Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Don’t let Milo define the battle for free speech and campus conservatism

<rlier this week, as many of you already know, the world stopped turning for Milo Yiannopoulos, one of the alt-right’s most prolific and controversial crusaders. In a day, he lost his invitation to address CPAC, the annual gathering of the nation’s top conservative leaders, had his lucrative book deal with Simon & Schuster terminated, and was effectively forced to resign from Breitbart, the media-arm of the alt-right that he helped propel to prominence and infamy, after various writers and editors threatened a mass exodus from the publication should he have continued there.

What was the reason for such a wave of misfortune? The answer lies in comments Milo Yiannopoulos made last year on the podcast, “Drunken Peasants,” where the provocateur seemingly attempted to defend the horrendous practice of pederasty, all while touting the supposed benefits that such relationships had on his sexual development. It’s easy to see why such disgusting assertions would lead to this heavy backlash, and no indications of a contrite conscience could assuage the blame and shame that will continue to be directed his way.

Frankly, I was pleased to see Milo Yiannopoulos suffer the detrimental consequences of his own words and excesses. For far too long, I grew tired of reading about his frequent exploits and harassments, and I waited for the day when he would truly pay for his course of action, not through shortsighted and violent protests and boycotts on college campuses, but through more effective social pressures and market mechanisms.

Yet, I fear that Milo Yiannopoulos’ deserved downfall will bring with it innocent victims, victims that have already been under constant siege for far too long: rational conservatism and campus free speech.

To make the matter clear, I am not claiming that Milo Yiannopoulos represented either tenet in any meaningful way. Milo’s rhetoric and talking points were not “conservative” but in fact were just vitriolic and haphazardly coherent talking points aimed at anyone who bothered to listen. Milo may have had more legitimacy as a defender of free speech, but only in so far as his presence on college campuses highlighted the disruptive extremes certain students take to shield themselves from ideas and discourse that makes them uncomfortable, yet that is as far as his positive contributions have gone.

If anything, his influence on campus conservatism and free speech has been, in aggregate, deleterious. His name is the first one that most college students conjure up when they discuss what free speech means on campus. When such a divisive figure becomes the poster child for a movement, it isn’t hard to understand why some people will be reluctant to embrace it, even if he is just a microcosm of the entire issue. When liberals and centrists hear him constantly referred to as a leading conservative voice, it makes them less inclined to take conservative and libertarian ideas seriously.

My fellow conservatives and libertarians are, in fact, greatly responsible for such erroneous associations. For far too long we have stopped looking for the intellectual bulwarks we need to provide the vigorous defense of our ideas to the greater public, and to engage the other side in meaningful debate that, if not successful in convincing them to join us, at least allows them to develop a greater respect for us. Yet, instead of looking for such figures, we have settled for the boisterous showmen who know how to rile up the scorn of the masses, who provide unforgettable entertainment and superficial amusement but who are in the end nothing more than talking heads devoid of any substantive views and contributions to the movement. People like Milo.

The fact that Milo Yiannopoulos was even invited to address CPAC should be an embarrassment to all of us on the political right. He would stand at the same podium that individuals like William F. Buckley Jr. and Ronald Reagan formerly graced, but without their power of presence and discerning insight. If we are to survive this volatile political climate in a manner for which we can be proud of, then we must identify and empower our intellectual vanguard or become such a vanguard ourselves, ready to stand unperturbed for the principles we hold dear.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *