Pederasty and the “Conservative Media” Illusion
Milo Yiannopoulos, who last week was a scheduled speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an editor at the ultimate GOP-insiders’-club-cum-faux-rebel news outlet, Breitbart (home of Donald Trump’s alt-righthand man, Steve Bannon), and an oft-cited celebrity muckraker of the GOP establishment’s — er, I mean the “alt-right’s” — youth wing, is now, suddenly, out. Out of CPAC, out at Breitbart, out of a book deal, just plain out. Why the abrupt reversal of fortune for a man whose whole persona throughout his meteoric rise to Trump-bandwagon glory screamed “pathetic attention-whore” at a hundred and forty decibels?
The official answer is that conservatives were shocked to learn that Yiannopoulos once gave an interview in which he seemed to defend pederasty. Shocked, appalled, dismayed I tell you. Right. People who had hitherto assumed he was just another lovable foul-mouthed, deliberately offensive, disrespectful, aggressively homosexual vulgarian spouting the kind of nihilistic cynicism that passes for intelligence in this moronic age — in short, the semi-clever sophomore who tries to commandeer every political philosophy class with his uninformed yammering — were supposedly taken aback to hear him speak, from personal experience, of the potential benefits to thirteen-year-old boys of being sodomized by grown men.
Let’s see — he was worthy of praise prior to the pederasty comments, worthy of being invited to CPAC, worthy of being defended against those who fought to prevent him from speaking at their university. But now, post-pederasty, he is unworthy, uninvited, indefensible.
Why, I ask, did it take an overt (if provisional) defense of adults having sex with minors to take the wind out of his sails? Is anyone really surprised that this “flamboyantly” sexualized invert who boasts of “smuggling” a black drug dealer into his bedroom at fifteen, and who scheduled speaking engagements around the U.S. and Britain under the title, “The Dangerous Faggot Tour,” might have less traditional views about underage sex than, say, Billy Graham?
Once again, then, why was pederasty, of all things, required to provide this petulant know-it-all with his Waterloo? Before we get to the answer, which, like the identity of Citizen Kane’s “Rosebud,” may turn out to be a little anti-climactic, allow me to digress into discussing what everyone else is treating as the titillating heart of the story, namely the “scandal” of Yiannopoulos’ pro-pederasty remarks themselves.
For my part, I’m inclined, upon reading the interview transcript, to conclude that his argument, probably due to its personal significance to him, is as sincere and sober as anything the “dangerous faggot” has ever said, at least since he started calling Trump “Daddy.” That is, I am neither prudish nor hypocritical enough to join all those conservatives expressing shock and alarm that anyone could entertain such thoughts. My biggest problem with his argument is with its ultimate hedonism, relativism, and, if I may say so, political correctness.
The single greatest book ever written on the subject of the erotic, Plato’s Symposium, includes considerable discussion of pederasty, and features among its main speakers a flaming pederast, of the “anything-to-rationalize-my-predilections” variety. Pausanias, who at the time of the dialogue’s action was the lover of the symposium’s host, the young tragedian Agathon, offers a legalistic plea for the Athenian practice of educational pederasty, i.e., older men pursuing younger men or boys on the promise of compensating their beloveds for their sexual favors with an education in the manly virtues. The mentoring arrangement, as Pausanias insists, is beneficial to the youths, because they are trained up to good citizenship by devoted lovers. In other words, even Pausanias the pederast, being a civilized man, understands that without any substantial spiritual benefit for the boys, this inherently exploitive institution cannot be justified legalistically — it would be an unfair trade, abuse.
The great weakness of Pausanias’ argument, as Plato subtly reveals, is that he is forced to skirt around the central question a dignified pederast really has to answer, namely why these relationships need to be sexual at all, in the sense of providing physical gratification for the man. What becomes clear, in the end, is that his own physical gratification is Pausanias’ true concern in the matter, although he is clever enough to see that emphasizing that concern directly would cast a shadow over his attempts to sound moderate, as well as killing his case for the moral benefits of the relationship.
But this is the point: However flimsy the case may be that submitting oneself to an older man’s lust is commendable if done in the name of one’s “moral development,” this case was nevertheless understood by thoughtful Greeks to be the only plausible justification for such a sexual practice. Pederasty could only be rationally defended as a means to moral education and political unity. For this reason, even Pausanias, being a gentleman pederast and not wishing to appear simply a “dirty old man,” is emphatic that such relationships should not be pursued with boys as young as Yiannopoulos’ hypothetical thirteen-year-old, who are too young to have shown real potential for spiritual development, i.e., to have proved themselves worthy of the older man’s mentorship.
