By Jonathon Van Maren
After the violence in Charlottesville this weekend, commentators on the Left and the Right are penning columns and blog posts as fast as they possibly can, trying to make sense of the whole thing. Antifa thugs showed up to confront white supremacists waving Nazi flags on American streets, and ugliness was inevitable. For what it’s worth, my take hasn’t changed in the past year or so: This is what post-Christian politics looks like, and we should expect more of it.
In the wake of what appears to be a domestic terrorist attack—an alt-right fanatic ramming his vehicle into a crowd of protestors, killing one and wounding nineteen—conservative commentator Ben Shapiro released two columns contextualizing what had taken place. One was titled “7 Things You Need To Know About The Charlottesville Violence And White Supremacist Terror Attack,” and details the worldview of many prominent alt-right figures, mentioning that provocateur and self-described free speech warrior Milo Yiannopoulos has been an “apologist” for the alt-right, which is true. A laudatory column he co-wrote profiling the alt-right last year has been sent to me over a dozen times in response to my own writing condemning the movement.
Shapiro also reposted a 2016 column titled “An Actual Conservative’s Guide To The Alt-Right: 8 Things You Need To Know,” which describes Yiannopoulos as the alt-right’s “media cheerleader” who nonetheless does not identify as alt-right himself, which is also undeniably true, even quoting Milo copping out of questions by insisting that he “doesn’t care about politics.” That’s a rather strange admission from someone who is trying to make his cash by transforming himself into the Kim Kardashian of Trumpworld.
It was this last column—not even authored by Shapiro himself—that seems to have set Milo off. He posted the article to his Facebook page with the furious comment “Vile imp,” setting off a firestorm on both his page and Shapiro’s Facebook page of readers demanding that they get along. For some reason, many of Milo’s followers seem to think he is somehow comparable to Shapiro as a genuinely insightful commentator and writer, which is bewildering to me.
It’s first important to note that this so-called Milo-Shapiro feud is almost entirely of Milo’s making. When Shapiro’s wife gave birth to his second child, Milo tweeted a photo of a black child at Shapiro, insinuating that he was a “cuck”—a pornographic term that refers to a man watching his wife have sex with a black man that has been politicized by the alt-right and used to describe conservatives. Milo has released details of Shapiro’s speaking contracts in order to make him look bad, claiming that Shapiro is less flexible than Milo. Which makes sense, considering that Milo is a party animal while Shapiro is a family man with more important things to attend to.
Milo Yiannopoulos seems rather obsessed with Ben Shapiro. At his book launch, he had dancing midgets with yarmulkes on, purportedly to mock Shapiro. He constantly posts videos contrasting the two. He’s even tried to get Shapiro to show up at his events, overtures which Shapiro has understandably ignored considering Milo’s past viciousness. In one of his rare comments on the matter, he said simply that Milo “doesn’t know anything about conservatism” and that “being a provocateur for the sake of being a provocateur is useless,” which seems to sum up Milo’s career pretty well.
Shapiro’s dismissive approach most likely cuts right to the heart of Milo’s obsession with him: Milo is very, very jealous. Ben Shapiro is a brilliant writer who skipped two grades, graduated summa cum laude from the University of California at the age of twenty and then cum laude from Harvard Law School at the age of twenty-three. He’s launched his own media empire with millions of faithful readers and listeners, has written ten best-selling books, and is respected by conservatives far and wide. Milo, on the other hand, was expelled from school and failed to obtain a degree, dropping out of both the University of Manchester and Cambridge. His past business associates consistently accuse him of dishonesty, he was fired from the Daily Telegraph, and he was forced to resign from Breitbart in disgrace after footage surfaced of him appearing to defend sexual relations between young boys and older men. Only one of the books Milo is always claiming to be writing has ever actually been published.
But in 2017, social media followers allow you to recreate yourself, and Milo has since resurfaced with a popular, self-published book Dangerous and has refashioned himself as a celebrity. He only comments on politics in the most generic and frankly boring terms—feminism and Islam are bad, the wage gap doesn’t exist, we hate political correctness—and for the rest posts pictures of himself in various outfits and videos of himself partying with his entourage in his Florida compound. Nothing Milo says about anything hasn’t been already said, more intelligently and eloquently, by Shapiro. Shapiro has respect—Milo has a shtick.
Which is precisely why I find it hard to understand why so many online commentoes were so disturbed that Shapiro and Milo were in public disagreement again, with Milo as usual immediately blasting Shapiro with crude name-calling. Milo isn’t conservative. He doesn’t even pretend to be. And if he did pretend to be, how is it that he is still garnering the affection of so many conservatives, considering that his public lifestyle defies everything it used to mean to be a conservative?
Consider just a few examples:
His relaunch party, which signaled his comeback after his meteoric fall from grace and rejection by the conservative movement, featured an entire horde of strippers. So did his book launch. Strip clubs and events with strippers used to be the sort of thing conservatives (and decent people in general) frowned upon. No more, apparently. We’re in the era of post-Christian politics, and Milo is cashing in.
In response to the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida last year, Milo gave a press conference at which he decided to manifest his oh-so-intellectual critique of Islam by making out with Gavin McInnes. McInnes, it must be mentioned, is married. Conservatives once frowned up on people canoodling with people they are not married to.
Milo has quite literally admitted to occasionally moonlighting as a gay prostitute. From his Bloomberg profile: “He says he also hangs around a lot of rich people, some of whom were his sugar daddies. Last time he was in Los Angeles, he says, a white man at the Sunset Tower bar hit on him and gave him $10,000 after having sex with him twice and another $10,000 the following night.”
His campus tour speeches were under-researched, poorly delivered, and not particularly insightful, as I learned upon attending the Michigan State stop of the Dangerous Faggot Tour. To make up for this, Milo’s costumes—he often dresses in full drag—and his constant references to his love for giving black men fellatio fill in the spaces and keep his bros chuckling and coming back. For crudeness, he nearly outpaces Dan Savage.
So, for those who seem torn in the feud between Ben Shapiro, a family man and intelligent commentator who lives the values that he seeks to promote in the culture and Milo Yiannopoulos, a shallow pseudo-celebrity who hosts strippers at his events, has occasionally sold himself for sex, and keeps his audience by telling jokes that should barely qualify as funny for hormonal teenage boys, the answer should be pretty clear. In fact, it’s an indictment of so-called conservative consumers that Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos are even being compared in the first place. Yiannopoulos isn’t anywhere close to Shapiro’s league, and he knows it. Long after Yiannopoulos goes the way of all celebrities and falls from grace (again) or simply gets too old for his shtick, Shapiro will still be behind his microphone and writing his books, with the brains to back him.
That’s why Milo hates him so much in the first place.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.