Even his name - "Milo Yiannopolous" - is something of an alternative fact: he changed it from "Hanrahan" which was the name of his father, who left when he was six.Yiannopoplous comes from his maternal grandmother, who raised him.
There was never much reason to pay attention to Milo, a bratty British schoolboy eager to spread his opinions, calling it "journalism," in that way conservatives do, repeating twice told tales to justify their negative views of others. Being British, and snide, was about all that differentiated Yiannopolous from the other far right voices - slap a dress and a blonde wig on it and you've got Ann Coulter. Or Monica Crowley. Or Kellyanne Conway. Or...
He'd made himself something of an internet star, mouthing off about "Gamergate" - which boils down to teenage boys trying to put a "No girls allowed" sign on video game playing, with just the sort of especially ugly, hateful results one would expect. For no particular reason, he decided to turn his negative energy - and that of his teenboy fans - on Leslie Jones, resulting in that much more negative attention and a lifetime ban on Twitter.
As Andrew Sullivan noted, the kind of bratty conservatism espoused by Milo (and Sullivan, from much the same background) thrives and grows on the negative response. It's political theory as reaction formation, why I've been clear on what Coulter and Malkin et al actually are since college - what was "Dartmouth Review" but the "politically incorrect" screed of kids eager to express opposition to feel good slogans of liberal activism? And 30 years on that's what conservatives have to offer: not ideas, but something outrageous, designed to oppose perfectly reasonable proposals meant to help others. It's not what you're for, but what they're against.
Since the Jones imbroglio, Milo enjoyed a rapid rise to that curious kind of American stardom that only happens in the fevered circles of the angry right - he got a book deal, and speaking gigs... and last week, he popped up on Real Time with Bill Maher, and got announced for a speaker role at CPAC, where the show always needs the fresh ziz of the latest hateful thing.
If I'm surprised by the fall Milo has had in only 4 days, it's only that I figured he'd at least get to give that CPAC speech. As it was, the only thing that could embarrass CPAC (and it's leader, the smooth talking Trump supporter and Fox "contributor" Matt Schlapp) was new exposure to old interviews Milo had done, applying his bratty British humor to gay sexuality and the priest sex scandal. That was enough(!) to lose Milo the book deal, the speaking gigs, and his job as Associate Editor at Breitbart.com. Because, naturally, where else would Milo be working, but Breitbart?
It's easy to get hung up on Milo's outrageous comments around sex - and it's not as if that particular element hadn't been swirling around him all along. Part of Milo's shtick was wearing his status as a young gay man on his sleeve, touting his (reductive, racially insensitive) love of black men and hinting at his own sexual prowess. (It's especially amusing, given CPAC's checkered past with gay conservatives, that they blustered into booking Milo anyway.) And it was, in fact, the cavalier way Yiannopolous described his own experiences of priest sex abuse that drove much of his downfall, given that, as even he admitted in his Tuesday press conference, that abuse goes a long way to explaining his bratty public persona since.
But let's not get too lost in focusing hard on Milo: the real lesson here is about conservatives, their role in propping up and pushing hateful rhetoric like Milo's, and the endless need to find fresh flavors of the month expressing all that hate. Let's remember CPAC played that role in launching Ann Coulter, and Michelle Malkin, and numerous others (hey, Ben Carson!) as well. Let's point out, as well, that this flameout illuminated yet more clearly all of what's wrong with "news outlets" like Breitbart, which never called Yiannopolous to account for many outlandish things he wrote and said - and indeed, never raised a peep about those sex comments at the time they were made, nor in context of his overall persona. One can only marvel out how dysfunctional a work environment could be that a "half dozen" staffers at Breitbart threatened to quit this week if Milo were allowed to stay on. This week!
Conservatives would like, of course, to isolate Milo now, now that the cat's out of the bag, that he's "gone too far" despite the reality that "too far" was an interview he gave last year, and ignores years (and years) of examples of Milo's excessive, hateful words and actions. It was too much for Twitter... but conservatives still clung to him (and arguably, too, Twitter's actions were years past due as well). Simon and Schuster lost authors over holding onto Milo's book... but still they held on. Until this week. Conservatism didn't become "like this" yesterday. And Milo is a symptom, not the disease. Removing him addresses neither cause, nor cure.
So CPAC will offer up "President Trump" and plenty of other familiar lines of conservative anger and hate... and pretend Milo was a bad dream that maybe never even happened. That's what they do, over and over, as these once hot flavors "go too far" or the lies catch up to them. And suddenly, there's no speaking space for Ann Coulter. Or Sarah Palin. What a shame Milo couldn't hold it together long enough to provide another Outrage Du Jour...
Because, of course, what passes for conservatism these days is so utterly bankrupt and bereft of intellectual heft and interesting ideas that it is simply beyond embarrassing. Literally. Everything about Milo's rise, his career, his galloping leaps toward greater fame... all of it was an embarrassment, a waste, a pointless exercise in watching a bratty child act out for others' amusement. Watching Milo's smirky, childish appearance on Maher - what little I could take - I figured it was a matter of time before something would wipe that smirk off his face. Two days later, no smirk. And a month from now, or a year... it's just another chance for another flavor of the month to rise.
If any good can come of this, I'd like to hope it comes from Milo reckoning with his own demons, working out his issues, finding some measure of personal grace. I wouldn't even necessarily mind the "I was a bratty jerk, but now I've changed" book he'll be pushing in a year, or two, or five... if he comes about it honestly, and expressively. That would at least show that someone is capable of growth and change. Because Lord knows, growth and change isn't going to come to the Conservative movement. Just another naughty bad boy, or girl, looking for attention. And getting it.