The Enemy of My Enemy Is Not Necessarily My Friend

This take may have cooled a bit, but I’m still going to give it. I wanted to chip in my two cents from the CPAC Milo Yiannopoulos fiasco from a few weeks ago.

For those who haven’t heard, CPAC–the largest conservative political gathering in the country–invited Yiannopoulos to be a keynote speaker. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, you’re lucky. I’d rather not go into detail, but suffice it to say he’s an alt-right/neo-nazi darling who gets attention by doing things that are sexist, racist, and shocking. He’s also spoken in favor of pederasty. In short, he’s not a great person.

So why did CPAC, a group that’s supposed to care about conservative values, want to feature him?

Simple: Yiannopoulos really, really, really ticks off liberals.

CPAC claimed its main purpose was highlighting the suppression of free speech on college campuses. This is an important issue, and deserves a thoughtful response from a reasonable person. Yiannopoulos is not that person. His strategy is to go from campus to campus and shock everyone with his horrible ideas. You know how too many college progressives claim that everyone who disagrees with them is a bigot? Yiannopoulos is who they have in mind.

CPAC made a common mistake by inviting Yiannopoulos. They assumed that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” That’s one of those phrases that gets less clever the more you think about it. Just because someone shares an enemy with you doesn’t mean your interests align. They could be the enemy of your enemy for reasons that don’t implicate you at all. Or maybe their goals are even worse than your enemy’s, so that if you knew the whole story, they’d be an even bigger enemy for you.

As obvious as this all sounds, it’s an easy trap to fall into. Both CPAC and Yiannopoulos may be “enemies” of liberal political correctness. But they should not be friends. They oppose political correctness for (hopefully) different reasons. Any association with Yiannopoulos will do nothing but hurt the conservative cause–as the fallout from his invitation has already shown.

This isn’t a mistake that’s particular to conservatives–though they have been making that mistake a lot lately1. Everybody is prone to it. Too many progressives believe that their only enemies are white male fundamentalists. So anything–I mean anything–that opposes this group must be supported. And anything that resembles the enemy group should be viewed with suspicion. I think that’s why so many progressives were slow to recognize the genocide of Christians in Iraq. Even though these Christians were non-white longtime persecuted minorities, the fact that they were Christians made them just similar enough to the straight white fundamentalists to be suspicious.

Of course, a lot of this blog deals with this attitude toward evangelicalism. As I’ve learned from my own mistakes, it’s easy to start with valid critiques of evangelical excesses, and eventually warp that into an attitude that anything evangelical must be wrong, and any criticism of evangelicals must be right.

So let’s all be careful. And let’s all stop talking about Milo Yiannopoulos.  Starting now.

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1  See Bannon, Steve; see also Trump, Donald

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Photo by Mark Taylor

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