Ben Shapiro dodged a bullet when AOC declined the offer to debate him. Shapiro’s brand as a skillful intellect and powerful debater is little more than pure marketing. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a far superior intellect and a far superior public speaker.
BEN SHAPIRO: MASTER OF THE CLICKBAIT-AND-SWITCH
Shapiro is a conservative antagonist, famed for his outstanding debating skills and extremely conservative political views. He is a controversial man of esteemed intellect and a carefully pruned public image.
He recently invited AOC to a debate, which she declined.
Hey, @Ocasio2018, what do you say? pic.twitter.com/lKDtmMc8Us
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 8, 2018
Just like catcalling, I don’t owe a response to unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions.
And also like catcalling, for some reason they feel entitled to one. pic.twitter.com/rsD17Oq9qe
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 10, 2018
The normalization of hate speech and the rise of the alt-right media has handed a self-proclaimed conservative political commentator who would otherwise be a corporate lawyer a public speaker’s platform on a silver platter. The failure of pre-election polling to predict a Trump presidential victory (likely due to social desirability bias), suggests far-right social commentary is very much a product of Donald Trump. (Shapiro, to be clear, is not an alt-right identity himself, but the mainstreamification of alt-right publishing has served him well. He’d never admit that himself, of course.)
The President has aided and abetted the emergence of greater public acceptance of the alt-right commentary once confined to the private living rooms of Rush Limbaugh listeners. After passing his first budget, in which the President effectively declared war on his own base, the divisive figure revealed his actual intention was not to drain the swamp but swim in it. But by then the cap was irreversibly loosened on extreme right-wing reporting.
Shapiro and Trump have both benefited from the anti-hipster backlash–the era of casting aspersions at ‘snowflakes’ and dismissing the emergence of the (admittedly tiresome and ingenuine) culture of anti-faux-sub-culture hip.
“We’ll eat your food because it’s great, but we can do without the beards and the attitude, dude. You’re not Nick Cave.”
(If you think hipsterfication is getting old, so too is hipster bashing).
Sadly, this milieu in which we find ourselves is also responsible for the unsubstantiated hatred directed toward AOC, best illustrated here. Bizarrely, the so-called Green New Deal proposed by AOC puts into words much of the sentiment the Trump campaign premised itself on–employment and income security for Americans that need it the most. She is branded a populist socialist (which is apparently an insult). Trump is hailed as a swamp drainer. Her plans are grotesque. From anyone else, they’re a stimulus.
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ AND THE POWER OF LOGIC
Ocasio-Cortez is an outstanding public speaker and a stringent adherence to flows of intellectual logic, as her stirring speech to Congress made clear.
AOC’s grasp of logic is in sharp contrast to the debating style of Shapiro, who while arguing healthcare should be unregulated, cites the example of Lasik eye surgery. In one sentence he explains how the cost of Lasik eye surgery has fallen because of competition. In the next, he explains that practicing Lasik eye surgery is an easier way for doctors to make money. The argument is a logic-defying insult to the intellect.
It is also a nod to straw man style debating tactics, as his premise began as an attack on universal healthcare, which he characterized as regulated healthcare. The real problem with the cost of X-rays, which he also cited in this speech, is the corruption of the medical supplies industry, courtesy of powerful lobbyists and a compliant government. It is not a phenomenon caused by regulation.
Shapiro casts a spell over audiences and opponents with a uniquely sharp mind and an apparent lightness of step in public appearances. But his feet aren’t as light as you might think. And his political views are horrendous throwbacks to Cold War-era irrational lusting for all things freedom and capitalism. At least, all things that have signs that say ‘Freedom’ and ‘Capitalism’. Shapiro’s intellectual agility is not as mighty as it seems and his views are not as fresh.
A cursory stroll through Shapiro ‘owns’ or ‘destroys’ YouTube videos are telling cues that what he successfully passes off as quick-witted rebuttals are actually tired and well-rehearsed soundbites. Heard the one about his grandfather whose delusions were solved by lithium as his reasoning for demonizing the LGBTQ community? Yeah, so have I. Many times.
Caught his ‘Sweden is a homogeneous society’ argument against public healthcare in America? Yeah, me too. The fact is that Ben Shapiro’s debating skills are little more than the smoke and mirrors of stock footage-style arguments to (admittedly tiresome) questions. Watching a Shapiro speaking circuit is a lot like following a comedian on tour. It doesn’t take long before you realize they’ve actually got the same set of jokes to repeat to new sets of audiences. It’s not called a routine or a set for nothin’.
