It has long been obvious that raising the banner of ‘fighting political correctness ‘ gives conservatives the freedom to attack marginalized groups without fear of being called bigots or racists. Add the bonus of attacking liberals and Democrats, season it with some good old American jingoism, and and you become a darling of the right-wingers.
I have not been following the activities of this character called Milo Yiannopoulos but what I gathered causally from news headlines is that he seems to be a truly odious person who has managed to take the familiar Ann Coulter route to fame by making outrageous and hateful statements about all manner of marginalized groups and claiming to do so in the name of fighting ‘political correctness’. This is guaranteed to bring praise from right-wingers because they finally feel free to say what’s on their minds and can even preen themselves on being heroic. The release of all this venom has been quite remarkable to see, though disgusting.
He has attacked feminists, women who use birth control, Jews, Muslims, transgender people, and foreigners, though he himself is from the UK and is not an American. But we all know that there are ‘good’ foreigners (white, Christian, European) and ‘bad’ foreigners (everyone else). Since he is also gay, that apparently made him a contrarian hero and provided him with a free pass to spew his venom.
His career had been on an upward trajectory and he has been invited to give speeches and appear on TV and most recently got a lucrative book deal and was invited to be a keynote speaker at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), an annual gathering of extreme-right wingers that was scheduled for next week. But then a video emerged of him condoning pedophilia and that seemed to the one thing that crossed the line. He has been abruptly disinvited from CPAC and publisher Simon & Schuster has cancelled his lucrative book deal.
What is ironic is that conservatives have been quick to condemn it when speakers who have hateful views have been disinvited by colleges and other institutions, saying that free speech was being muzzled. I wonder why these once-zealous advocates of free speech are now not condemning CPAC for disinviting Yiannopolous because of his views?
As should have been obvious, the right to free speech means the right to speak, not the right to be given a prominent platform. People like Yiannopolous are free to stand on the street corner and express their views. But that distinction seems to elude conservatives. Clearly what distinguishes progressive champions of free speech from conservative ones is that progressives set a higher bar for giving speakers a platform while conservatives seem to be willing to welcome the worst bottom feeders.
The Yiannopolous case seems to indicate that pedophilia seems to be the one thing that gets you ostracized by the right-wingers. But given that other taboos such as xenophobia, misogyny, and racism have ceased to be sufficient to be shunned by conservatives, it would not surprise me in the least to soon see right-wingers advocate for pedophilia and bestiality under the banner of fighting political correctness. But for now at least, it seems that pedophilia is where these conservatives draw they line and they expect to be praised for their action. Such is the sorry state of conservatism today. It used to be a philosophy that was coherent and had many worthy principles. Right now, it is the umbrella under which bigots and racists unite.
As I said, I knew little about Yiannopolous and had never seen or heard him before. But in this episode on Bill Maher’s show, he turns out to be utterly odious, smirking and unctuous and clearly intent on getting a rise out of others by making outrageous statements. Is that what passes for courage these days among conservatives? It was nice to see Larry Wilmore put him in his place. Jeremy Scahill was also invited to appear on the same panel but he refused, saying that to do so would be to give credibility to Yiannopolous. Maher’s invitation to Yiannopolous to appear on his show was a disgrace, and his condemning of Scahill’s withdrawal showed the poverty of Maher’s libertarian philosophy.