Why Ben Shapiro Is A Total Fraud

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Image via Gage Skidmore.

[Update 5/8/2017: Given that there have been rumblings of a ‘debate’, Ben Shapiro is invited, below, to a Skype/phone debate with Dan Schneider as moderator. Alternatively, he is free to respond to this piece in writing as he sees fit, which would allow us to formulate our thoughts and cross-check each other’s references — Shapiro’s biggest foible and point of dishonesty. Note that I do not know whether Shapiro even knows of this article, nor will I reach out to him. I am leaving this message up due to the number of e-mails requesting some sort of ‘action’.]

A couple of weeks ago, conservative pundit Ben Shapiro delivered a Reddit AMA (‘Ask Me Anything’) on r/politics, a left-leaning subreddit which – to Shapiro’s credit – has never been a fan of his work. Yet as a liberal, myself, I’ve nonetheless found common ground with a number of Shapiro’s views, ranging from his critique of the Left’s attacks on free speech, to their over-use of emotion in what ought to be cold and detached argument, to the futility of identity politics, liberal intolerance, and – of course – a decades-old embrace of Third Wave feminism as a rational response to gender issues. No, r/politics isn’t THAT far left, but when I saw the AMA announcement, I nonetheless respected Ben Shapiro’s willingness to engage in what can be a notoriously unforgiving format with a group of people unsympathetic to his views. I expected, therefore, to see a little give-and-take, some dumb, bait-y questions, but also a few good ones, too, that he was perhaps not used to. Naturally, these would be questions that Shapiro – given his ‘attack-dog’ reputation – would of course answer. More, he would answer them in depth, after having time to think and formulate his responses, if only to prove once and for all that he is not the monster that so many claim he is, but might very well be the Right’s biggest intellectual star.

Well, I was wrong, to put it mildly. I was unfamiliar with much of Ben Shapiro’s work prior to his AMA, but, frankly, I am confused why he even agreed to the format in the first place, given how lazy and self-serving his answers are. He intentionally avoids the more difficult questions, goofs off on what he DOES choose to tackle, and refuses to meaningfully engage in any follow-ups despite others’ prodding. Not exactly the hallmark of a probing and far-ranging mind. Either Shapiro just doesn’t give a damn, and tried to use Reddit for publicity rather than genuine engagement, or he is as intellectually vapid as his worst critics suggest. More, despite a well-executed AMA serving as a kind of précis for one’s worldview, I cannot even use the bulk of Shapiro’s comments to string together anything coherent on that front, and must dig into his articles and videos in order to elaborate on the scant piffle he does provide. Thus, what had started as a brief note on Shapiro’s disingenuousness has now turned into a point-by-point takedown of modern, bastardized conservatism as a whole, highlighting not only Shapiro’s poor thinking skills, but his utter hypocrisy, as well. Needless to say, the silly, fawning tone with which Shapiro has been described reveals how utterly desperate the Right has been for a champion – for anything, really – to the point that they’d settle on a vapid, pussy-grabbing TV mogul for President, on the one hand, and an intellectual con as the purported ‘corrective’ on the other.

And that’s because despite the Republicans’ cowardly embrace of Donald Trump, Ben Shapiro has stood by his principles – dumb as they may be – in both criticizing the President as well as some of the more unsavory characters Trump’s campaign helped energize. In fact, he even alienated Breitbart after the rag refused to defend their own journalist from physical assault, and later weathered anti-Semitic attacks from alt-right trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos while the Ted Cruzes and Paul Ryans of the ‘conservative’ wing merely caved.

In the end, however, principles are nothing without some bedrock of reality, a thing Shapiro desperately needs a dose of after years of arguing with liberal caricatures on TV and brain-dead college campuses. Indeed, for despite Shapiro’s intellectual pose, he cuts himself off from the real world by not examining his own  assumptions, nor the logical conclusions that a truly consistent position demands. More, he is FAR too willing to take a conservative bon mot (“abortion is murder!”) on the strength of its popularity rather than its immanent, logical value, and has the same simple-minded approach to complex issues that he hates so much in the Left. But whereas the Left is often either absurdly reductive or needlessly complicated on any given issue, Shapiro prefers both, limiting the world to sound-bites even as he throws in pointless variables that ultimately confuse even Shapiro. In many ways, then, he is merely the ‘cold, detached’ iteration of the over-emotive liberal whiner, for just as the whiner uses emotion as a cudgel to beat back reality, Shapiro’s utter lack of self-control takes an otherwise useful tool – information – and mismanages it to the point of irrelevance.

Now, there is lots to get through, so let us start where my curiosity first began: the Reddit AMA. The top-rated question – which Ben Shapiro no doubt saw – was this:

[–]HoustonRocket 444 points 7 days ago

Hey Ben. You voiced your displeasure in the past at how it is unethical to force pro-lifers to fund Planned Parenthood through tax dollars. Do you also think it is unethical to force certain people to fund the subsidies of meat and dairy products if they do not believe those products are ethical? Thanks

Good question, but with a poor follow-up that unnecessarily gives Shapiro a way out of the logical conundrum. As some readers no doubt know, Shapiro is a ‘principled’ conservative with libertarian leanings: meaning, he would likely cut quite a few subsidies if he could, thus allowing Shapiro to merely answer ‘Yes’ and move along. But the issue, of course, is NOT with the example provided, since it’s merely a case-in-point for a global problem that Shapiro’s assertion points to. If it is in fact unethical to force someone to dole out tax money for something he does not believe in, then it stands to reason that other protected classes must exist, as well. Now, it is quite possible that Shapiro might demarcate abortion from all other exceptions, but why – when the standard is mere personal revulsion – stop at abortion? There are countless other logical categories, from pacifists funding war, to Jainists chipping in for road-cleaning, where the offended party might feel just as strongly against some item of the Social Contract that the rest of us must consent to. More, note how abortion is utterly divorced in this case from the global libertarian scope. Shapiro is not even making a libertarian argument against abortion – for there is no such thing, as I will later show – but appealing to an individual tax code by way of a local ethic damning that (and only that) tax. By NOT appealing to the ‘unjustness’ of taxation, as a whole, Shapiro manages to open up his own economy to a free-rider problem of which he would quickly lose control, thus making a caricature not only of the abortion issue, but Shapiro’s wannabe exceptionalism, to boot.

Not that it matters, however. Despite it being the AMA’s most popular question, Shapiro decided to completely ignore it, likely because he saw how deep of a hole he’d dug once he was actually faced with the logical consequences of what might have been an off-the-cuff remark.

Moving on:

[–]bbiggs32 223 points 7 days ago

Hi Ben.

I was wondering, how’s Kansas doing after their relatively large tax cuts? Is the wealth “trickling down”?

Thanks

A bitchy question, perhaps, replete with the missing period on ‘Thanks’, but also a fair question nonetheless. Again, Ben Shapiro is not a full-on libertarian, but that’s irrelevant, since he supports many of the same measures – tax breaks for the wealthy, huge reductions in entitlement spending – Kansas has recently undertaken with predictable results. From the libertarian perspective, they are arguing for a system that – for good reason – has NEVER been implemented in its pure form. I mean, it would be unethical to do so, but even disregarding basic human decency, it would be impossible to implement without a violent revolution (‘coercion’, in libertarian parlance), after which the resultant anarchy (sorry, libs!) would inevitably give rise to the same subsidy mindset – i.e., factionalism – as a mere product of animal psychology.

More pointedly, however, libertarianism suffers from the same endless purity-testing that its hated mirror image – stateless communism – undergoes, with every iteration of Stalin, Lenin, the Paris Commune, etc., being bastardizations of the REAL thing…if only the ‘fakes’ would get out of the way, and let the true believers deliver on their promises. Likewise, the more typical, Shapiro-like conservative response to Kansas’s budgetary woes and tepid business growth runs the gamut from “that’s not what I’d do!” to pointing out all the ways the Kansas model does not live up to some non-existent ideal. In other words, the No True Scotsman fallacy writ large – across 82,000 square miles, no less, where people’s suffering is both irrelevant as well as a piece of key evidence which can never be turned in against the believer’s own zealotry.

Yet, again, Ben is silent on a tough query, forcing me to dig up other materials where he makes his position clear:

The wealthy in this country are by and large the job creators. Tax them, and they will cut jobs because it impedes their ability to create. Money only stretches so far so it’s not a matter of the wealthy simply wanting to earn more, but a matter of making prudent decisions that don’t deplete their capital in a time when they could lose everything in a weak market. If they’re not creating jobs now, they’ll be cutting jobs if the taxes rise…

The truth is that if you talk simply in terms of effectiveness, the most effective thing is to not tax the upper end of the income bracket very much at all because those people are the ones actually earning money, producing products, providing services and hiring people. A flat tax is the best balance between equity and efficiency. I think it’s perfectly equitable because by nature percentages are perfectly equitable – it’s not a flat sum, it’s a flat rate. If someone has a smaller pie, a smaller piece will be taken out of the pie.

A controversial point of view, as far as the research goes, yet look at how confident Shapiro is at his own pronouncements. To be sure, there has been exactly ZERO evidence that taxation is anything more than 1) a collective means of ensuring social goods that an individual cannot guarantee; 2) equity. Business, innovation, and recession have existed in pretty much every mature tax climate, with study after study indicating not only the problem of getting an academic consensus on whether tax cuts promote growth, but also how wildly divergent their conclusions have in fact been. This is not an ‘opinion’, nor some liberal conspiracy against big business. This is an honest reflection of the ONLY data that we have available. If I were to guess, I’d presume that a neoliberal tax policy has a modest (at best) effect on growth, but wreaks havoc on every other metric of the social good: really, the only logical way to measure economic success in the long run. Yet it’d only be a guess, anyway, unlike Shapiro’s childish desire to craft policy based on nothing but a hunch: and a hunch that’s been derided by economists and statisticians for decades, at that.

