The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The Left’s Response to Criticism: Vulgarity and Double Standards

Representative Ilhan Omar at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., March 13, 2019 (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: The Washington Post prints an unjustifiable smear of Ben Shapiro, the Left continues to insist that any criticism of progressives is tantamount to inciting dangerous harassment, and an update on the future of the Cathedral of Notre Dame after Monday’s fire.

Democracy Dies in Darkness, or Something

Before the embers had even cooled at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, and in fact while we were all still watching the church burn, far too many people decided to use the tragedy as an opportunity to score political points against their ideological opponents. One such malcontent was a woman named Talia Lavin, who published a piece in the Washington Post yesterday afternoon entitled “How the far right spread politically convenient lies about the Notre Dame fire,” in which she included an obviously intentional mischaracterization of comments Ben Shapiro made about the cathedral as the fire raged.

From Lavin’s piece:

Many figures on the right took the opportunity to turn Notre Dame into a metonym for Western civilization as a whole, intimating that far more than a cathedral was in peril. Just as the fire hit social media, conspiracy theorist and brain-supplements salesman Mike Cernovich dramatically tweeted that “The West has fallen.” Shortly thereafter, fast-talking far-right pundit Ben Shapiro called Notre Dame a “monument to Western civilization” and “Judeo-Christian heritage.” Given the already-raging rumors about potential Muslim involvement, these tweets evoked the specter of a war between Islam and the West that is already part of numerous far-right narratives; it was also a central thread in the manifesto of Brenton Tarrant, the alleged Christchurch, New Zealand, shooter. Richard Spencer, professional racist and coiner of the term “alt-right,” openly advocated for such warfare, stating (and misspelling) his hopes that the fire would “spur the White man into action — to sieze power in his countries, in Europe, in the world,” and declaring such an insurgence a “glorious purpose.”

Of course, nothing Shapiro wrote was remotely relevant to Lavin’s supposed point about far-right extremists, but that didn’t stop her from trying to smear him, much like how The Economist recently published a piece labeling Shapiro “alt-right,” in spite of the fact that he is one of the public figures who attracts the most hatred from the alt-right for being a Jewish conservative. (The Economist later retracted the label and changed it to “radical conservative,” which hardly makes more sense but is at least a remotely defensible characterization.)

Here’s more on Lavin’s sideswipe of a piece, from David French on the Corner last night:

To any sensible reader, Ben is paying tribute to the apparent loss of one of the most magnificent buildings on the face of the earth. He’s lamenting the loss of a house of worship of a faith not his own. He is not casting blame. He is not trafficking in conspiracy theories. Moreover, he’s right — Western civilization is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. . . .

Lavin glories in her status as a troll. But the Washington Post should know better. Instead, it printed an opinion that has no connection to fact, and in doing so they reproduced the gutter reasoning of a low-rent comment board in the pages of one America’s great papers. Its mistake is only magnified by the fact that Lavin connects Ben’s rhetoric to the likes of Richard Spencer and the New Zealand shooter. Does she not know (or care) that Ben happened to be one of the principal targets of the alt-right during the 2016 election?

Later, and without adding an editor’s note, the Post (or Lavin) inserted a parenthetical into her piece noting that Shapiro had called her op-ed “simply gross.” We probably should know better than to expect any kind of clear thinking from Lavin, who had to resign in disgrace from the New Yorker last year after she smeared a Marine combat veteran by falsely claiming he had a tattoo of a Nazi symbol. But the Post and its editors should hold themselves to higher standards.

Media Matters Takes Up the Mantle

When Shapiro tweeted at the Washington Post account yesterday afternoon, asking them to correct Lavin’s evident error, noted liberal troll group Media Matters for America had some choice words for the conservative pundit:

Media Matters next insisted that this nonsensical rejoinder was intended as a defense of Lavin, whom they said “has been on the receiving end of right-wing harassment for the better part of a year now, often spurred on by spurious attacks on her work.”

This is just the latest example of the Left’s new tactic: insisting that any criticism of progressives amounts to “harassment” and is therefore out-of-bounds. But the needle only ever moves in one direction. We are meant to believe that tweeting vulgarities at conservative commentators is the mark of successful watchdog journalism, but well-founded critiques of progressives are always and everywhere an unacceptable form of persecution.

