The Corner

Politics & Policy

The Washington Post Prints Another Bizarre Attack on Ben Shapiro

Ben Shapiro speaks at the 2018 Young Women’s Leadership Summit in Dallas, Texas. (Gage Skidmore)

I know that yesterday was almost entirely dedicated to analysis of the Mueller report, but I just can’t let this past without comment — the Post printed another op-ed tying Ben Shapiro to the radical right. On Tuesday, Talia Lavin took to its pages and actually wrote that Ben’s statements declaring Notre Dame to be a monument to Western civilization and a mark of the west’s Judeo-Christian heritage actually evoked the specter of war between Islam and the West. She then immediately compared his words to the depraved ideas of the New Zealand mosque shooter and alt-right leader Richard Spencer. It was a gross and irresponsible smear.

Well, here we go again. The Post’s Ishan Tharoor writes that the Notre Dame fire ignites the West’s far right. This piece actually racializes Ben’s comments — and then links them to, yes, Richard Spencer.

Ben Shapiro, an influential American right-wing pundit with a huge following on social media, lamented “a magnificent monument to Western civilization collapsing” and then followed up with tweets that insisted upon the “Judeo-Christian heritage” embodied by Notre Dame and the duty of all to refamiliarize “ourselves with the philosophy and religious principles that built it.” Critics quickly noted the brutal treatment meted out on French Jews for centuries while the cathedral stood. Others suggested Shapiro’s invocation of “Judeo-Christian” values were in this instance simply a euphemism for “white.”

Richard Spencer, an American neofascist credited with coining the term “alt-right” for the online ecosystem of far-right voices in the West, spoke more plainly. He tweeted his hope that the fire consuming Notre Dame would “spur the White man into action — to sieze [sic] power in his countries, in Europe, in the world” and, if so, the blaze “will have served a glorious purpose and we will one day bless this catastrophe.”

The term Judeo-Christian is not a euphemism for white, and claiming that Spencer spoke more plainly than Ben (rather than contradicting everything Ben believes) is yet another smear. Judeo-Christian is a modern term that merely acknowledges the historical fact of Judaism’s connection to Christianity and Christianity’s dependence on Judaism. The term Judeo-Christian has been used to help educate Christians as to the roots of their own faith (read Romans 11, it takes two minutes) and to refute the utter irrationality and depravity of Christian anti-Semitism. It has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with two inseparably intertwined religious traditions that are multi-ethnic in their own rights.

One additional note. Both Tharoor and Lavin illustrate a serious problem within zealous progressive anti-extremism. They constantly lump mainstream conservatives — thoughtful people who engage in good faith — with vile racists and conspiracy theorists. And so you read pieces like Lavin’s and Tharoor’s and applaud the condemnation of men like Spencer and media outlets like Infowars, but then next stumble straight into a broadside against Ben. One wonders, do they even understand conservatism? Or is the true intent to attempt to ostracize mainstream conservative thought through illegitimate and manufactured guilt-by-association?

Spend any time in far-left segments of American life, and you’ll quickly learn that all too many academics, writers, and activists see precious little distinction between actual fascists and traditional conservatives. In their punch a Nazi worldview (whether the punch is literal or literary), the definition of Nazi is often maliciously broad. People who abhor racism are lumped together with racists. People who seek peaceful change are treated as if they’re dangerous and violent — and when words can allegedly be violence, then dramatic action is justified in response.

I’m used to hearing this sentiment on the quad or from troll accounts on Twitter. It’s exceedingly disappointing to see the same techniques employed time and again in one of America’s greatest newspapers. Ben Shapiro was smeared again, and there is no excuse.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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