Conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was kicked off the internet’s largest online payment system after using it to send $14.88, a number that refers to well-known white supremacist and neo-Nazi rallying cries, to a Jewish journalist.
PayPal and the PayPal-owned Venmo suspended Yiannopoulos’s account after he sent the sum to Talia Lavin, a Jewish former New Yorker employee who left the magazine after an online furor over her false speculation that a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer had a Nazi symbol for a tattoo.
The tattoo later turned out to be a symbol for his Marine platoon during its deployment to Afghanistan.
On June 22, Lavin posted a tweet seemingly jokingly suggesting that followers send her money via PayPal, because “sending money to a fat unemployed Jew is an excellent way to piss off nazis.”
also, sending money to a fat unemployed Jew is an excellent way to piss off nazis, shabbat shalom https://t.co/uCZA6Q2SYa
— Talia Lavin (@chick_in_kiev) June 22, 2018
Yiannopoulos did, sending exactly $14.88 and posting about it on Instagram with the comment, “girl bye.”
“14” refers to the 14-word white-supremacist mantra “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” “88” is a common neo-Nazi code based on H being the eighth letter of the alphabet. The “HH” is shorthand for “Heil Hitler.”
According to the ADL, the numbers 14/88 “form a general endorsement of white supremacy and its beliefs. As such, they are ubiquitous within the white supremacist movement – as graffiti, in graphics and tattoos, even in screen names and e-mail addresses.”
In response to Yiannopoulos transfer, Lavin donated the amount, plus one penny, to a group that works with immigrant children in New York.
— Talia Lavin (@chick_in_kiev) June 24, 2018
She also started receiving payments from online followers who sought to protest Yiannopoulos’s Nazi references, including a donation of $19.45, for the year Nazi Germany was defeated, and $19.64 for the year of the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
— Talia Lavin (@chick_in_kiev) June 24, 2018
By Thursday, Yiannopoulos received word from PayPal and the PayPal-owned payments service Venmo that he was being permanently suspended from their services.
Yiannopoulos, who was also suspended from Twitter in 2016 for using the platform to harass comedian Leslie Jones, confirmed the suspension, posting the letters he received from PayPal and Venmo on Instagram.
PayPal wrote him that “due to the nature of your activities, we have chosen to discontinue service to you.”
Venmo said, “After reviewing your account, we have found that your actions and activity have been in violation of [the service’s User Agreement]. As a result, your account has been permanently deactivated and we regret to inform you that we can no longer offer you the Venmo service.” The decision was made “because safety is Venmo’s number one priority.”
In a separate statement to NBC reporter Sergio Quintana, Venmo said, “We ensure that people do not use our platform and services to promote hate, violence or discriminatory intolerance.”
The fallout with PayPal and Venmo comes as Yiannopoulos is caught up in another scandal of his own making.
On Thursday he took to Facebook to insist he was joking when he told two reporters at the New York Observer and The Daily Beast that he couldn’t wait “for the vigilante squads to start gunning down journalists on sight.”
“I sent a troll about ‘vigilante death squads’ as a *private* response to a few hostile journalists who were asking me for comment, basically as a way of saying, ‘F**k off,'” he wrote. “They then published it.”
Shortly after his support for gunning down journalists was published, a gunman walked into the offices of the Annapolis, Maryland, Capital Gazette newspaper on Thursday and opened fire, killing five staffers and wounding several others.
The shooting did not appear to have any connection with Yiannopoulos’s comments, and police said the gunman knew his victims and had threatened to kill them in the past.
Yiannopoulos then took to Facebook to insist it was the reporters who published his comments who might be responsible for the shooting.
“If there turns out to be any dimension to this crime related to my private, misreported remarks, the responsibility for that lies squarely and wholly with the Beast and the Observer for drumming up fake hysteria about a private joke, and with the verified liberals who pretended they thought I was serious,” he wrote.
In the post, he described journalists who spread his comment about vigilante squads as “vermin.”
AP contributed to this report.