Graphs showing tax rates and GDP growth over time

But let us assume that Shapiro is correct. Let us assume that low tax rates do in fact promote growth and employment. The assumption is that everyone benefits, but while taxes have been cut from an ‘official’ (but rarely paid, of course, by the rich!) 70-90% down to the 30s and 20s, with multi-millionaires often paying even less in between kickbacks and massive tax-dodging operations, the everyday American isn’t doing so well. Real wages have declined alongside four decades of massive tax cuts, even as worker productivity has risen quite a bit. Shapiro likes to say that people more or less get what they deserve, and that ‘unfairness’, in the cosmic sense, does not imply any inherent fairness in redistribution. More, the suckers just need to work. Yet Americans have worked, at more hours for less pay and less stability, netting corporations trillions since the 1970s and getting little in return. In Shapiro’s proposed system, workers have done exactly as they should. But the second the idea of a minimum wage or a progressive tax is brought up as some sort of reward, they are treated exactly as what they’re NOT – an obstacle to growth – rather than what they are: a buffer between the bottom and the runaway rich, and a means to balance nearly half a century of losses with data-driven entitlements that ultimately do MORE for fiscal balance than Shapiro’s economically haphazard, faith-based system of tax cuts for the rich.

This brings us to the issue of a minimum wage, as well as the recent effort to increase it. According to Shapiro:

A minimum wage requirement always impacts an economy horrifically. A minimum wage doesn’t work and always increases unemployment. It’s just basic common sense that the minute you tell people that they have to pay more for labor, they’re going to buy fewer units. If the price is raised on gasoline, people tend to buy less gasoline, if the price is raised on cereal, less cereal will be sold and if the price of labor is raised, people tend to buy less labor.

Yet this just isn’t true, both theoretically (an employer’s ‘monopsony power’ in an imperfect market) and empirically. First, the entire reason why there even HAD to be a minimum wage debate is because wages did not appropriately grow despite increased work hours, greater worker productivity, and exponential growth in corporate profit: all things Shapiro would argue as ‘good’, yet without the concurrent boon Shapiro’s system promises.

Second, Shapiro’s assertion isn’t supported by the data in the way that he thinks it is. Yes, it’s common sense that raising the price of labor might lead to a number of problems, yet this is true of literally ANY decision one might undertake, ranging from complex issues like war to personal ones, like losing weight. The real question is whether the benefits outweigh the losses, and in the case of a carefully-implemented minimum wage hike the evidence is clear.

Like many similar organizations, the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute argues – without citations – that the biggest effect of an increase is massive job loss for affected industries. More down-the-middle groups, such as the Congressional Budget Office, likewise predict significant job losses for an indiscriminate, federally-mandated increase. Yet a far larger, decades-spanning meta-study from the liberal Center for American Progress only sees upside, partly due to unintended consequences that have little to do with “cost of labor” analyses. This is further supported by empirical observations where a livable wage has in fact already been implemented. Could the truth be somewhere in between? Perhaps, but going even further, researchers Dale Baleman and Paul Wolfson analyzed over two hundred studies on the effects of a minimum wage increase, concluding that:

…[M]oderate increases in the minimum wage are a useful means of raising wages in the lower part of the wage distribution that has little or no effect on employment and hours. This is what one seeks in a policy tool, solid benefits with small costs. That said, current research does not speak to whether the same results would hold for large increases in the minimum wage…As many others have argued, programs such as the EITC and Food Stamps play a critical role in placing a floor under incomes and consumption, and higher minimum wages are not a substitute for such programs. In other words, the minimum wage is a useful tool for policy and, as with most policy tools, must be used wisely and in coordination with other policies to achieve the desired end.

As for more modern examples? Well, the Economic Policy Institute’s testimony before Congress revealed the following:

Whenever increasing the minimum wage is discussed, there is always concern that doing so might hurt job growth or imperil businesses that employ low-wage workers. In the 22 times the federal minimum wage has been raised, and the over 300 times that states or localities have raised their minimum wages just since the 1980, these concerns have never materialized. The effect of increasing the minimum wage on employment is probably the most studied topic in labor economics, and the consensus of the literature is that moderate increases in the minimum wage have little to no effect on employment. In fact, this was the conclusion of a letter sent to the leaders of both houses of Congress in 2014, signed by over 600 PhD economists—including 8 winners of the Nobel Prize. The letter stated, “In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.”

Further, a more recent study of eighteen states that have enacted minimum wage increases saw NO appreciable negative effects in the target industry, with employment rates pretty much identical in the same industry in states without the hike. More, one study on increasing New York State’s minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour (more than double from just a few years ago) concludes that there will be little to no effect on unemployment and only a negligible increase in prices: a much-studied proposal that is now law, yet a thing few economists – Shapiro’s prediction of “horrific consequences” notwithstanding – seem nervous about. It may be true that it’s best to leave minimum wage increases to the state and local levels, where they can be incremented and adjusted as needed, but to make a blanket denunciation of ‘the’ minimum wage, as Shapiro does, is simply wrong.

As it stands, then, today’s minimum wage controversy it is little more than a philosophical disagreement between the Keynesians and the neoliberals. Perhaps one CAN argue (if that’s the word) that a minimum wage is ‘coercive’, and ‘evil’, and a form of ‘theft’, but one CAN’T claim that it’s not smart policy: if by smart we mean that it reduces poverty while increasing health, happiness, and self-sufficiency, and even maximizes worker productivity as per the academic consensus. So, let’s see: an uptick in self-reliance, AND an economic boon to the corporate job-makers, yet conservatives are against it? Jesus- if only their ideology was consistent with their axioms! And while this all may be an interesting debate to Ben Shapiro, who constantly chides already overemployed people to ‘get a job’, the real world actually has to work, often in conditions that Shapiro will only hear of, then promptly forget as soon as it’s no longer convenient for his own narrative. Ah, just like a lefty, Ben, except the blather has less to do with penises and vaginas and their preferred nomenclature, and more with a religious attachment to secular bullshit.

[–]El_jefe66 252 points 4 days ago

Hi Ben,

Regarding health care as a “right”, you’ve argued people aren’t entitled to doctors’ time and resources. How do you justify this argument when people say “what about public attorneys (6th Amendment), or what about emergency medical services”?

As a follow up, do you think emergency rooms should be able to turn people away and not treat them?

[–]Ben Shapiro 151 points 4 days ago

There’s actually significant debate about whether the public was supposed to pay for the lawyer; also, there is a difference between you being compelled to enter the government system through prosecution, and you being compelled to buy a service by government. It’s the government prosecuting you, so they should have to help guarantee your rights in that given situation.

Now, this is a good way to frame the rest of the essay, since – unbeknownst to Shapiro –  there’s enough even in these two sentences to utterly bankrupt him vis-à-vis his other claims going forward.

First, let’s discuss rights, since Ben Shapiro is confused about their meaning. Although he likes to say ‘we have a right to X, but not Y’ as an expression of his ideology, the fact is, rights are NOTHING but what the Social Contract confers. It was as perfectly valid to say that blacks have no ‘rights’ in 1854 as it is to say that we have a ‘right’ to abort fetuses in 2017. In both cases, it is the Social Contract which has made that determination, not the ideological frameworks of abolitionists or anti-abortion nutballs. Thus, to say we have no ‘right’ to health care is merely a comment on a given temporal reality…and a comment that would be 100% false for seniors and Medicaid recipients, as well as for everyone else in any other part of the industrialized world. This may seem like a quibble, but pay attention to Shapiro’s words and insecurities as he tries to re-frame the debate on preferred turf. By calling his own ideological position an expression of ‘rights’ rather than some reflexive default to his own premise, he simply denies what in fact IS and hopes that you do not notice. And while Shapiro is absolutely right that liberals have a number of pathetic tactics they like to use in debate, this sort of low-grade dehumanization is the Right’s own secret weapon against the other side. Sorry, Ben! I know.

Second, note how he deals with the question itself. We do not have a ‘right’ to healthcare because we should not be “compelled to buy a service from the government”. In other words, Ben Shapiro is invoking the classic libertarian argument against coercion despite not being a pure libertarian, himself, and therefore not against taxation in principle. Yet while Shapiro might be OK with taxes for pro-Israel spending (‘necessary’ good), roads (‘collective’ good), or fraud protections (a government function he explicitly supports), he makes an arbitrary distinction between those rights and healthcare. But why? It can’t logically be any essential quality within healthcare if Shapiro’s argument is merely ‘coercion’, which is wholly independent of such qualities. Obviously, a collective tax on ANYTHING is a form of coercion since one is buying a government service. Yet just as with Shapiro’s silly contention on the ethics of forcing anti-abortionists to fund abortion with their own tax dollars, he is again creating a local exception inconsistent with his own global scope.

As for the second question which Shapiro refused to answer: the answer, of course, is ‘Yes’…regardless of what Shapiro might have in fact written if he’d cared to. And why the hell not? If health care is not a right, as Shapiro argues, then why would a non-payer (assuming we have perfect knowledge of future non-payment) be entitled to a doctor’s time and resources in the emergency room? Go ahead: turn away the sick and dying, for just as doctors have their own market obligations, so do the poor. And this psychopathic suggestion, by the way, comes on the heels of Shapiro’s hypocritical desire to ‘save the unborn’, where government is obligated to bring a pregnancy to term when a fetus has no self-conception, but is then free to dump child and mother to the whims of an imperfect market when both can understand terror, pain, and abandonment.

But wait. Perhaps Shapiro does have a solution after all:

[–]broodcapital 64 points 6 days ago

Have you ever been so poor that you could not afford health insurance? If not, what would you do if you lost your health insurance?

[–]Ben Shapiro [S] 4 points 6 days ago

I would go to members of my family, then members of my community for help. That’s what social fabric is for.

Are you laughing? Luckily, I do not have to explain how stupid, disingenuous, and out of touch this lazy and self-serving answer really is, as Reddit has already done it for me:

[–]troubleondemand 155 points 6 days ago

What a fucking ignorant and elitist answer.

[–]ZlatanIslamovic1 41 points 5 days ago

Agreed. Does Ben Shapiro and people that share his beliefs possess any sort of ability to see themselves in someone else’s shoes that might not be as lucky in life as them?

[–]broodcapitalAmerica 17 points 4 days ago

It’s clear that he has never been poor or interacted with anyone that is in poverty.

[–]HighGradeImbecile 15 points 4 days ago

This explains American Libertarianism, the inability to see that other people are dealt different hands in life and therefore might be less able to do the things they are able to do.

That’s the setup. Now, let us dig in to the issue which most clearly exposes a modern conservative’s intellectual dishonesty: abortion!

