Here’s What You Need To Know About The Milo Yiannopoulos-Michael Flynn Connection

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On the surface they seem like very different scandals: Lt. General Michael Flynn resigning as White House National Security Adviser last week after lying about speaking with the Russian ambassador about sanctions before the inauguration; the British Breitbart senior editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, dropped as keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) yesterday, and losing his book deal with Simon and Schuster on the same day, after clips surfaced of him promoting sex between an adult and a 13-year-old, and reveling in learning his oral sex technique from a priest who abused him as a teen. 

But the quick spiral downward of Yiannopoulos is actually the cultural equivalent of Flynn’s political free fall, as both caused consequential Trumpian casualties amid full-blown disasters. Both men were backed by Donald Trump, and were expected to provide a function that in both cases is still murky but seems quite nefarious. (We still don’t yet know all the details of Flynn’s relationship with the Russians, for example, but the reports of top campaign officials, of which Flynn was one, in “constant contact” with Russian intelligence operatives during the election is cause for great concern.)

The quick spiral downward of Yiannopoulos is actually the cultural equivalent of Flynn’s political free fall.

Both men are close to Stephen Bannon, Trump’s power-hungry chief strategist who came from Breitbart, where he was chairman and which he dubbed the “platform of the alt-right,” the online version of the old-fashioned white nationalists and white supremacists. In both cases, Trump, perhaps with Bannon’s urging, looked the other way of clear problems these men had in their pasts. 

In the case of Yiannopoulos, who has said Bannon “made me into a star,” his rise as a supposed college campus free speech crusader with his attention-grabbing “Dangerous Faggot Tour” across the country in the past year, and a major book deal that would net him high-profile TV appearances, had him primed to be leading a possible Trump Youth Brigade. This was in fact an early action of Trump’s kindred spirit, Vladimir Putin, who informally created his own youth brigade, the Nashi movement, to help him tighten his grip. And anyone who’s studied history knows that authoritarians and dictators create such youth movements to command authority and silence dissent. 

In both cases, Trump, perhaps with Bannon’s urging, looked the other way of clear problems these men had in their pasts.

Trump did dismally with millennial voters ― except for white millennials, who voted for him over Clinton 48-43 ― and he barely eked out an electoral college win while losing the popular vote. But with the rise of the alt-right, which has received the kind of media attention about which some young people who are predisposed to the message might find hip, Trump could pull in more of those younger white voters, however small in number, to boost a re-election. And bleached-blond, young and rude Yiannnopoulos, rising higher, could surely help in that regard.

Yiannopoulos speaks the grievance-ridden language of Trump ― whom he affectionately calls “Daddy” ― similarly attacking “political correctness,” and giving young people permission to act on racist impulses. Yiannopoulos brutally mocks colleges’ and universities’ attempts to fight hate speech against minorities and protect students from bullying and violence on campuses, expressing the resentment prevalent among those who feel threatened by diversity and a U.S. that is demographically changing.  

He grotesquely uses his identity as gay as some sort of badge that allows him to attack other minorities and defame feminists, transgender people, Muslims and immigrants, and he gets support from the white supremacist, anti-Semitic alt-right, despite his being gay and Jewish himself (something we’ve seen many times over in the past among those used as tokens). Yiannopoulos called Black Lives Matter a “terrorist organization” and promoted racist harassment online of comedian Leslie Jones, forcing her off Twitter. He also uses his gayness as some kind of false proof that Trump is pro-gay ― since he must be if Yiannopoulos, a gay man, supports him.

Trump has returned the favor. When the University of California, Berkeley, canceled Yiannopoulos’ speech three weeks ago, Trump threatened the school with pulling federal funds. 

Just as Flynn provided an ally for Bannon on the inside, taking on factions within the White House, Yiannopoulos has helped stoke the hate against the opposition to Trump on the outside. If he grew bigger, he could be much more valuable to Bannon and to Trump.