And their scuffle with Shapiro wasn’t the only example of this double standard from Media Matters, yesterday afternoon alone. They also published an article lying about me, claiming that I “invited harassment” against an abortion-clinic director merely by quoting her own words. In a tweet last week, NARAL board member and abortion-rights activist Calla Hayes attacked a pro-life bill that gave legal rights to newborn infants, suggesting the legislation wasn’t consistent with laws stating that infants younger than 30 days old can’t be added to wills. “How is that a legal person?” Hayes wrote of newborns.

The fact that I called attention to Hayes’s comment led pro-life people to criticize her for it, which, under the new rules of the game, constitutes harassment — so I must be villainized. Media Matters helpfully informed their readers that Hayes “had to lock her [Twitter] account because of harassment she was receiving” (read: chose to lock her Twitter account to avoid criticism) and said my direct quoting of her was “inviting harassment.” My venomous quoting, they say, “demonstrate[ed] the dangerous consequences of incendiary anti-abortion rhetoric.”

The irony of printing a multiple-thousand-word piece blaming me for the criticism Hayes received while decrying the risks of targeting an individual for harassment was apparently lost on them.

These are the Left’s new terms of engagement. They can hurl vulgarities at you. They can misquote you, twist your words, and label you “alt-right.” They can pen lengthy articles weaving false narratives about you and your work. But if you so much as quote a progressive, resulting in well-deserved criticism, you’re responsible for bringing dangerous harassment down on their heads.

This is the exact rhetoric we saw from the Left over the weekend, when Democrats spent several days insisting that any criticism of freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) was akin to inciting violence against her, and even put her life in danger. This needs to be exposed for what it is: a tactic to chill free speech, wielded by those who will use any means necessary to silence their political opponents.

An Update on Notre-Dame de Paris

Following the tragic fire on Monday, more of the Cathedral of Notre Dame was left standing than many expected while we were watching the fire burn. Much needs to be done to restore the church, of course, but the fact that so much remained intact — including most of the stone foundation, the two bell towers and front façade, and the rose windows — has already spurred an outpouring of financial support for the effort to rebuild.

Yesterday, French president Emmanuel Macron said the country will restore the cathedral within five years. “We will rebuild the cathedral and make it even more beautiful,” he said, and multiple companies and individuals have pledged large sums to make it possible.

But now some suggest that rebuilding Notre Dame exactly as it was might not be a good idea. Patricio del Real, an architecture historian at Harvard University, told Rolling Stone in an interview, “The building was so overburdened with meaning that its burning feels like an act of liberation.” No, it really doesn’t.

Del Real is unfortunately not alone in that thinking. Others say the fire might in fact have created the perfect opportunity to update and modernize the glorious cathedral, bringing it more in line with secular France. More from Rolling Stone:

Although Macron and donors like Pinault have emphasized that the cathedral should be rebuilt as close to the original as possible, some architectural historians like Brigniani believe that would be complicated, given the many stages of the cathedral’s evolution. “The question becomes, which Notre Dame are you actually rebuilding?,” he says. [John Harwood, an architectural historian and associate professor at the University of Toronto], too, believes that it would be a mistake to try to recreate the edifice as it once stood, as LeDuc did more than 150 years ago. Any rebuilding should be a reflection not of an old France, or the France that never was — a non-secular, white European France — but a reflection of the France of today, a France that is currently in the making. “The idea that you can recreate the building is naive. It is to repeat past errors, category errors of thought, and one has to imagine that if anything is done to the building it has to be an expression of what we want — the Catholics of France, the French people — want. What is an expression of who we are now? What does it represent, who is it for?,” he says.

The central problem with this argument — aside from the fairly obvious reality that modern architectural design pales in comparison to the beauty of the older style on display in Notre Dame —  is that it ignores what the Cathedral of Notre Dame was, and still is: a cathedral. It’s not, first and foremost, a testament to French history or architecture. It’s not a French monument. It’s not an expression of French culture or taste, or a reflection of French preferences. It’s a Catholic church.

If the people responsible for rebuilding the cathedral have any respect for the Catholic Church and for its history, they’ll restore Notre Dame as close as possible to the way it was before the fire. If they don’t, there will almost surely be a backlash, and it’ll be deserved.

ADDENDUM: Yesterday evening, while watching the Yankees trounce the Red Sox, I discovered that the MLB Network now plays 15-second commercials during the game, in a side-by-side with the ongoing game, between plays. As usual, my reaction to yet another change made by MLB is a resounding, “Thanks but no thanks.”

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