[–]caroline_crlsn 40 points 6 days ago

Hi Ben,

What would be a “limited/small government” argument for pro-life policies (i.e., limits on abortion by trimester or regulations of abortion clinics)?

Thanks!

[–]Ben Shapiro[S] 156 points 6 days ago

All human life deserves protection. That is the fundamental basis of government.

Note the specifics of the argument: “All human life deserves protection.” Of course, that’s not really what Shapiro means, for it is not ‘protection’, in general, that’s the fundamental basis of government in Shapiro’s mind, but protection against murder, which is – coincidentally enough! – his definition of abortion. Otherwise, we are stuck with protections that contradict Shapiro’s worldview, such as zero-consequence emergency room visits (protects life) as well as both legitimate regulations that have saved lives (such as removing lead from the environment) and unnecessarily burdensome ones (such as New York City’s proposal to eliminate large sodas from certain locations).

Now, let’s keep this in mind as we examine Shapiro’s attack on abortion:

I mean- Jesus. Where to begin? In Shapiro’s typically lazy, haphazard fashion, he literally tries to throw everything at you in the hope that something sticks: the parsimony argument, slippery-slope, kindred-species, a ‘sanctity of life’ assumption, and even a deluge of emotional manipulation to shift the terms of the debate towards preferred ground. This is not to say that Shapiro even knows that these arguments have names and have already been debated (and some settled) for decades, or else why dilute his own position with their sloppiest, least convincing iterations? More, the top comment from the video seems absolutely stunned at the ‘quality’ of Shapiro’s argument, leaving one with the distinct impression that neither Shapiro nor the commenter have ever engaged with an opposing viewpoint in an honest, deep, and intellectually curious way.

There’s a lot to unpack and throw overboard, so let’s take the video apart before settling on Shapiro’s key claims. Yet just as I plan to engage Shapiro on his turf, out of a good faith attempt to rebut his most pressing concern (life-as-inviolable), I will ultimately end the argument with my own needs: pragmatism and the realities of the Social Contract. More, I will do this without accepting the logical necessity of rebutting the slippery-slope, showing it to not only be philosophically inconsistent on its own terms, but completely at odds with Shapiro’s implicit acceptance of the question’s more global scope.

The video starts with- you guessed it- a straw man wrapped in a tangent of Shapiro’s own making. Taking a pro-abortion video from actress Olivia Wilde, he is ‘disgusted’ by her alleged hypocrisy in talking sweetly about her own pregnancy in the same breath as discussing abortion rights. “This is about perverse a notion as I can imagine,” he says, “that as you are about to have your child, you’re thinking, ‘boy, wouldn’t it be great if I could still kill this thing?’” Uh, no, and even the use of subtly miscued words (‘wouldn’t it be’ vs. the more logical ‘have a right to’) is there to put forward a narrative that simply doesn’t exist. Ridiculously, Shapiro then asserts that she MUST be thinking ‘Maybe I should just kill it…’, but why? Because Shapiro is so closed-off intellectually that he can’t imagine someone taking a detached position 100% antithetical to her own stated desires? As if, you know, she in fact accepts she is not the measure of the world, and what’s right for her may not always be right for others? Ah, but life is much too sacred for such thought-experiments, I guess…as long as you’re unborn. Then anything goes, really.

Wilde goes on to discuss human rights, at which point Shapiro impatiently cuts her off to begin his emotional onslaught. “This is going to be mildly graphic, but it’s important,” he says, already suggesting there will be more pictures than dialectic. “I’m sick of the euphemisms! This is not aborting a fetus. It is not getting rid of a ball of tissue. This is a baby…” The screen shows a botched late-stage abortion (perhaps 24+ weeks) by Kermit Gosnell, followed by scientific depictions of gestational stages. “No one has a right to choose this picture. That’s a baby!” he repeats, all the while sprinkling allusions to his own “beautiful children”, offering graphic descriptions of minority-case abortions (“crushed skulls”, “brain gets sucked out”), and even manages a Freudian slip that lets his true feelings known and bankrupts his own argument. Just look at what he says of Gosnell: that he was “the most prolific serial killer in American history”. But why? Because he performed abortions? Yet so do thousands of other doctors, some of them far longer than Gosnell and likely with even more ‘casualties’. If ALL abortions are murder, as Shapiro claims, what’s so special about Gosnell? Oh, that’s right; he performed illegal, late-term abortions where the fetus looks more like a child, deluding the hyperemotional Shapiro into accepting it as ‘true’ murder (hence the ‘serial killer’ cognomen) against the other, run-of-the-mill abortions he implicitly knows to be anything but. Damn- Shapiro didn’t even get to his argument yet, and STILL managed to undo its conclusion!

And if that wasn’t enough, consider Shapiro’s unsettling hypocrisy just a few minutes in. Recently, he was asked about abortion in the case of rape, and he pointed out that if abortion is in fact murder, rape “cannot change the calculus”. That’s correct, and something that ‘weak’ anti-abortionists who make exceptions for special cases absolutely need to consider. Yet while he complains at the student’s “use of an exceptional case in order to…guilt me into supporting a broad-based abortion platform”, what does Shapiro do in the video? Oh, right, he dangles an image of an exceptional-case, late-term abortion (roughly 1% of all abortions) in order to bolster an EMOTIONAL argument for a broad-based anti-abortion platform. Gotta love the Right’s manipulativeness, even as they gaslight the Left into believing that it’s strictly THEIR behavior that’s at issue.

I mean, re-watch the video again, if you must. Can you HONESTLY say that its content is any different from a typical feminist screed, save that the bullshit comes from the other side of the political aisle? Give Shapiro an Antifa mask and let him argue that conservatives should be banned from public speaking, and the intellectual tactics (or lack thereof) would be identical. Yet before we can even address Shapiro’s main point- what is ‘murder’, exactly? More, why is it not even discussed, much less defined? Shouldn’t we know what we’re talking about before a conversation begins? In fact, I’d argue that murder is the unsanctioned taking of a human life: sanctions, of course, which we permit and remit at will depending on the particulars of the Social Contract. More pertinently, what is the ontological sense of ‘human life’ when, definitionally, the human being is not even born: is not even a full-fledged logical category, much less an autonomous person that – in all commonly-aborted stages – is almost parasitically dependent upon its host? Do we confer, for example, EVERY categorical privilege of the oak tree to an acorn? If so, why, and what is the essential quality that’s under discussion? If not, do we simply make an ad hoc exception on the ‘sanctity’ of life (which is mere question-begging, naturally) in order to retroactively apply our own group identity (‘the born and autonomous’) to one arbitrarily-privileged subgroup that has not even met the sole prima facie requirement of membership?

So- in order to deal with all this sophistry, we’re now on the slippery-slope, the video’s key philosophical argument and probably the most common argument against abortion today. Shapiro casts doubt on the idea that a fetus is a baby ‘only’ at week 24, or 16, much less on the actual day of birth, preferring to side-step the above objections. He denies, for instance, the ‘clump of cells’ characterization (although for a period that is ALL a fetus is), implying that inviolable life begins at the moment of conception, wherein all abortions are now impermissible. Typically, the philosophers’ response at this point is to argue that “a continuous route of development from route A to B are not fundamentally different with respect to some property P” (to quote David Boonin), just as the miniscule difference between the light at noon and right after up until a second before midnight “does not mean that we must conclude that midnight is as bright as noon or that we should treat it as if it is”. Yet some might push the argument further, insisting that the lack of fundamental change from conception (as a ‘potential’ human) to whenever (as a fully viable one) ALSO implies the same potential exists right before conception, as well. This creates a logical quandary for the anti-abortionist, as it seems he must now argue for the preservation of the most basic genetic material in a way that no libertarian (on either side of the Left/Right divide!) could comfortably do.

Yet Shapiro would no doubt reject this as a needless reductio ad absurdum, since he could just as easily assume one fundamental stage of life: the exact time when conception instantiates. Ok, but as Boonin points out, the zygote’s ‘instantiation’ still has “the sperm and ovum as two distinct organisms” even as they change and interact, while the end-point of the sperm’s penetration is still “one distinct organism operating inside another”. The male and female chromosomes release and begin to pair off, but, as per the ship of Theseus, just when do sperm and egg cease being distinct entities if we can still point to their individual (and most fundamental) parts at, before, and even after instantiation? Their genetic material is still ‘theirs’, albeit in a different relationship once it’s released, once again upon entanglement, and then again once the process is complete. Even as all this is happening, both sex cells are merely being re-contextualized without quite ceasing to be: the point, oddly enough, that some might argue is the ‘true’ instantiation within the instantiation. Yet all we’ve had is stages without any fundamental shift, merely changing the original question of conception to a kind of quantum puzzle that asks the same question of its own self! More, even if we had a point of instantiation, there is still the issue of determining why THIS point is the one that’s ethically relevant as opposed to the second before or after, and by what precise mechanism instantiation grants it that moral privilege. The appeal, again, must be to some unproven premise and/or social adjudication that is no different, axiomatically, from the abortionist’s Social Contract.

To be sure, I am NOT denying the reasonableness – at least in the anti-abortionist’s mind – of trying to find some end-point to the slippery-slope, but there is a deeper truth at play here which Ben Shapiro’s argument brings out. In short, for all of Shapiro’s critique of the Left’s moral relativism (a critique I often agree with, by the way), he must STILL choose a perfectly arbitrary yet convenient point of departure for both a legal and ethical definition of life. The difference between us, however, is that while Shapiro fidgets and fights at such a task, then pretends abortionists are immoral for engaging in the same wrangling, I am perfectly willing to accept an arbitrary yet pragmatic definition which takes an end-point demarcated for some social good (even if it violates the ‘inviolability’ of life) rather than stick to logically unfalsifiable categories. Even the privileging of a fetus as ‘distinctly’ human when, say, acorns are never to be thought of as trees, creates yet another axiom for the anti-abortionist to defend: namely, what is it about human life that absolves it of the need to be scrutinized and boxed into the same categories as all other natural phenomena? A true liberal, of course, can merely answer ‘Because…’ and point to the Social Contract as his expedient while safely eating meat and killing spiders at will. Shapiro, however, must get metaphysical, and rely on the one thing he said he’d NEVER use: religion, or whatever ad hoc, secular equivalent of religion he wishes to concoct. Shapiro is neither a vegetarian, however, nor – absurdly enough – a ‘believer’ in animals’ free will, for while the abortionists are not allowed to demarcate as we see fit, he can safely divorce an animal’s suffering from an ovum’s, and even befog our own place in the animal kingdom just because. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Ben. It just makes you an unwitting abortionist. Welcome!

