Well it was bound to end in tears, but that was pretty quick. Milo Yiannopoulos, the British right-wing provocateur, has been disinvited from CPAC, the major convention/conference of conservatives, after a year-old video surfaced of him defending sexual relationships between “younger boys” and older men.
The youfful “conservative” media star, and very dodgy piece of work, was doing a video interview with video callers-in, and discussing the age-gap in relationships, between “young boys” and “older men”. He started by talking about a sexual relationship he had, aged 14, with a priest, going on to make a more general statement:
“We get hung up on this kind of child abuse stuff to the point where we’re heavily policing even relationships between consenting adults, you know grad students and professors at universities.”
A caller-in then says:
“The whole consent thing for me. It’s not this black and white thing that people try to paint it. Are there some 13-year-olds out there capable of giving informed consent to have sex with an adult, probably …”
However, Yiannopoulos sort of rejects that, and gets out of it:
“The law is probably about right, that’s probably roughly the right age. I think it’s probably about OK …”
Before going on to get back in it again:
“… but there are certainly people who are capable of giving consent at a younger age, I certainly consider myself to be one of them, people who are sexually active younger …”
Then tracking further in:
“I think it particularly happens in the gay world, by the way.”
And striking quicksand:
“In many cases actually those relationships with older men … This is one reason I hate the left. This stupid one size fits all policing of culture. (People speak over each other). This sort of arbitrary and oppressive idea of consent, which totally destroys you know understanding that many of us have. The complexities and subtleties and complicated nature of many relationships. You know, people are messy and complex. In the homosexual world particularly. Some of those relationships between younger boys and older men, the sort of coming of age relationships, the relationships in which those older men help those young boys to discover who they are, and give them security and safety and provide them with love and a reliable and sort of a rock where they can’t speak to their parents.”
Hoo-boy. When a caller interrupts to say it sounds like he was molested by the priest, Milo gives the kiss-off, perhaps to his career:
“And you know what, I’m grateful for Father Michael. I wouldn’t give nearly such good head if it wasn’t for him.”
By the time he goes on to try and make a point about pre- and post-pubertal attraction, the damage has been largely done. In a Facebook post after the video surfaced, Milo did the usual thing, berating those who allegedly don’t get him for being idiots, and arguing that in speaking of relationships between “younger boys and older men” he was speaking of 17-year-olds. But the context of the video makes clear that he is simultaneously endorsing the law as it stands, and the legitimacy of adult sex with 13- and 14-year-old-boys.
The exchange, and Milo’s evasive defence, caused CPAC to disinvite him. You might wonder how a US conservative political group, filled with fundamentalist Christians who still want homosexuality banned, came to invite Milo in the first place. He’s never sought to hide the fact that he is a gay (his preferred term) promiscuous drug user and party animal. Yet he calls himself a conservative.
How does that work? Well, in one way it’s consistent. There have been plenty of gay, libertine conservatives who have argued that they themselves should be, in some ways, marginal to mainstream society, which should be centred on families — indeed Yiannopoulos argues that most women would be happier accepting a more traditional role as full-time mothers, and that feminism has been a social and cultural disaster for them.
But the usual mode of this sort of gay conservatism, which covers everyone from Harold Acton to the late Christopher Pearson, was one of public continence — indeed living two lives, not out of hypocrisy, but out of the argument that a conservative society must have a continent and restrained public sphere. Once you let things rip, culture-wise, any institution that grounds shared meaning will be uprooted and trashed.
But right from the start, that hasn’t been Milo’s mode. He has flung his sexual life and personal style — Hitler-Youth-Tom-of-Finland chic — in the face of conservatives across the world. And they’ve loved it. They can’t get enough of it. Milo’s biggest fanboy in Australia has been Andrew Bolt, whose TV interview with him is something to behold, since Bolt can barely contain his excitement at being in Milo’s presence. Bolt was defending Milo on his blog as recently as Saturday, and we will watch for his comment with great interest. He says he will address the issue on tonight’s Bolt Report.
Why does this self-parodic media chancer serve as political Viagra for the “conservative” right? The answer is not simply because he’ll gleefully go further than many others, wading into the mire of racism repeatedly (he has been permanently banned from Twitter for leading a trolling of Leslie Jones, the female African-American actor in the recent Ghostbusters remake). There’s plenty to do that, but they tend to be heavyset men in trucking caps with their own YouTube channels. For a while, angular blondes of the Ann Coulter, Kellyanne Conway type — mean girls, all grown up — were the go, but we’re a bit jaded with them now.
Milo appeals because he embodies male libidinal energy to a movement that has so exhausted all its sources of such with its own incessant intoxicating anger, that it must now import it from outside. For the right, Milo is the equivalent of going to Tijuana for the weekend to get an over-the-counter testosterone/human-growth-hormone shot, and running wild (me? No, never). His retrochic style of “gayness”, bits of Bowie, Bob Fosse, Marinetti’s futurismo, and a Pasolini remake of Harry Potter, emphasises the masculinism of that era, and re-imports it.
In an era when the great “other” against the right was women, led by a woman, the only figure who could really invigorate conservative male confidence was a gay man. The Christian conservative who advocates “surrendered-wife” marriages and the red-pill “Return of Kings” PUA douche both share the conundrum that in resisting the rising power of women, they have to define themselves against it. Milo genuinely has no interest in them, except as girl-buddies (he was hanging round the Republican convention last year with Laurie Penny, the uber-correct UK leftist journalist). His disdain is effortless, and, for conservatives, infectious. That’s what makes them giddy.
That’s why a mob such as CPAC opened their doors to him. They’d previously banned Log Cabin, the LGBT Republican group, from speaking. But that is, of course, because Log Cabin advocate the total mainstreaming of LGBT life (they’re a little shaky on the “T”), the right to be as boring and unremarkable as everyone else, while Milo marginalises himself, willingly and consciously. Still, any genuine deep conservatism would have no place for him, because any genuine conservatism has to be founded on a notion that cultural order, and shared meaning, is precarious, and requires public continence and prudence to ensure its transmission across generations.
The Milo frenzy of these past couple of years is yet another sign that the conservative right is exhausted, the wellsprings of its politics run dry. It is now defined by what it opposes, the cultural left, and their desperation was such that they were willing to ignore all the signs that the boy would, well, blow up in their face. Let’s hope the right got their money’s worth.