If Milo is New Face of American Right We’re in Trouble

All red meat and no substance makes for a vapid messenger.

Supporters of President Trump holding book by Milo Yiannopoulos in counter rally in Manhattan, July 2017. Credit: LevRadin/Shutterstock

A few days ago I brought home from our local library, nestled in Pennsylvania Dutch country, Milo Yiannopoulos’s self-published livre de scandale.

Dangerous is supposedly dynamite, because even Milo’s putative adversary Bill Maher praises the author as “a young, gay alive Christopher Hitchens.” Milo promises that anyone who makes it through his book can learn how “to fight back against campus commies, their enabling professors, the mainstream media, and establishment Republican bores.” All one needs to acquire this ability is Milo’s text, providing the reader can get though his frenetic prose centered on his activities as a self-promoting gadfly.

I’ll concede two things to Milo. One, unlike his erstwhile patron, the sulky Steve Bannon, he can turn a phrase; and although much of what he writes is vacuous, he says what he sets out to say with wit and verve. Two, he has spent much of his young, tumultuous life courting friends who could advance his career as some kind of conservative celebrity, from Bannon and the staff at Breitbart to David Horowitz and more recently, Tucker Carlson. I’m less impressed by the fact that Milo’s dashed around on campuses, challenging academic political correctness in the name of his notion of self-liberation. His adventures have not exactly been life-imperiling. So-called conservative speakers are invited to what are called institutions of higher learning by local Republican organizations, and these organizations, together with Washington-based groups, help pay for their trip and expenses. Since these appearances are likely to create a ruckus and cause demonstrations, provisions are made to protect the speakers. But if the situation looks really threatening, then the presentation is cancelled, and the snubbed “conservative” (as a lavish consolation prize) is invited on to Fox News to tell his story. As someone who spent more than 40 years battling the PC and other intolerant Lefts on American campuses, without the slightest assistance from Republicans or the conservative media, I am hardly bedazzled by Milo’s daring or showmanship.

As a historian of the American conservative movement, I dove into Milo’s book because I was interested in what it conveyed about the Alt-Right, but my interest quickly dissipated after I read the relevant remarks. I would gather that there used to be an original Alt-Right, which “was the most exciting, dynamic and effective right-wing to emerge since the Tea Party.” This creation was so good that even an “Israeli-supporting former Tea Party member was in those days just as likely to be drawn to it as a Richard Spencer-devotee.” Unfortunately it’s never made clear what this wonderful thing was before Spencer and his confrères ruined it by identifying the Alt-Right with white nationalism and even Holocaust-deniers. In fact it’s hard to figure out much of anything about the movement that Milo credits himself with having founded—and which apparently his well-heeled patrons thought was super. For those who are curious about Milo’s topic, I would urge them to read George Hawley’s Making Sense of the Alt-Right. Unlike Milo, Hawley has studied the subject of his research and doesn’t bother to explore the contributions made by the author of Dangerous, whose formative influence on Hawley’s subject was less than negligible.

Allow me to point out that Milo and other past and present claimants to the Alt-Right label have one thing in common, a passion for raising havoc while leaving theoretical agonies and the deep learning to others. In this respect, Milo is far worse than the white nationalists he attacks. For all their silliness, these activists do study political theory and intellectual history, even if they use both in a highly selective manner. The only reference to a serious political thinker that I can locate in Milo’s book is to Leo Strauss on page 42, and even that reference is so fuzzy (It seems that Strauss told us that “scholars should seek to understand the author as he understood himself.”) that it’s hard to understand why the quotation is there. Yes I know that I’ve made fun of “cultural conservatives” who make wooly philosophical arguments while trying to stay clear of delicate policy questions. But plowing through hundreds of pages dashed off by the Right’s version of Kim Kardashian in what is an intellectual wasteland, may be worse than ivory-tower conservatism.

Milo’s book does raise certain questions about the future of the American Right, or at least that part of the Right that will likely dispose over vast media and financial resources. Clearly the issues and debates around which this movement now centers has a mostly older fan base. (The average Fox News viewer is 70 years old, while National Review readers are only slightly younger.) Do personalities like Milo represent the rising generation in this movement? As a public figure he is mostly about whirling energy tied to an unconventional lifestyle that fits into the socially leftist but also libertarian factions of the current youth culture. Milo is good at mocking but it’s hard to see what in Western civilization he is specifically trying to save, other than his right to sound off. Although Milo has expressed disappointment that he’s sold fewer copies of his book than he was hoping, he nonetheless soared to number 1 on the Amazon Bestseller List by July 5. Obviously lots of people are buying his thoughts (or what there are of them in this book); and despite the charges of pederasty that caused him to lose a lucrative contract with Simon and Schuster, he’s still a rock star among his fan base.