Yet the Social Contract is even more than that. To begin, I’d define it as an arbitrary global point of departure (full of other, more local points of departure) that is popularly agreed upon for the sake of some demotic good. If argued from one’s original position, it is a means of not only seeing the world more fairly beyond the veil, but allows us to do precisely as we see fit, adding and subtracting from the tally of what’s allowed/not allowed without either worrying about the ‘need’ to impose religious-based values (as Shapiro implicitly does) nor about Nietzsche’s hypothesis of world de-valuation. In a way, we can create values as quickly as we can create and strip rights. Nor is this an argument for moral relativism, at least in the sense that we do have specific premises – right-to-life at point X, right-to-dignity until death – both unalterable AND forever shifting. Just as this ‘point X’ granted us a society that has been able to reduce violence and increase wealth a thousand-fold, the right-to-dignity has expanded to include things (such as the right-to-life!) Shapiro-types could have NEVER dreamed of in their immobile, caste-like perceptions some millennia ago.

So, to answer Shapiro’s query of when it would be inappropriate to kill a fetus: on the day of live birth. Anything before that – brain, no brain, heart, no heart, viable, non-autonomous – is fair game for an abortion. Is this sick? Psychopathic, even? Perhaps. Yet if these are the terms we’ll bandy about, is it less or more psychopathic than Shapiro’s insistence that a woman who is beaten and raped be denied emergency room treatment due to her inability to pay? Or then forcing that same woman to carry the resultant pregnancy to term, feeling her own body change – a constant reminder of her own rape – getting fatter, vomiting, suffering mood swings, pain, depression, pissing herself, and, when the time comes, being compelled to not only pass on her own genetic information, but her rapist’s, as well? Hm, if phrased like that, well…But, don’t worry, girl! Ben’s a hero. He would – he said so – part with a little cash to help you out in whatever way you need, although, to be sure, there are many of you, but only one Ben. Perhaps I am wrong, though? Perhaps there are in fact many Bens. There’s the Ben who is concerned about the most precious group in our society: the unborn. Then there’s the Ben who tells you to beg friends for money after you – precious resource! – are actually born. There’s the Ben who will take out his wallet for you when the occasion demands. And, of course, there’s the Ben who will turn you away at Bellevue while cooing at your distended belly. No, chivalry is not dead, ladies. There’s still Ben, by God, and the dumb bitches who get raped. Here, bitch: have a dollar. I’ll make sure you pray for you at Temple.

Now, I know that Shapiro will bristle at the suggestion that anti-abortion is, ipso facto, a misogynistic stance. But why? Sanctioning abortion is- beyond what I’ve already argued- a mere recognition of the need to level the playing field as per the Social Contract. More, this is ordinary biology: the very biology, ironically enough, which feminists have tried to argue against, and which Shapiro merely pays lip service to without in fact understanding. What is a male? The disposable sex. What is a female? The gatekeepers of sex. Naturally, they each have their respective advantages and disadvantages, with men’s chief historical liability being subject to war, murder, and various grunt work, while women’s being subject to compulsory birth-giving, boredom, and passivity. As a result, men have sought ways to bring about peace- and control women!- since time immemorial, while women have tried- among other things- to control their own reproductive cycles. But redistribution is NOT justice! Oh really, Ben? Might I propose that you would, in typical conservative fashion, absolutely lose your mind to learn that women are sentenced less often and for far less time for the same crimes that men commit? Unfair, huh? Discriminatory, even. Do you wish to change this? Why? Women are simply using THEIR biology and exploiting men’s natural compassion for women in order to gain an advantage that men can never have, just as they are condemned to things- for the same physiological reasons- which men will never go through! So, which one is it, Ben? Do we give BOTH sexes the option of redress in ways specific to their sex, or do we- after embracing our own misogyny- redress men’s issues, first, then pay off any unwanted pregnancies by throwing money at the mother? Odd, indeed, that after all of your supposed ‘enlightenment’, she still looks so much like your little whore.

Yet if Shapiro’s anti-abortion argument didn’t convince you that he is a mere religiot in disguise, let’s take a look at his allegedly ‘secular’ opposition to gay marriage:

Late last week, after the Supreme Court of the United States declared without any Constitutional basis that the Constitution mandates same-sex marriages be state legitimized across the nation, a disquieting level of triumphalism broke out from coast to coast. The president shined lights representing the gay pride rainbow flag on the White House — a gross boot-on-the-throat display from an anti-religious leader. Corporations, undoubtedly fearful of the consequences of ending up on the wrong side of the riotous left, began tweeting out rainbow symbols. News outlets similarly embraced the rainbow symbol, as though it were uncontroversial to do so; BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, and Mashable all turned their logos rainbow, with BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith explaining, “We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides.”

Hm, typical Republican culture-war fluff, but pay attention to the part that I’ve bolded. Naturally, any argument against gay marriage needs to both be a legal and ethical one, since we are discussing the extension of legal rights to individuals who might in fact have no claim on such a privilege.

Let’s move beyond the romantically idiotic language of Justice Kennedy’s decision…

Ah, look. Just one more sentence in, and Shapiro already declines to discuss the one objective thing purportedly under review. So, the legal scholar is being paid to write what, exactly: an opinion piece on how to interpret the law without the law as a referent? Interesting.

The notion that gay rights advocates and their allies, who have spent decades suggesting that the institution of marriage represents patriarchal oppression, love and respect marriage so much that they wish to join in its binds, is inane. And the idea that the gay rights movement desperately seeks the tax assistance available to male-female married couples was made false long ago with the promises of civil unions.

Ok, Shapiro racks up three logical fallacies in just two sentences: the fallacy of division and a red herring in sentence 1, and a straw-man in sentence 2. Impressive, eh? He begins not only with a blanket condemnation of homosexuals by targeting a cross-section of their most visible members, but also throws in their purported behavior – an unrelated variable – as a plausible reason for not extending them a civil right…which, by the way, will rather conveniently no longer be discussed from a legal perspective. Thus, we do not even need to address Shapiro’s characterization of gays in order to dismiss it- a bad sign for the rest of his argument. Yet the next sentence is just as silly, as the uniqueness of male-female marriage is not merely limited to tax assistance, as the straw-man claims, but everything from life insurance to certain medical benefits, as well as protections at the federal level which civil unions do not provide. Not that it’d matter, anyway, for the deeper, ontological questions involved, but shouldn’t one at least know the terms under discussion?

No, the gay rights movement and the broader American left celebrated the same-sex marriage decision in wild fashion because the decision established two fundamental notions: First, that government has replaced God in the moral pantheon of the United States; second, that the new god-government has the power to root out and destroy any God-based institutions, destroying the social capital and fabric that holds together the nation.

Again, even if true: so what? And government – or rather, the Social Contract more generally – has always been the fundamental moral arbiter of every single society on the planet, and, barring some cybernetic intervention, will always continue to be. That’s because God – a mere fiction – is simply a subcategory of the wider, more global fiction of sociability. Yet God is a variable, I’d argue, that needlessly complicates the global scope, where Occam’s Razor can make short work of it as we look for a less invasive premise. More, it’s not a point I have to argue, anyway, since God doesn’t exist.

Snipping a little bullshit, we soon get to this:

Now, the notion that the gay rights movement seeks the “dignity” of marriage is similarly ridiculous — movements that seek “dignity” do not hold parades featuring the Seattle Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and a bevy of chaps in assless chaps. But they do seek the “dignity” of being told by a higher authority that their actions are right, just and good.

Oy. Could it be that they seek the ‘dignity’ of the equal protections enumerated above? And could it be that they’re entitled to them whether they’re marching naked in the street wearing butt plugs, or sitting at home studying the Talmud? Nor do they need to be told their actions are right, just, and good. Their actions are merely neutral, and irrelevant, at that, to the question under review. I mean, do heterosexual couples shout over their ‘goodness’ when they get married? Do they weep over their own ‘unjustness’ when they get divorced? Does any sane person EVER categorize and grade their most private and banal actions in such a way?

With God safely shunted to the side in favor of Justice Kennedy, the next step in the gay rights movement will be the smashing of idolaters — namely, those who cling to their religion and church in spite of Justice Kennedy’s New New Testament. Leftists have already moved to ban nonprofit status for religious institutions that refuse to acknowledge same-sex marriages; leftists have already sued into oblivion religious business owners who refuse to participate in same-sex weddings. It will not stop there. Religious schools will be targeted. Then, so will homeschooling programs. The secular religion of the left has been set free to pursue its own crusade against the infidel.

Actually, I sort of agree, at least on some points. The Left (including me) wishes to see the death of religion as a whole. Yet the Left (excluding me) does not seem to realize that for every ‘real’ religion that inevitably gets abolished, there will be another, more stubborn one to take its place. There’s already the cult of scientism, for one, and the various political creeds into which folks of all persuasions seek some much-valued entry. But while the Left’s error in all this is assuming they will be successful in an ever-changing mission, Shapiro’s error is in assuming that ‘the’ mission ends with the Abrahamic bullshit of some two thousand years ago. In both cases, the participants are deluded. In both cases, the participants merely accuse and inveigle until they are utterly convinced they’re right. Yet I must ask: just what does all of this have to do with gay marriage?

