Politics & Media
Jul 25, 2017, 07:00AM

Ben Shapiro’s Shtick Is Played Out

Lt. Commander Data, here to destroy the Left.

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When it was reported last week that Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, had committed suicide, no one expected any kind of insightful commentary from Ben Shapiro. Why should they? Shapiro is a conservative polemicist who specializes in destroying left-wing social justice warriors on college campuses. A rock star’s death is not his beat.

And yet, the fact that Shapiro isn’t thought of as a voice to consult on Bennington reveals part of the problem of modern conservative punditry. The Right, toggling between irrelevant think-tankers and shrill alt-righters, has completely abandoned cultural criticism to the Left. Whereas once a conservative like William F. Buckley could write insightfully about people like Johnny Carson, John Lennon, or Elvis, today’s conservatives can only react. Shapiro’s a leading figure, but to me his shtick is played out.

It’s true: by preaching transgenderism, racism, anti-capitalism, and cultural Marxism, liberalism has made itself a slow-moving target that deserves pounding. Shapiro has a brilliant mind and it was fun watching him rip apart liberalism. He’s the Lt. Commander Data of the right, reporting to annihilate the weak arguments of virtue-signaling college students.

But then, Commander Data was at least curious about learning more about human behavior, including the complicated influences and motivations that make us who we are. Data was curious about philosophy, art, and feelings. Shapiro simply reminds us that facts don’t care about our feelings. There are diminishing returns for this kind of reductive rhetoric. Shapiro is currently bickering with UC Berkeley for scheduling over an upcoming talk. But he spoke at Berkeley just last April. What’s he going to say different now? Is he for single-payer universal health care? Does he have anything interesting to say about music or art? Can he speak to the meaning and passion of Chester Bennington’s work?

In William F. Buckley’s book A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century, there’s a remarkable eulogy for John Lennon. Buckley, who famously disparaged the Beatles, nonetheless dug deeper when Lennon was shot in 1980. Buckley noted how Lennon had changed from being bitter and resentful in a 1971 Rolling Stone interview given shortly after the breakup of the Beatles to being the quiet father of the later 1970s. In his December 18, 1980 column, Buckley explored Lennon’s metamorphosis: 

But there followed, not long after [the Rolling Stone interview], the five years of seclusion. He is said to have spent most of the time with his wife and son. And, unless I am deluded by the pervasive sadness, he achieved something of a nobility feature. The pictures of him showed: gravitas. No one’s face had more aspects than John Lennon’s. He was the mischievous, theatrical, erotic, iconoclastic Playboy.

Then suddenly he seemed to walk tall. And it was in that posture that he was shot down and perhaps his own experiences—with drugs, with joyless sex, with enervating solipsism—shriveled him, and the generation that turned out to weep for him experienced something of that spiritual emancipation that comes to people who come to see things philosophically.

Here is conservatism of genuine intellect, spiritual insight, and of feeling. Buckley even noted that Lennon’s death is part of a “grotesque” pattern of gun violence in America. He doesn’t just rattle off NRA statistics.

In 2014, Seattle passed an ordinance giving musicians special unloading zones in front of music venues. Speaking on radio station KTTH, Shapiro offered this, “Now, the next Kurt Cobain, before he decides to off himself with a shotgun, the next Kurt Cobain will have the ability to prioritize his own unloading [of music gear]… I guess when I’m unloading my baby at one of these venues, I guess I will have to take a backseat to the guy who’s unloading his guitar and also his massive depression.”

Glib, resentful, culturally ignorant, and with low emotional intelligence and an extra helping of bitterness, this is the state of celebrity conservative commentary. 

  • This entire article displays the typical level of ignorance I have come to expect from the general media population. Has Mark Judge ever actually listened to a Ben Shapiro podcast? It sure doesn't seem like it since Shapiro always spends the last 10 minutes of his podcast discussing things he likes and dislikes in popular culture. He also often discusses philosophical view points and religion. Perhaps Mark Judge should take a leaf out of the Shapiro book and start actually doing some research for data on his topics before shooting off his mouth on things he does not understand. Mark Judge appears to have decided that anyone and everyone MUST care and have an opinion about Linkin Park's lead singer, even though many of us do not listen to his music, or even the genre as a whole. Or perhaps it is because many of us do not see the need to give our opinion on tragic events and believe that it would be beneath us and the decesed to provide an opinion on someone we barely knew so as to drown out the voices of those who knew him best... It's even more hilarious that Mark Judge clearly seems less interested in Buckley's take on John Lennon and moreso in his stance on "gun violence" leave it to a liberal to turn even the saddest of occasions into a political cudgel to swing against his opponents. I'll end my comment with this: Plastered inside their ivory towers, culturally regressive, and with low emotional integrity, and an extra helping of factual ignorance, this is the state of celebrity liberal commentary.

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  • It is indeed true that Shapiro is heavily into cultural criticism. He subscribes to the Andrew Breitbart dictum, "Politics is all downstream from culture." That aside, this article was not written by a liberal. Quite the contrary. So you missed that one.

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