But like Flynn, Yiannopoulos fell in a startling crash ― as of this writing his future even at Breitbart is in question ― largely because he wasn’t vetted before his debut in a much larger spotlight. Like Flynn’s Russia connections ― known since 2015 when he was photographed at a dinner table with Vladimir Putin at an event in Moscow ― Yiannopoulos’s comments, in which he talked of adults having sex with teens, have been around on various interview clips online for months. But after he appeared bedecked in strings of pearls on Bill Mahler’s show “Real Time” last weekend, viciously defaming transgender people without challenge from a pathetic Mahler (though getting some powerful pushback from comedian Larry Wilmore), a lot of people were wondering who this idiot was.

The fact that he’d been chosen by CPAC as keynote speaker revealed how far conservatives would go in towing the Trump line, kicking off their annual conference with a hardened Muslim basher and someone who might enthrall the crowd of younger activists who attend CPAC. But the announcement of his speech raised eyebrows in addition to Yiannopoulos’s profile. And so it wasn’t a shock that tapes that had been around for a long time, buried online, suddenly were seized upon by other conservatives on social media, such as the group Reagan Battalion, who made the comments go viral. Within hours, Yiannopoulos was out of CPAC while Simon and Schuster pulled his book, which was due in June and surely would have been part of his ongoing campus tour.

The fact that he’d been chosen by CPAC as keynote speaker revealed how far conservatives would go in towing the Trump line.

But no college will now want Yiannopolous within a mile, and conservatives wouldn’t dare criticize them for keeping him away ― as they have in the past ― because they’ve now silenced Yiannopolous themselves at CPAC. He is essentially shut down from organizing at the very venues that were his life blood, where he promoted racism and misogyny and brought in youth for Trump.

This episode also means that Bannon’s zeal, and his distrust of anyone who would help in vetting people and ideas ― evidenced by his getting Trump to rush out a Muslim ban days into the administration, without the agencies given input ― could be his downfall, as well as Trump’s. In the meantime, we should count it as a victory that Flynn and Yiannopoulos, both dangerous, have crash-landed.


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Designer Drags Donald Trump With ‘More Glitter Less Twitter’ Message

Ashish Gupta has a perfectly pointed message for Donald Trump: “More glitter, less Twitter.” And he didn’t even need 140 characters. 

The U.K.-based designer showed his new collection at London Fashion Week on Monday, or, rather, he made a slew of political statements at London Fashion Week that happened to involve clothing. In addition to referencing the president’s stupefying social media activity, there were shirts adorned with phrases like “nasty woman” and “pussy grabs back,” models wearing what seemed to be Mexican wrestling-inspired makeup, and a short suit with the words “Planned Parenthood” down the leg.

There were even a couple of pieces that paid homage to Major League Baseball, which hardly seems like a coincidence. What better way to send the message than by printing Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan alongside symbols of America’s pastime? 

Gupta, whose Instagram bio reads “fighting gloom with glitter since 2001,” is known for his fun, sparkly take on fashion. But, as he told Vogue, he’s serious about using his collection to create unity in our current political climate.

“I was reading about how Oz was representative of Washington and how the hurricane of Dorothy was the political turmoil that happened at the time,” he said. “It was so symbolic. Every little thing was symbolic of what is happening now — we need to be united in a message of love and unity and stand up together against all the f**ked-up mess that is going on.”

We’d take love, unity and togetherness in any form, but especially when it’s covered in glitter. 

Check out more looks from the show below. 

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What Does It Really Mean To Win Best Picture?

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Sunday’s Oscars loom in the shadow of Donald Trump’s fledgling presidency. As with every awards show this year, we can expect a night of equal-rights diatribes mounted in resistance to the regressive legislation and callow disregard for tradition that has defined the Trump administration’s debut.

But before arriving at the annual ritual, we will have already seen one of the most politically driven Best Picture debates unfurl in the media. This time, it’s personal.

Perhaps more than ever, the Best Picture contest seems to double as a referendum on our culture’s conscience. It’s bigger than the Oscars, just as Beyoncé losing Album of the Year to Adele was bigger than the Grammys. If movies are statements about the world around us, then one purpose of the Academy Awards is to adjudicate the year’s best cinematic manifestos. That’s complicated when titles from Obama’s America are being feted in Trump’s America. 

