Milo Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon. Photo: Getty
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The 7 most shocking details from Buzzfeed’s Breitbart exposé

A story about the right-wing website reveals a saga of Nazi passwords, secret sympathisers and Milo Yiannopoulos' ghostwriter.

An investigation by Buzzfeed News has revealed that far-right website Breitbart has private connections with white nationalists, neo-Nazis and some journalists in the liberal media. In June, Breitbart denied a connection to the alt-right, and the executive chairman of Breitbart (and former White House chief strategist) Steve Bannon has long denied accusations that the site panders to racist views.

Now, Buzzfeed’s Joseph Bernstein has reported on a cache of documents which appear to show that former Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos used passwords linked to Nazism, and performed karaoke at a bar in front of "alt-right" leader Richard Spencer. The article also details how, according to the leak, liberal journalists (most notably Mitchell Sunderland, a senior staff writer at Vice’s feminist vertical Broadly) emailed Yiannopoulos with tips to feature on Breitbart.

It is certainly worth reading the report in full, but here are the 7 most shocking details from the investigation.

1. Yiannopoulos​ sang “America the Beautiful” to a crowd raising their arms in Nazi salutes

A previously unseen video shows that in April 2016 Yiannopoulos sang karaoke, and in response some people in the crowd gave him Nazi salutes.

Yiannopoulos has told Buzzfeed News that his “severe myopia” meant he never saw the salutes.

2. And he used a ghost-writer

Nearly two years ago, Yiannopoulos wrote a feature defining the "alt-right". To do so, he reached out to a system administrator of the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer and an editor of the white nationalist site American Renaissance. (Yiannopoulos said in his response to Buzzfeed that "I disavow white nationalism and I disavow racism and I always have".)

But instead of writing the piece, Yiannopoulos forwarded his research to his deputy Allum Bokhari.

3. Steve Bannon was instrumental in creating Milo Yiannopoulos, the brand

Yiannopoulos is now one of the biggest and most outspoken personalities associated with the alt-right, and Steve Bannon helped make it so. Initially irritated by his coverage, Bannon prompted Yiannopoulous to become a “war correspondent in the west” and “go help save western civilization”.

4. Steve Bannon types like a teenage boy with a war fetish

“Dude!!!”, “LMAO!”, “Epic” and “#war” are all things typed by this 63-year-old man, according to the leaked emails.

Yiannopoulos in turn called Bannon “chief”, while Bannon told him to “[be] who u are”.

5. Breitbart and Yiannopoulos have deep links with the Mercer family

Billionaire Robert Mercer is an acknowledged funder of Breitbart, but Buzzfeed’s report also shows how the family emailed in stories for the site to cover, while Bannon hoped they could provide Yiannopoulos with security. 

6. Breitbart has a lot of secret sympathisers

A former NASA employee emailed Yiannopoulos to complain of being fired by his “fat female boss”, and he also received email thanks from academics, film editors, and a Twitter software engineer, according to the report.

Shockingly, a handful of people in the liberal media corresponded with Yiannopoulos. Mitchell Sunderland of Broadly emailed him a story about Lindy West with the words “please mock this fat feminist”. (Sunderland has not tweeted since the article came out.) The article also claims that former Slate reporter David Auerbach gave Yiannopoulos information about the love life of Anita Sarkeesian, a GamerGate target, among other stories - Auerbach has said that the claim is "categorically false"

7. Yiannopoulos uses passwords based around the Nazis

Bokhari, Yiannopoulos’s ghost-writer, claimed in an email that the tech editor had a password beginning with the word “Kristall”, while another email showed that Yiannopoulos used “LongKnives1290” as a password. These are possibly allusions to Kristallnacht and the Night of the Long Knives, Nazi acts of violence, while 1290 is the year Jews were expelled from England.

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Technology can change the world – provided we have a measure of democracy, too

You could say we need a technological revolution for the many, not the few. 

