Since the early days of its ascendance in the Republican Party, the conservative movement’s leaders have advanced their cause on two major claims that have shaped conservatism’s identity: moral rectitude and love of the Constitution. As it turns out, that was quite a sell job.
The hatred espoused by Trump and the cretins he’s defended, such as Breitbart News phenomenon Milo Yiannopoulos, initially found its voice, often in more polite language, in the conservative movement. Milo and the Donald may not be ideological conservatives, but they are nonetheless creations of the conservative movement. As I’ve noted before, these are players savvy enough to understand that conservatism never was fueled by ideology; it was always fueled by contempt for everyone other than non-Jewish white men.
Take the recent flap over the scheduled appearance of Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos to keynote the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which will take place later this week at a resort near Washington, D.C. After consternation reached a fever pitch over a video, long available online, showing Yiannopoulos saying that sex between men and pubescent boys could be a good thing for the boys, CPAC rescinded its invitation to the right’s favorite bad boy.
But CPAC’s addition of Yiannopoulos to its schedule came the day after an appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, in which the self-styled flamboyant bomb-thrower revealed his hatred toward everybody but white men. It wasn’t until video went viral on Monday from an appearance last year on a radio show called The Drunken Peasants, in which Yiannopoulos made his now-infamous pedophilia endorsement—courtesy of a tweet from a right-wing outfit called the Reagan Batallion—that CPAC rescinded its invitation.
Responding via his personal account on Twitter, Brendan Karet of Media Matters for America, put it succinctly:
MILO: nazis are smart
MILO: trans people are sick
MILO: target undocumented kids
MILO: NAMBLA's good
— Brendan Karet (@bad_takes) February 20, 2017
While Milo’s endorsement of pedophilia was about abuse of minors by Roman Catholic priests rather than members of the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), you get the idea.
By Tuesday, Yiannapoulos resigned his post as a senior editor at Breitbart News, where he had served under the leadership of Stephen K. Bannon, who is now the senior White House strategist and member of the National Security Council. At a press conference in New York on Tuesday, he accused the radio program’s producers of deceptively editing the videos (they didn’t), but nonetheless apologized for using “imprecise language” in his Drunken Peasants appearance.
Then he defaulted to the classic conservative victimhood stance, accusing the media of conducting a campaign against him to deprive him of his First Amendment rights. “But let’s be clear what is happening here,” Yiannopoulos said, as reported in The New York Times. “This is a cynical media witch hunt from people who don’t care about children.”
(See Trump corollary description of “the media” as “the enemy of the American people.”)
On display here is the recurring misrepresentation of First Amendment guarantees by countless conservatives who claim victimhood when something offensive they’ve said garners opposition. The First Amendment does not guarantee one a speaking slot at CPAC, an audience on a college campus, or a booking on television program. In fact, the First Amendment does not at all address what a non-government entity may or may not do in guaranteeing one’s right to speak one’s mind on that non-government entity’s platform. The First Amendment simply prohibits the government from “abridging the freedom of speech.” To date, none of Milo’s opponents, to my knowledge, have suggested that he be censored by the government, or jailed for his spewings.
At the close of a very bad few days, in which he lost his book deal with Simon & Schuster, his job with Breitbart News and his speaking slot at CPAC, Yiannopoulos was fast at work on what he does best: marketing his hateful brand.
“I’m proud to be a warrior for free speech and creative expression,” he said at his press conference. “I’m not going anywhere.”
With its more than 50-year quest to keep restaurants racially segregated, women as second-class citizens, LGBT people in the closet, and the planet a dumping ground for the waste of industrialists, the conservative movement must own Milo Yiannopoulos. His ginning of hatred against trans people, black people, Muslims, Jews and women stems from the license granted him by the underpinnings of the conservative movement. He is its creation, its values encapsulated in one especially vile human being.