Milo Yiannopoulos is a great Provocateur– he really is. I have never seen anyone rival his ability to troll the left into such a frenzy, or to riot someone so vociferously– well, maybe except Donald Trump. He also matches his ability to troll the left with an unbelievable ability to debate them. Milo is one of the few right wingers I have seen to never lose against a leftist. That said, the virtues of Milo end here. Beyond trolling and defeating eighteen-year-old college social justice warriors, Milo is incredibly empty. Nothing demonstrates this more than his interactions with Ben Shapiro.
For those who do not know who Shapiro is, he is another young political commentator who rose to prominence around the same time as Milo, and also regularly speaks at colleges across America. They both maintain positions on the “far-right” and are professionals at spontaneously producing sound bites, but the differences end here. Ben Shapiro has shown an ability to tackle opponents from across the spectrum, while Milo continues to be a one show pony– smashing SJWs.
Nothing demonstrated this better than the events of last summer. In 2016, Milo became a vocal supporter of candidate Donald Trump, even calling him daddy. On the other hand, Shapiro became a leading critic of Trump and member of #NeverTrump. Given that their audiences had significant overlap, there was a vocal push for a debate on this particular topic. Originally, Milo refused but in May he abruptly changed his tune agreeing to a debate with Shapiro moderated by Dave Rubin on the motion, “Donald Trump is good for America.” Ben Shapiro and Dave Rubin immediately agreed, but in early June Shapiro called it off. After repeated attempts to get a date with Milo, and Milo consistently refusing to accept, he called it off. Milo balked at the thought of debating someone who was not a whiney SJW.
This is a broader symptom of the two sides of the rights. The alt-right and the conservative movement. The alt-right is a new political idea lead by wannabe thinkers, meme makers, and 4chan trolls who are more often driven by a false sense of superiority because of their race than by reason, logic, or evidence. On the other hand, we have the conservative movement which is steeped in a tradition of beliefs and arguments going back to Aristotle and ancient Greece, and drawing upon the great thinkers of Western civilization. Today, it is led by thinkers from prestigious organizations like the American Enterprise Institute, to the Manhattan Institute to Heritage, and CATO while drawing on the ideas of Charles Murray, Yuval Levin, Milton Friedman, FA Hayek, Thomas Sowell, and thousands of others going back from now to thousands of years in the past. The alt-right is an intellectually empty movement driven by a misguided and disgusting view on race. Conservatives, while diverse, can come around the same central idea of natural law and rights.
Getting back to Ben Shapiro and Milo Yiannopoulos, none of this is to say Milo can not or is not fun to watch. He certainly is, but that should not make him an influence or idol of the conservative movement. He is an entertainment sideshow, nothing more — nor should he be treated as such. Today, in our battle with the left Milo (and frankly, those like him) are not effective tools to fight the left with. Triggering them entertains us, but it also closes their minds. Milo’s targets are already going to be the hardest converts to get. At the same time, he makes the rest of us look like the asshole he is, making it harder to convince people who are neutral or lean left, especially those who are mostly agnostic. This is why the Shapiro tactic is superior. It does not put the left on the defensive, but rather it creates a conversation. It may not be the best for converting the hard-liners, but that should not be the goal. The goal is to convert the agnostics and moderates we engage with while also converting those who watch. The art of debate is not to trigger leftists but to change minds and win hearts.