Perhaps some of you don’t follow the goings on of the American alt right as closely as I do, so allow me to explain the initial premise of this article: Milo Yiannopoulos, the (former?) darling of the movement known as the alt right, has got himself into a fair amount of hot water over comments he uttered in an interview regarding sex with minors. Basically, he talked about how relationships between older and younger men could be beneficial to the younger partner, how paedophilia only applies to pre-pubescents (so something in there about 13-year olds)….look up the story if you want to know every detail.
It is the straw that seems to have broken the GOP’s back: Milo’s prized speaking slot at the CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference, a really big deal amongst the American Right) has been axed, and Simon and Schuster have decided to cancel his upcoming book. Given Milo’s propensity for trying to say things that will net him the maximum possible publicity, it isn’t surprising that he has fallen off the tightrope he was walking. What is more interesting is how Milo Yiannopolous could become the darling of the American conservative movement in the first place, and what that says about the state of conservatism in the age of the Tea Party and Trump.
Many people have pointed out that Milo has been saying offensive things for ages now, so why this latest comment has become the line in the sand confuses many. It would be like if Trump said something horrible and suddenly all of his supporters turned on him; you’d think, “Haven’t you been listening the whole time?”. Meanwhile, the whole alt right phenomenon points to how meaningless the term “conservative” has become. What exactly is faith, family, flag about a British homosexual attention seeker ranting about how sex with minors is kosher? I mean, given how homophobic the hard right in America is, don’t you find it odd that an openly gay man could have become their icon? Somehow, I doubt an enlightened attitude to alternative lifestyles is the answer.
Milo is a big Trump supporter and it’s easy to understand why: they both speak in a way designed to outrage and neither of them are traditionally conservative. Trump isn’t religious (although he now makes reference to it every once in a while in an obviously half-assed fashion); he doesn’t seem to care about bringing the deficit down and in fact, seeks to inflate it on white elephant projects; he doesn’t believe in traditional conservative foreign policy and in fact, seeks to reverse a lot of it.
I’m the furthest thing from a conservative myself, but I can appreciate a genuinely conservative position; with a real conservative who is intelligent, one can have a meaningful conversation about issues. But with the progenitors of the alt right, such a discussion would be meaningless as their whole “ideology” seems to be based on nothing other than stirring up shit for the sake of it. So the real question is: why are American conservatives so enthralled by this new direction? And why have Republican grandees been so blind to the existential danger the whole movement is to their belief system, allowing it to now completely take over right-wing politics?
Truth is, the writing was on the wall when the Tea Party exploded into view. That would have been a reasonable time for Republican politicians to try and keep a lid on what was obviously dangerous; instead, they wanted to ride what looked like a temporary, popular wave. Now they are stuck with something that appears to have as a design flaw an inevitability of one day eating its own tail.
As much as American conservatives want to make Milo’s comments on underage sex seem like an aberration from the blue, the truth is it isn’t that much of a departure from anything Yiannopolous has talked about previously, really. What does this mean for Trump? Not much in the short term. But long term, one has to wonder where all of this alt right stuff – I call it the “New Right” to encompass all forms of “conservatism” that seems to be smothering the Right across the West currently – will lead to, not just for society but for conservativism itself.