In the end, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all rejected pederasty — a practice relatively common and long-standing among powerful Greeks, including the classical Athenian ruling class — as a perversion of any genuine educational relationship, and evidence of a moral weakness in Greek society.
I mention this historical precedent only to establish the utter non-parallel between the Greek argument for pederasty and Yiannopoulos’ argument that such relationships can give the youth a safe and supportive environment for finding out “who he is.” “Who he is,” of course, is today’s euphemism for “what kind of sex he happens to enjoy.” Thus, Yiannopoulos is merely arguing that a boy who “is” homosexual should be allowed to experience the physical realization of that tendency while he is still young and impressionable, lest he be forever stigmatized by confusion or self-doubt about “who he is.” In other words, the boy should be introduced to erotic activity of the most intimate and deviant kind when he is young enough to be marked for life by the experience. And the experience is self-justifying, as it is aimed at no higher purpose such as the Greeks’ moral and political education. It is pleasure for pleasure’s sake, foisted upon a boy too young and malleable to understand, let alone overcome, the spiritual distortions of premature and purposeless physical intimacy, particularly intimacy at the hands of a lustful adult.
If this isn’t a recipe for stunting intellectual growth and diverting a youngster’s moral development into a lifetime of hedonistic rationalizations and irrational self-interest, I don’t know what is.
Enough said — it seems that Milo Yiannopoulos is a knee-jerk nihilist and cynical self-promoter mired in the political correctness of “gender identity” and “self-expression,” whatever calculated contrarianism he may use to distinguish himself and to boost his career as a professional celebrity of the right.
Hmm… “knee-jerk nihilist,” “cynical self-promoter,” “calculated contrarianism,” “professional celebrity of the right.” There’s something familiar here, but I just can’t quite put my finger on —
Eureka! I think I’ve finally hit upon the answer to my earlier question as to why it took his foray into one of the progressive era’s last taboos, sex with children, to debunk the Milo Myth in the minds of many alleged conservatives. The reason is that Milo Yiannopoulos is no anomaly among the “conservative commentariat,” but rather something all too commonplace. He merely represents the next step in a continual degradation that has seen the unnatural dovetailing of thoughtful political critique with profit-seeking entertainment, producing today’s gnarled hybrid of principle and publicity stunt, ideas and idol-making, activism and acting, that we routinely call “the conservative media.”
As many have noted, the 2016 election cycle was an important moment of clarity in American conservatism, as a lot of people who had fostered images as stalwart conservative spokesmen, or even conservative leaders, were exposed once and for all as unprincipled hacks willing to compromise anything for a seat on the nearest gravy train. It has turned out, much to the disillusionment of a lot of Americans craving public representatives of their cause, that a lot of “conservative firebrands” and iconoclastic bellowers were in truth little more than poseurs, people willing to espouse a view, and maybe even to half believe it, but only as long as espousing that view remained commercially lucrative, career-enhancing, and audience-building. The moment they saw the potential for damage to their demographics in sticking to any of the principles they claimed to represent, they quickly began the skin-shedding process, like the snakes they are, to reveal a new color more consistent with this year’s trends. In arrogance, blow-hardism, and pseudo-conservative agitprop, Milo Yiannopoulos is little different from his many longer-established brethren in the “conservative media” — a self-marketing political performance-artist. The only significant difference between Yiannopoulos and so many of the rest, it seems, is pederasty. Hence his ability to thrive in the market of commodified conservatism up to that one awkward overreach: His shtick, though more overtly outrageous than some of the others, was really just more of what conservatives had long been conditioned to accept from “their” media — a clever act.
Think again of these phrases: knee-jerk nihilist, cynical self-promoter, calculated contrarianism, professional celebrity of the right. Now ask yourself, for example, “Who is Ann Coulter?” The woman who recently wrote a book entitled In Trump We Trust — a deliberate, if stillborn, attempt to shock American sensibilities with the implication that Trump deserves the status previously reserved for God — has, all rehearsed histrionics aside, a long-standing habit of supporting the most liberal, most mainstream, and least conservative Republicans. Aside from Trump — whom she backed from the outset against all the more serious, credentialed constitutionalists and conservatives in the primaries — she has always been a vocal apologist for Chris Christie. And during the 2011-12 primaries she was out of the box early as a supporter of the GOP establishment’s pick, Mitt Romney, against all the more Tea Party-friendly candidates.
