Milo Yiannopoulos, a key figure of the alt-right, white nationalist, anti-Semitic “news” site Breitbart, came under intense fire as a result of comments that recently surfaced where he seemingly defends pedophilia.
Yiannopoulos consistently denies that he’s a hateful individual, but he often uses a tactic of broadcasting his disdain for an individual or an idea, openly inviting his deplorable followers to take bites themselves. It’s like Hitler defending himself by saying, “I never actually killed anyone.” It’s easy to absolve oneself from blame when you ignore the behavior of your followers and the hate you incite them to commit. Many of his followers called Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones a “gorilla,” because they didn’t enjoy the feminist tone of the Ghostbusters remake she starred in. (Jones is black.) Yiannopoulos has described Black Lives Matter as a “hate group,” and stated that he’d rather his daughter have cancer than be a feminist. There is no denying that he’s an odious individual, and while his life circumstances may be unfortunate, his character has defamed and tormented many.
“Oh, but I was just kidding,” the provocateur-in-chief would say in the days after the pedophilia comments came to light, ignoring the devastating effects pedophilia has on children for the rest of their lives.
Enter the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a rapidly growing forum for conservative Christian ideology at which Yiannopoulos was to speak before introducing President Trump. Whatever happened to the Moral Majority that claims to have a monopoly on morality in America? The religious right claims to have God on their side, yet gleefully deifies a philandering, lying, racist, self– and money-worshipping individual. With Trump, we’re talking about the antithesis of Jesus. Yiannopoulos is an extension of the Trump ideology, comparing deadly diseases to those who believe in equality of men and women, believing that Muslims all want sharia to be law of the land, and also believing that transgenderism is a sex crime, forgetting that his own sexual orientation would have him in jail in this country a mere fifteen years ago. None of these positions stopped the CPAC organizers from inviting and promoting the provocateur to address their gathering.
Where do conservative Christians draw the line? At what point do they stand up and denounce controversial comments made by individuals who prescribe to their belief system? Clearly, conservative Christians don’t care too much about sexual assault on women, nor the boasting of extramarital affairs on non-consenting women, as Trump won a massive 80 percent of the evangelical vote. When Trump could not cite one passage from the Bible, and his lack of history with the church became more apparent, the familiar “God works in mysterious ways” argument emerged in his favor. The religious right bent itself around Trump, with preachers stating, “God is not against building walls,” and CPAC asking, “If Heaven Has a Gate, a Wall, and Extreme Vetting, Why Can’t America?”
For CPAC, the line was crossed when video emerged in which Yiannopoulos condoned older men having sex with thirteen-year-old boys and cracked that a Catholic priest had taught him some things when he was a boy. This begs the question: Where were these outraged conservatives when the Catholic Church underwent a cover-up of Catholic priests abusing young children? There was no mass exodus from the Catholic Church when news broke that the abuse was worldwide and that the church had led a concerted effort to move priests to different posts instead of turning them over to police.
The hypocrisy of the religious right is as old as the movement itself, and the Milo Yiannopoulos debacle is just one more example of it. Yiannopoulos’s comments endorsing pedophilia have left him bereft of a book deal, his chances of becoming a mainstream voice in the conservative movement are in tatters, and his remarks introducing the president at the Conservative Political Action Conference will never be heard. What we’ve learned is that everything and everyone is fair game with regards to prejudice, except for children (unless they’re girls, refugee children, Jewish children, or immigrant children—you get the point).