On Thursday, BuzzFeed News published an enormous, riveting story — based largely on leaked emails and other documents written by or sent to Milo Yiannopoulos, former Breitbart columnist and clown prince of the alt-right — about the rise of the alt-right over the last two years. In many ways a confirmation of what people had long suspected about the coordinated networks of influence that lie behind Breitbart, the alt-right, and white nationalists — and, in particular, former White House adviser and Breitbart editor Steve Bannon’s role as a central node — the story is a litany of details that will make you groan, gasp, clench your teeth, and then sigh heavily and look for the nearest bar. But beyond the detailed gossip, what should we take away from this story? Here are the four things that stuck out to us in particular.
Milo Yiannopoulos was doing a lot more than flirting with Nazism.
Yiannopoulos was apparently too nearsighted to see actual Nazis, but not so nearsighted to keep Nazi-related terms out of his passwords. Back in 2016, Yiannopoulos performed a karaoke rendition — there is a video — of “America the Beautiful” in front of a crowd of people, including white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, giving Nazi salutes. When BuzzFeed asked about this incident, Yiannopoulos blamed “severe myopia” and claimed he hadn’t noticed the saluting. “I have been and am a steadfast supporter of Jews and Israel. I disavow white nationalism and I disavow racism and I always have.” But … as the story reveals, Yiannopoulos’s account passwords betray a more than abiding interest in Nazis and anti-Semitism. One password, “LongKnives1290,” is a reference to both the infamous Nazi purge known as the Night of Long Knives, and the year King Edward I expelled Jews from England. Another password begins with “Kristall,” which is possibly a reference to the Kristallnacht riot.
Yiannopoulos had a wide network of tipsters in the tech and media industries, including people avowedly on the left.
Yiannopoulos’s frequent correspondents included tech entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa, once a self-appointed advocate for women in technology; Dan Lyons, a tech reporter who has also worked on Silicon Valley; and Mitchell Sunderland, a senior staff writer at Vice’s women’s vertical, who once sent Yiannopoulos a link to an article by Lindy West asking him to “please mock this fat feminist.”
Peter Thiel watched the election with alt-right blogger Mencius Moldbug, who describes Thiel as “fully enlightened.”
After Thiel declined to be on Yiannopoulos’s podcast in May 2016, the venture capitalist and dude who helped sue Gawker into oblivion had the Breitbart writer at his home for dinner. Most interestingly, far-right blogger Curtis Yarvin, better known as Mencius Moldbug, told Yiannopoulos that he had been “coaching” Thiel in politics. Yarvin and Thiel apparently watched the election together, and Moldbug described Thiel as “fully enlightened, just plays it very carefully,” in an email to Yiannopoulos.
The Mercer family’s involvement in Breitbart wasn’t limited to just funding the alt-right site.
Billionaire Robert Mercer is one of Breitbart’s major backers, but the Mercer family has gone on to back Yiannopoulos independently of the site, since his departure over a video in which Yiannopoulos appeared to approve of pedophilia. Just two weeks after leaving Breitbart amid scandal, Yiannopoulos spent time at the Mercers’ house in Florida, where he was wired money from Robert to fund his new business, MILO, INC.