Milking Harvey

The U.S. Navy Is Honoring a Known Sexual Predator in the Name of Progress

Last month, construction began on the USNS Harvey Milk, the U.S. Naval Ship named after Harvey Milk, who in 1978 was elected to the San Francisco board of supervisors, where he served for ten months before he and the city’s mayor were shot point blank at City Hall by a disgruntled former supervisor.  

The subject of the 2008 film, Milk, Harvey Milk was iconized after death as a martyr and LGBT cause célèbre. In 2009, the state of California set aside his birthday as Harvey Milk Day to “honor [his] life and legacy [as] the first openly gay politician in California and a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement.” That same year, he was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, and President Obama posthumously awarded the “Champion of Change” with a Presidential Medal of Freedom. At the turn of the century, Time magazine listed him as one of its “100 Most Important People of the 20th Century,” along with The Wright Brothers, Winston Churchill, and Pope John Paul II.

At a General Dynamics ceremony in San Diego, where the ship is being built, Milk’s nephew Stuart spoke about his uncle being forced to resign from the Navy in the 1950s after being caught in a San Diego park popular with gay men. He said this naval honor showed positive change in America, and California Assemblyman Todd Gloria agreed that the naming of USNS Harvey Milk signifies progress. National news outlets, from the New York Times, to CNN to the Washington Post, heralded this “persecution to progress” narrative about how Milk had been forced out of the Navy for being gay, but now he’s being recognized as a great man. The general tone of it all was that we should take this moment and commend ourselves for our collective progress.

But, well, no. This is not progress – for multiple reasons. Laurie Higgins explained with her characteristic feist that it is not a good moment in America when we honor a known pederast (a man who has sex with adolescent boys), a point that should be obvious to anyone with a working conscience. I want to draw out another inconvenient fact about this moment and the “Progress” narrative into which it is being set as a capstone.

Harvey Milk wasn’t forced out of the military. Ever. He served four years, and then he was honorably discharged. Daniel Flynn writes in Cult City: Jim Jones, Harvey Milk, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco that when Milk was running for office, his campaign put out a press release saying he had been dishonorably discharged for being gay. Milk admitted to a campaign manager that it wasn’t true, but it made a good story for a would-be San Francisco politician. It was pure political strategy. 

In Cult City, which chronicles a decade of Bay Area recklessness centered on Milk and the Communist “Reverend” Jim Jones, Flynn details how Milk regularly sought out troubled boys as sex partners, outed friends when it served his purposes, and played a significant role in the Kool-Aid suicide massacre at Jonestown. Milk comes across as a gregarious homosexual, likeable on the surface, but ultimately a free-wheeling beatnik, ever out for himself. He was your friend if you were useful. Otherwise, watch your back.

Dennis Prager often says that truth is a liberal value, and it is a conservative value, but it has never been a left-wing value. And in unmitigated left-wing fashion, the entire Harvey Milk persecuted hero narrative is built on falsehood. Although he’d been a practicing homosexual from his teens, he served in the military in his twenties, apparently without incident. After discharge, he held jobs as a high school math teacher, a Wall Street investment banker, and a New York theater stagehand. No one appeared to take issue with his sexuality then either. He even campaigned for Republican candidate-for-president Barry Goldwater, and Republican teammates apparently had no problem with it. Don’t miss the irony, here. He lived as a gay man in mainstream 1950s America, and nobody made much of a fuss over it.  

It wasn’t until he moved to San Francisco in 1972, “because that’s where the boys, and the freedom to pursue them, were,” according to Flynn, that Milk took up the persecution storytelling. Why? Because it was useful. Flynn notes that a copy of Milk’s discharge document is available in the San Francisco Public Library for anyone who wants to bother with the truth of the matter. We might expect the mainstream media to run with a trendy narrative, but apparently, no one at the Navy saw fit to check its own files or correct the story either.

In any event, this is how leftism works. Truth is irrelevant, the end justifies the means, and people are means to be used, not ends to be served. Despite what the storyline says, Milk lived, died, and remains useful in the Machiavellian way. In a left-wing world you better be watching your back. And since we’re now honoring a pederast, you should probably be watching your sons’ backs as well.

More broadly, we live in a dangerous world, where enemies want us dead. And now, the top echelon of government has allowed our military to be used as a leftist tool. That is not just shameful. That is perilous.

 is Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

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