Milo: Be Outspoken, but Not Our Spokesperson
Milo Yiannopoulos, a journalist and public speaker often viewed as the face of the alt-right, is at his best when he is in the eye of a storm--preferably one instigated by the liberal Left. Recently, however, he found himself in the middle of a conservative tornado. Videos surfaced of Milo, that he claims were “edited deceptively,” in which he essentially defended pedophillia and made light of his own history of sexual abuse. CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, had announced Milo as a keynote speaker at their upcoming conference, but dropped him following the public outcry from the video. Simon and Schuster, a publishing company, had also previously offered Milo a book contract and dropped that as well not long after.
A day after the incident, Milo held a press conference in order to clarify his beliefs on sexual abuse (he doesn’t support it), to apologize (partially), to talk about how this incident affects his future (it won’t), and name the real culprit (not him). He blames the media and said that the entire incident is part of a “cynical media witch hunt from people who don't care about children. They care about destroying me and my career, and by extension my allies.”
While I agree with CPAC’s decision to drop Milo, their choice to have him speak in the first place troubles me. CPAC is a conservative conference. Key word: conservative. Milo may not fit in one box, but he is certainly not a conservative. He is debatably part of the alt-right, a movement that rejects the mainstream conservative outlook, and likes to test the line of what can and cannot be said on national TV. At a time when it is controversial to say that the Republican president is, in fact, a Republican, there is no need for the conservative movement to shine its spotlight on a person like Milo. There is a place for Milo in the world of political discourse and debate, but not as a keynote speaker for CPAC and not as a posterchild for the conservative movement.
As for the book deal, I can only assume Simon and Schuster first offered Milo the deal because they supported his ‘no filter’ shtick. So why would more controversial statements make them take the deal away? It was probably an easy way out for them, after all the flack they’ve been getting from the Left since the deal was publicized. While both CPAC and Simon and Schuster have the right to accept or reject any speaker or writer, that does not lessen Milo’s right to free speech. As independent entities, they have their rights--and as an independent individual, Milo has his.
Free speech is Milo’s main platform, referring to himself as “a warrior for free speech and creative expression.” As a person banned by Twitter and often forced off campuses due to violent riots, Milo has definitely won the right to advocate for freedom of expression from a personal position and is, in fact, quite successful at it. He is entitled to free speech along with the rest of this country. That does not mean, however, that CPAC should promote Milo as a keynote speaker at the largest conservative gathering of the year--essentially proclaiming to the rest of the world that Milo is the conservative leader of the free speech movement when he most certainly is not.
To clarify, Milo is definitely an effective advocate for free speech, but should not be representing the conservative fight to defend our First Amendment rights. The problem is that free speech is very much under attack in this country and the conservative movement needs a better face to lead the fight. David French, a writer for the National Review, rightly explains that “His very existence and prominence feed the deception that modern political correctness is the firewall against the worst forms of bigotry.” Milo represents the extreme, and conservatives need to be able to show that free speech is about more than just being able to glorify pedophillia.
As conservative commentator Andrew Klavan explains, Milo is a performance artist. As a performer, he is permitted to say and do as he pleases, no matter how wild. The same way we excused Lady GaGa for wearing raw meat to an awards show and Flo Rida for producing an entire song about oral sex by calling it all “art,” we can excuse Milo’s antics as well. His job is to be a performer and in that space, Milo succeeds. He pushes boundaries, saying what most are too afraid to say in the modern PC (politically correct) culture.
CPAC, however, is not a place for performers--it’s a place designated for current conservative leaders and thinkers to address the country. The politicians who speak at CPAC represent what the larger conservative movement stands for and not just what they stand against. The Left’s contempt for Milo does not make him an honorary conservative. Regardless of how much the Left hates him, and consequently how appealing that may make him to right-minded individuals, Milo does not hold conservative values and therefore should not be included in CPAC. He neither shares their ideology nor does he garner enough respect to be on the same speaking list as Senators and Cabinet members.
This is a precarious time for conservatives. It is a time in which the Republican party controls both the Congress and the White House. As a result, conservatives have undertaken the vital responsibility to be critical of this new Republican government. Conservatives must only praise our government when it is deserving of it and rebuke it when their actions contradict our values. That’s why it is imperative we see the Milo incident for what it is. While he may be an impressive free speech advocate who is certainly entertaining to watch battle the Left, he is simply not a conservative and not the right person to lead these movements. The conservative and free speech movements are in peril and conservatives cannot allow Milo to be viewed as a representative for either.
Milo has many important things to say, and he should say all of them. He should say them on college campuses, on Twitter, in his own book--but not on the CPAC platform. That platform should be reserved for those who truly represent the future of the conservative movement. It should be reserved for those on the frontlines fighting for stronger foreign policy, for a better healthcare system, and for every person’s right to free speech--Milo’s included.