Yiannopoulos’s invitation was, perhaps, the logical dénouement for a cause that prioritizes provocateurs over polemicists and entertainment over substance. His appearance could be seen as a microcosm of a movement that became everything it used to hate—that defines deviancy down.
True conservatism has been replaced by a fetish for fighting political correctness. Along with a penchant for showmanship, this seems to be Yiannopoulos’s entire shtick―and it’s a good one. The enemy of your enemy is your friend, and since Yiannopoulos says horrible things about radical feminists and other annoying leftists, he is, ergo, a conservative hero. This was the initial message from Schlapp. Before rescinding Yiannopoulos’s invitation (in response to a critical tweet from conservative writer Jonah Goldberg), Schlapp said the “1st amendment is dead on campus. Conservatives should fight back. As radioactive as milo is he is fighting back.”
If “fighting back” means using the weapons of identity politics and victimhood is the name of the game, then Yiannopoulos is bulletproof. He’s gay and (he says) part Jewish (and he likes “ black dick,” so you can’t call him a bigot or a homophobe). He also has a British accent, which American conservatives mistake for sophistication, so he can’t be labeled a rube. He’s also a martyr who evokes sympathy when his intentionally provocative behavior sparks even more outrageous (and intolerant) behavior. Not only do these characteristics provide him cover to say anything outlandish he likes, they also provide cover for his fans. After the news broke that he had been disinvited to CPAC, Yiannopoulos posted a statement on Facebook. Quite tellingly, he begins by casting himself as both a sympathetic minority (a gay man) and a “child abuse” victim. The problem is that we too often confuse being politically incorrect with being a hero. It is one thing to defend someone’s right to say something vile; it is another thing to reward him for it.