Milo Yiannopoulos, the conservative provocateur whose appearance at DePaul led to upheaval last May, resigned from Breitbart News last week following the release of video in which he appears to condone pedophilia.
“I’ve reviewed the tapes that appeared last night in their proper full context and I don’t believe they say what is being reported,” Yiannopoulos said. “Nonetheless I do say some things on the tapes that I do not mean and which do not reflect my views.”
Yiannopoulos, while apologetic for his words, was defiant in saying that he does not condone pedophilia and will not shy away from being provocative in the future.
“I started my career as a technology reporter who wrote about politics, but I have since become something else,” Yiannopoulos said. “I am a performer with millions of fans in America and beyond (…) I look forward to making you all laugh, cry and think for many decades to come.”
Yiannopoulos’ resignation comes at the height of his notoriety. In early February, violent protests of his appearance at the University of California, Berkeley caught national headlines. More would follow when a panelist scheduled to appear on “Real Time with Bill Maher” canceled upon hearing of Yiannopoulos’ scheduled appearance on the program.
“Milo has been a force of nature, especially among younger people over the last six months or so,” said John Minster, vice president of DePaul College Republicans.
“I would argue DePaul was the one that first really gave him some national spotlight, and what happened with Leslie Jones over Twitter and Berkeley and so on and so forth. He really grew exponentially.”
Yiannopoulos was met with fierce protest when he came to DePaul in May 2016. His event ended in chaos as protesters inside the venue stormed the stage and effectively shut it down. It also led to the reopening of wounds as several students of color reported being attacked verbally and physically with racial slurs and threats by non-DePaul students attending the event and Yiannopoulos’ followers on social media.
The university was criticized on many fronts for its response to the situation, from the breakdown in the prior-established security protocol to students feeling unsupported in the aftermath.
The former Breitbart editor was scheduled for his highest profile appearance yet as the keynote speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last weekend, but organizers rescinded their invitation following the revelations.
Minster, who was on stage with Yiannopoulos when protesters shut down his appearance at DePaul last May and attended CPAC last weekend, believes organizers made the right call to not invite him.
“I think CPAC was right to rescind the invitation, but I also think that Milo should not be dead in the water forever,” Minster said. “I think that if he takes the proper attitude to this and goes with humility and really continues to try and apologize for what he did and make it clear that he does not support any of that, I don’t think he should be burned by the movement. I still think he can be something valuable who can I think can bring awareness at the very least to important issues.”
DePaul Democrats president Jack McNeil, however, criticized conservatives for following Yiannopoulos in the first place.
“They followed the wrong leader here,” McNeil said. “I mean they spent a year – college Republicans across the nation and DePaul Republicans – touting this guy who they could throw in the face of the liberal ‘snowflakes’ and all these people they just wanted to offend and provoke without really double-checking to see what this guy stands for and what are his values.”
But conservatives have a different take on Yiannopoulos. While Minster said the DePaul Republicans would probably not host Yiannopoulos — at least right away. Had they known about the video, he said the British provocateur brings awareness to issues like free speech and has a way of mobilizing people.
Following Yiannopoulos’ visit, DePaul college Republicans saw a jump in meeting attendance from around 25 to around 50, Minster said.
“I think he’s a tool that can be used, but as a figurehead, Milo’s not the kind of person you’d want to lead your movement,” Minster said.
Both Minster and McNeil agreed that the rise of Yiannopoulos was somewhat tied to the rise of “Trumpism,” a political philosophy that does not entirely align with traditional conservatism.
“Milo is very similar to Trump and (Steve) Bannon in that sense,” Minster said. “There are priorities that conservatives can get behind him on. But there are also things that we don’t agree on. So you want to judge based on the policy.”
For Minster and other conservatives, this means following Yiannopoulos when discusses free speech or approving Trump based upon his Supreme Court pick, Judge Neil Gorsuch. But for McNeil, inviting Yiannopoulos, a voice of the alt-right, to such a conference was a bridge too far.
“I’m not saying that conservatives need to (have) the same ideology forever,” McNeil said. “But, they’ve crossed into promotion of someone who edges into the alt-right at times and helps mainstream the alt-right.”
But, being brought into the mainstream apparently includes the scrutiny of the mainstream. These videos were out there, it just took time for someone to dig them up.
Yiannopoulos flew dangerously close to the sun. It should not come as a surprise that his fabulous wings melted.