A Partial Defense of Milo Yiannopoulos

Some thoughts on the Milo Yiannopoulos brouhaha. Of course the former Breitbart.com editor’s videotaped comments, in which he seemed to condone sex with young teenage boys, are appalling. And, like many others, I found his denials and apologies to be insufficient.

But I’d like to put some other things on the table to explain why I’m not yet willing to write off Milo—and you shouldn’t, either. I’m not just referring to his ability to outrage liberals and left-wingers, or to his courage—sometimes physical courage—in defending free speech against their occasionally violent reactions. Rather, I’m talking about a series of even more courageous statements that set him apart from other gay conservatives, and even most straight conservatives, as someone willing to challenge liberal orthodoxy on gay and other sexual issues.

Let’s start with some of the other things he’s said about pedophilia. In an article published after Salon ran a sympathetic self-portrait by an avowed pedophile, Milo blasted the left for seeking to “normalise child abuse,” and he did so in language that uncomfortably linked this effort to the previous normalization of homosexuality and transgenderism:

Horrifyingly, there are signs of a new pedophile acceptance movement forming on the Left. [T]he gay rights movement is being used as a template. First comes the argument that pedophiles are just “born that way,” absolving them of any moral responsibility for their desires. Then comes the argument that pedophiles are just normal people, like the rest of us, but somehow impoverished or victimised by their own condition.

Inevitably, our society’s current ostracisation of pedophiles will be portrayed as an injustice: an oppression from which pedophiles must be liberated, or for which they deserve our sympathy.

Milo has called the notion that gays are “born this way”—that there is a gay gene—a “big lie,” stating, correctly, that “the science suggests that it’s a mixture of nature and nurture,” and, provocatively, that “in my own experience it’s certainly mostly nurture.” In the same interview, he spoke with amazing sympathy and open-mindedness about the gay conversion therapy that it is de rigueur to mock (and, in some places, outlaw): “Lots of people say it works, and lots of people say it doesn’t work. But people who say it doesn’t work— it’s always ‘bigoted!,’ ‘hateful!,’ — But there are just as many people who you will never hear about because the media doesn’t want to report them who say ‘yeah, it transformed my life, I’ve got a wife and I’ve got kids and I’m happy now and I wasn’t before.’” Further, he has come to the defense of a professor who scandalized the Society of Christian Philosophers with a lecture arguing that homosexuality is a disability, triggering the hysteria that one would expect.

Most notably, in an uncharacteristically serious and profoundly moving statement last fall he said that he would take a “straight pill” in order to be a father. In honestly confronting this choice, Milo cut to the heart of what troubles many social conservatives about the gay movement and several other modern “progressive” movements—the placement of sexual gratification above the basic human need to create and nurture children.

It’s hard to think of a single other prominent gay person, Left or Right, who would do this. Certainly not the “innocuously mainstream gay Republicans” of GOProud who Robert Tracinski favorably contrasted to Milo in a recent column at The Federalist. For that matter, it’s hard to think of too many prominent straight people, Left or Right, who would own up to approving of what Milo said. Gay or straight, Left or Right, those who parrot the ideological fashions and clichés of the day are far more likely to brand such honesty as “self-loathing,” as gay #NeverTrump conservative James Kirchick did in this attack on Milo.

What particularly strikes me in reading and listening to Milo is that it’s only every once in a blue moon now that one hears—no, it’s not that frequent anymore. One never hears this kind of open discussion about topics like homosexuality or abortion, or race, or a host of other topics about which discussion is now forbidden. It reminds me of the discussions in the late ’60s and early ’70s when I came of age politically. I was on the left side of those discussions, and I might still be, or at least be a lot closer to it than I am—if discussion were still allowed. Then one could actually debate whether gays would prefer to be straight, and would take a pill to do so, without automatically invoking screams about Dr. Mengele. Liberals were still allowed, even expected, to argue for abortion in terms of balancing life interests rather than merely shrieking “reproductive rights!” One could still suggest that perhaps racial understanding was best served by everyone going about their business rather than picking at scabs in ESTian “conversations” in which only one side is allowed to converse. One could even talk about the pros and cons of the emergency wartime internment policy adopted and upheld by those well-known right-wing racists Franklin D. Roosevelt and William O. Douglas.

