Conservatives, Choose Your Mascots Carefully
Milo Yiannopoulos proves the enemy of my enemy proverb isn't always true.
Americans often express frustration at the partisan gridlock in Washington: One party opposes the other party’s ideas not on merit but on political allegiance. Party trumps principle.
Unfortunately, even conservatives outside of DC are guilty of falling into a similar trap — not just the pitfall of rejecting something because leftists like it, but of embracing something simply because leftists oppose it.
Such is the problem represented by the Milo Yiannopouloses of the world.
Milo, a man who openly embraces gender disorientation pathology, has made his reputation by being offensive. Until recently, he was a senior editor at Breitbart. As trendy-left site Vice notes, “He’s built an entire career on claiming to be a ‘dangerous faggot,’ the supervillain of the internet, a man who says the things that people aren’t meant to say.” Not surprisingly, this approach has won him more enemies than we can count. Indeed, who can forget the recent violent protests at Berkeley after the college Republicans invited Milo to speak on campus?
Milo himself has claimed, “All I care about is free speech and free expression. I want people to be able to be, do and say anything. These days … that’s a conservative issue.” It’s true that what he says is often compelling and right. So, as a result, he’s become a darling of many in the conservative — and so-called “conservative” — movement. After all, a gay Breitbart journalist who’s not afraid to outrage the Left must be on “our” side, right?
Not so fast.
As Ben Shapiro notes, Milo has used his free speech to, among other things, “characterize[e] a Jewish BuzzFeed writer as ‘a typical example of a sort of thick-as-pig sh-t media Jew’” and to justify “anti-Semitic memes as playful trollery.” Milo is sometimes offensive just because.
And yet somehow Yiannopoulos secured an invitation to keynote this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), speaking on free speech, among other things. But CPAC uninvited him after a video surfaced appearing to show him defending pedophilia (sexual relations between men and boys) and crediting a Catholic priest for educating him in a specific sex act. Not long after being disinvited, Milo resigned from Breitbart.
Even after the video surfaced, some continued to defend him because, well, he’s for free speech and against political correctness. In other words, simply because the Left hates Milo, he must be our friend.
Such a standard is not fighting for conservative principles; it’s abdicating them.
As Shapiro writes, “Unfortunately, many conservatives have embraced this sort of binary thinking: If it angers the Left, it must be virtuous. … That’s dangerous. It leads to supporting bad policies and bad men. The enemy of your enemy isn’t always your friend. Sometimes he’s your enemy. … It’s not good enough to just be opposed by the Left — you must actually oppose the Left. We must ask what someone is fighting against, not merely whom.”
If conservatives focus on the “whom” to the exclusion of the “what,” we lose our effectiveness, our moral high ground, and all too often, our honor.
Indeed, David French writes, “People have deep and understandable affection for those they believe are effectively fighting for them. … That’s the source of the bond between Milo and his followers. He is ‘fearless.’ He ‘destroys’ feminists in the same way that John Oliver ‘destroys’ Fox News. Fight the enemy, and your fans will forgive a multitude of failures. Yet, these failures weaken the very thing we’re fighting for.”
“Conservatives need to fight,” French continues, “but we must fight with honor to advance honorable goals. Otherwise, the culture war will be fought over ruins, with cultural rubble the victor’s only spoils.”
Now, in an ironic twist, Robert Tracinski explains, “Note how the people who allowed themselves to be driven by hate achieved the opposite of what they told themselves they wanted. They said they wanted to break the power of the left’s hair-trigger accusations of racism and sexism. By embracing this champion, though, they merely added fuel to those accusations.”
If conservatives' only hallmark is hatred from liberals, then we can claim no honor and deserve not the freedoms we champion. Being conservative means more than paying homage to someone the Left hates; it means actually standing for the principles — moral, social and economic — that have brought freedom to more people on earth than any other political or ideological system in world history.
Conservatives are the heirs of our nation’s Founding Fathers. We’re defenders of the flame of Liberty lit by that generation of American Patriots. It behooves us all to remember that.