So, I’m killing the controversial post I was thinking about. Sometimes when you put words to paper (or type them on the screen) you think about them a little more clearly and see the angles on them you might have missed before. Sometimes that means you realize you’re riding out to defend people and things that you really don’t want to, which is ok sometimes when there’s no possible blowback, but when the price is also high you get that it’s not a hill you want to die on. Not remotely. So I’m canning it.
And promptly replacing it with another controversial post, this one about Milo Yiannopoulos.
Milo was and is going to feature in one of my “The Voices of the Resistance” posts but recent events have compelled me to discuss him separately (along with a few other commenters’ perspectives about him). The long and short of the story is that Milo said a few things on a podcast about a year ago that were more than a little controversial, and without question some of them were outright wrong, regarding pedophilia. This podcast was found and held on to by a George Soros-funded, Evan McMullin-affiliated group of so-called “conservatives” calling themselves the “Reagan Battalion” or something, which are no more than a bunch of establishment hacks out to undermine Tea Party type Republicans and President Trump. Milo, being an outspoken supporter of President Trump, was of course on their hit list but they held this bombshell until he was invited to keynote CPAC.
Let’s get this part out of the way: what Milo said (and I have read the whole transcript) was partly gallows humor and partly even factually correct, and then partly serving as an apologist for sexually exploitative behavior against underage teenagers. The gallows humor is obvious. The part he was correct about was the definition of “pedophilia” as a mental illness and sexual deviance–and for those of you out there who claim the distinction doesn’t matter between being turned on by pre-pubescent children versus being interested in young but still physically mature people, I’m not going to bother with the sarcastic examples. It matters. It matters a lot. It matters in terms of the type of deviance being proscribed as well as the public perception of a person who engages in, apologizes for, or is victimized by such acts. It does no service to a victim of pederasty to call it pedophilia because it sounds scarier, any more than it helps to, say, equate rape to murder. You’re literally saying “this crime you were a victim of is not bad enough, we’re going to call it something else.” So where Milo spelled out what the actual definiton of pedophilia is as opposed to the incorrect popular opinion version, he was both correct and right to do so.
Which leaves the part he was desperately wrong about, where he claimed that relationships between young gay boys and older gay men can be healthy and fulfilling and a means of emotional support for the boys involved. Whatever the definition of a “boy” may be in gay culture is not relevant, it was clear Milo was referring to underage boys. And let’s make no mistakes here, this is not in the least bit okay. Fifty years ago, when being gay was not socially acceptable, you might–MIGHT–have been able to make this argument with a straight face and still have been wrong, but since the early 90s being gay has been accepted and even celebrated by our society despite what incessant anti-bullying campaigns try to tell us. There is no conceivable leg for this assertion to stand on. But we’re not judging the opinion here, we’re judging Milo. Milo was himself a victim of child sexual abuse and if we are looking not at the correctness (or lack thereof) of his statement, but at the integrity and views of the man himself, you have to take his perspective into account. He is NOT entitled to his own truth, but he IS entitled to understanding of how he came to hold the opinion he expressed. From that perspective it sounds like he is expressing not what it COULD be like for a boy in his situation, but what it WAS like for him. Which explains why this view completely ignores the reality that an older gay man entering into a physical relationship with a young boy is not doing so out of altruism but is by definition exploiting that lack of emotional support and weakness. In other words, Milo’s describing how he was taken advantage of and did not even realize it.
In this regard, Milo deserves our pity, not condemnation. But Milo is not the type to play victim or even wear the label when he has a legitimate claim to it.
I don’t agree with everything Milo says, or most pundits and politicians I like for that matter. I don’t like that Donald Trump thinks the Iraq War was a mistake and I don’t like that Milo thinks Marine LePen in France is too nationalistic, for just a couple quick examples. I have to say, though, it’s been enlightening and more than a little distressing to see the reactions of at least some conservatives to this dust-up, and the number of “I like Milo BUT…” videos I’ve seen. Rush Limbaugh so far has wisely just reported the basic facts of the incident and left it alone. CPAC of course disinvited Milo and Milo resigned from his job at Breitbart.com to keep the blowback from hitting his colleagues there. Evan McMullin has declared victory for pulling off this little divide-and-conquer stunt that is already in the process of blowing over. Alfonso Rachel, whose work I generally like, came out disturbingly quickly with a Bible-thumping condemnation of Milo and his lifestyle, doing precisely no service to the idea that Christian conservatives everywhere were just waiting for Milo to make a misstep like this so we could stop pretending gays are okay (and for the record, no, we’re not pretending). Stefan Molyneux, who is generally a very deep and thoughtful and rational person but who has massive blinders on whenever someone cries out “what about the children?!” engaged in what he himself would call mental gymnastics under other circumstances, pointedly ignoring the true meanings of words Milo used while focusing on small irrelevancies to bolster a disconcertingly reality-challenged opinion. I mean really, Stefan has (rightly) defended Richard Spencer’s right to say offensive stuff without getting punched for it, why is it different for Milo? Sargon of Akkad, whose video I will link and who continues to win more respect from me on a daily basis, and who is no conservative by any stretch, put out what I feel like is the best and most honest analysis of this whole debacle.
At the end of the day Milo is and always will be a provocateur and free speech warrior (no quotes needed in my opinion). I don’t care if he’s 100% wrong and disgusting too about what he said and I don’t care if his words on a dumb podcast hit a lot of people in a sensitive spot. I’m a lot less worried about him expressing an honest view about a subject he couldn’t be more wrong about than I am about people who will lie to us about subjects they couldn’t be more wrong about (Bernie bots crying about socialism, Democrat hacks sniffling about the ACA, I’m looking right at you). I am far more concerned that even in the age of Trump, even people who ought to know far better are quick and eager to condemn this man and all of the good he has done over one taboo subject that he is unquestionably wrong about (and even he knows it).