Oh, that’s right: this is merely the dumbed-down version of an argument he later made elsewhere, when Shapiro didn’t have to pander to Townhall:

Shapiro’s assertion is that government ought to be out of marriage, in general, and out of gay marriage especially since a legal right to gay marriage (on top of having “no social value”) can easily open the door to a kind of forced affiliation between gays and non-gays, to the point of religious infringement and a mismatch between the private and public spheres. A bakery, for example, was successfully sued for discrimination when it refused to make a cake for a gay wedding due to religious beliefs, with other businesses now facing similar legal threats. To Shapiro, this is a non-negotiable infringement on religious freedom, but is that really true? More, what are the implications of such an argument? Can a doctor who subscribes to Christian Identity refuse to treat a Jew at an emergency room out of the belief that he’d be furthering ZOG? Even if he is the sole doctor on staff, and the patient dying? What if he had his license, practice, and equipment subsidized by the state and subject to state regulations? Or what if we’re discussing a Catholic hospital which- oh, I don’t know- refuses to treat its own patients due to some personal idiocy, thus putting lives at risk by not following accepted protocol? One can argue that life/death trumps religious integrity, but on what basis, exactly, when the issue (as Shapiro frames it) is freedom from affiliation? Finally, why can’t similar exemptions be argued after the fact- if only to satisfy some outrageous hypotheticals which nonetheless have the same logical underpinnings?

Of course, a libertarian might respond that the doctor- in the first case- has no business being a doctor, anyway, since he will likely have to come across Jews in his practice and will therefore not be holding up his end of the contract. Yet won’t the same apply to a baker who will at some point be asked to bake a cake (as he’s done many times before) for a legally-sanctioned marriage (ditto)? Or a pharmacist who will be asked to prescribe yet another medication among the thousands of others he’s dutifully prescribed? That this marriage happens to be homosexual or this medication happens to be mifepristone is – as Shapiro indubitably knows – an irrelevant demarcation in the eyes of the law. After all, they are legal! Further, there can be few (if any) legal exemptions given the state’s vested interest in reducing discrimination and the undue hardship that might come with bias, whether it’s dying in the exceptional case or merely being forced to pick another bakery in the more minor one. Yet the point is that both the exceptional and minor cases are logically equivalent at their axiomatic root, and to avoid quibbles and complex regulations the state prefers to not get in the business of trying each instance case by case, opting for a blanket disapproval of ALL discrimination against protected groups. And while Shapiro might not ‘like’ the recent rights-extension, it is now simply the new point of departure, and any argument he makes has to begin there.

Turning to the “no social value” argument, Shapiro’s conception of marriage involves the state’s vested interest in population control. I disagree, but to give Shapiro the benefit of the doubt, let us merely argue on his turf, and denude him from there. According this claim, it was historically assumed that a couple would have children, and marriage licenses (at least in part) were given in compliance with this vested interest. Even if true, however, the state’s assumption was merely a good-faith belief, not a compulsion. I mean- duh? If you can literally strip an object of its purported underpinnings, yet still have it function without a hiccup, it is probably safe to say that there are variables you’ve not considered. Second, and more decisively, even if ‘the’ underpinning of marriage is population management, it does not follow that the existence of marriage as-is cannot confer other benefits that the state might also have an interest in. These include stability, an ‘official’ structure for children where parents can enjoy new legal benefits, and a deeper social glue that, ridiculously enough, Shapiro thinks is weakened with an extension of marital privilege to people who have dreamed about it for decades: a longing Shapiro dismisses by fiat in the most lazy way possible.

More, even if one were to argue (as Shapiro does) that children raised by gay parents tend to fare worse than those in straight couplings, it is just as true that biological children raised by black parents fare worse than white children from white backgrounds, or that handicapped parents on welfare in Appalachia do worst of all. More, it would be even harder to argue that- since we cannot stop gays, blacks, or the handicapped from procreating- such a child raised in a married household, with ALL official state sanction and legal rights, would do worse than in an unmarried one, where these benefits do not exist, and the child is forced to grow up with the understanding that his parents’ love is sanctioned by neither the state nor his own community. Yet Shapiro’s burden is now to prove precisely that- a task he refuses to undertake, and for good reason.

But perhaps the biggest benefit of gay marriage is something Shapiro ought have been the first to see. Just think, for a moment, of what a law is at its essence. A law is not merely a proscription or allowance. It is not simply a means for the rich to control the poor. It is not ‘just’ a minority’s last line of defense against the supermajority. Rather, it might be all of these things, at different times, but with a critical addendum. In short, the law is a negotiated understanding between a society and its members, often making what is implicit explicit, even if it sometimes means spearheading ‘vested interests’ ahead of public opinion for the sake of a well-established good. In this way, gay marriage merely codifies what a comfortable majority of Americans have wanted for at least a decade, with no logical downside (and, no, Rightist fear-mongering does not quite pass the bar). Had gays been 50% of the population, no doubt Shapiro’s argument re: vested interests would have to change, since we would suddenly have people living the same ordinary, banal lives in the macro otherwise more easily ignored in the micro, even as the essence of both – love, death, children, taxes – is unchanged.

Yet legal protections are less dependent upon number as they are on successfully establishing discrete categories and logical continuity. To Shapiro, this category is radically new, radically unjustifiable, for it officiates nothing less than the throwing aside of God. In reality, however, this newly-protected class is little more than a riff on everyone else who has wished to sanction their own coupling. As Shapiro unwittingly suggests, they wish for their bond to be recognized even though (legal protections aside) it is not necessary- a name doesn’t change a thing! Yet they seek it, regardless, as I’ve sought it, and Ben sought it a decade before me, because labels are a human foible, and while Shapiro denies gay folks the most simple human motivations, they will in fact continue to do as everyone else has done: marry, divorce, fail to raise their kids right, then seek some new category to deride that the rest of world now seeks to champion, but which to them smells too much of social upheaval. Hey, Ben- remember when Jews weren’t allowed to… Ah, Christ, but that was ‘different’, wasn’t it? Well? And yet the world cycles on.

Naturally, things are little changed when he argues about the shortcomings of identity politics:

Now, prior to going any further, I must admit the following. Like Shapiro, I bristle at the notion of white privilege, and most ‘privilege’, really, as typically applied to some large category of people divided by class, background, personality, and countless other variables that can’t be so easily dismissed. In fact, it’s shocking how dumb the Left has been to harp on privilege, NOT because it doesn’t exist, but because of how utterly meaningless and psychologically destructive the concept can be. After all, what does white privilege mean to a coal miner on food stamps taking care of his diabetic mother? Or male privilege to some schlub too passive to get ahead in life by sheer brutality, and too dumb to get ahead by talent? It is as silly as positing American privilege to a fatherless black kid in a slum merely because Africans have it worse. The fact is, these ‘privileged’ groups are so busy with their own misery that conceptualizing something worse is not only futile- it’s a goddamn ontological insult! Yet instead of bringing them into the fold, the Left has cast these people aside, denying their problems (men’s, especially) all the while guilting them for votes. It’s a losing strategy, no doubt, and Trump’s victory was as much of a backlash against the Democrats’ hypocrisy as it was against political correctness more generally.

Yet just because the PC crowd has exaggerated some realities and mixed in some bullshit along the way does NOT mean that privilege, as a whole, is a useless way to look at the world. I have at different points been fat, fit, ugly, handsome, comfortable, not, passive, assertive, and know precisely what avenues open and close – often by no effort of your own – depending on what side of the divide you’re on. In short, I’ve seen first-hand what such intangibles can offer one in everything from the way a banker treats you, to the number of smiles a cop or stranger will divulge. Yet I’ve never been black, and therefore can’t deny that just as a thousand little variables have forged a unique experiential world just for me, race might be another variable – perhaps a far larger variable – as well. And while I do not know ‘that’ world in the way I know mine, I’d gladly bet that there’s NOTHING quite like being a beefy, 17 year-old white kid with an attitude and some cash in his pocket strutting with the knowledge that he is closing in on a future most can only dream of- just give me a staff and a circumcision and I can part the motherfucking ocean! Nor do I feel ‘guilty’ about this- I simply recognize it as is, no different from any other fact of life gimleted into me with years of feedback and affirmation. And since I do not feel guilty about my position, I also do not have any emotional need to deny it, either, as I recognize that my value resides only in the things within my control, not whatever the world decides to give or take from me on a whim.

Mere anecdote is not evidence, however, so let’s get to the meat of Shapiro’s claims and go from there. He begins by asserting that white privilege has been used as a way of silencing anyone who is not of color – absolutely true, by the way, and something that’s even been used to bludgeon me whenever I’d voice an opinion unpopular with the Left. He then goes through a slew of supposed privileges, many of them downright silly (white band-aids, for example) and doing much harm to true liberal causes. Yet Shapiro is not satisfied to merely leave it at that,  choosing to counter a liberal myth with a myth of his own: equality of opportunity. Thus, I am uninterested in debating the sillier points- most of which I’ll grant- but rather the deeper elements of American racism on which he is flat-out wrong. The core of Shapiro’s claim is this:

Nothing that I’m saying here suggests that discrimination has never existed in America’s history. That would be stupid and afactual. But to suggest that it is a continuing factor in American life that is putting people under the boot of the white establishment is just factually nonsense.

Rather than dealing with this claim generally, let us examine three paraphrased assertions which led Shapiro to this conclusion:

1) Anti-racism activists claim that bank lending discrimination was and continues to be a problem for the black community, but this isn’t true. In fact, the perception of non-lending even spurred the government to create a subprime mortgage market in order to deal with this alleged problem, directly leading to the 2008 financial collapse.

In a way, bank-lending arguments are perhaps at the core of the racism debate in America, a fact which Shapiro likely understands and disingenuously straw-mans. That’s because while Shapiro keeps his assertions to the present day, this is a non-starter since urban life in the 1920s was more integrated (despite greater racism) in many places than it’d ever be again. From the 1930s on, redlining was codified in a series of New Deal programs that, although in some ways progressive, nonetheless targeted mixed neighborhoods for break-ups and explicitly promoted both physical and economic segregation. This meant that whites would be cordoned off from blacks in the cities, then get their ticket to the suburbs via discriminatory mortgage loans which still excluded non-whites well after World War II. Meanwhile, blacks- having already been shuffled around a few times- were invited to the only places they could now afford: the functionally ‘white’ housing projects and ghettos whites had just escaped, quickly dropping property values even before these neighborhoods had become violent and ill-serviced and thus (by Shapiro’s own logic) helping precipitate both. In response, investment into these communities dropped, further isolating them, driving up the prices on basic goods like food and gas in newly-minted ‘food deserts’, increasing crime, immobilizing residents, and generally making such neighborhoods even less desirable to investors, a cycle which continues to this day. Couple this with lower wages for blacks – i.e., an inability to save – plus the lack of return on their rock-bottom property values, and a huge swath of black Americans were back to a similar position they’d already climbed out of half a century before! In short, it’s not simply that we had a ‘failure’ in desegregation, but that re-segregation was a semi-official policy for decades, turning otherwise stable and desirable mixed and black neighborhoods into the voids which- by never being properly addressed- could safely be blamed on their residents. Unless Shapiro is prepared to blame the Civil Rights movement for some mysterious degeneration of black culture, the above narrative remains the most widely accepted explanation for black poverty:

All of these tools and approaches were facilitated by the federal government and its partners at the state and local level. For decades, it was a project of Democrats and Republicans, who worked to appease a white supremacist majority, and often, shared their assumptions. This continued into the 1960s, and arguably, never stopped: Public housing projects, for instance, were placed in these segregated, depressed neighborhoods as a compromise with conservatives who opposed them outright. This, in turn, ensured concentrated poverty and all its attendant problems, as well as bad schools and poor public services. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 was meant to tackle all of this, but as Nikole Hannah-Jones details for ProPublica, it saw sporadic enforcement, if that.

