Of all the myths killed so far, this one admittedly requires a somewhat finer cut, a scalpel instead of an axe.
Ben Shapiro is not a master of the art of debate. Ben Shapiro is a master of being mentored by people who pay him to say things. They are the ones who give Ben Shapiro his talking points and critique his arguments. They are the ones who tell him what to argue and when.
It only takes a little googling to learn that two billionaire fracking tycoons / evangelical preachers from Rising Star, Texas have pretty much subsidized his entire career. This happened a mere two years after Andrew Breitbart, a wealthy, avowed fascist, got ahold of him fresh out of school and scrubbed his brain clean of ideological independence.
No, Ben does exactly what he’s told by the Oil and Christianity Industries. For all of his scholastic ability, Ben is pretty much just along for the ride.
Ben only debates with young college students. As a Harvard Law School Graduate specializing in corporate legal defense, his exercise is akin to a fledgling boxer showing up to a Day Care Center and beating the stuffing out of all of the kids – then claiming he’s the heavy-weight champion of the world.
It’s really sad to watch. And not because the college students always lose. It’s sad because you can really tell that Ben thinks he’s brilliant for having won a debate against them. His website and YouTube Channel shovel this impression up in ample supply: “Ben Shapiro DESTROYS The Libs” and “Ben Shapiro OWNS Another Leftist”.
He did graduate from Harvard Law School, which requires serious hard work and above-average intelligence. But, again, we’re not discussing whether or not Ben is hard working or intelligent. We’re discussing his debate skills specifically. And while Ben’s debate prowess could have been significant, that is not what Ben has chosen to do. Because that is not what Ben is paid to do: Ben is paid to say things, sometimes ridiculous things, and to make it look as if they make sense.
That isn’t debate. That is grift, chicanery and spin made to appear as if it is a Good Faith debate in pursuit of the Truth. Again, a scalpel instead of an axe.
Rather than pursue his subjects at the top of his intelligence, what Ben provides is an unending series of logical fallacies and snuck premises, looped over and over again throughout his conversations. Once someone points out these fallacies live, in living color, the illusion collapses and Ben’s sleight-of-hand magic show becomes much less entertaining, much more depressing and boring.
To boot, there is an unrepentant layering of Confirmation Bias, a smack-dab application of data and statistics to glue the whole thing together. Once this bonding agent hardens, then the False Dichotomies, Straw Man arguments, and the “Oh, so you think it’s better to…?” accusations can appear to the casual observer to be as true and permanent as any national monument – though on second glance they are revealed as nothing more than paper mache.
And that’s it. It seldom gets any more complex than that. That is Ben’s entire professional existence. That is what Ben gets paid to do.
He talks fast and he pushes and pushes and pushes his side of the story, not because he is a philosopher or forensic savant. He pushes these things because he’s a Defense Attorney hired to defend a set of corrupt, inane ideas. That’s what Defense Attorney’s do: they argue for guilty clients to get the best possible deal. So, if the clientele is morally bankrupt, if the ideas are morally grotesque, rest assured Ben is there to paint the rosiest picture possible.
The only problem is, of course, that Ben never really goes to “trial”, so to speak. There’s never a “prosecuting attorney” to counter his argument. Though we’ve seen Ben shuffle around talking points provided by billionaire fracking tycoons, and batted aside a few undergrads, we have yet to see Ben actually, genuinely debate with anyone. We certainly haven’t seen him debate anyone who’s actually in it to find out what is true in the world. Sam Harris was an okay example but, again, this was a carefully staged event, designed more to show how polite and tolerant the two men can be than to expose any harsh truths.
I could provide a seemingly endless cavalcade of examples where Ben Shapiro engages in this sort of buffoonery and, if I thought it was worth your while to go in depth, I would. Instead, I’ll cut to the chase and give you the ultimate cringe-inducing display of Ben’s “Paper Tiger” existence: Shapiro’s interview on the BBC with Andrew Neil earlier this year.
Neil, who is one of the most notoriously Conservative interviewers on the BBC, asked Shapiro a series of relatively straightforward, harmless questions. They were not “soft ball” questions, but they were also not the kind of thing an average human couldn’t handle without a modicum of candor and poise.
Shapiro simply couldn’t and didn’t do that. He folded like a napkin at the bottom of a fast food bag, almost instantaneously accusing Neil of being a “Flaming Liberal”. Neil simply laughed and said “I don’t think you know of what you speak” to which Shapiro replied “Well, I’ve never heard of you” and continued to accuse him of pushing a Liberal agenda and being a hardcore Leftist.
The wreckage of Shapiro’s credibility could not have been clearer and what little support he could’ve mustered for his arguments was discarded along with the rest of the refuse of his pre-owned mind.
He is intelligent. But the guy cannot debate. He sounds like he can debate. But he cannot debate. He can’t outmatch anyone who offers even a passingly logical oppositional perspective. Along with the Andrew Neil interview, there are scores of much more carefully curated, edited exchanges (again, his handlers hone his image with painstaking attention to detail), in which Shapiro appears to be much more in control, much more prepared. Yet, even in these well-packaged exchanges, the talking points have no real logical soundness. They sound better, they are more thoroughly reasoned, and yet they’re obviously false.
They’re false to the point of being ridiculous.
If Ben weren’t in the pocket of agenda-driven billionaires, he might actually be able to debate at the top of his intelligence, in Good Faith, about things he really, truly believes in – things he’s thought about on his own. In a better universe, Ben is unburdened by the obligation of having to prove things true that are so demonstrably false.
But he doesn’t. Because he can’t bring himself to do it. If he did, then he’d stop making so much money.
It is a genuine tragedy to see such a talented, intelligent man have to tap-dance for his masters like such a little baby-faced bitch. But that, unfortunately, is the kind of life Ben has chosen. Money over integrity, style over substance.
It must be horribly emasculating. It is certainly dehumanizing.
Again: he’s a Defense Attorney. Nothing more, nothing less.
In the end, to Ben, it doesn’t matter if the conclusions are sound or not. Though they’re “guilty” of being false, Shapiro has been hired by powerful people to create a reasonable doubt in our minds as to their falsehood. Like most Defense Lawyers, he’s there to trick the jury of public opinion into believing the guilty are “innocent”. Again: chicanery, grift, and spin, not debate.
Keep cashing those checks, Ben. We all know what prostitution looks like.
Just because you made a couple of million dollars from it only means you were willing to negotiate the price.