In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Jane Coaston accuses conservative commentator Ben Shapiro of exhibiting “hollow bravery” during his much-publicized speeches on campus. Coaston outlines what she considers to be Shapiro’s trick:
Set up a speech in a progressive bastion, ideally a college campus full of coastal elites who have never left their bubble. Spar with snowflakes who are offended by something he says about race or gender and perhaps even believe he never should have been invited in the first place. Post the exchange on the internet and use it as proof that the cultural consensus is stacked dramatically against conservatives.
What Mr. Shapiro does on campus is shadow boxing meant to pander to his conservative fans whose values dominate mainstream American culture. If he wanted to be genuinely brave, he’d challenge some of the wrongheaded ideas held by his right-wing fans.
Coaston is right that some campus speakers employ this tactic, and to the irritation of many other conservatives who want our message to be taken seriously. But Shapiro cannot be counted among this group. On the contrary, his speeches are popular less because he takes on “liberal snowflakes” and more because he is reasoned and rational and fair. Moreover, the claim that Shapiro doesn’t challenge wrongheaded right-wing ideas is simply incorrect. Just two weeks ago on NRO, he criticized Trump’s statement on the National Anthem protests. In February of last year on his news website, the Daily Wire, he criticized Republicans’ support of confirming a right-wing nominee to the Supreme Court, preferring instead a nominee who will defend the Constitution alone. And, of course, he has rebuffed the alt-right frequently and with vim.
His March 2016 decision to leave his position as editor-at-large of Breitbart, though, might be the strongest piece of evidence. From his statement on the decision:
Indeed, Breitbart News, under the chairmanship of Steve Bannon, has put a stake through the heart of Andrew’s legacy. In my opinion, Steve Bannon is a bully, and has sold out Andrew’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump; he has shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda . . .
Perhaps what Coaston means is that Shapiro refuses to challenge ideas she believes to be wrongheaded.