What happened to Milo Yiannopoulos this week illustrates many problems in 21st-century culture, including the way the Internet has created a dangerous mob mentality. Justice Clarence Thomas famously called his Senate confirmation ordeal a “high-tech lynching,” but advances in technology have shortened the rope, so to speak. In a span of 72 hours, Yiannopoulos was disinvited from speaking at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, lost a book contract with Simon & Schuster, and was compelled to resign from his job as tech editor of Breitbart News.
Milo’s sudden downfall was precipitated by his remarks about pedophilia and child molestation in an interview he did in January 2016 with a YouTube program called “Drunken Peasants.” Yiannopoulos has complained that his remarks were taken out of context, and so the context is important to consider. Yiannopoulos gained prominence for his writing about the so-called “GamerGate” controversy in 2014 and 2015. This included two September 2015 articles about Sarah (neé Nicholas) Nyberg, an anti-GamerGate activist who in 2005 had described himself as a “transsexual pedophile” with an attraction toward a young female relative.
During the “Drunken Peasants” interview, the hosts asked Yiannopoulos to address an accusation that his criticism of Nyberg was hypocritical, because Yiannopoulos himself had previously confessed that he first had sex with an adult at age 13. This led to a five-minute discussion in which Yiannopoulos, who is homosexual, made comments that he himself later recanted as “outrageous.” In particular, Yiannopoulos asserted that “relationships very often between younger boys and older men … can be hugely positive experiences for those young boys.” This was almost an exact summary of claims made by sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, whose work has long been criticized by conservatives in part because one of Kinsey’s key sources was a serial child-molester. Similar claims were promoted by the homosexual pedophile group NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association) in the 1970s and ’80s, as well as by other pedophile activists, including a number of academics both in America and Europe.
The existence of an active pro-pedophile movement is not a myth. In 2002, I extensively covered the controversy surrounding feminist writer Judith Levine’s book Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Kids from Sex. In a telephone interview, Levine told me: “The research shows us that in some minority of cases, young — even quite young — people can have a positive sexual experience with an adult. That’s what the research shows.” At that time, liberals were defending Levine against what they called a right-wing “anti-sex” witch hunt, and in the subsequent paperback edition of her book, she added an epilogue in which I was named among the witch-hunters. As a parent, however, I shared the concerns expressed by one of Levine’s critics: “Some people view children as the next sexual frontier.” It did not escape notice of conservatives that advocates of pedophilia were using arguments borrowed from the gay-rights movement and, in fact, some of those activists (especially those associated with the Dutch pedophile journal Paidika) were avowed “boy lovers.” However, when conservatives made these points, liberals raised the outcry of “homophobia,” claiming that conservatives were promoting false stereotypes of predatory homosexuals.
The charge of hypocrisy leveled at Yiannopoulos, which provoked his “outrageous” comments, is therefore also equally applicable to liberals. Fifteen years ago, they were defending Judith Levine, but now liberals are celebrating the downfall of Yiannopoulos, a gay man who happens also to be a conservative (or as he calls himself, a “cultural libertarian”). Are witch hunts only to be condemned when those accused of witchcraft are our political antagonists? The haste with which Yiannopoulos was disinvited from CPAC shows that conservatives are at least aware of how damaging the accusation of defending pedophilia can be. Yet are we to expect that liberals will now recant everything they said in defense of Levine’s book? Of course not. The same liberals who savaged Justice Thomas over claims of “harassment” in 1991 turned around six years later and defended Bill Clinton over much more serious accusations made by Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey and others. Partisan loyalty to the Democrat Party seems to be the only moral principle American liberals acknowledge, except perhaps their total commitment to keeping abortion legal and guaranteeing federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
One thing that the lynch-mob destruction of Milo Yiannopoulos has demonstrated is that even the Democrat Party’s otherwise infinite enthusiasm for homosexuality is subject to revision, if liberals can score points by targeting gay conservatives. The people who exposed Milo’s comments were anti-Trump Republicans, according to longtime conservative blogger Jim Hoft, and this enables liberals to applaud the GOP circular firing squad’s takedown of a young provocateur who helped rally support for Trump’s populist agenda. In the Tuesday press conference where he announced his resignation from Breitbart News, Yiannopoulos blamed his penchant for “gallows humor and love of shock value” for his comments which, he said, “do not reflect my views.”
He has been severely chastised and, Milo’s friends must hope, he will henceforth avoid any further comments of that kind and work to redeem his reputation. As he noted during his press conference, he has exposed three pedophiles, “three more than most of my critics.” This is important work, because there are still many liberals – including tenured university professors – who are determined to undermine the laws that protect minors from sexual exploitation.
“Anyone who suggests I turn a blind eye to illegal activity or to the abuse of minors is unequivocally wrong,” Yiannopoulos said Tuesday. “I am implacably opposed to the normalization of pedophilia and I will continue to report and speak accordingly.”
His conservative friends will encourage Milo in that work, and hope that his liberal enemies soon have cause to regret their participation in his high-tech lynching. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and if Yiannopoulos is truly determined to expose the defenders of pedophilia, liberals won’t like the taste of that dish.