After a half century (or more), it’s not hard to see how we get to here from there: When you prevent a whole class of people from building wealth, accessing capital, or leaving impoverished areas, you guarantee cultural dysfunction and deep, generational poverty. When it comes to inner-city poverty—we built that.

Moving into the present, Shapiro cites a study indicating that ‘true’ bank-lending discrimination doesn’t really exist today. Well, first of all- that’s simply immaterial, given how all of the above put quite a few blacks into a position where they can’t even ASK for loans to begin with, much less be discriminated against. Second, it is simply untrue, since any number of studies from the last two decades indicates that mortgage discrimination is still widespread. Shapiro cherry-picks one piece of data, but here are the mainstream numbers from the 1990s, which assessed both a for-profit and racial motive independently; a more recent study which reveals a clear bias against black loan applicants with photos; bias against ‘black’ names; yet more of the same; and, to top it off, a huge settlement, a moderate one, and a smaller one due to the practice, from banks of all sizes and geographic distributions, with a New York Times article commenting on yet another lawsuit in New Jersey and penalties extracted from multiple cities across America for similar violations, only to conclude that we now have “more active redlining investigations underway than at any other time in the past seven years.”

Note also Shapiro’s subtle blaming of the poor for the 2008 mortgage crisis- that their dishonest complaining about discrimination created an inaccurate perception of an otherwise fair lending system, thus encouraging both the state and private equity to get fat off of a non-existent issue. Yet the complaints were not only NOT needless, as I’ve shown, but Shapiro even manages to confuse the bottom line. If American business is so badly regulated that financial institutions were able to commit such massive fraud in THIS sector, what’s to stop big business from choosing some other target for their greed? Oh, right, they did exactly that less than a decade before with Enron, WorldCom, the dot-com bubble, and everything else, really, meant to ‘trickle-down’ and ‘help the poor’, but was simply the filling of a niche which should have never existed in the first place. Like with so many other corporate products, is not so much that subprime mortgages are inherently bad. It is merely that the risks were socialized and the profits privatized when a mix of both could have easily prevented these issues to begin with.

In other words, Shapiro is not only wrong in the spirit of his assertions, but the letter, as well. Despite his posturing over the Left’s overuse of emotion, it’s clear that he has taken an emotional position, first, and has sought a post hoc rationalization by cherry-picking a few outliers from an overwhelming body of evidence, blaming the poor for everything from their own red-lining to world financial collapse. Is he any less slimy on the issue of black poverty as a whole? Let’s see:

2) Black poverty is not a result of racism, but something that’s gone awry in black culture. For example, the liberal Brookings Institute asserts that to NOT be permanently poor, one simply needs to finish high school, get a job, and not have children out of wedlock. Yet unwedded motherhood has risen sharply in the black community, from 20% decades ago to 70% today all the while America has become a less racist country.

Oh, what do you know- Shapiro denies white privilege, on the one hand, yet admits that black people, on average, must deal with more crime and poverty than whites? So, how is this an argument against privilege, exactly, when on pure probability blacks (by Shapiro’s own examples) have MORE obstacles to deal with before they get to the same outcome? I mean- just compare his conveniently unfalsifiable theory- ‘black degeneracy’- with the well-documented narrative I’ve presented, and tell me what’s more rational? Yes, Shapiro is partly right about the figures (more on this below) as well as the Brookings study, yet the mere fact that blacks have the OPTION to ‘do better’ if they just accomplish X, Y, and Z does not mean that the variables he alludes to play no role in the PROBABILISTIC issue of how often these choices get tapped over the alternatives. Obviously, it is not that a percentage of black mothers can’t stop themselves from having children out of wedlock, but that a percentage of them don’t. Yet the suggestion that they merely ‘cut it out!’ is akin to telling a stateless society that attrition is bad: yeah, no shit, Ben, but how do you actually stop it without the introduction of a Leviathan? Has this EVER happened, in ANY society, save the hypotheticals which libertarians dream in? More pointedly, what is the Leviathan for this particular issue, and why hasn’t it been tapped- surely, according to Ben’s logic, one of the most important policy issues of our day? And just what do the numbers mean, anyway, since Shapiro gives you only half of the picture? After all, while unwedded black mothers are in fact having fewer children than ever, married black women are having even fewer children than either unmarried black women or married white women, black/Hispanic teen pregnancy has dropped by 50%, yet black poverty and income inequality is still growing:

It is important to realize that the “percent of births” is not a birth rate. The birth rate is the number of births for every 1,000 women in a specific category. The last marital birth rates calculated by the National Center for Health Statistics were for 2002. In 2002, the black marital birth rate was 64.9 births for every 1,000 married black women. The white marital birth rate was 88.2 for every 1,000 married white women. The black marital birth rate was 23.3 births less than the white rate. In the past, the black marital birth rate was higher than the white rate. Because there is such a low number of births among married black women, the percent of births to unmarried black women is especially high.

To summarize: there is no data to show that the black “illegitimacy” figure of 70 percent has been caused by unmarried black women having more kids than they did in the past. In fact, the trend is the exact opposite. What is clear is that the behavior of married black women has changed, to the point that married black women are actually having less kids than married white women.

In other words, here we are, arguing on Shapiro’s preferred turf, even as Shapiro, himself, neither understands the math he is referencing nor its implications. More, according to Shapiro’s own reference, the three rules for kids to live by are best understood in the context of wider, liberal policy initiatives for society to live by: to make those three rules appear as logical and desirable as they in fact are. And if in fact the state has a vested interest in heterosexual marriage (as Shapiro argues) for the sake of population control, why oppose the policies which have been shown to improve success by every known metric? Too ideologically impure, perhaps? Yet they’re effective. There is ‘personal responsibility,’ yes, but there’s also the tension between freedom and probability. It is a tension that seeks to balance the truth that ‘people are free to do as they wish’ with a billion other, equally true moments that make freedom a less meaningful concept depending on who you are. If that weren’t so, we’d not have had the same irrational bouts of history over and over again until we’d collectively said ‘Enough!’, and put the same faith in the Social Contract which Shapiro prefers to put in God. In some ways, then, my goals are not too different from Shapiro’s. The only difference is that Shapiro wishes to skip the math and just chide and pontificate in the hope that somebody will listen. But just as Ben ‘won’t care’ about people’s emotions, probability – a die loaded in white people’s favor – doesn’t give a damn about Ben’s moralizing. I mean- look back over the past 10,000 years. Has it ever?

3) Liberals like to say that blacks and perhaps other minorities are discriminated against by the police and the justice system as a whole. There is no evidence of this, however, and one study even found that blacks speed more often while Peter Moskos of John Jay College insists that police shootings of whites are in fact overrepresented.

Perhaps the easiest assertion to dismiss, and one which divides black from white most sharply in today’s climate. Prior to getting to the key claim, however, let us deal with Shapiro’s two pieces of evidence: ‘driving while black’ in New Jersey, and Peter Moskos’s study.

First, a little background on the New Jersey racial profiling controversies of the 1990s. Study after study as well as countless official records indicated discrimination in pretty much every form, from speeding stops, to ticketing for various offenses, and searches conducted all over the state but especially on the New Jersey Turnpike. More, the NJSP eventually admitted this, with cops reporting that they were encouraged by their superiors to profile explicitly based on race- charges, by the way, still repeated today by officers all over the country. Further documents revealed potentially criminal acts at the highest levels of the NJSP, as officials withheld information from federal prosecutors to divert attention from these illegal practices. Now, all of this is not controversial- it’s been settled. And while some critics grumbled about John Lamberth’s methodology, his own study merely corroborated what had already been in the documentary record: namely, that 42% of all stops were of blacks- 3 times the total black driving population in the areas surveyed, and, more importantly, very much in line with other state studies to the present day.

Of course, New Jersey is not special here, but the virulence of the NJSP’s practices encouraged both scrutiny and additional studies. Shapiro alludes to one such study which looked at actual driver behavior on the Turnpike by race. He states, correctly, that 23% of all speeders were found to be black, about twice the expected number, but implies that this same cross-section of black drivers gets 25% of all speeding tickets- roughly in line what one might expect based on speeding rates- as he collapses the study’s findings with unrelated data. In fact, the study’s authors explicitly state that they were NOT measuring police and ticketing behavior, merely the one racial variable, while 25% is not a Turnpike number but an overall state statistic for which there is no concurrent driver data. Further, a more recent study found that the vast majority of Turnpike drivers (black and white) commit driving violations for which they could be stopped – including speeding, thus suggesting a selective enforcement on par with Bloomfield, NJ’s recent controversies. Most decisively, even if the study is correct about black drivers’ disproportionate speeding, keep in mind that Lamberth’s numbers indicate that blacks are still stopped (for all reasons) at 3 times the predicted number overall, and almost twice of what their alleged speeding behavior predicts. Couple this with the aforementioned 100,000 pages documenting explicit abuses by the NJSP and identical findings nationwide, and Shapiro’s reference is little more than an interesting aside to a far deeper problem he’d rather ignore.

