This week we learned that the alleged “family values” party does actually draw the line somewhere. The Conservative Political Action Conference first invited, then dis-invited Milo Yiannopoulos after an interview emerged in which he made bizarre and revolting comments about pedophilia.
Yiannopoulos is best known for his attention-seeking provocative statements and being banned from Twitter for coordinating an appalling campaign of racist and misogynist abuse against actress and SNL cast member Leslie Jones.
What’s so revealing is that conservatives finally chose to draw a line in the sand at pedophilia. For years, Yiannopoulos has been a campy British version of Ann Coulter, spewing vile misogyny, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. But none of that apparently bothered conservatives. Heck, the President of the United States appointed Stephen Bannon, the guy who gave the pseudo-intellectual attention seeker a platform, as his chief strategist — which might well explain the Trump administration’s apparent lack of a coherent strategy.
Yiannopoulos’ brand of troll-bait might have played well with the folks who consider Breitbart a legitimate source of unbiased news, but his confrontation with panelists Larry Wilmore and Malcolm Nance on the Bill Maher show last Friday evening revealed that he is nothing more than a fast talker with no intellectual heft, who then had the audacity to tell Maher: “You always invite such awful people on your show, they’re so stupid … you need to start inviting higher IQ guests.”
If anything symbolizes the moral and intellectual decay of the Republican Party, it was watching a figure that they’ve happily embraced because he’s not “politically correct” say that a “career counterterrorism and intelligence officer for the U.S. government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security, and Intelligence agencies, with over 33 years of experience in combatting radical extremism” is “stupid” and doesn’t have a high enough IQ.
The rationale for inviting Yiannopoulos to CPAC, according to CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp, was that “an epidemic of speech suppression has taken over college campuses. Milo has exposed their liberal thuggery and we think free speech includes hearing Milo’s important perspective.”
Of course, Schlapp didn’t take into account of women and minorities whose speech has been curtailed as a result of being targeted by Yiannopoulos. Or do they not matter? Perhaps he might want to take into account the effect of Milo’s “important perspective” on impressionable young College Republicans after the impeachment of Florida State College Republican Chairman James Fletcher Dilmore, a Milo fanboy, for “sexual harassment of executive board members, vulgar language, and sexually charged speech during General Board Meetings, verified threats of physical violence against members of both FSU-CR and FFCR, and overt solicitation of sexual favors in exchange for board positions.”
Last week, February 16 was World Read Aloud Day, an annual event promoting literacy. I Skyped with seven classrooms across the U.S. and one in Costa Rica. Many of the kids had read my book, Backlash, which deals with a cyberbullying incident from multiple points of view. I asked them to raise their hands if they’d had unpleasant things said about them online. The majority of kids in each classroom did.
We can lecture kids about cyberbullying until we’re blue in the face, but if adults are modeling different behavior because they don’t want to be “politically correct,” we might as well save our breath.
Because here’s the thing — what conservatives are so fond of calling “political correctness” is what I was brought up to consider manners, empathy, respect, and curiosity about the customs and points of view of others.
Sam Altman, president of Silicon Valley startup incubator Y Combinator, interviewed one hundred Trump voters from around the country. His observations are fascinating, but given some of the increasingly disturbing actions of the current administration and the direction of the Republican party, this one gave me hope:
“The attacks against Trump have taught me something about myself. I have defended him and said things I really didn’t believe or support because I was put in a defensive position. Protesters may have pushed many people in this direction BUT it is ultimately our responsibility and must stop.”
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU (and as such is an AAUP member), and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.
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