The former fact-checker of the New Yorker, Talia Lavin, must have been mystified to receive a cheque from Milo Yiannopoulos, the desperate self-publicist once feted by the alt-right, for the miserly sum of $14.88.
We all know Yiannopoulos is short of cash these days. He was dumped by billionaire backer Robert Mercer after BuzzFeed revealed his links to neo-Nazis. Then his prospective saviour, Matthew Mellon, died on him: he succumbed to a suspected drug overdose just hours after (according to Yiannopoulos) the two were hanging out together in Miami.
There was a time when Yiannopoulos – or so he claims – was pretty enough to receive a gift of $20,000 from a man who had sex with him after hitting on him a bar. But now, after years of partying and bargain-basement cosmetic surgery? Around $15 sounds about right.
Why precisely $14.88, though, and why mail it to Lavin? Cockburn can guess that Yiannopoulos was angry that – in a tweet that had her fired from the New Yorker – she falsely accused a customs and immigration official of having a Nazi tattoo.
We can also speculate that Yiannopoulos didn’t randomly choose the numbers 14.88. An article on observer.com, quoting the Southern Poverty Law Center, points out that ‘the number 1488 is a combination of digits popularly used by white supremacists and neo-Nazis – 14 to represent the infamous “14 Words” (a mantra about securing “a future for white children”) and 88 to represent Heil Hitler’. You can buy racist t-shirts for $14.88. Lavin, being Jewish, is unlikely to spend her windfall that way.
Lavin isn’t the first Jewish journalist to receive an unexpected communication from the disgraced ex-Breitbart columnist. On the day conservative pundit Ben Shapiro’s wife gave birth to their second child, Yiannopoulos tweeted his ‘prayers to Ben, who had to see his child come out half-black’. Underneath he stuck a photo of a black baby.
This wasn’t the first time, either, that Yiannopoulos has amused himself with barely hidden Nazi codes. One of his account passwords discovered by Buzzfeed was ‘LongKnives1290’ – which combines a reference to Hitler’s purge of the Brownshirts with the year King Edward I expelled the Jews from England. Another password began with ‘Kristall’, as in Kristallnacht.
You might think that, after that stuff was revealed, Yiannopoulos would learn to stay away from Third Reich allusions. Whatever Lavin may claim, they don’t amuse US immigration officials – and the British provocateur-turned-carnival-
Instead, he seems to be doing everything in his power to win a one-way ticket back to the UK. The erstwhile champion of First Amendment rights is now calling for ‘vigilante squads to start gunning down journalists on sight’.
Is that a joke? Who knows? Perhaps we should leave it up to Homeland Security to decide.