The second piece of evidence is Peter Moskos’s comments on police violence: that adjusted for the homicide rate, whites are more than 1.5X as likely to be killed by police officers as blacks. By contrast, the unadjusted per capita deaths of blacks compared with whites is 2.5-3.5X, a number- Moskos argues- that activists have long latched on to as evidence of racial bias without considering the full picture. On the other hand, it would be disingenuous to ignore the MASSIVE amount of data indicating that the violence of individual blacks has little to do with the violence exacted upon them when controlled for similar offenses. In other words, ‘adjusting for the murder rate’ for an entire race is logically meaningless when we are dealing with non-murderers whose only relation to these statistical perpetrators is skin color. Thus put into context, Moskos’s numbers imply racial discrimination definitionally– precisely what Shapiro is attempting to disprove.

Similar findings indicate that while blacks and Hispanics (such as in New York City’s ‘stop and frisk’ policy) can make up almost 90% of all pedestrian stops, they are less likely to be found with weapons and drugs than whites. And while critics argue that racially disproportionate stops are due to violent neighborhoods being disproportionately black, New York data indicates that blacks and Latinos are still the overwhelming targets in low-crime, low-minority neighborhoods for random stops- facts supported by dozens of other studies, as well as the endless anecdotal evidence ranging from my and my friends’ experiences growing up, to amateur gonzo films on YouTube and cops’ own admissions of systemic bias and enforced profiling. More officer stories exist, of course, replete with cop-initiated lawsuits, audio recordings of higher-ups, and even one case study of 24 out of 25 minority cops who themselves reported being frequent victims of racial profiling when off-duty- with five of the cops having had guns pulled on them by other officers! Honestly, if Ben Shapiro with his posh suits and yarmulke could live a dozen lifetimes back-to-back, do you think he would have a single gun pulled on him by an officer- for any reason? How many times would he complain of profiling? Is Ben simply more law-abiding than 96% of officers? Or does he simply fit another profile altogether- that of a non-threat who will always be on the right side of a probability space he can safely pretend to not exist?

And that’s just New York City. Former Baltimore police sergeant and whistleblower Michael A. Wood says the same, while Loretta Lynch’s Justice Department (which Shapiro conveniently dismisses as ‘racist’) conducted a massive investigation of the city’s discriminatory practices and constitutional violations, indicating that:

The department found reasonable cause to believe that BPD engages in a pattern or practice of:

– Conducting stops, searches and arrests without meeting the requirements of the Fourth Amendment;

– Focusing enforcement strategies on African Americans, leading to severe and unjustified racial disparities in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Safe Streets Act;

– Using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment;

– Interacting with individuals with mental health disabilities in a manner that violates the Americans with Disabilities Act; and

– Interfering with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment

Of course, there’s more, crushing what’s left of Shapiro’s argument. There’s this study of police behavior in Virginia, another in San Francisco, another in Ferguson, MO, another in Chicago, one in Illinois more generally, another in Maricopa County, AZ, one in Oakland, Albuquerque, Houston, Maryland, Ohio, New York, Florida, North Carolina, and several other states, a nationwide study on cop-on-cop violence, another nationwide look at custody deaths spanning five decades, police bias more generally, shooting bias, bias against black teens, and more. Many of these adjust for violence/neighborhood – precisely as Shapiro demands – and some even find that blacks have less contraband rates and/or summons-worthy offenses despite being stopped more often, indicating a bias that does not even align with the stated needs of law enforcement. Naturally, this can all be seen in the justice system more generally, and while critics might harp on the fact that there’s some dissent here, with a number of studies (especially ProPublica’s) coming under fire, it’s undeniable that the vast majority of evidence points to racial bias at all levels of justice.

Finally, there are two issues typically ignored in discussions of race, crime, and equity. The first is the commonly-cited defense of discrimination as mere pragmatism: for example, screening Muslims more stringently at airports, or using the disproportionately large number of crimes committed by blacks to profile blacks anywhere– even outside of high-crime areas. Yet these defenses fail to understand why these practices are both unconstitutional and unfair. It doesn’t matter that blacks, as a group, are associated with ‘X’ when we are ultimately dealing with individuals that- by definition- have nothing to do with a group-tendency. This is why throwing out a woman’s astrophysics resume in favor of a man’s merely because men show more achievement therein is so egregious- there is nothing logically stopping this woman from doing as well as any individual male. By that same token, if it were somehow provable that having a certain name – say, Ben Shapiro – was disproportionately associated with sex trafficking, would it be just to target all Bens on the highway to check their trunk for children? Should we be more willing to run up on them with guns drawn- as the off-duty black cops experienced? Is that a logical solution to crime, or would it merely breed the sort of resentment and social unrest which blacks are now accused instigating?

In short, the only reason why race is often defended as a legitimate bias is because it is so visceral, easy to see, and easy to stereotype. By contrast, a name is pretty much an abstraction outside of the scope of experiential typing, even if it might have exactly the same logical relationship to some proposed variable. Further, to use the Bloomfield, NJ study as a guide: even if it’s true that the police target black and Hispanic neighborhoods MORE because of higher crime rates, it is also true that ‘incidental’ targeting translates into a de facto tax that these poor neighborhoods have to disproportionately pay. Think about it- if blacks in Bloomfield are pulled over for everything from busted taillights to tinted windows, and are ticketed for such things as per the law, there is nothing inherently wrong about police behavior in this case. Yet if (as Bloomfield’s police chief claims) this happens NOT because they are explicitly targeted, but because police resources are merely being allocated the most logical, crime-prone areas that ‘just happen’ to be black, it means that a far larger proportion of the same violations go unpunished in majority-white neighborhoods, thus filling city coffers on the backs of its non-white residents. Say what one will of the logic behind this, but it also means that blacks are suffering- intentionally or not- an undue financial burden on top of every other problem discussed.

This leads us to the second and even more important issue: the privileging of certain crimes over others. According to the Gini coefficient, crime is correlated not merely with poverty, but especially with income inequality, as well as the perception (right or wrong) of male-male competition. For this reason, the sort of crime that poverty breeds tends to be the most visible and visceral- drugs, robbery, murder, and the like. Logically, only a certain ‘type’ will engage in the most egregious of these, and will use his natural talents to flourish in the environment. Yet- as Dan Schneider argues- dress the sociopath in a suit and let him run Enron or an apartheid state like Israel, and he not only has the capacity to do a thousand times the harm he might have done in the streets, but will enjoy unique protections a drug lord can only dream of. So, while black people are told to ‘stop killing’ and ‘be responsible’ for the destruction a tiny fraction of them wreak, an equal fraction in the white community do just as much (and often worse!) in their own spheres. And while I once knew a few kids getting jailed over drugs, fighting, and similar nonsense, my OTHER circle- young, Russian, from ‘good’ families and the like- was often involved in massive tax and insurance fraud and other scams, not to mention the trillions netted every year by corporations which illegally stockpile cash, side-step regulations, and crash the entire world economy with nary a prison sentence. Really- what’s worse on the scale of human suffering? Did the architects of the Iraq War get an execution? Or the folks who lied about tobacco’s ill effects? Big pharma? Frackers? Why not? No, crime is not poverty-driven, but character-driven, and color-coded at that: evidence that ‘privilege’ is not merely HOW one gets targeted by the world’s muscle, but that certain behaviors- often the most criminal behaviors- are rendered invisible by it.

So, is it ever justified in Shapiro’s world to cry ‘bias’? Well, I guess that all depends on who you are. Ben finds black people’s complaints both illegitimate and annoying, as they are simply a means to control the conversation rather than deal with a well-structured argument. Yet when the Justice Department releases data Shapiro doesn’t like? It is simply “racist”. Obama complains about the xenophobic campaign waged against him by a good swath of whites? He’s a “bigot”. A dumb comedian compares your political conservatism to Irving Kristol’s? He’s an “anti-Semite”. America makes a few mild, token rebukes of Israel’s genocidal policies? It is a “Jew-hating” administration. “No, but…” Yes, Ben, I know, I know. It is always ‘different’ when a situation – any situation, really – involves oneself rather than one’s target, when one finds that a blanket dismissal of another person’s concerns is in fact quietly entangled with one’s own.

Let us return to where we started (whew!)- the Reddit AMA:

[–]michela_9[S] 128 points 6 days ago

Hi Ben,

What are your thoughts on the March for Science this Saturday?

[–]Ben Shapiro [S] -74 points 6 days ago

It seems that much of the March for Science has less to do with science than leftist propaganda masquerading as such.

[–]doltcola 116 points 6 days ago*

I’m gonna be honest here. I came into this AMA with an open mind. I have a friend who really talks up Ben Shapiro and all the 9 yards. I really thought I could get some perspective and maybe a different way to look at things, but all of the answers I’ve been reading here have been shallow as puddle of piss. Am I wrong when I say a lot of these responses are lazy? Does it hurt to elaborate just a little bit?

[–]deaduntil 58 points 6 days ago

Ben Shapiro made his bones at Breitbart, driving up pageclicks, hype, and outrage. There’s no real reason to think he’d be a particularly thoughtful or worthwhile thinker – it’s not a selection process that produces one.

There are people who are thoughtful conservatives with a different perspective out there, but they don’t come from alternative media.

And there you have it. For while I don’t pretend that the commenters, above, would necessarily fare much better if pressed to explain their own worldviews, they are obviously much closer to the ‘common sense’ model Shapiro only pretends to champion, popping in and out as the occasion suits him, dropping a study here, an insult there, but refusing to ever map out his own dead-ends and entanglements. And that’s because modern American ‘conservatism’ is anything but- merely a haphazard collection of unfalsifiable claims which can never be brought to their logical conclusion without self-destructing. In a way, then, it’s little more than the uglier sister of modern liberalism, parasitic as the two are on the token variants of classic ideals which neither side has truly come to terms with.

Yet for all that, I just can’t bring myself to adopt Shapiro’s tack of waging war against some ‘side’- some imago of my own making. As I’ve argued before, true conservatism and liberalism are two world-tendencies predicated upon an organism’s needs: the need to stray, on the one hand, but also the need to periodically return to one’s source, and reject that which- after some experimentation- turns out to have not worked. THAT is the function of the liberal/conservative divide, and it always amuses me when conservatives assume things will merely be how they’ve always been, and liberals insist that everything they’re fighting for can be won on the exact terms they’ve imagined. In short, if liberals are here to probe ideas and try new things at the risk of failure, conservatives are here to ensure that liberals don’t get us in too deep and trip into some bottomless pit of their own gouging.

