I started hearing of Milo Yiannopoulos a couple of years ago, probably on the Corner at National Review. Even then, I kept getting him confused with Matt Yglesias (same initials, different ethnicity and politics). The picture gradually came into focus: editor at Bretibart News; gay, outrageous, mean, flamboyant, opportunistic.
My first online encounter was this link: “WATCH: Milo visits Memories Pizza to apologize on behalf of normal gays.” Remember Memories Pizza? It was that mom-and-pop business in Somewhere, Indiana, that had to shut its doors after the co-proprietor innocently told a news reporter they wouldn’t want to cater a same-sex wedding. A hailstorm of disapproval almost forced the business to shut down entirely, but now they’re up and running and Milo paid them a visit. He was endearing and sweet, and even though I had heard he was a dispenser of vile tweets, and the pizza show was probably a stunt, I felt warmer toward him—not to mention more aware of him.
He was already making speeches on college campuses at the invitation of the Young Republicans or Conservative Action League. He didn’t call himself a conservative—or not always—but he delivered on conservative themes: pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-free market, even pro-Christian. Search for “MILO: Catholics are right about everything” on YouTube and you’ll find a speech that, colorful language aside, sounds a bit like Frances Schaeffer.
Milo was fine as long as his sphere of influence didn’t extend much beyond Breitbart. Then his horse—I mean Donald Trump–won the Triple Crown: viable candidacy, nomination, presidency. Though he didn’t fit the Trump-supporter stereotype, Milo jumped that bandwagon early . . . and rode it right into the spotlight. Once a gadfly, now a target.
Last December, his star ascending, he signed a book contract with Simon & Schuster worth a reported quarter-million. Soon after, S&S authors started protesting, including over 150 children’s authors and illustrators who signed a letter. Then came the noisy, fiery campus protests. In one interview, Milo expressed amazement that someone as “silly and harmless” as himself could spark such rage. Maybe he really meant it. In any case the protests earned him enough street cred to be offered primetime exposure as keynote speaker at CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference, not the sleep device).
But then there was that other interview, revealed earlier this week, in which he apparently expressed support for pedophilia. He claimed the interview was deceptively edited; he’s never approved of sex with children; the conversation was about sex between older men and teenage boys (like in ancient Greece, you know?). But one by one, the rugs jerked out from under him: book cancelled, speech cancelled, even Breitbart cancelled. Where’s Milo?
I don’t mean where is he physically—he made a statement that included apologies and promises to stay in the spotlight. It might be better to take a nice long vacation by the lake with a Bible, but what I actually mean is, where is he politically, philosophically, and spiritually?
David French wrote a thoughtful piece at National Review outlining three conservative responses to the smug, dominant left-wing media “machine”: You can try Reasoning with (like Ross Douthat on the NYTimes editorial page), or Replacing with (producing parallel institutions like Christian schools, Christian movies, right-wing talk radio and news services), or Raging against (matching the left outrage for outrage). Yiannopoulos is a prime example of the rage angle, not that he’s angry. Until this week he appeared to be having the time of his life.
Simon & Schuster are in business to make money, and it’s their business who they sign and who they drop. CPAC shouldn’t have invited him in the first place—choosing a speaker because he outrages all the right people is like inviting a match to dynamite. As for Breitbart, they stuck with him while he insulted Jews and women and African American actresses, but sex with kids is off-limits. It’s good to know something is, but couldn’t someone have taken Milo aside earlier and put a grandfatherly word in his ear about standards and basic kindness?
Of course the left is showing selective outrage; links to Bill Maher and George Takei making similar statements–or jokes–have surfaced, but the scalp-takers are already looking for their next victim. Milo is hardly innocent, and even his friends acknowledge his mean streak, spiking up in what he chose to post and tweet. He gleefully collected enemies on both sides and clouded his true convictions with showmanship. By now he’s buried under so many pile-ons we can’t see him, but there’s a man in there. More to the point: there’s an immortal soul worth praying for.