“Jesters do oft prove prophets.”
– King Lear by William Shakespeare
The office of Court Jester may very well be one of the first strictly meritocratic occupations in the West, a testament to the importance of this singular role. While some historians believe court jesters were actually disabled in some way – perhaps autistic and unafraid to say things that would make the neurotypical blush, if not outright fear for their lives, it is far more likely that court jesters were the equivalent to modern stand-up comics.
Stand up comics and court jesters perform much the same function: triumph over unpleasant circumstances. Comedy finds laughter in tragedy, joy in sorrow, and hilarity in horror. Political comedy permits individuals to dissent and debate political decisions in a way that entertains as it challenges. Court jesters had the both enviable and unenviable positions of having the ear of the highest rulers of the land, and thus the ability to make those rulers question and even defend their positions, but they also ran the risk of offending and losing their lives in the process.
Court jesters were master wordsmiths, had Black Belts in mocking and deriding, ran verbal circles around their leaders to the delight of everyone. Their purpose was to challenge, to appall, to ridicule, to brazenly confront even tyrannical leaders and make them the butt of often obscene jokes. As long as jesters could do so in a way people found amusing, they were not only allowed to do these things, they were celebrated and venerated for their talents.
We have all seen how an appropriate and well-timed joke can sometimes influence even grim tyrants. The most violent tyrants put up with their clowns and fools, though these often made them the butt of open insults.
The court jester is a figure in virtually every society – you can find court jesters across Medieval Europe, China, India, Japan, Russia, Africa, America. Even the most despotic leaders in the world had their jesters, their fools, to mock them and keep them grounded and to act as a safety valve that allowed frustrations to be vented and grievances aired.
In the modern world, media personalities like Milo Yiannopoulos serve that exact same, and still incredibly vital, function.
Milo is a court jester, and his Kingdom is the whole world.
Beginning with #GamerGate, Milo was willing to stand up for the downtrodden plebes, who had little voice. Even when the hoi polloi gamers managed to get a word in edgewise, they were dismissed, threatened and abused by their political betters in the media aristocracy. The Media, acting as the Court, wiped their feet on gamers, and Milo the jester was ready and willing to pounce on the Court and call them out for their hypocrisy, lies and cruel resentments.
I’ll continue to lead the charge for free speech and freedom of thought and expression on the internet while the media gradually wakes up to the value and pleasure of being mischievous.
I will defend the internet’s right to comment on a woman’s weight or to post Hitler memes because words don’t hurt and I don’t care about the feelings of special snowflakes and it’s precisely the most offensive and obnoxious speech that needs to be protected with the most ferocity.
If you have ever felt bullied, or victimised, or harassed, or marginalised – not by bullshit imaginary concepts like the “patriarchy” but by people who want to stop you expressing yourself and who call you a loser, a manbaby, a shitlord, a privileged cishet white male – then Milo Yiannopoulos is for you.
I will be your Queen. I will stick up for you when no one else in the media will: when they lie about you, and slander you and call you names. I will tell your stories. And we will have so much more fun than the other guys.
Milo has continued to act as the jester on a stage that grows bigger with each passing day. Where once he held sway in a small corner of the internet, #GamerGate, he is now reaching the highest levels of global leadership, participating on the fringes of the GOP convention in Cleveland. Milo’s voice continues to mock, ridicule, outrage, insult and cavort to the delight of the commoners and some notable members of the Court.
But now, flying in the face of centuries of tradition and proven efficacy, some high members of the Court have decided the jester is hitting a little too close to home and rather than engage in some reflection and self-criticism, they have opted to kill the jester. They fear the clown. He has become too powerful.
Clowns, as pranksters, jesters, jokers, harlequins, and mythologized tricksters have been around for ages. They appear in most cultures—Pygmy clowns made Egyptian pharaohs laugh in 2500 BCE; in ancient imperial China, a court clown called YuSze was, according to the lore, the only guy who could poke holes in Emperor Qin Shih Huang’s plan to paint the Great Wall of China; Hopi Native Americans had a tradition of clown-like characters who interrupted serious dance rituals with ludicrous antics. Ancient Rome’s clown was a stock fool called the stupidus; the court jesters of medieval Europe were a sanctioned way for people under the feudal thumb to laugh at the guys in charge; and well into the 18th and 19th century, the prevailing clown figure of Western Europe and Britain was the pantomime clown, who was a sort of bumbling buffoon.
Underneath the clown, though, lingers a darkness, one that Milo embodies: he is willing to say and do the things everyone else wants to do and say. Milo calls this ‘mischievousness”, but it is far more than that. Milo will call feminism cancer – “a practice or phenomenon perceived to be evil or destructive and hard to contain or eradicate”. And he’s right. Milo will point out the radical Islam is not the problem – Islam itself is the problem. And Milo will point out that a racist stereotype in a stupidly conceived movie is neither entertaining nor funny. Milo will do so unapologetically, and critically, in a way that makes us laugh.
“Political correctness is killing people”, Milo says in his speech outside the GOP HQ in Cleveland. And shortly thereafter, the high courtiers of Twitter killed the clown.
It’s okay to hate Milo. To disagree with him. No one has to laugh at the jester, or find him amusing, or engage him in conversation. But when you go from ignoring or debating the clown to killing him, you have admitted, in no uncertain terms that you fear the clown. You can kill the clown, but you can’t kill the truth he speaks.
The suspension of Milo from Twitter is unsettling for a number of reasons. Milo is very high profile, so his suspension is noticed. How many others have been silenced for speaking the same truths as Milo? Likely, literally tens of thousands of voices. Gone. Secondly, Milo is the canary in the coal mine. He is the most famous jester in the most influential court in the world. If Milo can no longer ridicule, mock, insult, outrage, belittle or deride the highest powers, then none of us can.
Powers that cannot be mocked, cannot be controlled. Leaders who can’t be laughed at become tyrants. Kings without human flaws become monsters.
Milo is a powerful voice fighting that tyranny. His tweets remind the world that the little people exist, and leaders only lead by the good graces of the unwashed. Milo keeps the pot from boiling over. Milo keeps the Court honest, and the people safe. Without him, we are marching towards chaos. We are marching towards war. We are marching towards revolution.
The Court may soon discover that the jester is indeed a prophet.
Or we will free him. And ourselves.
Lots of love,