Milo Yiannopoulos, now the former senior editor at right-wing Breitbart News after being forced to resign, has finally found the boundaries of free speech.
After President Trump and others fiercely defended Yiannopoulos' right to speak hatefully about blacks, Muslims, transgender people, and immigrants online and on college campuses, the provocative writer and commentator finally went too far.
In a video released online by the Reagan Battalion, a conservative group, Yiannopoulos condoned sexual relations between men and 13-year-old boys, and joked about Roman Catholic priests and pedophilia. His words not only cost him his job at Breitbart. They also cost him an invitation to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). In addition, Simon & Schuster will not release his book, Dangerous.
In short, Yiannopoulos has been brought low by his own twisted comments.
Which brings me to my point. Limiting one's hate speech is not "political correctness," as some would have us believe. No, limiting hate speech is common decency. That's the price we all should pay for the freedoms we're afforded. But too many on both sides of the aisle have forgotten that simple truth.
We have become a culture where the kind of outlandish behavior that used to bring swift rebuke can lead to fame and fortune. People like Yiannopoulos, a gay man who should have long ago been censured by his own LGBT community for his verbal attacks on transgender people, was allowed to speak hatefully about everyone who was not like himself. As long as his antics entertained, no one, it seems, had the courage to stop him.
Twitter tried. In a nod to common decency, the social media platform banned Yiannopoulos for his relentless trolling of blacks, Muslims, immigrants, and others. Liberals and some conservatives also raised alarms about Yiannopoulos' hate-filled commentary.
But as the young writer and commentator ratcheted up his hate speech to levels that prompted protests at universities where he was invited to speak, his fame only grew.
President Trump, via Twitter, threatened to yank federal funding from universities that would not allow Yiannopoulos to appear. Former Brietbart publisher and current White House Chief strategist Steve Bannon, who counted Yiannopoulos among his protégés, was also a staunch defender. Simon & Schuster, a major publisher, rewarded Yiannopoulos' hate speech with a six-figure book deal.
Then the video from a radio program appeared, and it all came crashing down.
"No, no, no," Yiannopoulos says on the tape. "You're misunderstanding what 'pedophilia' means. Pedophilia is not a sexual attraction to somebody 13-years-old who is sexually mature. Pedophilia is attraction to children who have not reached puberty."
In the video, he goes on to call the idea of consent "arbitrary and oppressive" before crediting a Catholic priest with teaching him about sex.
The negative response to Yiannopoulis' comments was swift and sure, but in my view, they were also hypocritical.
We can't be a society in which everything that everyone says or does is OK, and then recoil when someone crosses a line no one bothered to define.
We elected a reality-show star as president even after he bragged on tape about grabbing women's genitals without their permission, called Mexican undocumented immigrants rapists and criminals, and made disparaging comments about blacks, Muslims, immigrants, and refugees.
Now those who were silent during the campaign are up in arms when the president's executive orders reveal that what he showed us on the campaign trail was real.
But the hypocrisy does not only exist on the right. It exists on the left as well.
We elevate people who appear in sex tapes to stardom and call it shaming if anyone dares to say anything about it. We tell ourselves it's OK to use one drug and then wonder why we are in the midst of an unwieldy epidemic when it comes to another drug.
We run to airports to defend the rights of refugees, but refuse to condemn police officers who unjustly take the lives of unarmed black and brown people on our streets.
In other words, Milo Yiannopoulos is not an aberration in our society. He is rapidly becoming the norm.
We can't pretend to be outraged when he pushes beyond boundaries we never set. We can't now be offended when we laughed at his previous stunts. We can't condemn his abhorrent behavior when we helped to create him.
We empowered Yiannopoulos by creating a society in which the lines are invisible. Then we pounced on him when he crossed them.
Freedom of speech is not a pass to act without shame, to speak without limits, or to move without consequences, because freedom of speech is not free. It comes with a cost that was perhaps too steep for Milo Yiannopoulos to pay.