It’s especially complicated when considering the Oscars’ thorny political backdrop. Throughout its 89-year history, the event has, after all, become a shrine to Hollywood’s liberal values ― even when the movies themselves aren’t explicitly political. 

In 2014, “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen ended his Best Picture acceptance speech by dedicating the award “to all the people who have endured slavery and the 21 million people who still suffer slavery today.” He then turned to the cast and crew surrounding him onstage and leapt into the air enthusiastically. 

In 2016, “Spotlight” producer Michael Sugar addressed his Best Picture acceptance speech to Pope Francis, saying he hopes the recognition will inspire “a choir that will resonate all the way to the Vatican.” He then turned and gave Michael Keaton a bear hug. 

In both cases, it would have been surprising not to hear rallying cries related to the human-rights transgressions depicted in these films. 

Sandwiched between the “12 Years a Slave” and “Spotlight” victories was “Birdman.” The closest that movie came to tackling social ills was something along the lines of “middle age = hard.” Yet director Alejandro González Iñárritu, a Mexico native, politicized his acceptance speech anyway, ending with a sweet pro-immigration sentiment. 

This all took place during Barack Obama’s tenure. In terms of Hollywood’s nerve center, it was a time of relative political ease.

But amid radical unrest, what does it mean to score popular culture’s most luminous prize?

If there’s one thing we know about the Oscars, it’s this: Even by subjective standards, the year’s best movie often doesn’t nab Best Picture. “The Greatest Show on Earth” beat “Singin’ in the Rain” because “Singin’ in the Rain” wasn’t even nominated. “How Green Was My Valley” topped “Citizen Kane,” frequently cited as the greatest film ever made. “Out of Africa” outpaced “The Color Purple.” “Dances with Wolves” stole the trophy from “Goodfellas.” Perhaps most infamously, voters preferred “Crash” over “Brokeback Mountain,” a groundbreaking masterpiece if we’ve ever seen one. Some would add “Birdman” to the list of failures, too â€• it did compete against “Boyhood” and “Selma.”

Understanding that the minutiae of a Best Picture race has little to do with pure quality, any Oscar pundit will tell you this year’s front-runner is “La La Land,” a bubbly musical romance about an aspiring Los Angeles actress and a stubborn jazz purist. “Moonlight,” one of 2016’s most acclaimed releases, could unseat “La La Land” in an underdog triumph, partly because it’s a phenomenal movie and partly because of the important story it tells, about a black latchkey kid grappling with his sexuality in the Miami projects. But watch out for “Hidden Figures,” the charming box-office smash about three black women who were pivotal at NASA in the 1960s. “Hidden Figures” became a veritable threat to the “La La”-”Moonlight” two-hander when it won the Screen Actors Guild Awards’ top prize, a coveted Best Picture pacesetter.

(Apologies to the other six nominees: “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Lion” and “Manchester by the Sea.” Thanks for playing.)

During awards season, that bastion of expensive politicking, offscreen narratives supersede art. This year’s narrative goes like this: “La La Land” is the escapist swoon needed to distract from Trump’s horror show, “Moonlight” is a socially vital tale not seen often enough, and “Hidden Figures” is a healthy blend of escapism and import.

Put another way, some journalists and Twitter objectors accuse “La La Land” of being a mansplain-y letdown with subpar dancers and a misguided homage to old-school musicals. They argue it’s simply not the movie Trump’s America needs, at least not when competing against stories about the very sorts of people our government would rather marginalize. The objectors’ objectors call them killjoys who fail to appreciate Damien Chazelle’s colorful flourishes and bittersweet enchantment. These arguments have occurred in countless think pieces since the moment “La La Land” opened. The New York Times’ arts writers, for instance, chimed in one by one on the musical’s merits, and lack thereof, last week.

Such political undercurrents offer a narrow, though not necessarily unfair, rubric for an awards show long granted an inflated premium within our pop-culture landscape. But if politics haunt the Oscars, shouldn’t the recipients reflect the moment’s political mood? 

