If You Give a Provocateur a Platform

Nearly a year ago, it was impossible to log on to Facebook and not see Milo Yiannopoulos’ content. The Breitbart senior editor was the quite unusual celebrity. Similar to Tomi Lahren, Yiannopoulos has a unique talent most conservatives are unable to match; an ability to appeal to millennials.

As liberal protests on university campuses became increasingly more visible, conservative students began to feel alienated. Their response? Bring on Yiannopoulos to rattle them a bit.

In the hours following his appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher on Friday, February 17, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) extended an invitation to Yiannopoulos for a speaking engagement opportunity.

Just days later, Yiannopoulos is dominating headlines, but for all the wrong reasons. On Monday night, he lost his keynote with CPAC along with his book deal with Simon & Schuster. On Tuesday afternoon, he resigned from Breitbart.

These events were triggered when The Reagan Battalion resurfaced a year-old video podcast from The Drunken Peasants*, where he defended sex between young boys and older men, stating that older men can help young boys “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.”  This should concern listeners. What Yiannopoulos is describing is a grooming technique. He later joked that had it not been for a Catholic priest, he “wouldn’t give nearly such good head.”

Unfortunately for Breitbart, CPAC and Simon & Schuster, it’s impossible to claim moral high ground without seeming insincere. Everyone who ousted him in the last few days turned a blind eye to his past.

Breitbart                                                                                                                                                It’s hard to take editors at Breitbart seriously when they threaten to leave, claiming they’ve had an issue with Yiannopoulos for a while now.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” In this case, the Breitbart editors threatening to leave have none. Yiannopoulos made these comments about underage boys last year on both the Drunken Peasants and Joe Rogan podcasts. It’s likely Yiannopoulos’ promoted these podcasts on his social media accounts. It’s unlikely that his coworkers did not see it.

This is a media organization that taunted college-age liberals for being “special snowflakes,” while coddling Yiannopoulos. Imagine if Vox’s Ezra Klein was banned from Twitter for harassing Stacey Dash in a racist and sexist manner and encouraged his followers to do the same. The right would have a field day, demanding his resignation. And yet, Breitbart stood by Yiannopoulos when he was banned from Twitter for harassing Saturday Night Live actress Leslie Jones.

CPAC                                                                                                                                                         The purpose of CPAC is to show the public where American conservatism is moving forward.

In 2011 and 2015, Donald Trump spoke at the conference. In 2016, he won the presidential election.

For better or worse, Yiannopoulos would have made a fitting guest. The rise of Yiannopoulos parallels to that of President Donald Trump. Conservatives, particularly younger ones, felt victimized by the demands of young liberals and progressives. When he verbalized their concerns about feminists, the LGBT community, and Black Lives Matter, they felt reinvigorated.  Similarly, Trump drew attention to many Americans greatest fears regarding crime, trade, and immigration, which ultimately empowered them to vote.

As we dive deeper into the new administration, the face of the GOP and American conservatism as we know it begins to change. While Yiannopoulos supposedly only spoke for a small percentage of conservatives, his presence mirrored our current president.

CPAC was well aware of who they were inviting. When they invited him- they ultimately welcomed him and his ideas into the establishment. When they revoked it, they showed him and the public where they drew the line.

Simon & Schuster                                                                                                                              From the beginning, many took issue with Simon & Schuster’s decision to publish Yiannopoulos’ book Dangerous, where he would explain the rise of the “populist, nationalist Trump phenomenon.”

A petition demanded the publishing company to drop the book deal. Feminist Roxane Gay pulled her own book deal with Simon & Schuster following the announcement. Independent bookstores refused to carry the book.

When Simon & Schuster first defended their decision the stated that they “have always published books by a wide range of authors with greatly varying, and frequently controversial opinions, and appealing to many different audiences of readers.” Simon & Schuster also pointed out that the views of the authors do not reflect a corporate viewpoint.

Following the news that the publisher would drop Yiannopoulos’ deal, Gay dismissed the move as a business decision. By canceling the deal now, Simon & Schuster made the implication that they can handle supporting someone who pens articles like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” but they do not want to have financial ties to someone who makes light of pedophilia.

Nothing Has Changed                                                                                                           Yiannopoulos has always been a provocateur. He is only losing his ability to be visible because he got unlucky. Had the Reagan Battalion never dredged up the podcasts, he would have continued to speak at CPAC, his book would be published, and his co-workers would continue to work with him without incident.

Still, Yiannopoulos’ opposers should not get too excited about his downfall. After all, our current president had previously boasted about committing sexual assault.

*The transcript of the podcast can be read here.

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