Milo Yiannopoulos and Intellectual Progress
Milo Yiannopoulos is one of the most reviled public personalities of recent times. Although, one searches in vain for a compelling reason for this attitude. While it, undoubtedly, relates to the Left-leaning bias in journalism and political commentary, a more thorough examination is warranted. Who is Milo? What has he done to inspire such vitriol?
The answer to the first question is disarmingly simple. Milo is a conservative political journalist who has no time for political correctness, toxic feminism, or the moral sanctimony when disagreeing with the Left. This no doubt answers much of the second question as well. Political polarisation is a great issue of our time, and pundits from both sides of the aisle must be called to answer for what even the most ardent atheist would call the sin of motivated reasoning. There is a deeper issue about Milo: he’s a gay, conservative, Christian.
The Left is used to moral monopolies. Whether it’s immigration, economics, war, or gender equality, the moral position has been considered, without much concern for the facts, the one espoused by the Left. When a conservative comes forward and expresses concerns over the merits of allowing immigration from some of the most morally backward countries on Earth, they are shouted down as racist. When a right-leaning pundit articulates, quite rationally, that the problem of gender inequality has been exacerbated in some respects by the hysteria of certain “progressive” activists, they are branded as sexist. This is a nuanced point that deserves further explanation. Take the current trend around gender identity and its neurological correlates. Milo has, in an interview with Dave Rubin, articulated the hypocrisy of those radical gender theorists on the Left who on the one hand claim that gender is purely a social construct, and on the other, defend transgender people by claiming that they are born with the wrong brain. That is to say, for the purposes of the first argument, claim that there is no such thing as a gendered brain, and for the purposes of the second, claim that there is. This is rank hypocrisy and Milo’s observance of this is greeted with no-platforming attempts and the rending of garments. Milo no doubt says some very objectionable things about feminists and social justice warriors that are unjustified and harmful, but he has valid contributions to make in critiquing the received knowledge of those who accept these gender theories as gospel truth.
Not only does this ‘dialecticism’ harm the prospect of a civilised discussion of important issues, it is almost impossible to dispel. Accusations of sexism, bigotry and racism, rather than requiring to be proven before being accepted, are assumed to be true until refuted by the target. It doesn’t matter the absurdity of the claim. The onus falls on the accused to prove their innocence in a perverse inversion of the standard of proof required in a criminal trial. This sort of argumentative style replaces actual reasoned debate. It is an impediment to substantive discussion about the issues in society. Instead of talking about issues, interlocutors are more interested in throwing increasingly meaningless epithets at their opponents.
Milo inserts himself into this maelstrom of unreason and immediately draws the ire of his liberal opponents. Now, speaking rationally, one’s sexual orientation should in principle have nothing to do with one’s political beliefs, but the Left has appropriated the struggle for equal rights for LGBT people. Consequently, it is assumed that if a person is gay, then they must be a liberal. Not in the sense that gay people aren’t allowed to be anything else, but in the sense that because liberals form the majority of those campaigning for LGBT rights, then any gay person would obviously conform to that set of political beliefs. Thankfully, people like Dave Rubin, Andrew Sullivan, and Milo are doing much work to reverse this trend, much to the chagrin of liberal intellectual elites.
The most distressing fact is that, if these elites stopped and considered the impact Milo could have, they would be supporting him speaking as much as possible. Milo, who was awarded the dubious honour of being the most disinvited speaker of 2016, is a gay conservative. The gay community as a whole must be aware that a barrier to young people coming out is the response that they may get from their peers. Milo’s intellectual diversity is a huge step to overcoming this.
Humans are intrinsically communal creatures. It takes a lot of courage to strike out alone and chart your own course in life. Imagine a young gay man. He hasn’t informed the world about his sexuality. Of course, a world in which such an announcement is unbearably mundane is the ultimate goal, but in the interim, finding ways to make LGBT individuals more comfortable with themselves is a priority. Now, imagine this man being a conservative. He values societal institutions and is wary of an overbearing government - both perfectly rational positions.
He is constantly bombarded by the implicit message that being gay means conservatives are, and conservatism in general is, his enemy. This erects another barrier between him and admitting to society his true nature. Now, imagine Milo comes to his school, gives an irreverent and entertaining presentation during which he mentions he is gay. The barrier disappears. Other people like him are gay too. Milo is like me. He’s clearly successful. Maybe it’s not such a problem.
The irony of the Left’s silencing of Milo and people like him is that, in every other context, they campaign for diversity. Gender diversity? Obviously. Sexual diversity? Absolutely. Intellectual diversity? Are you mad? What if the children start disagreeing with us? What if the assumed moral high ground that we have so assiduously cultivated over the past four decades is stolen from us by charismatic, intelligent, and robust conservatives?
Set in this context, it’s obvious why such attitudes exist. I’m not defending everything Milo says. His rants are much like his vaunted Holy Bible: dashes of brilliance obscured by a tornado of bullshit and hyperbole. When combined with his penchant for contrarian positions and a near-total disregard for the opinions of others with whom he disagrees, one can appreciate his iconoclast status. But until we admit to ourselves that both sides of politics have valid contributions to make to the zeitgeist, then we will be forever plagued by the infantile mentality that a debate is about winning. Civilizational progress depends on debate being about learning.