Maybe. History shows that honoring exemplary art has always been a mere slice of the Oscar pie.

When a coterie of Hollywood bigwigs created the Academy Awards, first held in 1929, they intended to harmonize the ballooning industry, which was facing labor disputes and struggling in the transition from silents to talkies. Within two years, subtle lobbying had started, with studios purchasing ads in trade magazines touting their candidates. In 1953, television broadcasts began, further romanticizing the event. As the years progressed, offscreen solicitations swelled. In 1979, the major studios reportedly spent a collective $1.8 million on Oscar campaigns. Two decades later, Miramax dropped an estimated $5 million on its successful “Shakespeare in Love” crusade alone. By that point, one has to wonder how much a movie’s quality even matters.

Mudslinging, strategic film-festival debuts, baby-kissing industry events and an endless parade of media appearances have become part and parcel of the months-long Oscar season, ultimately defining the derby in tandem with an onslaught of predictive precursor prizes and lingering mythology about who is “overdue” for a win. (See: Leonardo DiCaprio’s “Revenant” sweep.) The nearly 7,000-member Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a persuadable, navel-gazing hive mind that, despite recent diversity initiatives, remains dominated by older white men ― the very group that decided “Crash” better reflects its values than “Brokeback Mountain.” 

It can’t be over-emphasized: No matter how many A-listers wax poetic about the power of great art on Oscar night, the Oscars are never really about great art, not exclusively at least.

Which is why a Trump-era victory for “Moonlight” or “Hidden Figures” would be more significant than any other socially relevant winner from the past, including Obama-era champs “Spotlight” and “12 Years a Slave.” Following two consecutive years without any acting nominees of color, we’re blessed with one of the most diverse Oscar rosters in history. Why, some ask, would voters select “La La Land,” in which a white dude mouths off about the death of jazz, an art form historically associated with African-Americans? 

Because it’s about Hollywood, of course. A Best Picture selection exemplifies the way the Academy wants to portray itself. In picking “La La Land,” the electorate advances the notion that movies are the dream ballets to which we all aspire. In opting for “Moonlight,” the Academy can confirm that art is inherently political, and that “Moonlight” is the film America needs to see now. “Hidden Figures,” again, combines the two value systems.

In every sense, there’s room for both styles of movies. Cinema does provide an escapism that has become woven into the fabric of our culture, and that’s perfectly fine. It also tackles hot-button issues in ways that shape how we see the world around us. There’s a reason Vietnam War epics “The Deer Hunter” and “Apocalypse Now” ― both Oscar winners ― were such important works in the 1970s, for example. 

As mass media has mushroomed throughout the Oscars’ history, so has our treatment of the Academy as a cultural figurehead. It means something ― it means a lot, in fact ― that so few filmmakers of color have been nominated, or that the Oscars have spotty credentials when it comes to stories about queer subjects. If these awards are America’s gold standard, people of all backgrounds deserve an invitation. 

But no matter the political jeremiads that flank Oscar night, the compulsion to gauge nominees based on the White House’s affairs has never been this frank. Just look at the past decade. Analyses of 2010’s campaigns indicated “The Hurt Locker” bested sci-fi behemoth “Avatar” because it staged a fierce dark-horse coup, not because it tackled the then-ongoing Iraq War. 2011’s titleholder, “The King’s Speech,” a typical Hollywood period piece, is one of the more divisive Best Picture upsets, largely because the moral ambiguity and topical timeliness of “The Social Network” made for a more progressive filmmaking style. Many chalk up the next two choices ― “The Artist” (over, say, “The Tree of Life”) and “Argo” (over “Lincoln”) ― as evidence of Hollywood’s love affair with itself. 

These competing codes â€• potent campaigns, forward-thinking filmmaking, masturbatory interests ― create a hodgepodge of Best Picture history that hasn’t prepared us to agree that Trump’s election should determine the winner. It is only within the Oscars’ limited scope that “La La Land” and “Moonlight” ― movies with little in common ― are pitted against each other. And that’s where it helps to realize the Oscars create more phony narratives about popular culture than perhaps any other institution. Suddenly, you’re either a “Moonlight” fan or a “La La Land” fan, creating a false choice between supporting inclusivity or encouraging the same old Hollywood frolics.

