Matt Schlapp, chairman of the Conservative Political Action Conference, had a clear message when he announced on Saturday thatright-wing agitator Milo Yiannopoulos would be highlighting this year’s event. “We think free speech includes hearing Milo’s important perspective,” he tweeted. Yiannopoulos was an unexpected invitee. The central figure in a number of campus controversies, he traffics in shock then spins it as free-speech advocacy. Schlapp had clearly gobbled up the spin.
But not everyone was buying it. The announcement drew immediate protests from prominent conservatives. Peter Wehner, a conservative writer and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, called the invite “more evidence of the moral decay of conservatism.” Jonah Goldberg of National Review, who greeted the news as “sad and disappointing,” added, “This new big tent is gonna have some wild parties, but leave me off the invite list.”
It’s not hard to see why conservatives might object to Yiannopoulos. Emerging from the alt-right swamps of GamerGate and Breitbart (he calls himself a “fellow-traveller” of the alt-right, a white nationalist, misogynist movement), Yiannopoulos’s reputation hangs on his willingness to make all sorts of anti-woman, anti-Semitic, anti-gay (even though he is gay himself), anti-Islam, anti-everyone comments. His profanity and explicit sexual talk makes him anathema to the Christian right, and he’s never had a word to say about the economic policies that make the supply-side right tick. And this was before folks began to pay attention to his comments criticizing sexual consent and promoting sex with underage teens—comments that ended up getting him disinvited from the conservative conference on Monday.
So, why was he even invited to CPAC in the first place?
The answer has to do with an organization and a movement that have lost their way. CPAC, once the place where American conservatism defined itself, is in disarray because conservatives are in disarray. Having just traded much of their belief system to win an election, they’re finding it hard to reset their ideological compasses. Yiannopoulos is just a symptom. And withdrawing his invitation is not the cure….Share on Facebook