Over the last five decades, the American Consumer Technology Association’s annual jamboree has grown to become the world’s largest tech show: attracting over 190,000 visitors and 4000 companies, with 7,460 reporters filing 59,969 reports over the course of four days in Las Vegas. In the process, it has achieved an almost mythical status – from unveiling the first-ever home VCR (Philips 1970) to Bill Gates’ resignation from Microsoft in 2006, and has included cameo appearances by the likes of Jay-Z and Barack Obama.

As a fully qualified geek (Electrical Engineering degree, 20 years in tech – before it was cool) and the shadow minister for Industrial Strategy Science and Innovation, I couldn’t resist seizing the opportunity to venture to Las Vegas while on a family holiday to the US’ west coast; hoping, against all hope, to see the progressive future of a technology-enabled, more equal world.

If only.

But I did emerge with a renewed conviction that technology can solve our problems – if we use it to do so.

In some ways, the most remarkable thing about the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was the way it demonstrated how technology has taken over our entire world. CES was a car show in the middle of a health show, which happened to be around the corner from a home show, which was adjacent to a sports show that was next to an entertainment show. Just about every sector was represented.

Nissan had a huge stand for their new autonomous vehicle showcasing the ‘Brain-Vehicle Interface’, as did Philips for their new sleep enhancing devices, and Huawei for their connected home. In 2018, technology can be used as an enabling platform to aid just about everything. And in a world where near enough everything is politicised, technology is very political.

But this was not evident from CES: not from the stands, neither the keynotes, nor the participants. There were few speakers from civic society nor governments, and those politicians who attended – such as Donald Trump’s Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao – talked only of their ‘excitement’ at the sunlit uplands technology could guide us to. The show existed in its own, largely self-sufficient world. While Ford created an entire street to show off its autonomous cars, there was no reference to who would pay for the road, pavements, lamp-posts and guttering if only robots worked.

And as a politician rather than an engineer, it is the societal impact that matters most to me. One realisation brought about by my visit is that I have greatly under-estimated the consequences of driverless vehicles: communications, parking, urban layout, and public transport are all likely to be deeply impacted. The automobile industry is working to position cars as your personal moving office-cum-front room-cum-hotel-cum-lecture theatre; where you can work, maintain personal and social relationships, unwind and learn – all while going from A to B. How will crowded, under-funded public transport compete?

At the show, Nissan launched its Brain-to-Vehicle technology, which reads the driver’s brainwaves to determine when the car’s intelligence should intervene. Although I'm personally unsure about the inclusion of brain surveillance in the driving experience, it may well be the next logical step as we increasingly give up our data in return for ‘free’ services. Certainly the anthropologists at Nissan argued that this was the very definition of assisted artificial intelligence.

Fortunately, autonomous vehicles are not the only way to get around. Improvements in battery technology mean that – between electric scooters capable of folding away into airplane carry on, and electric bikes with the power of motorcycles – personal mobility has become a market in its own right.

Personal health and sport were also big themes at the event. Philips has brought back the night cap, which not only looks far more fetching than the Victorian original, but is now also capable of lulling you gently into a slumber before monitoring the quality of your sleep. Orcam’s discrete camera-glasses for the visually impaired can read text and recognise people, whilst L’Oréal’s UV Sense is a sensor small enough to be worn comfortably on your fingernail that detects ultraviolet exposure.

One aspect of the show that has remained largely unchanged is its demographics. Whilst the glossy adverts on the walls depict women and BME people using technology, those actually designing it were, with a few exceptions, male and largely white. As always, there were no queues for the women’s loos and while there were not any ‘F1 girls’, the gender balance was improved largely by attractive women, who were not engineers, being employed to ‘explain’ technological advances.

Weeks later, the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos was also dominated by technology, which the Prime Minister used as a fig leaf to cover the absence of vision for Brexit. Lacking in both the CES and Davos, was any sense that the interests of the many had any significant stake in what was going on. We need a Labour government to help change that.

Chi Onwurah is the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central, and the shadow minister for industrial strategy.