Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee for President of the United States, has disrupted the status quo and realigned the political paradigm. In creating a movement, he has done something good. He has stood up to and ultimately defeated an out-of-touch Republican establishment, while reigniting the passion of a despondent Republican base. He spoke up for millions of previously unheard Americans who were left behind by globalization and technological change. Most importantly, though, he utterly destroyed any conception of political correctness that we may have had.
Yet Trump’s erratic candidacy has shown the faults of a movement founded on a single larger-than-life personality and unmoored by ideological fault lines. His lack of judgment and discipline, as demonstrated by his occasionally unhinged performances and inability to resist making childish insults, is concerning. His lack of character, as evidenced by his beyond-the-pale comments about women, is unsettling, if not disturbing. Trump likes to talk about how he is only a messenger for a movement, but his faults as a messenger are holding back said nascent movement.
Enter Milo Yiannopoulos. He is every bit the character that Trump, whom he calls “daddy,” is. The key difference, however, is that Yiannopoulos is personality driven by principle. Whereas Trump has incoherent to nonexistent positions on most topics (except for the Mexican border wall), Yiannopoulos has fleshed out a contrarian yet sensible ideology. The manifestation of a political realignment, he is possibly the most effective champion of classically liberal values such as free speech against the tide of illiberalism that dominates college campuses and the ideology of the regressive left. Indeed, the movement that Trump inspired, in its manifestation as Yiannopoulos, has surpassed the impact of Trump himself. Yiannopoulos, not Trump, is the one emboldening principled conservatives to rise up for deeply held principles.
For too long, the battle against the regressive left has been asymmetric and unwinnable. The radical left on college campuses held the moral high ground and expressed consistent outrage at alleged injustices and oppression. Their Alinskyite tactics worked, and conservatives were cowed. We lived in fear of retribution—in fear of reciting unpleasant truths and harsh facts about reality that offended leftists. Traditional values were left without a visible and effective champion.
Yiannopoulos’ success arises from his exploitation of Trump’s obliteration of the Overton window. No longer constrained by the anti-conservative standards of political correctness, he is able to make his points in a brightly intelligent, devilishly clever, and hilariously “trollish” way. Employing humor, flamboyant language and presentation, and harsh, often personal ridicule, Yiannopoulos has changed the way that conservatives can fight—and win—against their illiberal opponents. He has taken the methods of the radical left, especially humorous dismissal, and redeployed them to great effect. At Dartmouth, Yiannopoulos declared, “The most effective, powerful weapon you have is comedy. The left has been very good at it for decades, but the tables are turning.”
Yiannopoulos’ forceful rejection of today’s young radicals and revolutionaries is long overdue. The likes of Black Lives Matter are laughably attempting to claim the mantle of the Civil Rights movement. The adherents of identity politics and the new genre of pronoun politics have reached new highs (or lows) with the ease at which they take offense and label dissenting ideas racist, sexist, classist, or any other obscure “-ism” they can conjure up in their twisted minds. Disproven Marxism based on a false humanitarianism and misguided empathy remains shockingly prevalent. From the right, a fierce repudiation of their weak and regressive ideology is the only reasonable response.
Conservatives have pushed back against the radical left, with limited effect. Take the creeping influence of third-wave feminism, which is spilling over to mainstream society despite its incongruence with biology and reality. The ideas of distinguished scholars such as Camille Paglia and Christina Hoff Sommers, which stand for true equality between the two genders in light of biological differences, have been around for quite some time. But unfortunately, they seemed to lack currency until Yiannopoulos came along. At Dartmouth, Yiannopoulos integrated their serious scholarship into his entertaining presentation and proved that one can be intelligent and incisive against the left while maintaining a joyfully humorous façade. Perhaps that is the best way forward.
When it comes to the broader discussion on Western civilization, conservatives have been in retreat until Yiannopoulos. The left’s consistent efforts to impugn the West—and white men more broadly—ended up taking a toll. For decades, Western canon has been falling out of favor at colleges and universities as leftist luminaries questioned the utility of such a hegemonic and imperialist worldview. To add insult to injury, they have had increasing success with implementing requirements on diversity and inclusivity. It is for these reasons that it is so important that we have Yiannopoulos on college campuses today.
The radical left would have you believe that America is the most racist, sexist, oppressive, imperialist, and least free society in the history of the world. Built upon slavery, colonialism, and exploitation, as well as numerous war crimes and human rights violations, America is only exceptional in its awfulness, or so the narrative goes. Yiannopoulos himself is not American, which makes his points that much more salient. An Englishman, Yiannopoulos has seen the decay of continental Europe as well as his own country’s reclamation of her sovereignty by means of Brexit. He sees in America the greatest hope for civilization and the most exceptional nation in the history of the world. We would do well to remember these uniquely American aspirations.
As fierce a critic of leftism and a defender of Americanism as Yiannopoulos is, he does perhaps his greatest service in his contribution to the practice of free speech. The left poses its greatest threat not by its regressive and delusional nature, but by its hypocritical illiberalism. As we well know, the left touts diversity and inclusion, but means something entirely different. Its goal is to fill certain demographic buckets, usually “underrepresented” racial and gender groups, in an ideological monoculture. Any true diversity, which is any deviation from the ideological orthodoxy, calls for the greatest offense and outrage. In a world of trigger warnings and safe spaces, Yiannopoulos’ unconventional and controversial speech does us all a service.
Critics of Yiannopoulos like to point to his polarizing and irreverent style as counterproductive to advancing classical liberal values. However, it is precisely his tendency to force timid, insecure social justice warriors into a fetal position that ensures his efficacy. Indeed, Yiannopoulos has galvanized free speech advocates who may not agree in the slightest with him. Following the left’s asymmetric standards of conduct—one set of rules for conservatives and one set of rules of rules of Alinskyites—was a losing strategy from the beginning. If truth is treason in an empire of lies, then the massive overreaction from the left signals that Yiannopoulos is on the right track. The process of forcing the left to confront the absurdity of its own ideology is as painful as it is necessary, but at least Yiannopoulos makes it fun for the rest of us.