Exceedingly rare statements like Milo’s are a refreshing injection of genuine and open thought into an increasingly Orwellian political dialogue. And, for all the hand-wringing about his coarsening of the culture, I think this makes him more of a positive than a negative influence on it.

But how do I square these refreshingly honest statements with the interview of him apparently justifying sex with young teens? I don’t, other than to say that Milo is a very interesting work in progress, and direction is far more important in politics than current position. I don’t think the Milo of that video and the Milo who speaks movingly of his desire to be a father can coexist. And given the direction Milo seems to be moving, I think it’s far more likely that a few years from now he will have fully renounced the first video rather than the “straight pill” statement.

Meantime, while it was probably appropriate to disinvite him from CPAC (and maybe even weird of the American Conservative Union to have invited him in the first place), conservatives should not join the Left in piling on and seeking to destroy him.

About Dennis Saffran

Dennis Saffran is a Queens, N.Y.-based appellate attorney and political and policy writer whose work has appeared in City Journal, The Federalist, the Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. Follow him on twitter @dennisjsaffran.

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22 responses to “A Partial Defense of Milo Yiannopoulos”

  1. This is what I like about American Greatness. The lack of orthodox response. In this case, the unwillingness to ‘pile on’ Milo Yiannopoulos misfortune (however self-inflicted).

  2. Milo is great. The anti-Trumpians hate him and they decided to bring him down because he was getting too popular. His opponents smeared him with “pedophilia” even though he was clearly not supporting that. They’re not talking about a clip of Maher basically supporting what Milo was talking about, hebephilia. They’re not talking about Cuomo claiming young girls should be exposed to male genitalia whether they want to or not.
    The anti-Trumpians want to destroy our President and any of his supporters are fair game.

  3. Uh-oh. He started his essay:

    “Of course the former Breitbart.com editor’s videotaped comments, in which he seemed to condone sex with young teenage boys, are appalling.”

    So I quit reading. Of course….he seemed? He blithely smears Milo, then is going to have something intelligent to say? Milo’s defenestration and media destruction is a clear example of the left’s success in co-opting dumb Republicans into helping destroy the messenger. Milo has unconventional societal tics built into his shtick, but is in no way a pedophile, nor does he ever promote such. Very disappointed in this article today.

  4. Milo says things that people -on both sides, and in the middle- don’t want to hear. But he’s very effective against the Left so the Left used what the ‘Purists’ on the Right couldn’t bear to hear, and embellished it to boot.

    Little bit of Checklist Conservatism maybe?

  5. Seems like years & years ago when public discussion actually showcased a variety of viewpoints instead of ideological purity. Although student protests shut down speakers at the Ivy League schools even in the early 70s. I remember Linus Pauling being shut down at Harvard for daring to suggest that testing should be done to determine if there were racial differences in conceptional thinking. Milo is capable of breaking through the constraints to make outrageous, funny, and often telling truths. I have often wondered if there weren’t a connection between homosexuality and pedophilia. And what really should be the age of consent? Loretta Lynn, as all C&W fans know, was married at 13 in Tennessee. Bet she wasn’t the only one. I wish Milo well and hope to see him back in the public eye.

  6. I’ve seen his comments, which are not at all appalling, and neither are his apologies insufficient.

  7. I appreciate with the author is saying, but I do agree with Trinity, that he seems to believe that Milo was in some way affirming pedophilia. I don’t think so at all, but that’s besides the point. A pro-Trump, anti-leftist gay guy says something that is at least questionable, and he must be destroyed. The reason? He’s so effective. He gets that the totalitarian group-think leftists who dominate Western culture are the enemy, and he calls them out on it. Some people think this is self-promotion to get a book deal (people who make such charges question everyone’s motives but their own), but I see it as what liberals used to believe in, speaking truth to power. In this case, cultural power.