As I’ve already suggested, Milo may be the new face of a conservative movement that’s always in flux and which is desperately trying to pick up the young and minorities. And presumably an exuberantly exhibitionist young gay man now counts as a conservative minority. 

Paul Gottfried is Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for twenty-five years. He is a Guggenheim recipient and a Yale PhD. He writes for many websites and scholarly journals and is the author of thirteen books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents. His books have been translated into multiple languages and seem to enjoy special success in Eastern Europe. 

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34 Responses to If Milo is New Face of American Right We’re in Trouble

  1. Kirt Higdon says:

    Milo? We were in worse trouble than we knew when Bill Buckley became the new face of the American right.

  2. EliteCommInc. says:

    It is impossible to be a homosexual practitioner and be conservative. It contradicts to many foundations to survive the test.

    1. a foundational principle in human relations regarding intimacy . . . it produces nothing and as such

    2. contributes not at all to the longevity of community

    I could just stair step that out, but I think it’s clear as for prudence — goodness me oh my.

    And this observation, the author’s review does not even note single conservative quality in practice, ethos or rhetoric that the author espouses.

  3. bkh says:

    He is the perfect compromise with the devil for future conservatives. Throw out the cultural war part and instill the compromise. Kinda like a “progressive” right. Still won’t stave off America’s fall into the abyss, though.

  4. Liam says:

    EliteCommInc’s measure of eligibility for being a conservative would mean that only fertile and procreative people can be conservative.

    An interesting way to excommunicate a lot of conservatives.

  5. Uncle Billy says:

    The “Alt-Right” and Milo deserve each other. I can live without either one of them.

  6. Biagio says:

    Ben Shapiro is more the new face of the conservatives, all the values align.

  7. EliteCommInc. says:

    “An interesting way to excommunicate a lot of conservatives.”

    a foundational principle —

    There are others, but the traditional male female dynamic is a deep key when pne understands the value of family, extension, community built on the same, sustained by the same and extended by the same . . .

    On its face as to any order, the practice defies any sense natural order, especially true if one adhere’s to te theory of eolution which contends that life evolves to better sustain survival —

    I have news for you, the practice is totally retrograde – it engages in the very opposite of what living is intended to accomplish — that liberals ignore this fact explains why objective realities are inconvenient as opposed to relative.

    What people do in the privacy of their hoe and in context with each other is protected as it should be. However as a public symbol of conservatism it just violates major tenets and goals.

    For conservatives who lean on scripture — the notion is inconceivable. It undermines the very nature of God and human relations. And announcing said practice — yikes.

    A conservative need not be fertile nor procreate, but it would be a dubious conservative ethos to espouse a lifestyle that contradicts procreation, fertility and family.

    It’s a kin to proclaiming being a law and order candidate and then shrugging one’s shoulders when the police violate the law.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    The enshrinement of Milo is just proof positive that U.S. conservatism has mutated into nothing more than the antics of trolls.

  9. EliteCommInc. says:

    I acknowledge that it is not the ony principle.

  10. bt says:

    There is a dilemma for conservatives in all of this.

    Problem is that people like Milo and Trump are damned popular with the “Conservative Base”. They are walking away with the ride you guys have spent the last 50 years painstakingly building, ever since those awful hippies showed up.

    We need a name for Milo and the rest of the crew, don’t we? The plain term Conservative has clearly lost all meaning. I don’t like Alt-Right, it’s not sexy enough. I suggest we call this new group the “New Conservatives”, as they are nothing like the “Old Conservatives” of say, back in the year 2008. And the Neoconservative brand is pretty well shot.

    The New Conservatives are openly racist, and they don’t seem to mind a guy who is a con man and is essentially a serial adulterer / rapist. They seem to love the confederate flag, and all that it stands for. They do love the military, but for some reason Russia is OK now, because having the Russians meddle in our election is way less of an existential threat to America than Hillary Clinton is. They don’t even mind gay pedophile sorts people as long as they are sufficiently “Conservative”. Oh, there’s that word again. I wish someone could explain what it means to me. If you are living in one of the slave states, you are much more likely Conservative, but that can’t be the whole story. Perhaps it is simply that if you write a column for Breitbart, or appear on Fox News or Sinclair Broadcasting you are of the body and are therefore a patriotic American Leader and if you watch those outlets you are a Conservative (new old neo?). Take note, I have lumped Sinclair with Fox here for almost the first time in a post. It won’t be the last.

    The GOP should break up. The lack of any logical basis for a union of Libertarians, Theocrats and Militarists can’t go on much longer. On the other hand, as long as they can deliver another tax cut and more military spending, it might go another round.

  11. AE says:

    Re: bt
    I agree the meaning of “conservative” is just about lost, like so many other words and definitions that used to allow us to communicate clearly.

