Someday, Ben Shapiro will be forgotten about. At least I can dream.
I know it’s passe to write about hating a political commentator with as much clout, and I know it’s tasteless to wish even worse fates on him. So, I can hope, without compunction, that he’s forgotten.
I don’t say this for all the obvious reasons, although there are plenty of reasons to hope that television’s youthful, sneering dose of manipulative, right-wing arrogance will be forgotten.
I don’t say this because he’s the most prominent of a group of youthful, under-40s, arch-conservatives who somehow pass off bigotry in defense of some precious cultural value. Because he does do this. And effectively, too. Sadly, Ben Shapiro is also from a long tradition of very well-respected bigots in the literary world.
Unfortunately, he’s a good writer and communicator, and his books will remain on bestseller lists. What’s ironic about being a ‘social critic’ is no one needs to collect data, information, or facts to have opinions. If you express an opinion, any opinion, seemingly eruditely enough, it becomes likable, at least to some. I think in Ben Shapiro’s case, it’s more so that he’s a good communicator and a great manipulator. He has social polish, which is exactly how he can be so vehement and yet not descend into histrionics.
Yet, I hope his diatribes go over the edge of public consciousness forever, until he’s a name on the tip of someone’s tongue they can’t reproduce.
I don’t say this because he perpetuates the idea that Western Civilization (which has never been a singular civilization) as being superior to every other culture, despite its history of colonization and conquest. Don’t even ask me how anyone ever comes to an idea like this, because it takes so much fragmented logic that I can’t work my head around what a singular “Western Civilization” is supposed to refer to, how far it goes back, or where the roots of its universal values supposedly go.
I don’t say this because Ben Shapiro supports Israel’s war with Palestine. I don’t mean he supports Israel: he’s in support of conflict. Most Jewish people around the world can bring themselves to be disgusted with war even if still supporting Israel. I mean, supporting a war, liking it, thinking the conflict is a good thing, is bad taste for anyone. Except for Ben Shapiro.
That’d be enough for me to want his words to vanish into the ether forever.
I don’t say this because Ben Shapiro supports a total ban on all abortion, including in cases of rape and incest, even if potentially the health and well being of the parent could be threatened. Ben Shapiro is in support of overturning Roe v. Wade. Notice that Ben Shapiro is not saying that he personally disapproves of abortion, he’s saying it should be illegal and would make that choice for anyone, even if the mental or physical health of a woman, child, or any other individual affected negatively by a birth would be at risk. He’s telling the American public no matter whose life is at risk, he disregards that risk because of how Ben Shapiro wants to live his life. Why can’t Ben Shapiro live the life he wants to live and let others do the same? That is a question.
I don’t even hope that he is forgotten because he’d also overturn gay marriage and make it illegal again. He’s additionally stated that homosexuality is a sin in his mind, but this is America, and we don’t police sins; they’re for us to decide to engage in or not, but not for public schools to address. He is, therefore, against all education about LGBTQ rights and people in public school systems. In fact, he thinks our fight for justice represents a victim mentality only. What really bothers me about this, specifically, is that Ben Shapiro is the first-cousin to openly bisexual actress and writer Mara Wilson. That can’t be a very easy subject during family holidays if the family even celebrates them together.
I don’t even say this because Ben Shapiro thinks trans people mentally ill. He proved his position on this many times, moreover, he consistently misgendered Zoey Tur, a transwoman activist, on television multiple times with clear intention and purpose. I don’t say this because he filed a police report after Tur got understandably heated and threatened him (from my understanding, though, the claim was so laughable to police that they didn’t pursue it). More recently, he’s insulted Elliot Page, and that’s disgusting, but there are more reasons to wish he’d just be less than a memory.
He believes that we’ve overcome the effects of racism and race can’t be linked to inequity. He’s accused all Muslims of being disproportionately radical and only retracted his statements when called out for their vast inaccuracy. And the list goes on.
What baffles the mind is that this man really does have a strong grip on language, persuasion, and argument. He’s got a law degree. (I guess he has to use it for something). His demeanor is way more palatable than some other right-wing malcontent figures like Alex Jones, which is why he’s so appealing to middle of the road conservatives across the country.
If all of this isn’t terrible enough, I haven’t gotten started; Ben Shapiro is a provocateur, an effective commentator (effective in drawing an audience and generally good ratings), and an energetic speaker. He’s undeniably a good writer and a prodigy if a manipulative, conceited, and arrogant one. If that’s what it takes to be a prodigy, allow me to be of ordinary intelligence and abilities.
No, none of these reasons are ultimately why I hope this man, his face, his well-crafted image, is simply lost to the ignorance of the next generation, if not even sooner.
