, 28 tweets, 10 min read Read on Twitter
"When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
Ben Shapiro is that saying, in human form.
Because Ben's answer to everything is "you disagree with me because you're a stupid leftist."
Here's an article on the climate change denying, Iraq War boosting, Rupert Murdoch collaborating, ultra-Thatcherite who big brain Ben just called "on the left." theguardian.com/commentisfree/…
This is a good recent piece by @Joshua_A_Tait comparing Shapiro's role in the contemporary right to Buckley's role in the past. arcdigital.media/the-functions-…
@Joshua_A_Tait Here's a recent interview where someone "debates" Ben, which means that they expose just how bad of a debater Ben is and how much of an intellectual fraud he is. vox.com/2019/5/9/18410…
@Joshua_A_Tait Two moments stood out to me. The first being this moment when Ben (whose tag line is "facts don't care about your feelings") reveals that his feelings apparently don't care about facts he doesn't like.
@Joshua_A_Tait And then there's gem of an insight about the Burkean wisdom of the founders. As someone who's read most of the political pamphlets of the 1790s and a good number of the newspapers from that decade as well, I can tell you that the 1790s generation harbored precious few Burke fans.
@Joshua_A_Tait When the premier response to Burke (Paine's Rights of Man) was published in the US, it was prefaced with a note from Jefferson who said it would counteract Burke's "political heresies" that he feared some of his rivals had embraced. founders.archives.gov/documents/Jeff…
@Joshua_A_Tait The Burke Shapiro is invoking here (the 1790 Burke of Reflections on the Revolution in France) was admired by a very small subset of elite Americans in the 1790s, like John Adams and other ultra-Federalists.
@Joshua_A_Tait It's also worth noting that Burke's seminal conservative work appeared in 1790, a full year AFTER the Constitution had been ratified. So there's no way he influenced the people who wrote the Constitution. But details, details...
@Joshua_A_Tait And then there's Ben's utter lameness when it comes to talking about race, a lameness he shares with others in the overwhelmingly monochromatic conservative movement.
@Joshua_A_Tait So Ben loves the founders, but not the racist ones from the South. I mean, it's not like James Madison or Patrick Henry or Thomas Jefferson or George Washington or James Monroe or George Mason came from the South and owned slaves or anything, right?
@Joshua_A_Tait The relationship between race and the founding era is immensely complex. There's an enormous and fantastic literature on it. It's not hard to find. Anyone who's even dipped their toes into it would NEVER say a sentence like this with a straight face.
@Joshua_A_Tait If Ben was the reading type, I'd recommend this as a starting point. It was published in 1976 by Edmund Morgan, who was never accused of being "PC" or whatever term Ben might use to justify not reading a book. amazon.com/American-Slave…
@Joshua_A_Tait To return to the Buckley/Shapiro comparison (which I think is fairly apt), the difference that most strikes me is the performative pose they strike. Buckley played the bemused sage, the holder of timeless truths who couldn't believe the guff he was hearing.
Shapiro plays the aggrieved but entitled teenage brat who just can't believe how mean and stupid his opponents are being. When pressed, he says either "look, it's just science" or "you're clearly just a brainwashed leftist."
The work that both Shapiro and Buckley accomplish for the right is that they use their Ivy League credentials to make simplistic, reactionary ideas seem hefty and timeless...and to position themselves as the defenders protecting the gates of civilization from the barbarians.
They are both the epitome of "an incurious person's idea of what an intellectual looks and sounds like." Like most conservatives, they never met a new idea they didn't instinctively reject. All the while, they defend a "tradition" that, like all traditions, is a modern invention.
For example, "the judeo-christian tradition" which Ben espouses is a tradition that, for some strange reason, no American before the 1930s ever talked about. How weird that the founders never mentioned the tradition of which they were a part.
Anyway, the key thing to know about both Buckley and Shapiro is that they use their reputations for "reasonableness" to launder all sorts of illiberal, right wing ideas...to make such ideas "part of the conversation" or "something we shouldn't be afraid to debate."
For Buckley, it was largely the racism of Southern segregationists that he was invested in laundering under the guise of "common sense" policies on "the race question." washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/1…
Ben's role is to give cover to Islamophobes. theweek.com/articles/82937…
I finally figured out which figure from the founding era Ben reminds me of...it's Joseph Dennie (who you've probably and rightly never heard of). s-usih.org/2015/01/an-ame…
Dennie was an arch-conservative in the 1790s and early 1800s who was brought in to edit a key Federalist newspaper in the mid-late 1790s--the Farmers' Weekly Museum. loc.gov/item/sn2002061…
This newspaper is fascinating because it was subsidized and signal boosted by some of the nation's wealthiest and most conservative Federalists, but it passed itself off as a modest little country paper that served the little people of Walpole, New Hampshire.
I spend a few pages on Dennie in my book. Here's the most relevant paragraph. Dennie's job was to model for his non-elite readers how they were to respond to the "dangerous" and "un-American" radicals in their midst. It's like Ben on Antifa.
Obviously there are many ways in which Ben and Dennie differ from one another...but Dennie's story shows us how there's long been a role for the pseudo-populist (but also well educated) defender of radically conservative ideas under the guise of fighting off the "dangerous" libs.
American conservatism has a distinctively paradoxical relationship to change--they will glory in how vibrant and rapidly changing certain aspects of America are, and in the next breath decry how all of our valued traditions are being destroyed by the phantom menace of "the left."
More than anything else, it is the largely invented specter of "the totalitarian left" that has enabled American conservatives to square their reactionary tendencies with their love of progress. "We love change, just not scary leftist change."
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