YouTuber Carl Benjamin’s controversial and chaotic bid to win a seat in the European Parliament will take another turn on Thursday, when far-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos joins him on the campaign trail.
Two days after police revealed they are investigating Benjamin for talking about raping the Labour MP Jess Phillips in a YouTube video, UKIP’s most prominent candidate is scheduled to appear with Yiannopoulos in the southwest of England for the first of a series of public events around the UK.
Yiannopoulos is a British former technology journalist who became a star in ultraconservative circles in the US as an editor at Steve Bannon's Breitbart News. In 2017, a BuzzFeed News investigation revealed that Yiannopoulos had played a key role in introducing extremist white nationalist ideas into the mainstream of American politics in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
In a Google Hangout between the pair posted on YouTube on Monday night, Yiannopoulos confirmed he was flying to the UK to campaign alongside Benjamin.
Taking questions from his social media followers, Yiannopoulos at one point joked that he could turn up to one of the campaign stops “dressed as Jess Phillips” to “troll” the UKIP candidate.
“Sorry to break it to you but owing to your recent behaviour, I’ve become your reasonable, common-sense friend,” Yiannopoulos said.
He added: “I’m going to be able to place you in historical, literary, journalistic context as a product of the times. You are a function and a product of a crazy moment in culture.”
Yiannopoulos, who is from the UK, has spent much of his career in the US, where his extreme views resulted in bans by major platforms including Twitter and Facebook. In one instance, Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart and lost a book deal after a video emerged of him talking about sexual relationships between adults and teenagers. Yiannopoulos denied that he was defending pedophilia.
The involvement of Yiannopoulos in the campaign will raise new questions for UKIP’s leadership about the startling direction the party has taken in the last year — a direction that prompted its former leader Nigel Farage to quit the party, saying it had been taken over by leader Gerard Batten’s “fixation” on Islam and was now electorally toxic.
Asked whether the party was happy to be associated with Yiannopoulos, a spokesperson for UKIP told BuzzFeed News: “Mr Yiannopoulos is a UKIP member and perfectly free to campaign for a UKIP candidate.”
The spokesperson did not respond to a question about whether UKIP is paying Yiannopoulos’s travel costs.
Benjamin’s candidacy for the European elections has attracted widespread media attention because of his offensive remarks and confrontational approach. Much of the scrutiny has focused on a 2016 tweet about rape that Benjamin sent to Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley. Like Yiannopoulos, his campaign account has also been banned on Twitter.
As BuzzFeed News reported last month, Benjamin has a track record of using racial slurs and other offensive terms. That includes repeatedly using the n-word in videos posted on YouTube and claiming that Jewish people should “drop the identity politics”. “I’m sorry about the Holocaust, but I don’t give a shit,” Benjamin said.
Onstage at UKIP’s official campaign launch last month, Benjamin appeared to revel in the notoriety, berating journalists as “smear merchants”. Batten defended Benjamin’s remarks, describing him as a “free speech merchant” who was being provocative for comedic reasons.
Hope Not Hate, a nonpartisan group which campaigns against racism, said: “Grotesque 'jokes', questioning the age of consent, and extreme views on a whole range of issues ... Milo and Sargon are perfect for each other.”
The spokesperson added: “Voters can be clear exactly what UKIP stands for nowadays.”
In the YouTube conversation with Benjamin on Monday night, Yiannopoulos said: “Some people know because I’ve told them, I’m coming aren’t I? I’m visiting the United Kingdom on Wednesday for a week to support your candidacy.”
“We’re going to be promoting my candidacy,” Benjamin said. “Why I am a good candidate.”
They pair said they would set up a PA system and “literally just bombard an entire street” with Yiannopoulos’s views, Benjamin said. He hoped that they would engage in debate with “a bunch of leftists who disagree with us”.
“Are we going to tag-team them?” Yiannopoulos said.
“We’re going to talk to anyone who wants to talk to us because I think that’s the way politics should be done,” Benjamin said. “It shouldn’t be a closed club.”
“We’re going to talk to people and give them some sensible ideas,” he added.
Milo Yiannopoulos's name was misspelled in a previous version of this post.
Alex Spence is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alex Spence at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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