But she talks a lot of crap, distinguishing herself from the Rockefeller Republican mainstream only by being a crass and superficially provocative punk, à la Milo. A thinly-veiled social progressive, hater of religious conservatives, and tease to that faction of pea-brained Americans now called the alt-right — “How many f—ing Jews do these people think are in the United States?” she angrily tweeted to her clapping seals as a primary debate devolved into a typical GOP “I-love-Israel-the-most” contest — she plays Rebel Diva while in fact rallying the weak-minded behind…the GOP establishment! If Karl Rove could invent a Republican Party mouthpiece perfectly calibrated to suck in the naïve and desperate anti-establishment audience in this age of progressive indoctrination and short attention spans, he would invent Ann Coulter.
Or Matt Drudge. Drudge, who has become the hub of information-gathering for the entire American right, was, just like Coulter, in the tank for Trump throughout the primaries. He was also, like Coulter, in the tank for Romney the last time around. Hiding behind the absurd idea that he merely “aggregates” the news, as though selectivity were not the essence of editorializing, he regularly uses sources as questionable as Alex Jones’ “Infowars” to paint his picture of a new conservative populism, full of paranoia and ominous attention-grabbing headlines.
Several years ago, North Korea staged one of its most egregious acts of provocation, shelling an inhabited South Korean island, killing several people. Drudge’s banner headline, accompanying a photograph of the smoking island, was “It Begins.” I showed this headline to a group of Korean adults at the time. They looked at it quizzically and with alarm. “What begins?” one of them asked incredulously. Exactly. That’s Drudge — a sensationalist, a profiteering exploiter of fear and anger, a manipulator of opinion by means of half-truths, cherry-picked polls, National Enquirer-type photos, and clever leading headlines often bearing little relation to the (typically unread) stories linked. (“You provide the prose poems, and I’ll provide the war,” to return to Citizen Kane.) Fake news incarnate, and a progressive GOP establishment tool.
And what about Fox News, the supposed conservative alternative to the leftist mainstream media? Under the ingenious direction of the genius,
Jabba the Hutt Roger Ailes, Fox has ingeniously reinvented news reporting and editorializing as a hot rod magazine, replete with slinky, scantily-clad, long-legged girls (with law degrees, don’t you know!) sprawled invitingly across the hood of the latest Newt Gingrich or Karl Rove interview — along with simple-minded sycophants like Sean Hannity to drive the message home, pretending to represent “working class Americans” while feeding them a steady, if maniacally-delivered, diet of GOP talking points.
And this brings us to the heartland of the conservative media, talk radio, where the undisputed head of the pack is Rush Limbaugh, who pretends to remain neutral during Republican primaries, while subtly pushing the establishment picks precisely by refusing to question their conservative legitimacy. Though declaring himself a dyed-in-the-wool conservative and an opponent of political compromise, he did his non-endorsing endorsement act for Romney in 2012 and for Trump in 2016 — just like Drudge and Coulter. In other words, he drove a hatchet into the back of the Tea Party movement both times, legitimizing and passively supporting the most “pragmatic” and GOP-friendly of the viable candidates against all the more consistently conservative alternatives.
I suppose we can stop there, my point having been made clearly enough. No need to get into the poisonous and somewhat superfluous weeds. Once one places Milo where he belongs — somewhere on the more noxious extreme of the continuum of slickly marketed mainstream conservative media, alongside Coulter and perhaps just a smidge beyond, say, Laura Ingraham — it becomes difficult to draw a precise line separating the cynical profiteers of freedom or Constitutional conmen from the “legitimate” political commentator-entertainers. And that’s why Milo had to get caught waxing wistful about pederasty in order to disturb the slumbers of a substantial number of conservative media consumers. The rest of his act is really not that much different from the norm, or its difference can readily be chalked up to the special requirements of “youth appeal” — which is how his CPAC invitation was defended by the organization’s leader before “youth appeal” suddenly took on a darker significance.
Rather than joining the game of performative outrage over Yiannopoulos’ pederasty comments, conservatives who really care about the integrity of the conservative media ought to be asking why so many were fooled by his act for so long. The answer, if pursued honestly, would be a part of the big tree-shaking of this American moment, a necessary reassessment of what conservatives really want from “their” media, and how they can avoid being fooled again as horribly as they have been so far, by so many prominent fakes.