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A man who lead the charge in online trolling against women and people of color was praised on Tuesday by Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, President-Elect Donald Trump‘s pick for national security advisor.
Flynn called Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos—a leading voice in the anti-feminism Gamergate and white nationalist alt-right online movements—a “phenomenal individual” at a conference for young conservatives held at Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C.
Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter in July after inciting his thousands of followers to flood Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones with racist attacks. A Twitter campaign to #FreeMilo, which blamed the social media outlet for attacking free speech, quickly followed. Since then, the openly gay 32-year-old British journalist has toured U.S. college campuses as a part of his “Dangerous Faggot” tour.
According to CNN’s K-File, Flynn told the college-aged attendees of the Young Americans for Freedom conference that he and conservative author Dinesh D’Souza met with Yiannopoulos on Monday night.
“[Yiannopoulos is] one of the most different, one of the most brave people that I’ve ever met. We have different views on different things, but he is deeply, deeply conservative in his views about this country,” the retired Army lieutenant general said during his remarks.
(Disclosure: Yiannopoulos was the founder of the Kernel, a publication the Daily Dot acquired in January 2014.)
You can watch Flynn’s remarks in full below:
Flynn’s meeting with Yiannopoulos is the latest sign of the once fringe alt-right movement of white nationalism being accepted by the conservative mainstream. Critics of Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon—who’s on leave as head of Breitbart News—as White House chief strategist say he will bring anti-Semitic, racist, and misogynistic views to the White House.
Flynn gave his remarks at a gathering of the nearly 50-year-old Young America’s Foundation . Founded in William F. Buckley Jr’s home, YAF is currently the largest and oldest conservative student organization in the country.
Bannon, a long-time Hollywood producer, served as the director of the 2011 YAF film Still Point in a Turning World: Ronald Reagan and His Ranch, released to commemorate what would have been Reagan’s 100th birthday.
Conservative icons that have spoken at YAF events through the decades include Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese, conservative commentator and author Anne Coulter, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. President Ronald Reagan once hosted YAF’s summer student conferences at the White House. YAF leaders also established the Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC.
The entry of Bannon and Yiannopoulos into the conservative mainstream is a major offline victory for the radical online movements they both helped shape. As Breitbart’s tech editor, Yiannopoulos has had the curious role of both reporting on and being linked with both the Gamergate and alt-right movements. A September 2014 Breitbart story by Yiannopoulos, entitled “Feminist Bullies Tearing the Video Game Industry Apart,” served as Gamergate’s call to arms.
Yiannopoulos warned of “an army of sociopathic feminist programmers and campaigners, abetted by achingly politically correct American tech bloggers” who are “terrorizing” the video game industry by “lying, bullying and manipulating their way around the internet for profit and attention.”
While Yiannopoulos has stated over and again that he is not a member of the alt-right movement, he has nonetheless emerged as the movement’s most prominent defender in the mainstream media and on college campuses. Yiannopoulos’ hatred of the “politically correct” and “liberal” mainstream media, “safe spaces” on college campuses, and open mockery of feminists and minorities are certainly views shared by both the alt-right and Gamergate online movements.
A guide to the alt-right on Brietbart, penned by Yiannopoulos, paints the image of a movement steered by college-educated white men that rails against politically correct rhetoric of the progressive movement. Neo-Nazi outlet the Daily Stormer called Yiannopoulos, who is openly gay and of Jewish descent, “the single greatest threat our movement has at this time.“
While Milo remains banned from Twitter, he still find a way to make his mark through an account run by one of his “surrogates.” The holder of the unverified Twitter account named Milo Yiannopoulos (handle: @OfNineHostages) lists Yiannopoulos’s actual birthday and helpfully tweets out his media appearances.
Amrita Khalid is a technology and politics reporter who specializes in breaking down complex issues into practical, useful terms. A former contributor to CQ, a Congressional news and analysis site, she's currently a master's candidate in international relations at the University of Leeds.