    “New Conservative” still denigrates the idea of conservatism and could lead to confusion with the NeoCon label. In some ways folks like Milo would be better pawned off to the libertarian camp, but they don’t quite fit there, either (I’d argue they favor big government for me, but not for thee). Since their main beef is a rejection of “progressive” notions of speech restriction and racial separatism, combined with strong nationalist sentiments, we should just call them Nationalist Anti-Progressives. The NAP party. Not conservative or Republican. Not liberal or Democratic. Just NAPs.

  12. SteveK9 says:

    bt – It’s interesting that everything you say also applies to ‘liberals’ and the Democratic Party.

  13. Rossbach says:

    “Milo is good at mocking but it’s hard to see what in Western civilization he is specifically trying to save, other than his right to sound off.”

    Milo’s literary attacks on contemporary media censorship are not only effective, they are imaginative and great fun to read. Milo may not another Leo Strauss, but Dangerous shows that he doesn’t need to be in order to upset the Left’s no-platform apple cart.

    Even if Milo isn’t trying to save Western Civilization as such, if he at least helps to save what remains of free speech in this country, his efforts will not have been in vain.

    In any case, Dangerous is a hoot and well worth the read just for that.

  14. Morton says:

    Sometime during the previous administration some Conservatives melted-over into becoming complete a-holes and being proud of it. Then other a-holes saw it as their chance to shine into being an a-hole worshiped by a-holes.

  15. Eric Mader says:

    Give Milo a break already. The guy can’t be a serious scholar of political theory while simultaneously doing what he’s doing. He’s done more than anyone to undermine the SJW grip on our current campus culture, and because of his quick wit and trollish antics, I’m sorry to say, Mr. Gottfried, but he’s likely going to leave a bigger mark on the culture than you have. Which is not to say that your work wasn’t precisely what it should have been, nor is it to imply that you weren’t braver than Milo, but sometimes a bomb-throwing clown is needed. What’s more, having followed Milo for some time, I strongly suspect a more nuanced and mature, a more conservative version of the current clown will eventually make itself known.

  16. sophistry says:

    The photo is curious. If you ever look at the behind the scenes journalism, you’d see that MILO straight up hires people to be his friends and groupies. Does MILO really have attractive women wearing MAGA hats and who gush at his every word? Or are they being paid $400 for a few hours in the evening to smile and stand there in costume?

  17. J says:

    If he is so vapid, perhaps you ought to debate him and prove it to everything. I very much doubt he’ll dodge you.

  18. Christian Chuba says:

    Well the caption made this article worth looking at. Elite that is the most bizzare definition of Conservative I have ever read. Are the Saudis good Conservatives?

  19. bt says:

    “It’s interesting that everything you say also applies to ‘liberals’ and the Democratic Party.”

    –>I’m rubber and you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.

    Other than that, I’m inclined to conclude that you agreed with my post about that state of Conservatism. For if it’s as bad and the ‘liberals’ and the Democrat Party, that’s pretty bad, am I right?

  20. LarryS says:

    The alt-right is not an organization it is a world-view. White people are a minority of the population of the world. When they become a minority in what were white majority countries and they are forced to use identity politics, watch out. The alt-right believes that every ethnic/racial group has a right to live in a state as the majority.

  21. EliteCommInc. says:

    “Are the Saudis good Conservatives?”

    I am not sure what you mean by the question. The context here is conservatism in the US, not Saudi Arabia. To the extent that they preserve some foundational aspects of their particular ethic — I would have to contend that those who do so are.

    I doubt their use of religious enforcement would fair in light of our press for equality and the freedom fro religion. I for one would not embrace the practice of moral patrols beating people in the streets.

    In the US the foundations for male female dynamics matter to te conservative ind and no one who shuns them would generally fit into a conservative mold.

    So in my view a Saudi who adhere’s to a sound ethic of maintaining family, extending family and by extension protecting that dynamic might well be a conservative Saudi or not.

    What has been the practice by many over the last thirty plus years is to shun the distinctions or the parameters that define a belief or belief in practice. On the day that I no longer accepted that the Pope was singularly head of the church and could speak without error only as it reflected the truth of Christ, on the day I understood Peter was not head of the Church nor appointed as such is the day that I had to cease calling myself Catholic.

    And your comment ignores that my reference is to one of the fundamental principle — not the sole principle. But of sufficient enough ground to impact many others. I think you are being provocative — family and its origins as essential aspects of community at large — is neither bizarre or new.

  22. Hal Fiore says:

    Sounds like Abbie Hoffman reincarnate. I don’t suppose it will end much better.

  23. sumbaya says:

    Milo wrote a book that is fast paced and entertaining. It was a New York Times bestseller for a bunch of weeks in a row.

    At the same time, it sounds like you are criticizing him for not going deep into complex philosophical issues. The fact is that you can’t really be funny and entertaining for a large audience AND talk on and on at length about some 18th century philosopher.

