In defending Western civilization against the onslaught of moral relativism, conservatives have been allocated few charismatic champions in popular culture. For a time, Milo Yiannopoulos looked like he might have been one of those figures. His downfall is a cautionary tale of the perils of engaging the Left in an arena where libertine behavior is common, while at the same time defending the norms of traditional morality.
Milo’s disgrace stemmed from remarks made to the effect that a consensual homosexual relationship between a pubescent boy and an adult male could be beneficial to the younger party. While Milo vehemently objects to labeling this as pedophilia, the vast majority, especially on the right, view it as child abuse pure and simple. In his defense, he did not advocate for lowering the age of consent, but the damage was done.
The cultural history of man/boy relationships is as old as Sacred Band of Thebes in the 4th century B.C., where homosexual warriors fought side-by-side. Rightly or wrongly – wrongly I would argue – there is little doubt that these relationships are viewed with greater acceptance within the homosexual community than without. This disagreement is but one of the pitfalls faced by the Right when recruiting from within an avant-guard culture, where homosexuality and other uncommon behavior is more prevalent than in the rest of society.
Appreciative fans of Milo’s “Dangerous Faggot” tour recognize that his status as a homosexual lent credibility to his attacks upon the leftist culture. Just as conservatives point to Clarence Thomas, Tim Scott and many others as proof against the absurd and disgusting charge of racism, so too did Milo enable a defense against homophobia. His expulsion makes that defense more difficult, especially among homosexuals who might be sympathetic to his point of view. Pointing this out should not be taken as agreement with Milo’s position – far from – but simply as an observation of the difficulties conservatives face advancing from their narrow beachhead onto the promontories of higher culture.
Conservatives ought to have an easier time confronting the monolithic culture of leftist thought. The entire idea of the avant-garde is that is an advanced unit, battling against prevailing cultural norms and achieving success as a scrappy underdog. Nothing could be more absurd than the Left imagining themselves in this role of provocateur, when they own Hollywood, academia, the media and nearly every venue and organ of artistic thought.
There is no leftist outrage, blasphemy or violation of middle class ethics that would not be praised by cultural authorities, not for artistic merit – usually inversely proportional to “controversy” – but rather because such works perpetuate the sham that a trillion-dollar industry is really about the lonely persecuted artist.
The post-modernist destruction of the visual arts by the left had two basic purposes. The first was money, which contrary to their shrieking denials, should always be assumed to be at the forefront of liberal motivation. Restricting the arts to a handful of people working months or years to complete a single piece does not translate into great wealth for administrators running the industry. But what if one could recruit an army of mediocrities to turn out slapdash schlock and convince the public of its alleged importance and counterfeit beauty?
Secondly, the Left destroyed the visual arts to annihilate aesthetic virtue, and in so doing further their nihilistic aim of destroying the concept of truth in objective reality. If that which is ugly can now be called beautiful, then that which is false can now be called true. The political implications to this philosophic inversion are everywhere apparent: resistance to confiscatory taxation is “greed”; desiring the reform of destructive social welfare programs is “mean-spirited”; recognizing the permanence and dichotomy of sex organs is “discrimination”, and so on. Mutilating truth in the field of aesthetics is simply a precursor to doing so elsewhere.
The Left’s problem is that it takes a lot of force to suppress natural laws and objective reality. Serial liars can be made to look like fools by someone capable of cogent discourse and undeterred by obliquy. Far from being members of an avant-garde, the Left is the very definition of an ossified establishment, organizing riots to shut down countervailing speech, such as those witnessed in Berkeley during Milo’s scheduled speech. This and other incidents, such as the riots at the inauguration and at New York University over Gavin McInnes, are unequivocal victories by the Right in the Culture Wars.
Just as the Chicago riots of 1968 during the Democratic National Convention helped propel Nixon to victory on a “law and order” platform, so too do incidents of leftist violence illustrate to a wider audience their reliance on force over reason. Conservatives have done an excellent job in creating their own media and using it to expose the corrupt practices and insane worldview of the Left, but their success has not extended to academia or the arts.
Stop and think what the Left could do to the Right, if the latter served them up storylines such as those swirling around Bill Clinton. Drugs, rape, murder, power, global corruption, plus a vicious and unlikeable female lead – it doesn’t matter if it’s provable, the multi-season series writes itself. The right sorely lacks the primary infrastructure necessary to modern story-telling. Conservatives can blow gaping holes in the ‘Gulfstream Communists are the good guys’ theme, but in order to win, they must recreate the American mythos as it existed before the Left set out to bury it.
Losing Milo Yiannopoulos as a warrior against liberalism – whether or not he believed in conservatism or even in what one might call sexual decency – is a blow against the common effort to deconstruct the leftist culture from the inside out. There is no evidence that Milo acted upon his acceptance of man/boy love – except as the junior partner. He should be given a chance to fully retract his previously stated position before being ostracized by the Right.
The more inroads that conservatives make into the higher culture, the more they will confront issues outside their comfort zone and realm of experience. Forgiveness of the sinner is not tantamount to embracing the sin, provided the sinner renounces it. As Iago said to Othello, “where’s that palace whereinto foul things sometimes intrude not?” If the Right is to flip more pieces in the culture wars, they shouldn’t be surprised by what might come scurrying out; they ought to deal with these eventualities in a manner that doesn’t involve expulsion, except in worst case scenarios – not for Milo’s sake but for their own.
The author has worked on numerous statewide political campaigns in Virginia, South Dakota and Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in The Federalist, the Daily Caller and other sites. He currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area. Follow him on Twitter @PHGuthrie