Milo Yiannopoulos, grasping for fresh relevancy following the release of his now-self published book, is gunning for publicity the only way he knows how. That would be suing his former would-be publisher Simon & Schuster because apparently the publisher’s decision to yank Yiannopoulos’ contract is what tanked his brand and not his own comments on pedophilia. At least that’s how he spins it in a new suit filed with the New York County clerk.
The lawsuit explains that Yiannopoulos is suing Simon & Schuster for “irreparable harm” and “willful and opportunistic breach of its contract.” The minimum of $10 million he’s asking for would apparently be enough to cover “the commercial value of his public persona, including millions of dollars in royalties and fees, as well as permanent harm to the development and exploitation of his stature as an important, sought after media figure and free speech personality.”
Whether or not that’s fair and reasonable is up to a jury to decide. Simon & Schuster aren’t too concerned. This has been a business decision for them since the deal was first inked, and they’re confident a jury will see Yiannopoulos’ motives in a less than sympathetic light. “Although we have not been officially served, we believe that Yiannopoulos’s lawsuit is publicity driven and entirely without merit,” Simon & Schuster said in an emailed statement. “Simon & Schuster will vigorously defend itself against any such action, and fully expects to prevail in court.”
That said, in the immediate aftermath of the comments and his lost book deal, Yiannopoulos disclosed that he is himself a victim of sexual abuse in his youth. While his status as a sexual abuse survivor is important to note and believe, the ways in which he is wielding that identity to avoid real financial and career repercussions can’t be ignored. Around the same time he was coming out as an abuse survivor and claiming his right to free speech had been trampled, another video interview surfaced in which Yiannopoulos described victims of clerical sex abuse as “whinging, selfish brats.” In the clip, he told interviewer Gavin McInnes “The real problem I have is all these people who suddenly remember they were abused 20 years later and suddenly decide that it was a problem. I mean, my god, it’s really not that big a deal. You can’t let it ruin your life – so someone fiddled with you, so what?”
That could be the bravado of someone trying to move on from his own trauma, or another iteration of the “snowflake” rhetoric popular in alt-right circles, or a mix of both. It’s also a comment that could make it harder for him to convincingly portray himself to a jury as a sincere victim of Simon & Schuster, which is what he’ll have to do to get that $10 million and keep the conversation going around his ever-evolving brand.