Not that it wasn’t always the case, but US politics has really become a form of entertainment. And today more than ever, there are gurus and thought-leaders for every possible political outlook, each attracting their own tribes of believers. 

I’ve been following the YouTube videos of a highly-articulate young journalist and speaker named Ben Shapiro. Shapiro (33) represents the conservative viewpoint in the States and is extraordinarily good at deconstructing arguments and pointing out fallacies in reasoning. I enjoy the fact that he is neither frothingly anti-, nor mindlessly pro-Trump, but tries to view each step taken by the US President in isolation, weighing it on its merits or demerits. 

Arguing for his various topical viewpoints, Ben has amassed a considerable tribe of followers. He also recently got into a tiff with a person who, on the surface of it, does something very similar to him. 

And in the opposite corner:

Milo Yiannopoulos (32) is a British-born commentator, whose politics trend toward the alt-right. Like Shapiro, Yiannopoulos is known for his strong viewpoints and outspoken mannerisms. In both cases, these two would appear to share the core qualities necessary for expert-positioning: strong views, regular media coverage, production of books, and a considerable YouTube presence in which they champion their causes. 

But there is at least one profound difference. My perception is that Shapiro appears to come from a place of genuine caring, arguing with a combination of logic, and concern for society.  There is fairness and concession built into the rhetoric, as well as a desire to do good, not harm. 

Milo, by contrast, aims to shock and provoke. He’s not averse to outright ugliness and might best be described as a mocker.  

So, given that both are very well known, and both are arguably very successful, which, pragmatically, is better? Value? Or shock-value? 

Let’s start with this observation: As an expert, you must speak strong. You certainly do have to be outspoken, and champion your views in their strongest representation. But here’s the distinction: Are you views inherently valuable? Or do they merely seek to provoke, for the sake of it, which errs on the side of self-glorification? 

Let’s circle this idea using an unlikely detour: 

I often reference motoring journalist Jeremy Clarkson as an exemplar of expert-positioning, and without doubt, Clarkson is extremely provocative. But Clarkson, at the very least, ‘gets away with it’ for two important reasons: 

  1. 1. His work is quite clearly ‘satire’ and not genuine advice. Clarkson is only after a laugh - he is not actually trying to guide societal norms; and 
  2. 2. He nevertheless provides excellent value to his tribes of followers in the motoring world, caring very deeply about the industry and about his own work. 

Circling back to politics; Milo is a different animal. He mocks, for the sake of causing harm. There appears to be genuine malice, even hatred, in his observations. And I can see precious little value to the world in what he teaches. 

Then, the inevitable happened:

Milo recently pushed his shock-and-awe campaign one tweet too far, making a joke that referenced child sexual abuse (of which, to be fair, he was himself a victim). His fall from grace was instantaneous. Book deals were cancelled, speaking tours dried up, media interviews were withdrawn and many of his most ardent followers publicly disavowed him. 

Our conclusion, then, is simple, and we can reach it from two paths. The conclusion is that genuine value will always out-perform shock-value in the long run. We may reason our way to this conclusion via morals and logic, or we might get there by means of practical expedience. But the conclusion will always be the same. 

Give real value - not the ugly, ‘flasher-in-a-park’ equivalent, and you just may go the distance. You may avoid implosion. You may even become the greatest in your game. 


Douglas Kruger is a professional keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He specialises in disruptive innovation and expert-positioning, helping brands to become more memorable than their competitors’. See him in action, or sign up for his motivational newsletter, at Book him to present for your leadership team: email