Everyone is wrong in this Milo Yiannopoulos story. Every last person and organization and company is wrong. You may be tangentially aware of this, or only paying attention to it to the degree it crowds your social feeds, but “Breitbart” was the number one trending topic yesterday so I take it most of you are aware of what’s gone on. To say everyone is wrong is the easiest way to summarize it, but it is the only way to convey the degree of wrongness going on right in front of all of us. It also has the benefit of being accurate.
Milo was wrong to say what he did. People say stupid things all the time. I personally interpreted what he was saying as descriptive – “this thing – young gay men exploring with older men – happens” – not prescriptive – “this thing ought to happen, is morally OK, and totally justified”. But only he knows what he meant, and he never should have dabbled in talking about this topic without in context issuing an obvious condemnation of the practice, which represents little more than preying on the underage.
But there is also the wrongness at every other stage of this. CPAC was wrong to invite Milo to give a prominent speech – he is not a conservative, even explicitly denies that he is, nor a libertarian. He is a gay contrarian exhibitionist defined by his positions against the left rather than in favor of natural rights bequeathed by nature’s God, and he gives little purchase to the liberty of individuals defined by the limits of the non-aggression principle. There is no Burke or Locke in him, just the illiberal rage that seeks to end the somnolence of modern culture and address the enemies that are arrayed against them. This makes Milo useful to many endeavors, but it does not make him part of them.
CPAC was also wrong to disinvite him. These videos were not new. They were part of the public record. And for a venue that has featured Ann Coulter and David Horowitz and a number of prominent social conservatives who have said terrible and untrue things about American homosexuals, this was a statement that while toxic and stupid, should not have rendered Milo untouchable or too vile for a conference that, while once a font of conservative influence, now essentially exists as a place for interns to make poor decisions. Put him on at 10:30 in the morning on Saturday when everyone is hungover for 15 minutes and move on – featuring a speaker is not an endorsement, and just as Redstate was wrong to disinvite Donald Trump over his Megyn Kelly comments, so CPAC is wrong for featuring Donald Trump and refusing to include his biggest chortling gay fan. Congratulations, you have confirmed his anti-authority status even more.
Simon and Schuster was wrong to end Milo’s book deal. They were particularly wrong to end it in such a way that allows him to keep a quarter of a million dollars, turn around and sell his book again for additional money to some other outlet or publish it himself. The left which urged Milo’s ouster from any public venue is likely the impetus for this, given that New York publishing houses are overwhelmingly populated by leftists. Meanwhile Bryan Singer gets his millions to make movies. Lena Dunham gets her endless profiles and plaudits. George Takei gets to rep respectable brands. But if they did the same things they have already done and were right of center, they’d be ostracized and ultimately fired from every gig they have. Yet they will never experience what it is like to be hounded out of speaking, out of a book deal, and ultimately out of a job, because their views are of the left and for the left.
But let us not leave out Breitbart employees who threatened to quit if Milo was not fired – they too were wrong. Seriously, this is the thing that would make you quit Breitbart, a site that has destroyed the legacy of its namesake with a gradually increasing embrace of alt-right sympathies? You did not have a qualm about working for this website until this instant? Give me a break. And what of the crew of NeverTrumpers now claiming that they had a part in seizing this scalp? They are wrong to position themselves as Nazi-punching heroes – they are nothing of the kind, and had nothing to do with this debacle. But keep at it, Evan McMullin.
And finally, but not due to lack of feeling, let us talk of Bill Maher, who is now taking credit for Milo Yiannopoulos’s fall, as if it was what he had planned all along when he booked him for an interview last week. Maher, a classic dirty old man who will say more sexually deviant things in your presence after a drink or two than anything you heard from Milo in his interviews, would like you to think that this was what he had planned all along. He would like you to think that because he utterly bungled his interview with the provocateur, eating out of his hand at points and even showing the ankle of a fangirl. He didn’t know what to do with Milo because they agree on so many points. They agree on the politically incorrect truth about the dangers of radical Islam; they agree on their shared misogynistic view of sensitive actresses; they agree on the snowflake nature of a modern left that cannot take a joke. Maher is tied in knots by the mere existence of Milo in that instance, and cannot see a way out of it. Now Maher engages in revisionism to salvage himself from the criticism he has taken from the left – but no one really believes it.
This whole episode serves as a reminder of what Milo is and what he is not. He is not a conservative, a libertarian, or an ideologue. He is an attention seeker and a provocateur who in practice amounts to a blunt instrument to use against the left because he confounds them as something they argue cannot exist. He is impossible, so the fact that he exists is infuriating. And he is not going to go away.