Defending Milo Wasn't About Free Speech, It Was About Sticking It To Liberals
Life comes at you fast, especially if you decide to promote a man's terrible ideas for reasons just as terrible.
Defenders of Milo Yiannopoulos know that very well now, especially after a controversial video resurfaced over the weekend, showing the right-wing provocateur touting the benefits of relationships between grown men and young teens.
Chief among those aforementioned defenders is the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC, for short).
The group that hosts the conference, which begins on Wednesday, said it had previously extended the invitation in the name of free speech on college campuses.
Regardless of how weak of a motive that is, it's clear where the inspiration came from. Weeks before, Milo had been scheduled to give a speech at UC Berkley.
The speech never happened, though, because protests against Milo's appearance turned into a riot that resulted in violence and arson.
After the riots prevented Milo's performance from taking place, a discussion emerged.
On one hand, liberals argued Milo should be allowed to speak regardless of the content of his message, lest his right to free speech be violated.
On the other hand, people acknowledged Milo's free speech rights, but also argued that a line has to be drawn somewhere when deciding whether certain speakers should be allowed to use a platform like a college campus.
Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the ACU, which hosts CPAC, made clear which side he was on via Twitter.
Schlapp did this as other conservative writers (it's worth noting) ripped him for the decision.
Yet, after the controversial video made its rounds on Sunday, Schlapp and the ACU cut Milo loose from CPAC by Monday. This brings about an entirely new argument: Defending and promoting Milo in the name of free speech is almost transparently phony.
First, the idea that there shouldn't be an arbitrary line of decency that makes speech unacceptable was undermined by the fact that CPAC itself drew a line.
We can argue how right the conference was to establish the line, but proving one exists contradicts the CPAC's initial "free speech" position all the same.
Then there's the idea that Milo was a strong conservative figure, which made him fit to speak at CPAC.
Schlapp hinted at this when he said,
We initially extended the invitation knowing that the free speech issue on college campuses is a battlefield where we need brave, conservative standard-bearers.
But Milo himself insists he's not a conservative or Republican, and reiterated that as recently as this past Friday during an appearance on Bill Maher's HBO show.
Then there's the fact that all of Milo's most controversial statements were already accessible online.
The video of that prompted CPAC to give Milo the boot was posted on YouTube over a year ago, and he had long been made infamous for his provocative statements on race, gender, sex, rape, religions and more.
You'd think all of this was new information, if you were judging by the reactions he's received from his most notable backers.
CPAC took back his invitation, of course, but Milo also lost a book deal with Simon & Schuster.
Neither of those losses compare to his resignation at Breitbart, where staff members had reportedly threatened to quit if Milo was allowed to remain employed.
All three of those parties -- the conference, the publisher and the employer -- knew who Milo was from the beginning.
He's not a conservative, nor is he anyone worth making a free speech martyr out of. Just about the only thing that makes Milo genuinely useful to those who defended him was that he had a knack for ticking off his opponents.
In fact, even in his least defensible moment, there are those still willing to wield Milo to take a shot at liberals.
Their motive is transparent.
When you peel away at the flimsy free speech argument, then peel away at the idea that he's a strong Republican figure, and then peel away at the idea that his latest controversy somehow brings new information to the table (when it so clearly does not), you see the obvious.
For many people, defending Milo wasn't as much about sticking up for free speech as it was about sticking it to liberals.