    My 15 year-old digs Milo, and it allows me to teach him about the evil irrationality of leftism/liberalism. It also allows me to teach him about Christian sexual ethics, while at the same time respecting others who disagree because they too are sinners made in the image of God. I will pray for Milo because I think he genuinely cares about the Truth, something many of his enemies don’t even believe in.

  8. Interesting defense of Milo

    Kind of like supporting a presidential candidate even after hearing him discuss his fondness for grabbing women by her their genitalia, because you are reasonably sure he will cut your taxes and deregulate industry.

    Flexible principles are a cornerstone of this administration, and hence this blog, no?

    • You entirely mischaracterize what Trump said about grabbing pussy, and thus show your leftist bona fides.

      • School me: What did he say about the down stairs grab?

      • It was idiotic locker room type of talk, not crowing about what he’d done. Women are attracted to successful and rich men. That’s school.

      • His first two wives and the untold mistresses he has used as whores, might disagree.

      • Of course you CANNOT dispute the validity of my statement..so you resort to name calling.

        Very Trump-like.

    • I listened to the audio. There is nothing there except adolescent raunchiness. There is no doubt that women will be safer now that Trump rather than Clinton is in the WH.

      • ANd if your daughter was dating a man who said such a thing you would be fine with that? Sad.

  9. I can’t profess to know much about MY, only what has come in the latest Kerfuffle, but he seems to share most political ground with the conservatives and the Trumpsters.

    Now think about what would be happening if Milo were a lefty homosexual militant. The Democrats would be braying their support and attacking everybody in sight at the slightest suggestion that there was anything untoward about his latest comments.

    One thing to say in favor of the Democrats, they never turn on their own, no matter how weird or unhinged. But we on the right will eat our own at the slightest suggestion of impropriety.

    Witness the move by some Repubs in Congress for a “special prosecutor ” to investigate connections between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Besides being so far fetched as to boggle the mind, don’t these guys realize that a “special prosecutor” — any special prosecutor appointed for any reason, would cripple Trumpp and his administration with endless depositions and leaks. Where have they been the last 30 years or so?

    • I’ve been thinking about the hypocrisy of the Democrats and their selective moral outrage over Milo’s statements. Where is the outrage over their darling, Lena Dunham, who wrote about repeatedly molesting her own baby sister? I recently learned that Camille Paglia (a writer I occasionally read because her opinions are interesting and not just dreary doctrinaire leftism) has also written in unabashed defense of pedophilia, to crickets from the Left. The Left’s full support of the Transgenderism movement’s push to indoctrinate children with the notion that gender dysphoria is normal, even desirable, and the effort to force schools to open restrooms and locker rooms to anyone subjectively claiming to be the sex they’re not also sexually exploits children and puts them in harm’s way, and is therefore a close cousin to the crime of pedophilia.

      Conservatives can refrain from joining the Left in its Milo beat down by adhering to one of the cornerstones of conservative thinking, which is we are all individuals fallen from grace, and when one of us inevitably stumbles we can condemn the trespass while still reaching out in compassion. As the article points out, we should look at the totality of Milo’s work and statements to arrive at a fair assessment of his positions rather than, like the Left routinely does, destroy the offender based on one or two selectively chosen interviews.

  10. Milo Y. is useful. We do not have to embrace him. We do not have to condemn him. It is worth listening to him even if we do not agree. Personally I think he is a work in progress. But it doesn’t matter what I think since I don’t know him. He is after all a celebrity and not my friend. I think I would enjoy having him over for dinner but I will never find out.

    We need to get past the notion that there is a clear line between good people and bad people based on their opinions. And that we must either embrace them or shun them based on whether they believe the right things.This is the poison of political correctness. We must avoid acting like SJWs and hiding out in safe spaces.