I hold a soft spot in my heart for conservative gadfly and Internet provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. I recall fondly his heyday in 2015-2016, when he championed free speech in the Babylon of Progressivism, Berkeley, California. I still wish President Trump would appoint him White House Press Secretary—it would be must-see TV every day.
Behind the flamboyant, cartoonish homosexuality and the over-the-top trollery, though, is a talented journalist and writer; indeed, Milo’s work is some of the best long-form journalism I’ve ever read. His writing, like his public speaking, is engaging and well-researched: he really checks his facts and his sources, while still delivering that withering Coulterian death strike upon his unfortunate target.
I understand that for many conservatives Milo can be a bit much. I love his public speaking, but you have to realize that the first twenty or thirty minutes are going to be Milo playing his best and favorite character—himself. Once he’s paraded around in drag and told some incredibly off-color jokes, he’ll get down to the raw facts—where he truly shines.
In the years I’ve followed Milo’s work, I would wager that 90% of his factually-supportable positions are inside the conservative mainstream. Yes, he’s made some wacky statements before, but these are generally hyperbole in service to the overall experience: he draws crowds in with shock value, but wins them with knowledge.
But Conservatism, Inc., couldn’t have an effective proselytizer cutting into their racket. The David Frenchian pseudo-Right—the controlled opposition of neocons who don’t want to ruffle feathers lest their Leftist masters call them “racists” or “bigots”—cut Milo off at the knees.
For years I read National Review, and always heard conservatives pining for a cool, gay and/or minority Republican (because the establishment Right is desperate to prove to progressives that they aren’t racists or homophobes). Along came Milo—fun, smart, and into biracial man-love—and the decorum caucus suddenly realized that a cool, gay Republican was, by definition, going to be pretty melodramatic.
Another prominent online figure who rose to prominence around the same time as Milo, Sargon of Akkad, has a wonderful video detailing how it was conservatives, not Leftists, that initially took Milo down:
For those unfamiliar with the story of Milo’s fall, here is a very brief version: Milo, a victim of sexual abuse from a priest, controversially stated—perhaps clumsily—on a podcast that he believed certain consenting relationships between sexually mature teenagers and adults is acceptable, and is distinct from pedophilia. He was emphatically not endorsing pedophilia (for an excellent summary and analysis, read this piece on The College Conservative) or sexual abuse, though he did argue that his own encounters were consensual (a position he has reconsidered, I believe) and played a role in his developing homosexuality.
I don’t agree with Milo here, but who cares? He was engaging in a bawdy free exchange of ideas. He also fully understands the heavy toll of sexual abuse on young people—he’s lived it, and is quite open about it. Surely, if we’re willing to give others who endured similar trauma broad leeway in their behavior and statements, we can extend forgiveness to Milo.
But the damage was done. Milo lost a lucrative book deal, was forced out of his position at Breitbart, and was deplatformed from major social media platforms.
Even now, Leftists take great glee in kicking this majestic unicorn while he’s down. They derive sick pleasure in noting one of his characteristic Telegram rants:
Milo reveals just how much the far right are struggling after being deplatformed from the main social media sites. pic.twitter.com/oB3T94J89B
— Roanna (@witchofpeace) September 9, 2019
The pictures linked in that tweet show Milo lamenting his vastly reduced reach on Telegram (an app I highly recommend). Leftists are reading it as Milo bashing his own fans for not supporting him.
They’re wrong. Milo is bemoaning the fact that conservatives are routinely deplatformed from social media, eradicating their ability to reach fans and to earn a steady living from their work. Losing tens of thousands of Twitter followers would, necessarily, affect one’s bottom line (believe, I know how hard it is to get subscribers). Telegram is wonderful, but it simply lacks (as yet) Twitter’s sheer volume of users.
Regardless, I’d like to ask my readers to support Milo however you’re able. You can start with buying his books. I can personally vouch for Middle Rages, which is a lively example of his long-form journalism into a deceptively niche field, Medieval Studies.
I know Milo is not for everyone. Some people very close to me can’t stand him. That’s fine—we live in a free society. Milo is the incandescent, white-hot supernova of online trollery and scathing critiques. He’s kind of mean and catty, especially to his enemies, but even to his friends.
But do we all have to be noble warriors? We need knights to defend and expand the realm of traditional conservatism. But every army (and well-balanced role-playing party) has its rogues.