By now, the Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch will be aware that I’m no fan of homosexuality. I don’t advocate legal measures against it, nor will I tolerate those who victimize homosexuals or treat them as a lesser species. They’re human beings endowed with free will, entitled to make their own mistakes and to reap the consequences for them, whatever those might be. I do oppose their campaign for the radical disassembly of marriage. Neither do I harbor any illusions about what their choices will do to them; I’m too much the scientist for that.
One branch of homosexual activists I regard as a graver pestilence than the others is the subgroup that campaigns against age-of-consent laws. Mind you, a statutorily decreed age of consent is inherently a magic number. It doesn’t arise from any principle of natural law. Even so, it’s inevitable, even necessary, that there should be such an age, for the alternative is to have the State decree, one individual at a time and on arbitrary criteria, whether each of us is sufficiently competent to consent to a sexual encounter. If that notion doesn’t leave you with a persistent shudder, check your pulse; you may have died and not noticed.
Homosexual activists strive to insinuate themselves into all sorts of activist communities. They did great damage to West Coast libertarian activism in the Eighties and Nineties. They’re no less capable of harm today. The recent incident with Milo Yiannopoulos, though he must be considered an unwitting and surely unintentional collaborator, puts that into high relief.
Granted that there are more sinners in this tableau than Milo alone, nevertheless the episode casts an unforgiving light on conservatives’ political relations (as opposed to our social and religious relations) with homosexuality and its practitioners.
It’s an old maxim that he who sleeps with his dogs will arise with their fleas, and indeed it is so. Whether it’s “fair” or not to infer that he who associates with a homosexual therefore condones homosexuals’ behavior in its entirety, many will draw exactly that inference. It might even be halfway reasonable, for the zone that separates toleration from approval is murky and continuous. At any rate there’s nothing to be done about it.
When conservatives produce a figure with an admitted deviance such as homosexuality, and then promote – actively or passively – that figure as a spokesman of sorts for conservative convictions, we must prepare to face some undesirable consequences. Such consequences arose with the events cited above. They impelled at least two institutions, the Conservative Political Action Conference and publishing house Simon & Schuster, to act against Yiannopoulos in ways damaging both to him and to them. Yet those reactions were inevitable, so completely so as to give a new dimension to the word.
To be perfectly fair, Yiannopoulos did not condone, much less advocate, pedophilia or any of the other sexual behaviors routinely mislabeled with that word. He has insisted that he did not (and does not), and a strict interpretation of his remarks bears that out. What he did that was gravely damaging, both to his public stature and to conservatism generally, was to tread along the edges of one of the West’s firmest taboos.
Yes, he was induced to do so by questions from his listeners. That doesn’t make his unguarded response wise. If anything, one who purports to speak for a set of ideas should be aware of the tactics used by foes to elicit self-damaging remarks. He should have sensed the danger at once. He could have averted the hard lessons that have followed.
The affair doesn’t admit of extensive analysis. Taboos are like that: reflexive and not always reasonable, or not entirely. It’s certainly reasonable to demand that children, especially prepubescent children, be protected from the sexual advances of adults. We’ve become more conscious of the problem in recent years, albeit uneasily so due to the overzealousness of certain State agencies, our moral quandary over homosexuality, and our difficulties with homosexual activism. The problem of homosexual proselytization of the underage is real. As one who has been several times solicited by homosexuals, including two frightening incidents in my childhood, I speak from experience.
However, as he often does, Ace has some thoughts we would do well to ponder:
One can dispute [Milo’s] claims and criticize the callowness and the occasional meanness and casual offensiveness of his statements without taking the next step of deciding that we're going to mob up together to destroy his life just because we're kinda bored and not doin' much else on a slow news day.
Or can we?
I don't know that we can any longer.
This is where we are; this is what we are. Perhaps this is what we've always been -- perhaps we just needed a technological innovation of social media to enable us to focus and purify our hatred into a polarized speck of white-hot dissolving heat.
Maybe we just needed this one stupid little tool so that we could take this week's pleasure in inflicting cruelty on strangers, like a sadistic kid just needs a magnifying glass to focus the sun's rays on a random ant....
But even though I found [Milo’s] defenses spurious and calculatedly naive, I can't say I'm outraged by someone attempting to make the case that we should be more free to speak, not less.
My strongly-held opinion on that point is that we are too limited in what we are free to say without be scalped, boycotted, or fired, not too damn "free" and in need of further abridgments to make sure other people's Spaces are Safe.
Even if the defense of freedom of expression in question is frequently disingenuous, I still gotta say... I'm not terribly bothered by a disingenuous effort to push back against the Speech Police.
Think about it – and not just with regard to Milo Yiannopoulos, but in connection to our political adversaries and what we are sometimes tempted to do to them.