Breitbart contributor and alt-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos is scheduled to appear on Friday’s episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. So was investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, the author of Blackwater and co-founder of The Intercept — until he learned that Yiannopoulos was also booked, and swiftly withdrew from the show.
On Wednesday night, Scahill — a regular panelist on Maher’s long-running HBO talk show — posted a message on Twitter announcing that he won’t appear on Friday’s show alongside Yiannopoulos. Scahill wrote that the team behind Real Time has become “like family” to him over the years, and that while he disagrees with some of Maher’s views, “particularly when his comments on Islam and Muslims veer into vitriol,” booking Yiannopoulos is “many bridges too far.” He continues:
He has ample venues to spew his hateful diatribes. There is no value in “debating” him. Appearing on Real Time will provide Yiannopoulos with a large, important platform to openly advocate his racist, anti-immigrant campaign. It will be exploited by Yiannopoulos in an attempt to legitimize his hateful agenda. Yiannopoulos’s appearance could also be used to incite violence against immigrants, transgender people, and others at a time when the Trump Administration is already seeking to formalize a war against some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
HBO has so far declined to comment, but Maher defended the decision to host Yiannopoulos in a statement obtained by Entertainment Weekly. “My comments on Islam have never veered into vitriol,” Maher wrote, adding, “Liberals will continue to lose elections as long as they follow the example of people like Mr. Scahill whose views veer into fantasy and away from bedrock liberal principles like equality of women, respect for minorities, separation of religion and state, and free speech. If Mr. Yiannopoulos is indeed the monster Scahill claims — and he might be — nothing could serve the liberal cause better than having him exposed on Friday night.”
In turning down Real Time, Scahill is not the only high-profile person to protest the mainstream media’s legitimization of Yiannopoulos. (Funny how these guys are so eager to appear on the very “lamestream” platforms they claim to despise.) In January, author Roxane Gay pulled her forthcoming book, How to Be Heard, from Simon & Schuster after the publishing company announced it had signed a $250,000 book deal with Yiannopoulos.
And, of course, this is not the first time Yiannopoulos has been embroiled in a controversy surrounding hate free speech. Last month, protesters at UC Davis in California shut down an event at which he was scheduled to speak, and in July, he was permanently banned from Twitter after leading an army of right-wing trolls in a campaign of racist abuse against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones. At the time, Flavorwire editor-in-chief Tom Hawking defended Twitter’s decision to ban Yiannopoulos, pointing out that his brand of online abuse goes further than simple “free speech” when it leads to a pile-on of threats with the intention of driving a person off the internet altogether.
“The fact that Twitter has been consistently terrible at applying its own rules has allowed Yiannopoulos and his army of priapic fans to flourish,” Hawking wrote. “For him to complain about finally falling foul of the rules he’s abused and exploited for so long is pretty rich — but hardly surprising.” Also pretty rich and not that surprising? Booking a known hate-monger on your talk show to boost your ratings under the guise that it will serve the “liberal cause.”