But if there’s one consistent message the Academy sends, it’s that a Best Picture winner reflects the product Hollywood is proud to have made. Knowing the economic boon such a victory can bring to a movie, the Academy seems to say, “Go see this so we can make more like it.”

For many playing along at home, that theory leads to an easy answer: We’ve seen movies like “La La Land” before, and we’ll see them again. Instead, we must fight for movies like “Hidden Figures” and, especially, “Moonlight,” which would be the second-lowest-grossing winner in history after “The Hurt Locker.”

It’s encouraging to know the Academy has proven increasingly capable of crowning films that aren’t the box-office bonanzas so cherished in a mercurial industry. Look no further than the little-seen “Birdman” conquering the lucrative “American Sniper,” or the fact that “Spotlight” was every bit as worthy as “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Despite rapacious business models, money isn’t the only form of profit. To coronate low performers is to risk seeming out of touch with common moviegoers, but the Oscars were never designed to be populist anyway.

That timeworn tug-of-war is on display again this year. The box-office success of “La La Land” and “Hidden Figures” make them far more popular, and arguably more relevant as a result. Yet despite initially positive reviews, “La La Land” does not mean to its fans what “Moonlight” means to its admirers, especially considering the latter’s smaller marketing budget. Few will leave “La La Land” thinking, “Finally, my story is being told.” And anyway, “La La” and “Hidden Figures” did not muster the volume of critical enthusiasm that “Moonlight” enjoyed. 

What, then, makes one deserving of Best Picture over another? The weight of Hollywood’s future.

For a final example, let’s turn to the most glaring anecdote: In 1995, the edgy oddity “Pulp Fiction” lost to “Forrest Gump,” a box-office medalist drenched in conventional bathos. It’s an indisputable travesty, as “Pulp Fiction” is superior by every rubric except revenue. Critics knew it then, and just about everyone knows it now. Moreover, there would be ample “Forrest Gumps,” aka fables about heterosexual white men overcoming adversity in fantastical ways. Less reliable was the assumption that mainstream moviegoers in the mid-’90s would turn the next “Pulp Fiction” into a notable hit, thereby encouraging studios to invest in more like it ― and that’s a big part of why the Academy made a mistake. (Case in point: Quentin Tarantino’s next film, “Jackie Brown,” grossed one-third of what “Pulp Fiction” made domestically.) It’s not that there isn’t room for movies like “Forrest Gump.” But they do not boast the same flash-in-the-pan singularity of “Pulp Fiction,” just like “La La Land” does not carry the same dynamic originality of “Moonlight.”

At some point, the Academy has to decide for itself what the future of moviegoing must look like. What should people want to see? What should filmmakers aspire to? Dream ballets or mirrors held up to a knotty world? In other words, will voters pick more of the same or blaze a fresh frontier? With so much of the Obama administration’s progress in flux, our democracy awaits the answer. 

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Watch Angelina Jolie Cook Up Scorpions And Spiders For Her Kids

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Have a hard enough time getting your kids to eat their peas? Angelina Jolie has her brood chowing down on scorpions and tarantulas.

In a BBC clip posted Sunday, the actress cooked the creepy-crawlies with her children in Cambodia, then dug in with them.

We’ll savor these home-movie moments forever when Jolie says, “Who wants to share a spider?” and “It’s hard to chew the scorpions” as though she were at a backyard barbecue on the Fourth of July. 

Those wanting to follow the “Maleficent” star’s lead on insect cuisine might want to heed her advice in the video:

“You start with crickets, crickets and a beer. And then you kind of move up to tarantulas.”

In the same interview with the BBC’s Yalda Hakim, Jolie commented on her divorce from Brad Pitt, calling it “a difficult time.” At least it’s comforting to see the kids enjoying an exotic meal together.

Now who wants to call out for a pizza instead?

H/T People

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