It’s dinner time and we haven’t had dinner. We didn’t have time, because the location of the event we’re going to was secret until an hour ago because of ‘security concerns’.
We’re headed to Lilyfield in Sydney to see Milo Yiannopoulos speak and we have at least five immediate regrets, the most trivial of which is the dinner issue, and the most pressing of which is why didn’t we wear disguises.
As we approach the venue (it happens to be the same as our Year 12 formal which feels… odd) a policeman pulls us over and asks if we’re here for the event. We mutter something incomprehensible under our breaths before realising this policeman has far better things to worry about than us and our egos. We nod a little too enthusiastically and detect a hint of disappointment in his eyes. We’re sorry. For everything.
There’s nowhere to park because apparently it’s very important for over 1000 people to hear a flamboyant man say phrases like ‘feminism is cancer’ and ‘Hillary Clinton wears a nappy’ live. We’re trying to suspend our judgement at least until we get inside, but there’s a unique feeling that comes with seeing someone take the parking spot you were eyeing off, only to step out of their car wearing a ‘Make America Great Again‘ hat.
Listen: Clare and Jessie Stephens go undercover at Milo Yiannopoulos’ Sydney show. Post continues after audio.
When we park, Jessie almost leaves the headlights on and realises later her wallet is in the car. She’s flustered. This is no time to lose the plot. We’re among people who think women shouldn’t drive for goodness sake.
We get a bit lost walking from the car, so decide to just follow the sea of middle-aged white men wearing ill-fitted jeans and hats. They know where to go.
As we approach, we hear yelling from hundreds of protesters. There are police cars, vans that say ‘RIOT SQUAD’, and police men and women sitting on judgey-looking horses. We’re ushered through a small entrance as protesters scream the words “NAZIS” “FASCISTS” and “DISGUSTING” in our direction, and all of a sudden this situation is significantly less funny.
Anywho, we get in the line and survey the type of human who pays as much as $1000 to go and see a white man wearing sunglasses at night with a highly exaggerated British accent, shit on Muslim people.
The crowd is surprisingly ethnically diverse, with ages ranging from early teens to people in their 70s, and the only women appear to be mostly accompanied by men. Few women seem to be on a night out with the galz, probably because it wouldn’t be that… fun.
But that thought is interrupted by a sweeping news camera, which no one else seems to be actively avoiding. We just keep mouthing "sorry mum..." and looking sorrowful.
In front of us, a couple keep angrily repeating the phrase "dole bludgers" and saying "they should be at work!" even though it's 8pm on a Tuesday. We think they're referring to the protesters but we can't be sure.
The general mood is that the protesters have "no right to be here" and should "have better things to do" and TBH this all seems super ironic given these people are here in the name of free speech, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Once we get inside the (popular wedding) venue which sits about 2000, we decide to
find our progressive friend Keryn a boyfriend as a joke get to know the people.
We're told by one man that he doesn't agree with everything Milo says (wait, so you DON'T think Jessica Rowe is a lesbian... but also a man?) but will fiercely defend his right to say it. He is sick to death of being told what to think by the "lefty media" and our faces look a little bit like this:
Some man named Ross Cameron is on the stage and he is quoting Marcus Aurelius. He's making a lot of sweeping statements about the legacy of Western civilisation and democracy and free speech and how the best ideas stand up to scrutiny and for a moment, Clare catches Jessie clapping. She insists it was an accident. Clare tuts and threatens to make us go home. Jessie nods, ashamed.
Ross Cameron finishes speaking and we think it must be time for Milo. But the crowd must first listen to the publisher of Penthouse Australia speak with four very attractive women standing behind him for no discernible reason. They do a lot of smiling and precisely zero speaking.
STOP PLS IT'S MILO.
Wait... we're not excited. Sorry.
Madonna's Vogue is playing while smoke and lights fill up the stage. What appears in front of us can only be described as a parody. He's wearing a heavy leopard print coat, with sunglasses and a silk shirt underneath. His teeth aren't real, and he keeps licking them like a... predator. People are yelling things like 'DADDY' and 'SUCK MY D*CK MILO' and laughing hysterically. It's all very confusing.
Then he starts to speak.
For the first several minutes, he seems to be attempting to convince us he is 1) very famous, and 2) very dangerous. He presents himself as a fierce defender of the invaluable virtue of free speech, and then uses that free speech to call journalist Clementine Ford 'unf*ckable' which seems like a... waste. And to say Indigenous Australians aren't even that good at art. And that women are bad at driving. And that feminists are fat and ugly. Really, the most pressing issues of our time.
There was a particular moment where a number of audience members were snorting (because feminists are pigs, fyi), and we thought we might just be in actual hell.
Part way through a particularly detailed argument about how much he hates Indigenous Australians for no reason, an audience member stands up and throws a shoe at him. Instead, it hits a woman in the front row.
Obviously we agree with the sentiment, but seriously... who throws a shoe?
We become increasingly worried we're not going to get out of here alive, because a) someone called us Nazis like 20 minutes ago, and b) Milo would definitely save himself before literally any of his audience. We weigh up whether we should leave early and get McDonalds on the way home, but we're real journalists, and we will not be deterred by a single shoe.
Milo repeats buzzwords like 'capitalism' and 'property acquisition' without actually using them meaningfully in a sentence. But that's OK. Because we deciphered what he was really trying to say:
The immigrants (particularly the Muslim ones) are coming for you, but also your women. They will rape your women. Rape culture doesn't exist, because all rape is perpetrated by the immigrants. Not immigrants like him, who move from the UK to the US, and has a Greek background, but the bad immigrants. The brown ones.
Furthermore, capitalism is doing good, because Milo has a hot tub. Western democracy is falling apart because of the women and also the political correctness, which has become so out of hand that Milo himself can't stand in front of a room of 2000 people and call Julia Gillard a "prick", while police line the venue he stands in to protect his right to say it.
Other notable points include Milo's accidental reference to letting immigrants into our country "just because we happen to share a border with them" (oh. We don't... nevermind), and his repetitive line, "I'm not cruel!" while making a 'joke' about someone throwing acid in Susan Carland's face.
How is this... legal?
Before Milo finishes every sentence he preemptively laughs, to indicate that what he is about to say is going to be very funny.
Except both of us manage to sit through his entire talk and not laugh once.
Because he isn't funny. He isn't particularly entertaining. And he doesn't have anything considered or meaningful to contribute to the public discourse.
Because this is not a man interested in making the world a better place. This is not a man interested in free speech, because there are voices he's intent on stifling. This is not a man who is well-versed to speak about politics or facts.
When he's given the platform to do what he fights so hard for - Milo does not really have anything to say. Nothing that stands up to scrutiny. Nothing supported by research. Nothing that serves to empower individuals, or help them in their day-to-day lives, or understand the complex world around them.
So why does he fill a venue in Sydney, notably with a lot of people who belong to the groups he targets?
Because they're scared. They feel like aliens surrounded by people whose perspectives they can't understand. They're terrified.
And now, we know exactly how that feels.
Listen to the full episode of Wednesday's Mamamia Out Loud.