Opinion

Milo: The Rise and Fall of the Alt-right Darling and 'Brave, Conservative Standard-bearer'

Before Milo Yiannopoulos became radioactive-because-sex-with-children, his white supremacist views, Holocaust denial, Islamophobia, women hatred, and cyber-bullying didn’t deter conservatives at all.

Nancy Goldstein
Nancy Goldstein
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Milo Yiannopoulos holds a press conference in New York on February 21, 2017.
Milo Yiannopoulos holds a press conference in New York on February 21, 2017.Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP
Nancy Goldstein
Nancy Goldstein

Thanks to Milo Yiannopoulos we now know which kinds of racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, sexual abuse, and free speech are welcome at the Conservative Political Action Conference and at Breitbart News and which are not. As the world now knows, CPAC, where all the beautiful people meet to network, strategize, and plan world domination, first invited Milo as a speaker days ago. Then it pulled the plug on his appearance there Monday, less than 16 hours after a conservative Twitter account released a taped interview where Milo defends sex between “sexually mature” 13-year-old boys and grown men. And now Milo has resigned/been pushed from Breitbart.

But until then, for nearly a full year, a lifetime in the 24/7 news and PR consumption cycle, Milo was in a constant ascent as a darling of the so-called alt-right and garden-variety Republican conservatives alike. They knew where Milo came from. He vaulted himself into the public spotlight from his lowly perch as a tech editor at Breitbart by leading the Gamergate and Ghostbuster auto-da-fés against feminists in general and black actor Leslie Jones in particular on Twitter, then shilled for Trump during the elections.

Milo was a valued GOP player right up until the moment he turned toxic. As the 2017 CPAC agenda attests, with its focus on the need to make deeper inroads into campuses, capturing the college demographic is key to Republican ascendency. And no one proved better than Milo at bringing in fresh young blood with earning and grooming potential, using the Republican culture wars as a recruitment tool. Or, as American Conservative Union Chair Matt Schlapp phrases it in his statement rescinding Milo’s CPAC speaker invite: “We initially extended the invitation knowing that the free speech issue on college campuses is a battlefield where we need brave, conservative standard-bearers.”

That was Milo. He brought a new generation of white college-educated men into the fold by casting unthinking majority privilege as an edgy form of purebred integrity under threat. He labeled all calls to diversity, conscience, or a more perfect union as “political correctness.” He elevated bullying, bigotry, and belligerence to brave acts performed by a martyr with his back against the wall.

And alt-right acolytes and garden-variety Republicans alike saw all that Milo had made using Breitbart News and a motley assortment of wannabes and professional haters as his echo chamber and megaphone, and it was very good.

Accolades came rolling in. Simon & Shuster held its dainty nose against the stench and awarded the demonstrably marketable Milo with a $250,000 book deal, only now rescinded. Trump rewarded Milo’s boss, Steve Bannon, leader of the Breitbart zeitgeist and architect of Trump’s Make America White Again campaign, with the post of White House Chief Strategist so he could keep working his nationalist dog whistle magic on racists, anti-Semites, and misogynists everywhere.

Up until the moment this past Sunday night when Milo became radioactive-because-sex-with-children, his white supremacist views, Holocaust Denial, Islamophobia, women hatred, and cyber bullying were no bar to CPAC entry. There was no problem with depicting protestors opposed to his “Dangerous Faggot” college tour as enemies of the First Amendment or his positioning of sexual harassment as a “craze” for women wanting to brag about being hit on.

That explains why Milo sounded so confident when he started his lethal on-air diatribe with a tried-but-true chestnut he had used against feminist many times concerning this “arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent.” His party, the GOP-turned-Trumpian-nationalist establishment had long enjoyed the benefits of letting him shape shift and spin unchallenged. Milo claimed he wasn’t an alt-right white supremacist, while reframing the broadening of intellectual life on college campuses and the reshaping of the canon as reverse discrimination against white men. None of his peers objected when he euphemistically defended “Western values.”

For a man who made his living savaging “identity politics,” Milo certainly dined out on them often enough. Under cover of allegedly having a Jewish mother (highly unlikely, and not enough to prevent him from wearing an iron cross medallion as a younger man), Milo proclaimed that Jews own the media and the banks. Under cover of being a gay man who likes to bottom for black men, he's declared he can't possibly be racist.

Republican tolerance for this circus ended only when Milo owned his Catholicism, the better to argue about the merits of childhood sexual abuse by his priest. Milo’s habit of minimalizing — about rape, about Black Lives Matter, about the effect on American democracy of demonizing immigrants and the costs of homophobia — became offensive to his party only when he proclaimed that “We get too hung up on this childhood abuse stuff” and tried to redefine man-on-boy pedophilia as consensual sex. Then and only then could Republicans agree that Milo had crossed the line.

While Milo’s a goner, “Daddy” (Milo’s term for Trump) remains a useful tool for Republicans bent on draining all the riches they can from their heady Senate/House of Representatives/Executive branch trifecta swamp.

On the same Twitter thread where Schlapp ousted Milo, he warmly welcomed Trump to CPAC’s speaker list. Apparently it’s no problem that America’s Groper-in-Chief was caught on tape bragging about grabbing women by the pussy and sexualizing 10-year-old girls. Or that Trump has repeatedly claimed he’d want to have a go with Ivanka, if only she weren’t his daughter.

Thanks to Milo we have learned that in CPAC-world, not all forms of sexual creepiness are created equal.

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