The reason I hope he is lost to the sands of time is that I’m also a Jew. He wouldn’t say I am, though.
I was raised Reform Jew (and I don’t practice it as my spiritual practice anymore). Reform Judaism tends to promote a much more liberal reading of texts.
Ben Shapiro’s an Orthodox Jew, which promotes a much more traditional reading of those same texts. Ben Shapiro was raised Orthodox Jewish, which means he probably has a very deep, nuanced view of these texts. He knows what traditional Jews meant by what they wrote when they wrote it, and how, obviously, much of it has to be reconsidered to be applicable to a modern world. Despite how much he disgusts me, I know Ben Shapiro is intelligent, very intelligent; there’s no way he could be ignorant of the main tenets of the faith he grew up in.
This has nothing to do with his bigoted views, believe it or not. There are many Orthodox Jews who have written insightful commentary on this very issue and have come to vastly different conclusions than Ben has. But Ben uses his cultural and religious background as moralizing paydirt Because he was raised in this faith with strict, solid ethical, and cultural views, his reasoning is that his political views stem from that upbringing, and thus he can claim moral superiority because of it. He has a moral compass (which has become a favorite term of the right and even some centrists), and that compass is his faith, his upbringing, and his culture.
Except it isn’t. Many modern Orthodox Jews live by these mid-Iron Age writings too, but that doesn’t mean to live by these texts as strictly as they were written. There’s a difference between understanding these laws and applying them to life lived today.
To make matters worse, Ben Shapiro has repeatedly claimed Jews who are not religious are not Jews, but Jews in name only, a point that he regularly links to his warmongering views regarding Israel. It’s the classic ‘no true Scotsman view,’ except his sounds like “no Jew who takes their heritage or ethnicity seriously would think differently and Jews that do are Jews in name only”.
Ben Shapiro is not living by some ancient code handed down from Jew to Jew over the centuries, he lives the way he wants to live. He lives by the bigoted, obstructionist, backward-facing views he already had in the first place. Ultimately, that is his choice and his right to live as he wishes. If you asked me where those really come from, I think I’d have to talk to his psychiatrist, but I’m not equipped to analyze him.
If I have to be frank, he’s not more violent and vile than the majority of far-right conservatives; he’s on par with them. That’s sad, but that’s the political situation that we’re in, and you know, he’s also not so different from other edgy under-40s conservatives who say edgy shit to get reactions.
But the fact that he does claim to get his views from his faith is what makes this personal. It infers that somehow, because I don’t ascribe to his bigoted views on cultural essentialism, sexual morality, and global politics, then I’m not a real Jew. He’s giving me a litmus test of my own heritage and ethnicity, barring me from claiming it if he could have his way. I’m sure he’d also claim nobody can be a ‘real Jew’ and LGBTQ too.
Ben Shapiro has absolutely no right to make such a claim. He has no authority to say who is or who is not a Jew. Wherever he thought this authority comes from, he’s simply mistaken. If he’s trying to avoid angering G_d, he’s off to a miserable start with this statement. I hope every Jewish religious thinker, whether Orthodox, Reform or otherwise, would agree.
For better or for worse, the Torah and other esoteric writings (or what fragments we have left of them) have survived, in bits and pieces or whole, since somewhere around 600 BCE. I can be deeply proud that, despite all persecution, the oral and written histories of my ethnic heritage have not been erased from time.
The reason they have survived this long and haven’t been forgotten isn’t because they have been strictly adhered to this long, it’s because, among all dictates, rules, laws, and other culturally appropriate mores, there is poetry, music, stories, and wisdom to be wrought from the words.
Around the sometimes very violent histories recorded there, around the (sometimes) mind-boggling rules, practices, traditions, and strict, austere standards, there is ecstasy, beauty, and joy.
Together, the collections of writings do not just represent a hierarchy of standards: there is wisdom beyond what can be particularly known, explained, translated, read, written, or proselytized, no matter how large your TV show or podcast audience may be.
If it had been only a strict set of laws that were inflexible and unchanging, they would have very likely been forgotten to time. Religions are not just mandates, edicts, and standards. Faith will always suggest that these histories, rules, and regulations are not the end of the laws, they are only the beginning. There will always be some of the divine mankind simply cannot fathom. But, in the meantime, we have faith, beauty, and splendor.
But guess who is strict, stiff, severe, extremist, without poetry, spirit, joy, love, song, gratitude, mirth, light?
You guessed it: Ben Shapiro. Someday, not so distantly in the future, his writing will be seen for what it is: backward, bigoted, mostly logical fallacy, admirable only for its withering candor when it’s not manipulative and juvenile, worth a passing glance, or better, worth disregarding.