V. Milo will divide us. R. Thanks be to God.

Remember the Good Old Days, when the worst thing you could be called was a white supremacist?

That was so last season!

Yesterday, The Daily Caller published what was supposed to be the first article in a weekly op-ed column by a well-known journalist. The author, himself a victim of abuse at the hands ::ahem:: of older men when he was a young teenager, talked about the accusations coming out against Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey and excoriated the star for his (Spacey’s) attempt to cover himself in the cloak of his newly-acknowledged identity as a gay man.

The author went on to cite the recent CATO Institute Free Speech and Tolerance Survey, which reports, among other things, that 58 per cent of Americans, including 73 per cent of Republicans and 58 per cent of independents “believe the political climate today prevents them from saying things they believe.” (Conversely, 53 per cent of Democrats “do not feel the need to self-censor.”) The author then gave two examples of the kinds of things that conservatives feel it is impossible to say without risking reprisal: that homosexuality is a sin (“not worth losing your soul over”) and that the Left-wing press worries more about “Islamophobia” than the effects of actual terrorist attacks. He concluded:
This week I have been accused of causing “pain and divisiveness.” I should hope so. A terminal disease in contemporary American culture is niceness. Appropriateness and earnestness are this country’s cardinal sins. For three decades, conservatives have been scolded, reprimanded, backed into toothless, diluted positions, robbed of their effectiveness and browbeaten out of their zeal by language-policers demanding “civilized discourse.” Well. Daddy Trump did not win the presidency through gingerliness – nor did I amass millions of fans by being scrupulously conciliatory. The progressive Left is dedicated to the annihilation of America and every surviving libertarian and conservative person in it. The Left’s gratuitous vandalism of American institutions and its hostility to the principles that have made this country great cannot be fought with essays in magazines. The Left can only win by forcing us onto the uneven playing field of political correctness and constructive dialogue. I choose war.
Today, his column was cancelled. It is almost as if he had a crystal ball. (Don’t blame me if your mind goes there, it is hardly my fault!) Look, he calls out the Right for constantly giving ground to the Left by being nice – and they fire him for calling them out.

Milo being Milo rallied fairly quickly.

I, on the other hand, am feeling tired and sick, and not just because I was looking forward to having a regular column from Milo to read. This is exactly what the Left wants: to divide us, make us – Republicans, libertarians, conservatives – back shamefaced from the room while they talk constantly about how America was founded on racism and there has never been a time in which academia was not infected with violence. (Trust me on this, I have screenshots.)

And then they accuse us of being divisive.

One of my academic colleagues tried to make nice yesterday by suggesting that perhaps what we as medievalists need is a chance to sit down together and talk. He posted this call for a session on one of the medieval listserves:
The AHA takes late-breaking sessions. Would anyone in this community like to sit down with Rachel Brown for a collegial, in-person, moderated discussion? I envision a format like presidential debates: There would be mutually agreed-upon questions such as the place of online media in academic discourse, the purpose of the study of history, the political ramifications thereof, the limits of academic freedom, the place of theory, and the decolonization of the field (and NOT about Milo, doxxing, or anything else that might lead to personal attacks). Each respondent would have a set amount of time to respond with a prepared or impromptu answer.
The take-down was swift and sharp. No, he was told, this is a terrible idea. And how dare you believe that you can be considered an ally when you make such a horrible suggestion? He withdrew it within twenty-four hours.

The Left talks all the time about how important it is to be inclusive, but only at a price: to be included in their community, you must accept the terms of their debate. You must, if you are white, admit that you are the beneficiary of privilege, regardless of your class. (Just for the record, again, I have admitted mine, but I say it depends on my class, too.) You must admit that the United States was founded not on universal values, but on racism, genocide, and slavery, and supported by racism to this day. You must not believe in “reason” or “civil discourse” as if there were ever a Golden Age of academia in which such standards were upheld. And you must never, ever suggest that someone like me – or Milo – be allowed a platform to speak.

And if you are on the Right? There is nothing you can say that will not be taken as evidence that you do not believe what the Left says you believe. Because they are always right.

You’d think that would make us immune.

I have been wracking my brains (what little is left of them after Thursday’s post) trying to understand what it is that the conservative establishment hates so much about Milo. I don’t think that it is that he is gay; they seem to like Peter Theil. I am not convinced that it has anything to do with the endorses-pedophilia charge. It can’t be that they sincerely believe he is anti-Semitic, although they seem more than willing to use both charges against him. What it seems to be is what he said in his one-and-only Daily Caller column: he refuses to make nice, which makes him, as the insult-du-jour puts it, divisive. For which they cannot forgive him. But why?

This is what Robert Mercer said in withdrawing his support from Milo:

Exactly what was Milo supposed to be able to do, without causing pain? Our opponents refuse to engage with us in reasoned, civil discourse. Again, I have screenshots – hundreds of them – in which my academic colleagues call me names, accuse me of willfully putting people in danger, chastise anyone who dares to defend me or even to suggest that I might be given the chance to debate. They do not want me to have a platform or a voice. They want me silenced. Like Milo, they want me shamed. Because I have disagreed with them.

There is no answer to this argument that will not be taken as divisive or causing pain. There is absolutely nothing I can say that will not be taken as an attack. I cannot convince my academic colleagues that they are in precisely zero danger from Milo or me. I cannot convince them that my friendship with Milo is based on the values he champions and the virtues he preaches (even if he does not yet live them). They want to see me as the enemy. They need to see me as the enemy. And because I am the enemy, they can call me any name they please. But if I call them out for calling me names, I am the one causing pain.

Mr. Mercer did not specify which of Milo’s actions and statements have occasioned the “pain and divisiveness” that now puts Milo beyond Mercer’s pale, although the timing suggests that his re-evaluation has something to do with the Buzzfeed piece. That piece, as you all know, attempted, yet again, to make Milo out to be a white supremacist, as Mercer himself, by his own admission, has been accused of being. But that is not why Mercer changed his mind about Milo. He is worried that Milo is too divisive.

I know someone else who was accused of being divisive. And said so.

“Do not think,” Our Lord told his disciples, 
that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross, and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. – Matthew 10:34-39
Conservatives and libertarians are deluding themselves if they think that they can get out of this culture war without being divisive or causing pain. Try it. Tell someone you love who has had an abortion that life begins at conception, and do not budge. Tell someone you love that it is not possible to have free medical care or free education or a guaranteed income for everyone regardless of whether he or she works without creating a coercive, dysfunctional state, and do not budge. Tell someone you love that class differences are more important than gender or race – and beauty even more so – and do not budge. Tell someone you love that you are bothered by the theological differences between Christianity and Islam, and do not budge. 

You. Will. Cause. Division. And pain.

Lots of it.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Milo can be bitchy. (Yes, he is sometimes bitchy even to me. It was endearing. He told me how badly I dress. And teased me about my driving. And those are just the ones I am willing to tell you. So there.) I am certain that there have been times in his life that even he would rather forget. Things he has said that have hurt people he loves. Comments that he has made that have come out sharper than he intended. Behaviors that he has indulged in that have caused others pain. He is a sinner; he admits it. (As do I.) But I do not get the sense from Mercer’s letter that these are the kinds of things he was upset about. He seems to be upset that Milo was not able to do what he, Mercer, wanted him to do – “[spotlight] the hypocrisy of those who would close down free speech in the name of political correctness” – without causing division and pain

Too bad. 

Division and pain come with the territory when you are speaking the truth. Just ask Our Lord. 

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