Milo Yiannopoulos, the social media agent provocateur banned from Twitter for mocking the star of the oh-so-PC, all-female Ghostbusters remake, Leslie Jones, is gaining a following among Australian conservatives.
“Very entertaining guy and very informative,” one comment on a local right-leaning blog read recently.
It looked as if it was meant to be taken literally, but that’s the kind of thing I say about Milo sarcastically. For there’s nothing entertaining about a man who totes a Louis Vuitton purse on one arm and an AK-47 in the other. And there’s nothing informative about a chap who refers to Trump as ‘Daddy’ unless you’re blissfully unaware it’s shorthand in certain sectors of the LGBTI-whatever community for an older, sexually dominant male. (Gay Turnbullistas are known to employ the term, too.)
Would that Milo was just another extravagantly campy media personality: a new Julian Clary. But he’s not. Milo is consistently labelled a conservative; a figurehead of the conservative movement, even.
A conservative he most certainly isn’t. One of Milo’s favourite praises for his Daddy is that Trump ‘instinctively, clearly [understands] … that for many voters, not all of them, social conservatism is dead’ – that he speaks for a ’new generation of Republican voters who don’t care too much about the social conservatism of the old order.’
And what’s the conservatism of the ‘new order’? Well, Milo doesn’t really have an answer to that. But his agenda, whatever ideological euphemism you want to slap on it, has nothing remotely to do with anything recognisably conservative.
He calls gays ‘natural libertarians’, saying that ‘the best of gay culture is about pushing the boundaries of what can be thought and said.’
Milo believes ‘Some of the best things about being gay’ is that his clan ‘sort of have a license to misbehave in a way that people with marriages and children – responsibilities – don’t. He criticises ‘the left’ for ‘encouraging them [that is, gays] to domesticate themselves, sort of get involved in sort of bourgeois, conservative, middle-class institutions like marriage’ and ‘to try to turn them into nice, well-ordered, well-behaved, middle-class couples’. Can you hear the echoes of Burke? I can’t.
Don’t get me wrong: Milo makes some entirely valid points. He’s right to say that, by refusing to condemn Islamic fundamentalism, progressives passively facilitate atrocities like the Orlando nightclub shooting. His much-touted statistic that 52 per cent of British Muslims believe homosexual acts should be illegal is perfectly true. And he’s right to say that modern Christians (and Catholics in particular) treat homosexuals with charity, sympathy, and love. There’s no denying that Milo has his uses.
But when this becomes enough to qualify one as a conservative – let alone a conservative figurehead – we’ve lost the plot. Milo’s not a conservative. He is, by his own repeated admission, an anti-conservative. So he’s a libertarian at best, and a libertine at worst. Maybe he rose to stardom by being a sort of token gay, anti-Leftist attack dog, but he’s not one of us.
This is what I call ‘The @Nero Fallacy’, after Milo’s late Twitter account. Anyone who criticises or mocks the left is now automatically deemed a conservative, even (and sometimes especially) by conservatives themselves. If they’re rude and lewd while they do it, all the better. We invite them onto our talk shows, publish them in our magazines. We allow them to represent us, our priorities, and our beliefs.
But in doing so, we tacitly admit that conservatism is nothing more than the negation of progressivism. We have no values of our own, nothing constructive to add to public discourse. We stand for nothing more than tying bitchy notes to rocks and throwing them through progressives’ windows.
Mind you, this is entirely distinct from the longstanding right/old left alliance, epitomised by Speccie contributors like Rod Liddle and Brendan O’Neill. We lend these men and women our rostrum with the full knowledge that they don’t believe what we believe – that our alliance is based on pragmatism, not principle. That disclaimer allowed conservatives to cooperate with dissident leftists without losing our identity. We didn’t make ideological smoothies: we built coalitions.
But that way of doing things has broken down, and now so, too, is the conservative movement if it sits by and nods approvingly while Milo Yiannopoulos attacks marriage as ‘domesticating’, ‘bourgeois’, ‘middle-class’, and (gasp!) ‘conservative’, it shows that we as a movement value nothing above paltry contrarianism.
It may be too late now to correct the path we’ve stumbled upon if old hands of the conservative movement now buy Milo’s lie that conservatism of the old order is another casualty of the inevitable march of history – that we should hold our ankles and accept the lowest common denominator with smiling gratitude.
These poor souls are in for a rude awakening. With virtually every social-conservative indicator on the rise among young people – from a belief in traditional marriage and the sanctity of life, to enthusiasm for the monarchy and traditional liturgy – conservatism is on the rebound. It might not come to pass in your lifetime, or even in mine, but this century will see a return of classical, Burkean conservatism. Growing up in the social and political anarchy embodied by men like Milo, the rising generations are increasingly turning back to the well-worn values of our grandparents and great-grandparents.
But this traditionalist renaissance will be stillborn if the current conservative bigwigs buy into the @Nero Fallacy and all its camp cynicism. If they want to see the conservative movement flourish in the new century, for God’s sake, they need to get out of our way.