The lackluster, celebrity-free Republican convention in Cleveland last summer had at least one breakout star: Milo Yiannopoulos, the feminist-hating, Jew-baiting provocateur, who’s made a career out of potty-mouthed attacks on political correctness. Breitbart News executive chair Steve Bannon hired Yiannopoulos and made him an alt-right star, and when Bannon became Donald Trump’s campaign chair, suddenly Milo was everywhere: at bookstores, on Cleveland’s hot streets, headlining a big “Gays for Trump” party, at which he told an audience of white supremacists and adoring male acolytes that the man he calls “Daddy” would protect the country against the scourge of Muslim terrorism. He rode that wave to a quarter-million-dollar advance from Simon & Schuster for a book titled Dangerous, and this week got himself invited to address the Conservative Political Action Committee conference.
And then he was suddenly uninvited after video and audio of Yiannopoulos praising sex between grown men and underaged boys surfaced online. Simon & Schuster quickly canceled his book for the same reason. (Long-running complaints about Yiannopoulos’s racism and misogyny didn’t dissuade the publisher, but this did.) Then Yiannopoulos tried to apologize, sort of: “I am a gay man, and a child abuse victim,” he wrote on Facebook. “My own experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous.” Amazing: The guy who derides “identity politics” and the “victim” mentality of “social-justice warriors” says his status as a gay man and abuse survivor should protect his right to praise pedophilia.
But the question everyone should be asking is, how did a low-rent scam-artist like Yiannopoulos rise to the top of conservative politics, anyway? Even some conservatives are mystified. Reagan biographer Craig Shirley was aghast. “This is the first time I can recall a spoiled man child whose main purpose is self-promotion being selected as…[a] speaker at CPAC,” Shirley told The Daily Beast’s Matt Lewis.
Shirley’s memory is a little short. CPAC helped mainstream another “spoiled man child whose main purpose is self-promotion” just four years ago when the group invited Trump to speak at its conference. Yiannopoulos’s political trajectory tracks that of the man he calls “Daddy.” His fall shows that the craven opportunism of the modern conservative movement has at least one limit: pedophilia. Of course, both men should have been stopped long ago.
The rise of Yiannopolous is evidence that modern conservatism is mostly driven by fear, backlash, scapegoating, and whiny complaints about “political correctness,” which essentially comes down to white men complaining they can’t insult women and people of color without censure anymore. That’s the heart of Trump’s appeal, too.
The magic of Milo is that he spews bigoted filth while gay, which he thinks makes him a brave freedom fighter. He’s a shapeshifter: When confronted about his anti-Semitism—he called a Buzzfeed writer “a typical example of a sort of thick-as-pigshit media Jew, who has all these sort of right, P.C. politics”—he insists he, too is Jewish, though he was raised Catholic (his maternal grandmother is Jewish). He told another interviewer: