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The Ben Shapiro Brouhaha
Leftist intolerance reaches new heights.
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The sickness at the heart of our political culture stems from a spirit of intolerance that has become the crux of discourse. It’s gotten to the point where state governors are playing the part of the bully towards their own people. Last week, New York governor Kathy Hochul and aspiring Florida governor Charlie Crist both made comments suggesting that a governor has the moral authority to determine which political views are tolerated in a particular state.
At a campaign rally, Hochul declared, “And we are here to say that the era of Trump, and Zeldin and Molinaro, just jump on a bus and head down to Florida where you belong, okay? Get out of town. Because you do not represent our values. You are not New Yorkers.”
So, by her lights, being a legitimate resident of a state is determined not by state residence but by whether or not you share her “values,” which we all know is a stand-in for “my worldview.” It’s worth mentioning here that Hochul’s opponent, Lee Zeldin, was physically attacked by a man with a knife, shortly after her campaign called upon supporters to “stalk” Zeldin. Our era has cultivated a propensity for rhetorical grandiosity unparalleled in history, but that rhetoric still matters; it’s still influential. This is not some hothead keyboard clacking away on Twitter, claiming that all those who fail to share her political views are [insert pejorative]; this is a state governor calling for the expulsion of citizens from the state if they fail to adopt her politics. There’s a big difference.
Meanwhile, last Wednesday, newly nominated Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist said of past supporters of Ron DeSantis, “Those who support the governor should stay with him. I don’t want your vote. If you have that hate in your heart, keep it there.” Which is a pretty dumb thing to say, considering that Crist is essentially writing off 4,076,186 potential Floridian voters. My understanding is that Ron DeSantis is pretty popular among his constituents. He was one of the only governors who refused to genuflect before Faucism, and because of that, relative to most other states, Florida is thriving, with its economy in great shape and students suffering no learning loss during the pandemic. Moreover, I would love for someone to cite an example of this so-called “hate” that DeSantis promotes.
Hochul and Crist’s comments point to a pattern that’s being normalized, one which will only continue to radically inflame political tensions: Politicians denouncing massive swaths of the country based on how they vote. Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment1 serves as arguably the most memorable example of this trend, but Biden’s entire speech the other night, much to the delight of Blue America, was like one long screed demonizing Red America. The intolerance of the former for those of the latter has reached new heights. It seems like every day now there’s a new example in popular culture underscoring this.
But one of the most egregious examples I've ever come across took place a couple of weeks ago at a podcast convention in Dallas, when cancel culture, safe-space bullshit, and narcissism collided to instigate a brouhaha thanks to another spillover of intellectual rigidity from the adamantine online world of Leftists.
Ben Shapiro, a well-known conservative pundit and co-owner of the Daily Wire, made an appearance at this so-called Podcast Movement, which touts itself as “the front page of podcasting, designed for you and the community we love” and “the hub for podcasting news, resources, and thought leadership.” His attendance was not exactly unexpected; the Daily Wire was listed as a “presenting sponsor” and an “exhibitor” for the event, and Shapiro is host of one of the country’s most popular podcasts.
But in a sign of the times, Shapiro’s mere presence proved to be too much to stomach for some folks of the liberal persuasion. One attendee posted a picture with the caption: “Hey @PodcastMovement what the f***. As a trans person, as a queer person, as someone with a uterus, this does not make me feel welcome. This does not make me feel safe.”
To the extent it’s my place to diagnose someone else as a spazz, this person is pretty definitely a spazz. This is clearly a specimen who labors under the permanent illusion that the world must accommodate her delicate sensibilities and terribly fragile psyche, and that her views must not only be heard but validated.
It’s important to note that Ben Shapiro is not a bad person. He has kids, a wife, is of the Jewish faith, is incredibly intelligent, and has never done anything scandalous or even said anything inappropriate, for that matter. He is, however, widely despised by many on the Left. Why? Because he’s very, very good at debating people. He routinely eviscerates political opponents. Massive audiences pay to hear him speak in person. His prose, both written and spoken, are always trenchant; spend a minute listening to the dude talk and you’ll quickly conclude that this is not someone you’d want to verbally spar with. He does not use ad hominem attacks because he does not need to, to give you an idea of the kind of mind we’re talking about here.
But that’s Ben Shapiro. That’s it. Seriously. I’m not blowing smoke here and leaving out the bad stuff—I don’t know of any bad stuff. This is not Alex Jones, folks. And yet, for the crime of being a conservative commentator, Shapiro’s presence was enough to “trigger” a bunch of narcissistic liberals.
“I was in the room and standing there breathing oxygen,” Shapiro said. “That is the entire story. There was no confrontation. No one spoke to me about anything political. Some people asked for pictures and I obliged. That’s literally it.”
Imagine the fanatical self-regard required to think you have the right to denounce someone’s presence — someone as benign as Ben Shapiro — at a podcast convention. You have to be permanently chained to the solipsism of infancy to believe such a thing.
Here’s where it gets even more ridiculous, though: The Podcast Movement apologized for Shapiro’s presence and “the harm” it caused.2
This is not a parody. This really happened. The event organizer’s statement said it agreed with attendees who called Shapiro’s appearance “unacceptable”:
“Those of you who called this ‘unacceptable’ are right. In 9 wonderful years growing and celebrating this medium, PM has made mistakes. The pain caused by this one will always stick with us. We promise that sponsors will be more carefully considered moving forward,” it said.
The Podcast Movement is still being mocked, and rightfully so.
The irony — that this unfolded at a conference purportedly meant to celebrate multifarious voices — makes this episode all the more bizarre. The only “unacceptable” thing any person of sound mind can point to here is the organization’s cowardly intolerance and refusal to promote very basic ideological diversity. Shapiro is not a threat to anyone. If any threat exists, it comes from those on the Left who continuously suppress dissenting viewpoints. Persecution is their thrill, and they silence and censor voices that deviate from liberal orthodoxy, chilling speech and ostracizing those who don’t propagate The Narrative™. This cancellation tactic is particularly pernicious because the true target is never the specific person being cancelled, but the broader public that’s being conditioned to accept a range of politically acceptable views and behavior.
It’s not even an opinion anymore so much as a statement of fact: Once known as the quintessential freethinkers, most liberals today are liberal in name only. What they really are is participants in a stifling ideological orthodoxy that leaves no room for opposing views. For all the talk of Donald Trump and his base’s authoritarian inclinations, much of the growth of illiberal intolerance — a form of soft authoritarianism — over the past decade has been a left-wing phenomenon that stems from postmodernism.3
We can reasonably conclude that individuals like the ones who rallied the digital mob against Shapiro’s presence inhabit a desperately impoverished information landscape and have no understanding of the real world because their personal lives are so homogenized that everything outside their social circle equates to abject wilderness. These people, with their fingers-in-ears denials and habit of construing the most harmlessly neutral acts as provocations, view everything of the conservative persuasion, including someone’s mere existence, as a form of lèse-majesté—an insult to the progressive regime. The coddling of the American mind has given rise to this ridiculous inability to tolerate divergent perspectives. As this example illustrates, the progressive safe-space culture has so incubated Leftists that they convulse over someone’s mere presence. The propensity for such over-emotive reactions is toxic in the extreme and further fosters the very self-isolation that results in these morons happily confining themselves to their own ideological limitations. The result is a stunning degree of bigotry.
Allow me to make a number of propositions.
If you feel that you’re perpetually entitled to ideological cosseting and that reality as you experience it must reify and reaffirm the social narrative you’ve chosen to shape your entire identity around, you might need to do a little self-reflection.
If your political convictions lead you to act as though you’re a worse person than you really are, or they result in you acting like an infant, you may have lost perspective.
If you insist on acting like self-annointed moral elitists, looking down your noses at others and reverting to petty cancellations and treating your across-the-aisle counterparts as peasants in need of reeducation camps, I have two words for you—one rhymes with a well-known water fowl, and the other is a preposition.
I hope these people have oxygen on standby on election night this year.
It’s noteworthy that both Hillary Clinton and Kathy Hochul made these comments at campaign rallies. In sociology terms, we strengthen our feeling of “in-group” belonging by increasing our distance from and tension with the “out-group,” and a campaign rally is like one big in-group get-together.
A postmodernist is someone who believes that ethics are completely and utterly relative, and that human knowledge is, quite simply, whatever the individual, society, or political powers say it is. When mixed with radical egalitarianism and the assumption of moral absolutism, postmodernism produces the agenda of the radical cultural Left.