The Milo Example

December 19, 2018 Updated: December 27, 2018


Everyone knows who Milo Yiannopoulos is—sort of. He’s that brazen, outlandish, outspoken gay conservative who attacks women and trans individuals. He goes to college campuses and unleashes hate and bile.

He’s a troll, a showman, an internet provocateur. He has a following, yes, but they’re alt-right white guys: racist and sexist, raunchy and ignorant. He let slip in one interview about his comfort with pedophilia, which got him ousted from all respectable outlets, and some disrespectable outlets, too, such as Breitbart and Infowars.

He’s been booted from Twitter, he’s lost his financial backers, and Patreon just removed him from the platform. Let’s hope he’s gone forever.

This is the tale of Yiannopoulos, according to the media. Here’s the truth: He isn’t alt-right, as if by alt-right, we mean white supremacists. He doesn’t always like them and they don’t always like him.

He isn’t racist, either. He’s happily married to a black man, and although a Catholic, he’s of Jewish descent. (Though he violates Catholic doctrine on sexuality, he never criticizes the church for it.) Yes, he spoke loosely about relationships between gay men and teenage boys, neglecting the exploitation and abuse, but he insisted repeatedly afterward that he did speak irresponsibly and opened up about his own abusive adolescence.

None of that changes the set judgment of Yiannopoulos as a disgrace, however. The charges leveled against him accomplished their goal. They progressively removed him from the public square. It wasn’t enough to prove that Yiannopoulos was wrong. He had to be silenced and “disappeared.”

Which gets us to the real reason for the takedown. Liberals and leftists generally, and feminists and social-justice warriors, in particular, didn’t want to see or hear him anymore because Yiannopoulos was so good at what he did. Audiences on campus loved his speeches; conservatives, libertarians, and fraternity boys all laughed and caroused while Yiannopoulos launched one sally after another. He turned appearances into ludicrous performance pieces, such as the time he was carted into a hall at University of California-Santa Barbara on a throne, an entrance that was captioned on video as “All Hail Queen Milo.”

His interviews, including a 2016 appearance on a Joe Rogan podcast that collected nearly 2 million views, grabbed massive attention. And, most important of all, his jibes went straight to the heart of leftist dogma, puncturing the axioms of progressivism—such as patriarchy and white racism—that nobody in respectable public and professional life ever dares to challenge.

And it wasn’t just his humor and crude language. Yiannapoulos also analyzed the public actions and campaigns of the left in a way that robbed them of moral authority. See, for example, his analysis of the aftermath of the infamous Jordan Peterson and Kathy Newman interview, in which the British journalist and her backers tried to downplay the humiliation of that interview by shifting attention to the harassment Newman underwent afterward, as if that discredited Peterson.

In sum, Yiannopoulos recast the left’s moral terms—racism, oppression, sexism, and transphobia—as tactical terms. Those accusations, so often tossed at conservatives, are a threatening verbal bullet. Most conservatives flinch when they hear them. Yiannopoulos’s irreverence, coupled with his rhetorical explanation of how those terms work, lowered their caliber.

That’s why he had to go. The left and liberals have relied on guilt as a political weapon for a long time. It has served them well. To be disarmed of it, to find that one’s lexicon of -isms and -phobias no longer work in debate or in politics, is to lose a treasured ally. It tells leftists, “You’re not as superior and good as you think you are.”

In other words, Yiannopoulos threatened their self-esteem. They got it back by shutting him down.

Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory University and senior editor at First Things magazine.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.