In a remarkably short time, Milo Yiannopoulos has become a mononym, like Cher and Madonna and Caesar. Hitler qualifies too, and Milo’s detractors prefer this comparison. His rise was meteoric, and his fall, we’re told, has been precipitous, but I come to praise Milo, not to bury him. I won’t defend every word he ever said. Some of Milo’s words are discourteous, even cruel. He’s a troll and proud of it. I dislike his style in many contexts, including social networks like ours, but Milo is less a polite pundit than a walking South Park episode, and I’m a fan. Occasionally, his words offend my politics, but I’ll say nothing more about these words here. I’ll rather defend, with few reservations, the particular words responsible for Milo’s present predicament.

Milo dived in the deep shit over a year ago during an interview with Joe Rogan and a later interview on the Drunken Peasants podcast. Rogan is one of us, a libertarian. The Drunken Peasants are not, apparently, but the two interviews are similar. Milo defends sexual experiences in his early teens, particularly his relationship with a young priest. He believes himself exceptionally equipped at the age of thirteen or fourteen to consent to a sexual relationship and does not generally oppose a later age of consent, but he does defend relationships like his own, even suggesting that the relationship can be nurturing. His attitude is characteristically cavalier, but he’s not joking. Habitually blowing a priest at fourteen was a positive influence on his life, he says. He wasn’t victimized by the experience, he insists. He has enduring affection for the man he calls “Father Michael”.

Milo aggressively pursued the relationship. Father Michael was quite young and quite hot, but he was no sexual predator, according to Milo. Milo was the predator, at fourteen, he says. Father Michael was a wonderful music teacher who tutored him in sensual pleasures, down on his knees, hands clasped, like a prayer. His tutor satisfied an emotional yearning as well, a yearning he could hardly express to family and friends. If Milo tells this story omitting the ages and Father Michael’s vocation, we’re entitled to envy them both, but Milo was fourteen, and Father Michael was in his twenties, a priest violating a trust and sexually exploiting a child incapable of consent.

Regardless of Milo’s enthusiasm for the relationship, the violation of trust is not debatable. Milo now concedes this point while still insisting that he was not victimized. Legal standards, on the other hand, are always debatable, and in fact, under current English law, Milo was capable of consent at fourteen. By the definition of Sexual Offences applicable in England and Wales since 2003, sex between an adult and a child between thirteen and sixteen is a crime, but it is a crime less severe than statutory rape if the child consents. Sex with a child younger than thirteen is statutory rape, because lawful consent is not possible, but consent of a thirteen year old is legally meaningful.

This age of consent is later, typically sixteen, in the United States, but U.S. law is not handed down by God on stone tablets, and Milo was subject to U.K. law, not U.S. law at the time. As Milo noted when resigning from Breitbart, the age of consent in Germany is fourteen, and consensual sex with an adult is not a crime at all. Milo’s mother is German. Statutory rape draws a necessary but a necessarily arbitrary line. Libertarians are a disagreeable lot, but if we agree on anything, we agree that political impositions are debatable. If we may not debate the difference between statutes in the U.S. and their counterparts in other liberal democracies, like England and Germany, what may we debate?

Statutory rape is not pedophilia

Milo never defends statutory rape by the standards of the U.K., and he never defends pedophilia at all. As he notes in the Rogan interview, pedophilia is a sexual attraction to prepubescent children, something Milo did not experience and certainly does not condone, yet Salon called Milo, a victim of unlawful sex with a minor, a pedophile. By contrast, Bill Maher years ago defended a teacher’s sex with her 12 year old student (statutory rape in both the U.K. and the U.S.) simply because the rapist was female. Maher’s remarks never met criticism on the scale of sanctimonious condemnation of Milo’s remarks, not until now anyway.

Maher’s defense of Mary Kay Letourneau was a defense of statutory rape, because Letourneau was subject to U.S. law, not to English law. Maher was not rationalizing his own, early sexual exploration following puberty, and he was defending a procreative relationship. Milo’s relationship could not have been procreative, and this distinction is highly significant. Letourneau conceived a child from the relationship, raised by the boy’s mother while Letourneau was in prison, and she later conceived a second child with him while on probation and subject to a no contact order. Her actions had consequences far beyond the sexual relationship.

To be clear, again, I am not defending Father Michael or Mary Kay Letourneau, but I will defend Vili Fualaau’s defense of his relationship with Letourneau, because he was the victim of the crime and has every right to say that he sympathizes with, even loves, the criminal. The two are now married. The wedding was a media extravaganza covered by Entertainment Tonight. Letourneau is portrayed sympathetically in a TV movie. They’ve hosted “Hot for Teacher Night” parties at a night club. They’ve appeared on countless talk shows, where Fualaau says things like, “I’m not a victim. I’m not ashamed of being a father. I’m not ashamed of being in love with Mary Kay.”

What Fualaau says about Letourneau sounds a lot like what Milo says about Father Michael. Why the double standard? Milo is a right winger, and Father Michael is a priest, and they’re both faggots. Their relationship feels creepier to most people, and everyone across the political/cultural spectrum has something to hate. Bill Maher can hardly fail to notice the similarity between Father Michael and Letourneau, and he clearly sympathizes with a fellow, politically incorrect provocateur, but does he hate religious orthodoxy and its hypocrisies more? Can he resist his impulse to disrespect another “pedophile priest” rather than repeat his defense of Letourneau’s love for Fualaau?

Catch a falling star

Elements of the right celebrated Milo Yiannopoulos, because he belied the left’s caricature of the right, but the right has its limits, and Milo transgressed them. Libertarians are not so limited. Milo appealed to many of us despite his Trumpster diving, and we’re still listening.

Reports of Milo’s downfall have been greatly exaggerated. He left Breitbart voluntarily, he says. Maybe other staffers threatened to quit after the “pedophilia” panic, as reported, but he was the site’s biggest star and an increasingly valuable asset. Did management ask him to leave on this pretext, knowing the full story, or did Milo see an opportunity to move on and grab it? Unless he had a relationship with a young teenager himself, when he was in his twenties, he’ll survive this episode and prosper, precisely because so many headlines falsely lead readers to the less flattering conclusion.

The truth will out, and if you loved Milo before this revelation, you’ll still love him when you learn the whole truth. He’s sometimes gratuitously offensive, but he has more in common with Stone and Parker than with Richard Spencer or Steve Bannon. Leaving Breitbart was a smart move, and this episode allowed him to do it while appearing magnanimous, even sacrificial.

Losing the book deal with Simon & Schuster was also a blessing. Milo is entirely a product of viral, new media, and his rise was meteoric. He brought a lot to S&S’s old media market while S&S brought hardly anything to him beyond a cash advance, and he’s worth more now than when he inked the deal with S&S months ago (and more than when this story broke), so terminating the contract is their loss. S&S will regret their timidity.

The CPAC speech doesn’t matter at all. CPAC is laughably irrelevant to Milo’s trajectory. He was never a fit Republican, and he has appeal far beyond the “alt-right”. I hope he distances himself from both now.

If you can’t stand South Park, I get that, but Stone and Parker are libertarians, self-described. If you hated Milo before the latest episode, this appeal won’t change your mind, but Milo also identifies with us, and he’s looking for a new tribe, after being physically removed from the alt-right.

For my part, he’s welcome here, in our community. Milo can be brutally honest, but he doesn’t spare himself, so he never stops growing. Maybe he’s not one of us, politically, but he’s someone many of us have been. His star will not fall for long. Here’s hoping that it falls in our direction.