Ethics, Christianity, Culture

A Medievalist’s Take on Milo

Over at Fencing Bear at Prayer, Dr. Rachel Brown comments on Milo Yiannopoulos:

But people like Sarsour’s supporters are not willing to debate Milo with facts, reason, and logic, as the protestors who showed up to protest his talk this afternoon proved by blowing whistles and yelling throughout his remarks. Milo is not going to change anybody’s mind with his arguments if his audiences are already provoked.

So what does he think he is doing? I think I know. He is embodying a myth. More precisely, he is embodying the myth at the heart of Western civilization: the myth by which, as Professor Peterson puts it, articulated truth brings the world into being. He is embodying the Word.

Milo describes his campus talks not just as speaking, but as doing something. Other conservatives, he insists, think that they can change people’s minds by writing a column or publishing a book, but that isn’t doing anything. And yet, it would seem, all Milo does is talk. (Or, occasionally, sing.)

Why give the talks on college campuses? Partly, because Milo cares about education. And partly, because college campuses are the place where students are introduced to the arguments Milo is trying to expose in their most articulated form. But mainly because college campuses are the one place in our contemporary culture (other than places of worship) where people come together to speak in person….

Milo understands this [that one must risk the attacks of chaos to speak into it and make order]. Seriously, it is why he wears a cross. Every word that we say matters because every word we speak either moves us closer to the truth or entangles us further in lies. Truths about the basis of our civilization, whether in the divinity of the individual or in the submission of the individual to God. Truths about the proper relations between women and men. Truths about speech and its effect on the world. We can choose not to speak and become, as Professor Peterson puts it, miserable worms. Or we can choose to speak, take the consequences, and bring a better world into being.

Now, Milo represents himself as a moral degenerate along several domains, he particularly enjoys attempting to trigger the disgust response of the very conservatives on whose behalf he argues. Nevertheless, viewing him as intentionally appropriating the archetype of Christ as one who speaks the truth or an approximation of it at personal risk is an interesting interpretation from a university professor, since most professors appear to endorse the violent student responses to him. In other words, professors view Milo as so dangerous as to justify the destruction of campus property to prevent his presence (look up the Berkeley riots).

Of course, I doubt that in the case of anybody who knows about Milo there is any chance of moving your picture of him from negative to positive or positive to negative. He’s an example of Scot Adamstwo movies theory of reality. It’s as if we were watching the Dark Knight and one group of individuals was primed to think of it as a movie in which a clown, disfigured by a totalitarian vigilante is seeking revenge through a series of games meant to psychologically break with narcissistic and megalomaniacal figure. And the others just heard it was a sequel to Batman Begins.  The contrast in analyses of the film would be stark.

But an important question is this, can a non-Christian figure with admittedly degenerate moral tendencies be an archetype of Christ for the world? I don’t know. Paul would seem to say, “No.” (Romans 1:31) But is that final or is it just generally true? Or does it matter if you’re approving of the person for his sins or for his virtues? And is Milo virtuous, self-serving, both, just a disagreeable jester who loves trouble?



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