendulum can swing quickly in either direction. This could be an entirely different conversation in the next 15 years or so. But sometimes I wonder if our efforts at mainstreaming have not damaged the very wildness that is the heart of Witchcraft? Has mainstreaming killed the taboo elements that make Witchcraft authentically sexy, cool, and dangerous? I see the minutiae that people debate endlessly in Wiccan and Pagan chat rooms, groups, and festivals. I fear that something has been lost in our pursuit of social acceptance, and advocating the normalization of our ways. A real concern is the “Greying of Wicca” and the idea that Paganism is dying out. Something is not translating to the younger generation. One correlation to this trend I found in Milo’s commentary on gay culture and is summed up in the following quote:
For decades, being gay has meant transgression and the violation of taboos. It’s been an act of rebellion, an automatic entry pass into society’s underworld. Out weirdness is our strength- it gives us an edge, a power and a charm over everyone else. Why would we want to give all that up? (146).
We don’t, and we won’t. There is far more Witchcraft happening offline, behind closed doors, and outside than otherwise. Thank the Gods. Those of us that are called to deal with the public know this, but so many people confuse the mainstreaming with reality. It’s a turn off. This is something to consider. The Mysteries will preserve themselves, but if we become too suburban we become irrelevant, and many will miss out on what we have to offer. The beauty of taboo. The entirely of human experience. The power that comes from transgression and redemption. The legacy and lessons of the sex, drugs, and rock and roll that fueled these deviant philosophies and artistic explorations in the West for the past several hundred years or so. I often get into conversations with Elders about these things, in relation to the younger folks who still need to be granted permission to follow their bliss. Even ones that have been raised Pagan, even at gatherings that encourage them to explore their personal power. This is a challenge that needs to be addressed, but it is hampered by a far more disturbing trend:Political Correctness
Milo’s politics are not my flavor, but the one thing that I absolutely agree with is his assertion that political correctness is killing intellectual discourse and freedom of speech. It is poison. University is not the same today as when I attended back in the early 2000’s, but the writing was on the wall back then. Several professors that admired my style and novelty warned me away from becoming “institutionalized” and pursuing a doctorate, while others pitched hard for me to become part of the machine. A chance meeting with John Sinclair (poet and manager of MC5 in the ’60’s) at a pizza place in Amsterdam underscored this concern. We chatted for about an hour and he stated, clearly and without hesitation, “if you want to preserve your voice, get the hell out of the Ivory Tower. Nothing original comes from University these days, everything is designed to create drones that regurgitate everything that has already been written.” Strong stuff, but advice I have cherished ever since.
Political correctness has so thoroughly saturated Paganism that it is nearly impossible to offer an opinion on, well, anything. So many derails in person and over the Internet begin and end with disputes over tone and innuendo, which only serve to stifle all dialogue that is not completely consensual. We are afraid of ideas. This should concern everyone, as esoteric discourse in the West is a conversation that has been happening for over a thousand years. Contemporary discussions include so many disclaimers, apologies, and trigger warnings that they become divorced from reason. Feelings have trumped facts, and this is unhealthy, as there is no space for people to grow if their beliefs and opinions are unchallenged. Witchcraft used to be edgy, daring, and speak to topics that were explicitly omitted and suppressed. Now we silence ourselves for fear of creating drama and attracting critique. Many Witches have simply left the field, disgusted by the clear decline that has occurred.
Political correctness interrupts everyday human experience, threatening to turn every single personal matter into a public one. You can no longer slip up in conversation without worrying if the person you are talking to is going to tell the whole world what you said, potentially ruining your life forever (need I provide a personal example?). The internet’s erosion of privacy with the resurgence of politically correct taboos is a terrifying combination. That’s why so many people are drawn to Trump. (168).
The examples of political correctness being a toxic force in the Pagan community are too numerous to count. One recent example was the Bullets for the Morrigan uproar after Pantheacon of 2015. At a workshop, presenters described their devotional practice of decorating an altar, using bullets as an offering to a Goddess of War. The wires were hot for sure after folks were exposed to the idea that for some folks, war is literal instead of allegorical. That She would bless the artillery of soldiers and officers in Her service. The pacifists felt threatened. Lot’s of BNP’s weighed in on this “issue”. Most were not even in attendance, but felt the urge to broadcast the warning that unsanctioned thoughts are not only scary, but harmful as they can influence and anger the Gods. I can’t remember where I read it, but one critique ventured that ascribing contemporary armory to the Morrigan, would in fact, make Her harder to deal with, and possibly, more violent. The funny thing about political correctness is that it often backfires, and ends up validating the positions that it tries to discredit. A lot more discourse evolved around the Morrigan and private practice as a result, as well as the differences in regional practice based on location and occupation. Instead of being discredited, those presenters have been booked solid for subsequent events at other venues ever since.
My own battles with political correctness have been many. One that is easily accessible without a bunch of explanation is #Pexit, in which a segment of writers left the Patheos Pagan channel earlier this year. Long story short, popular writers decided to leave the platform for their own reasons, and tried to shame everyone else into solidarity and consent to give up blogging here. It got nasty. I questioned the wisdom of this decision back channel. All the PC knives were thrown simply because I did not agree with their concerns, or believe giving up our voice here would be advantageous long term. After watching these folks attack everyone that didn’t fall into line, I decided to write a satirical piece describing the experience. Then the fur really flew. Got accused of slander, and trolled for about two months across several websites and on Facebook by these shining examples of tolerance and all their friends. I guess folks did not have anything better to do? My thoughtcrime? Questioning the narrative they were trying to sell. Being unrepentant and refusing to retract or apologize for my opinions. Looking fabulous and writing something hilarious. PC warriors were upset, but everyone else thought it was pretty good. Sad part was that this episode wasn’t even about Paganism, not really, but instead an episode of empty virtue signaling and self-sabotage. Not the first nor the last uncomfortable example of where political correctness leads.
Lessons from the Dangerous Faggot
So why should we care about Milo? He certainly doesn’t care about us…or does he? Milo was one of the movers and shakers in the Gamer Gate controversy, and from his own words, has a real fondness for gamers and outliers. There is a lot of overlap in our communities if this is the case, a surprising and uncomfortable connection. There are also a significant amount of Pagans and Witches that identify as conservative or lean that way, though most do not speak to this because of concerns of retribution. Paradox and taboo have a way of intersecting at interesting times, and these are certainly those. The real lesson that he offers is a wake up call to the establishment. Even though he writes for the Right, everyone should recognize what is going on here. He is calling the conservative youth to action, and gaining followers everyday. His message? Think and speak for yourself. Don’t be shouted down. Don’t be silent. Own your experience, and be heard. When the country is ready to be red-pilled and conservatism is edgier and more “dangerous” than being gay or practicing Witchcraft, we should take a minute to PAY ATTENTION. Conservatives have the political majority, but Milo knows that the real battle is for hearts and minds. The real war is for the culture, and the Left has grown complacent thinking the battle was settled 50 years ago. Wake up. The game is on.
I am not Red, I am not Blue. I was a registered Independent until my state informed my that they dissolved my party this year so now I have no affiliation. But I am a Witch living comfortably in a Purple town in a Red state, who wishes to remain untroubled. My message tonight is that we need to peruse this handbook on how to win the Internet, and wise up. Ditch political correctness. It is a failed thought experiment. Stop policing ourselves and pretending to be normal and safe. Forget it. That is useless, and if we are honest, never quite fit. Be real. Be here. Be loud. And for the love of the Gods, please be funny! Amusement beats evil. May the odds be ever in your favor.