    Milo’s book did exactly what it should have done in terms of having a big impact on a lot of young conservatives who need to be introduced to a wide range of topics like Black Lives Matters, third wave feminism and the current state of the Alt-Right. In addition to scholarly books from older conservatives, I hope to see more entertaining books like this from young conservatives.

  24. Larry Ouellette says:

    Arrogant, out of touch, clueless and, I fortunately, irrevelant

  25. Sean says:

    Neo Con Baby Boomers need to take their meds and let us fix Make America Grear Again.

  26. Kurt Gayle says:

    Milo interferes with the Democrats’ identity politics narrative. He puts them on the defensive.

    But is it a good thing for us to interfere with the Democrats’ identity politics narrative? I don’t think so. I agree with Steve Bannon that as long as the Democrats are talking their identity politics, we should just let them talk. They’re helping us.

  27. Kate says:

    Milo did more than a-n-y-o-n-e to fulfill the republican equivalent of “get out the vote” for Trump amongst the collegiate set. And what does he get for it? Dissed by neo-cons. The future of the republican party is More Trump/Rand Paul than Bill Kristol and Evan “McMuffin” and thank GOD for that.

    Additionally, the comments above regarding homosexuality and republicanism are outdated, odious and small. The party has a big tent now. Let’s keep it that way.

    And if you’re lamenting the election of God Emperor, and would have preferred Clinton Cash Hillary, 1) shame on you, and 2) you’re less of a republican than Milo.

  28. Tim Norling says:

    Is this soi disant conservative scholar serious? Dissecting the conservative credentials of Milo? Spare me. Drink your prune juice Professor Gottfried, and don’t forget to add some fiber.

  29. The comments seem a bit ugly. Milo has done more to bring young people into a group that understands the importance of our Constitution. I don’t see old guard conservatives doing much but being Democrats. Milo is an incredible debater. Well read and educated. Sure, he flaunts his homosexual, Jewish, Catholic self to get people’s attention. It works. Once he gets that attention he educated plenty on Conservative values. He is a breath of fresh love of America and he is contagious.

  30. CJ in PA says:

    “…plowing through hundreds of pages dashed off by the Right’s version of Kim Kardashian in what is an intellectual wasteland, may be worse than ivory-tower conservatism.”

    I kind of doubt that; as Richard Branson once remarked, “if you fall flat on your face, you at least know you are moving forward.”

    Give him time to grow, he will either continue getting better at waking up young numbskulls to the nonsense of the left, or he will be pushed off the front page of the political entertainment section forever.

    That said, I see his current role as fly in the SJW ointment as something delightful, however short- or long-lived that role may be.

  31. Robert says:

    I can recall several times that Milo Yiannopoulos emphatically said that he was not a part of the Alt-Right much less a leader of it. College campuses are a major battle ground for the political spirit of our country and if someone, anyone is making progress in challenging the Leftist commie stranglehold and pervasive PC culture then it’s a positive thing. Who cares if Milo goes on Fox News afterward or makes money doing it? Furthermore, no one ever said that Milo was a great intellectual of conservatism, something that Milo himself has said, which makes this whole article seem like a pointless exercise in score-keeping. Milo isn’t a great conservative thinker. Ok, got it. Thing is everybody else got it a long time ago.

  32. Robert says:

    My previous comment was removed. I am a conservative, what’s up with that? Censorship?? Milo wouldn’t approve!!

  33. Rebecca says:

    Milo speaks to the college age group very effectively and eloquently. He IS actually well read, if you take the time to read his book. He may not read like Burke, Strauss, or others in the hoary halls of old line conservatism. Sure he postures a lot and the kids eat it up. But we NEED that, people.

    I am 60+, and love to bathe myself in the nuances of the American Conservative, First Things, etc. But my college age son? He’ll watch YouTube channels, especially gaming channels, where Milo excels. He also likes Ben Shapiro, another conservative who aims at the young in fast furious soundbites. My son isn’t going to read the American Conservative yet, or watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh. But Milo aims to be the “troll” side of the conservative voice, which captures the attention of the young. And he admits that he is not the whole picture. One gem from Dangerous, Chapter 8: “Conservatism needs its great thinkers and its brilliant minds – the Debate Club Brigade – to persuade voters who are already open minded. But we also need provocateurs and clowns, to grab the attention and challenge the biases of those who don’t want to be challenged”. And “If we want to win, we need both”.

  34. Robert Varley says:

    Professor Gottfried – you and The American Right were *already* in trouble, so you’d be better winding your neck in. This was largely by dint of your having failed to win the culture wars to date, so you forfeit the credibility due to winners. Pious RINO scholasticism and enfeebled moralising is exactly what lost you the field. Leave it to professional fighters. Yiannopoulos may not have taken the stronghold yet but he has revived the army. Watercolours may be more your style.

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