What went down last week with Milo Yiannopolous and CPAC was a clown show from the start. First, they booked him as the keynote speaker, then canceled it when the tape of him defending adult-child sex relationships surfaced. Then they tried to pretend that they hated the “alt-right” while presenting its most ardent defenders.
First, let’s note the very important fact that it took the pedophilia defense to get them to cancel his appearance. They weren’t at all bothered by the orchestrated harassment campaigns he ran, by his outing of both trans people and immigrants, or by his advocacy of the most far-right racist and sexist ideas. They were fine with all of that. But then they put on a dog and pony show about how strongly they reject all of that and consider it fringe and outside the mainstream, starting with throwing Richard Spencer, the white supremacist who coined the term, out of the conference.
In cable news interviews and speeches from the conference lectern, CPAC’s organizers have condemned the “alt-right” — even having security very publicly remove from the premises Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who originally coined the term.
But at the same time, they have vouched for Bannon, are hosting seven Breitbart staffers and accepting a sizable donation from the website, and they even claimed that the “alt-right” is really made up of liberals. Bannon’s “alt-right” ties went unmentioned this afternoon when he sat alongside White House chief of staff Reince Priebus for a fawning “conversation” with Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC.
In a speech this morning titled “The Alt Right Ain’t Right at All,” the ACU’s Dan Schneider claimed that the term “alt-right,” which he claimed had previously “been used for a long time, in a very good and normal way,” had been “hijacked” by a “hate-filled, left-wing fascist group” that “stole the term specifically to confuse us.”
The ACU is having trouble getting its story straight — Schlapp claimed during an MSNBC interview this morning that he had never heard of the term before last year — according to him, it is a “new term.”
But Schlapp did want everyone to know that Bannon is definitely not associated with the “alt-right.” “Today, [Bannon] would repudiate what these people stand for,” he said. “He’s a good man, and he’s a tolerant man.”
“I know Steve Bannon well. He’s a good man; he is not a racist,” Schlapp added on CNN. “Yes, the conservative movement and voices in the conservative movement are changing. But I do not believe that he is associated with the ‘alt-right’ at all.”
Really? You don’t? Why don’t we ask Bannon himself:
“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July.
That’s not convenient to admit anymore, either for Bannon or for CPAC, but he said it and he was obviously right. And remember, he’s the one who hired Milo at Breitbart, and defended him despite all of his noxious and bigoted behavior, and kept him on. So this notion that you can just throw out Milo and pretend that you were throwing out the entire alt-right agenda and movement is a giant lie. Your entire conference was steeped in it, you just don’t want to admit that.
The mainstreaming of the most putrid fringes of the far-right into conservatism and the Republican party is pretty much complete at this point. They own it now.