Laurie Penny on hanging out with Milo Yiannopoulos and the gay trolls of the RNC

Laurie Penny, "a radical queer feminist leftist writer burdened with actual principles," has a weird frenemy relationship with trolling, racist, alt-right opportunist Milo Yiannopoulos, who was just permanently banned from Twitter for orchestrating a racist harassment campaign against Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones.

Penny and Yiannopoulos met opposite one another on a panel show, and Yiannopoulos sort of adopted her with a combination of seemingly genuine affection and the desire to be a contradictory and unpredictable cipher. Penny has been covering the RNC, and Yiannopoulos inducted her into his entourage on the evening when he received word that he was banned from Twitter, letting Penny tag along to "the gayest neo-fascist rally at the RNC."

Penny is an outstanding writer, and has a history of doing badass warzone Hunter S Thompson gigs, but with this latest missive, she's into some serious Next Level Hunter Thompson Enemy Lines shit. If you only read one article about the RNC…

"Get Laurie a cigarette, darling," Milo says to his personal trainer, who has charge of the handbag. We smoke in the car park behind the event space as Milo's camera crew arrive and hook him up to a microphone. Then the crew livestreams the delighted Twitter martyr's Reservoir Dogs strut through to the VIP room—a carpeted ballroom on the seventh floor of hell full of manic trolls and smug neo-fascists from every slimy corner of the internet.

Over by the bar, Geert Wilders, the Dutch far-right leader, is having a nice chat with two republicans of the sort who look like they've been poured into their suits. I realise that I have stumbled into a den of goblins. It's way too late to cast a protection spell.

Milo swoops away to hold court. I hear a throat clear right in front of me.

And there is Daryush Valizadeh, also known as Roosh V, self-styled leader in the "neo-masculinity" movement, author of a suspicious stack of sex travel guides and headline-hunting nano-celebrity in the world of ritualised internet misogyny. Roosh hates feminists for a living. He asks me what I'm doing here. I ask him the same question.

The interaction that follows is the most surreal episode in a deeply surreal evening. Roosh is tall and well-built and actually rather good-looking for, you know, a monster. I have opportunity to observe this because he puts himself right up in my personal space, blocking my view of the room with his T-shirt, and proceeds, messily and at length, to tell me what my problem is.

Number one: my haircut, and he's telling me this as a man, makes my face look round. This is absolutely true. Number two: I seek to destroy the nuclear family, and disturb traditional relationships between men and women. This is also true, although I remind him that the nuclear family as it is currently conceived is actually a fairly recent social format. He insists that it's thousands of years old, and asks me if I truly believe that it's right for gay men to be able to adopt children. I tell him that I do. He appears as flummoxed by this as I do by his presence at what is supposed to be a party to celebrate Gay republicans. He's here for the same reason I am: Milo invited him.

I'm With The Banned
[Laurie Penny/Medium]

(Image: Molly Crabapple)