Word yourself up: he ain’t no lyrical dancer.
… AND THEN THERE’S THE PROBLEM OF WHAT HE SAYS
OK, so he’s a fraud in the art of public speaking. But what about the content of his varying stances on issues the western world is faced with? Doesn’t a man of his intellectual prowess have something to offer this public discourse of ours? Nope. Very little at all.
His intolerance of people questioning their gender identity–and sometimes answering those questions with a sex change–is counter-scientific, anti-social, and downright sadistic. Of course, Ben Shapiro is shouting from the rafters right now ‘Straw man!’ But I’m not criticizing him personally. I’m attacking his views because they are wrong.
Shapiro refuses to refer to transgender women as women because, in his eyes, an anatomically born man is always a man. That biological man has every right to identify as a woman and become a woman, he concedes. They have no right, he argues, to demand Shapiro refers to a her as a her. To him, she is a he. Check out the stomach-churning video below.
The argument is shamelessly insensitive, but also fallacious. By the exact same logic, Ben Shapiro has every right to identify as a man and ask me to call him a man. But I don’t have to if I don’t agree he is a man. Shapiro’s logic suddenly turns on itself: in denying a certain subset of the community the right to ‘impose’ their self-identification on society, he has no right to make the same demands of anyone about himself. It is my right, to follow Shapiro’s logic to its ridiculous end, to refer to Ben Shapiro as a fish. Or an egg.
Of course, Shapiro is not an egg or a fish. He is a man. But why are we nit-picking after half a century of scientific debate about ideas of sex, gender, sexuality, and sexual preference? If I am a female by gender and prefer to be referred to as such, then I am a woman. Whether I was born a man, a fish, or an egg. I self-identify pursuant to gender. The end.
The link between gender and anatomical sex and social construction is incredibly complex. What is firmly established, scientifically, is that gender is not sex.
We don’t live in Shapiro’s cartoon world where men are men, women are women, and fish are long skinny things that swim in water. There are fish that have adapted to their environments so as to be able to walk on land. Shapiro’s world is far less complicated than the real one in which we live. So is gender and sexuality… both as fluid, for reasons undergoing continuous scientific debate, as the water from which some fish can simply up and walk away when they need.
In Shapiro’s Hollywood beginning-middle-ending world, there is no place for self-identification based on anything subtler than the obvious and superficial. Another illustration he draws upon to double-down on his anti-gender fluidity stance is age. A person born forty years ago cannot identify as 65.
This is another quirk of quasi-logic. How people feel is very much a product of their environment. It requires little imagination to recognize the emotional impact of, say, civil war on an individual’s mind and sense of age. Too much imagination for Shapiro, unfortunately.
Public health only works in places like Sweden because Sweden is homogenous (despite the fact it is becoming less homogenous and despite the fact that similar healthcare systems work in places like France and Germany). Clutching at non sequitur arguments to support flawed beliefs is not the work of a master speaker.
The former law student is a marketing genius, having crafted for himself an image of ‘the smartest guy in the room’, much like Trump has created a reputation as a brilliant real estate tycoon, despite his widely known record of failure in business.
Shapiro’s tweeted disappointment in OAC’s rejection betrayed the white privilege classism that forms the lens through which he and his peers view the world.
"Hey, girl — want to have a public one-hour discussion on the intricacies of trade policy, deficit spending, and the value of the profit motive? I'll even donate a bunch of money to charity or your campaign to make it happen." — Construction worker in Queens, apparently
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 10, 2018
That he cannot understand that others see the world through different lenses entirely speaks to an intellectual deficit on his part. He is a saddening figure in many ways: a linear and binary beast trying to navigate a world infinitely more complex, more fluid, and far less 1950s than the one he lives in.
Ocasio-Cortez’ characterization of working-class despondency toward the impact of globalization at last week’s SXSW is precisely the same sense of betrayal felt by enough Americans to lead to the disastrous Trump presidency:
Yet she is branded anti-capitalist just as the anti-democratic tendencies in the Trump aisle remain unscathed. Shapiro has cashed in on the surging acceptance of intolerance and xenophobia.
In a debate on any area of public policy, AOC would have wiped the floor with him. AOC may not have the oratory mastery of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. But her public speaking skills are far more persuasive than the brutish thuggery of Ben Shapiro.