Perhaps this is why both sides are so suspicious of one another, as neither is ‘stronger’, nor more ‘important’, but why- let’s be real, now!- conservatism is especially virulent and hysterical no matter where it’s found. I mean, just look at Shapiro’s tactics, from the wholesale rejection of scientific data, to the emotional ploys he denies others, to the constant allusions to some great culture war that in fact has been with us since Sumer and Akkad. Conservatism knows it is unstable for it is by definition reactive. It wishes to slow a world down that liberals – in a strike against them – often manage to spin out of control. Yet whether liberals are successful today or tomorrow, the point is they ARE successful, which is why today’s liberal is little different from the liberal of yore. By contrast, today’s conservative is about a thousand standard deviations to the left of where conservatism once was, and will, when the time’s right, merely be today’s liberal, albeit some decades too late. Give Shapiro about a century and his next iteration will be arguing for expanding universal healthcare for animals, but not- he’ll insist- for androids, based on some new demarcation he’ll think is perfectly logical.

And perhaps this is where Ben Shapiro fails as a spokesman for the conservative movement, and why I can’t respect him intellectually. Yes, he is better than TV pundits and more articulate than many liberals, but he is lazy, smug, and too content to coast above the swamp merely because he doesn’t have to quite dip into it. I mean- why else settle on an anti-abortion argument that philosophers have declared dead for years now, when better arguments exist? Or destroy a cogent claim on the Left’s exaggeration of privilege by denying it outright? A true conservative is there to keep the Left’s excesses in check, NOT attack them for what they’re right on, just as the Left is there to push conservatives out of their complacency, but not to the point of formlessness and waste. Anything less and one ends up with Ben Shapiro’s self-destruct mechanism. And- ah, there’s the button. Click!

187 Comments Why Ben Shapiro Is A Total Fraud

  1. Ezekiel

    Okay – a lot to take in, for someone who just recently started taking politics seriously, but damn. This is an evisceration. I admired Ben Shapiro for similar reasons (his calling out of Leftist claptrap) and – coming from a Conservative background myself, even if only by dint of growing up in an Evangelical Christian milieu – never really questioned his more “substantial” arguments. He seemed a more logical alternative to the Yiannopolous idiocy. However, I stopped following him; out of laziness, more than anything, but the outright condescension and ad nauseam repetition of un-challenged points made him a bore. I mean, he keeps boasting of his on-air clash with Zoey Tur as if he had Ali’d the Left’s George Foreman.

    A big problem with Shapiro is that he thinks himself capable of separating his faith-based thinking with so-called “rational/secular” thinking when the absolutism he applies to most of his positions completely exposes their ideological link. His gay-marriage argument is simply a dirty excuse to justify his religious views with government (in)action – and to think Dave Rubin considers Shapiro a worthwhile spokesperson for the Right! As for the abortion stuff: your pointing out his hypocrisy on the issue is spot-on. He’s perpetuating the rather puerile method many alternative media YouTube channels deploy of splicing viral videos and providing unbalanced commentary – commentary oftentimes equal to the silliness of the target video! or, at most, pointing out plain, common sense. Nothing really special, or helpful.

    Shapiro, Thomas Sowell, and Milton Friedman get a lot of YouTube love by conservatives for being their ideological champions, and while I’m not sure about the latter two, Shapiro definitely does not deserve that mantle. Or, unfortunately for them, he does. He doesn’t deserve any of the anti-Semitic remarks but he continues to build his reputation on blasting stuttering questioners in college visits or weak opponents from the Left, so it’s time his ideology got an incisive critique.

    Much of the information in your piece I can’t immediately absorb, being so green to this field of thought, but you did a great job of being fair (with some humorous, well-aimed snipes) and offering a rich array of evidence for a reader to study in his/her/zir own time. Plus, you take the mind-blowing approach of desiring to be correct on the matter, rather than Left/Right/etc. Have you shared this with reddit, or emailed it to Shapiro himself? I’d be curious to see how he responds to it on his show, if he should so choose. But knowing him…

    P.S. Are you familiar with the YouTube channel, Secular Talk? Curious what you think, if so. I’ve watched a good number of his videos and found them solid and consistent.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      You used to be a conservative? Interesting. Do you still maintain a few of those positions? I’d argue they’re wrong about most things, but right about a few.

      Did not realize Shapiro still talks about Zoey Tur. I mean, OK, a nasty and mentally ill person refuses to debate you and then threatens you, and that’s your best fight against the Left? This is precisely why Shapiro is so ugh. He’s an ‘intellectual’ in his 30s debating TV personalities and college kids then sits back with his hands behind his head, feeling self-affirmed. What a waste.

      I have a book by Sowell, and he’s just odd. He has something interesting to say here or there but the conclusions do not follow from the premises, or even from the evidence he presents. And Friedman just puts a ‘smarter’ spin on what’s essentially indefensible for the reasons the article discusses.

      No, I didn’t send this to Shapiro or post it to Reddit. You can do that if you’d like, since I as a rule do not post these materials to Reddit due to the voting system in comments. I think Reddit would like it quite a bit, though, especially since r/politics just had this AMA.

      Heard Secular Talk a few times. He’s OK, I mean I agree with most of his positions, but I’m more interested in hearing people express new or different positions in novel and memorable ways rather than hearing my own thoughts in another person’s mouth. He is better argumentatively than Cenk Uygur but he doesn’t have Cenk’s charisma or mannerisms.

    2. Kyle

      I’m in pretty much the same boat as you lol. Christian conservative who just recently got into politics and saw Ben as a campus hero, but not without his fair share of flaws. Also, I can’t thank the author enough for challenging my thoughts, because honestly, that’s where all the fun in politics and philosophy is.

    3. Kyle

      I’m in pretty much the same boat as you lol. Christian conservative who just recently got into politics and saw Ben as a campus hero, but not without his fair share of flaws. Also, I can’t thank the author enough for challenging my thoughts, because honestly, that’s where all the fun in politics and philosophy is.

  2. Nancy

    I worked for someone whose managing skills were often negatively critiqued. One person even wrote expressing their complaints about what they saw going on and they were right about most of the things. The manager brought the letter to me and asked what I thought about it. I told her, ” If I got a letter like that I would examine myself.” And because she trusted me, I helped her along.
    So that is what I would say to Mr. Shapiro – If I was written up like this, I’d examine myself.” Deeply.

    Reply
  3. Fabio

    I appreciate your attempt at an honest (though biased) critisism at Ben Shapiro, but it really seems as though you’re trying to shove your enormous vocabulary in the face of the reader. And i don’t mean to use that as a full on dismissal of your argument, but the left does tend to use fluffy language to hide poor arguments.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I have little to no jargon (except in the more technical discussions of abortion, which is merely per the course) and the vocab is pretty standard, unless you’re simply used to online articles. Not trying to be nasty or dismissive, either; just pointing out what I’ve observed reading political books in my teens to then watching the growth and dilution of Internet writing.

  4. James

    “In short, the law is a negotiated understanding between a society and its members, often making what is implicit explicit, even if it sometimes means spearheading ‘vested interests’ ahead of public opinion for the sake of a well-established good”

    This is a dangerously poor definition of the Law, which is, was and shall always be rooted in violence. The Law dictates which actions the state has both the legal authority and obligation to use the threat (or practice) of violence to stop. Even fines and summary offenses have this aspect on the tail end of you choose not to pay them.

    This misunderstanding is why the Left consistently mistakes more laws for positive change. Marriage shouldn’t be the government’s business in the first place. Government is not some entity that always has and always will exist, it’s simply a way to manage living around a large number of people. Streamlined is always better.

    How anyone could dismiss Thomas Sowell’s mountains of work and data as “odd” in one sentence and expect to be taken seriously is a mystery.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      “This is a dangerously poor definition of the Law…”

      Which is why it is not my definition of the law, but an addendum to it. Surely you read the preceding sentence?

      That said, the rest of your comments devolve to mere question-begging- namely, your libertarian (I presume) stance on the state and violence, premises I do not agree with and which you, lacking an argument, are not in the position to change. To say the law has nothing to do with manufacturing an understanding between people is just silly.

      And the govn’t certainly is “some entity that always has and always will exist”- or rather, the Social Contract is, as I’ve explicitly argued, whether it’s the ineffectual agreements between primitive groups that can lead to murder rates as high as 60%, or the introduction of a Leviathan, which has reduced violence and human suffering a thousandfold. Bow to it, baby, ‘cuz the historical alternative is to smile from the top of a pike.

      And re: Thomas Sowell. This was an offhand response to a comment, not some prefiguration of yet another essay. Yet many of his positions are the same as Shapiro’s, and argued for in the same way, and have thus implicitly been tackled:

      http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell051499.asp
      https://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2017/05/01/tax-cuts-for-the-rich-n2320748
      https://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/2016/07/12/the-war-on-cops-n2191290

      This wasn’t a critique of merely Shapiro, but that of the ‘conservative’ (yeah, right) movement as a whole. You need to get a handle on how information in one sphere can be extrapolated into another. Sowell’s intellectual edifice was caught in the same crossfire without being named, and thus crumbled.

      Sorry.

  5. Dan Schneider

    That so much time is wasted on a person who offers so little is the real shame. It’s why I waste very little effort these days on the DFWs and JCOs of the lit world.

    One thing, you use, ‘more’ several times when I think you mean ‘moreover.’

    All laws and rights are fictions. When we encounter the first hostile extraterrestrials this will be brought home. But, yhey are useful and good fictions. Gov’t’s sole purpose is to provide things that individual citizens cannot do for themselves- this includes a plenum of things (readers may need to look up ‘plenum’) from military protection, civil protection, healthcare, policing, and so forth. Having lost a job a few years ago because a long time employer was breaking local county fire and safety laws that I reported them on, and being fired because of it, due to living in a right to work state, I know the idiotic view of the law and its subservience to monied interests better than most.

    Good essay, overall. I have no interest in Shapiro, but if you can engage him in a dialogue, I’ll offer to host a debate between you two.

    Reply
    1. Keith

      It is amazing how rights have been so canonized. The strongest thing you can say about them is that there is likely, in the ether, a certain combination of rights that will, on the whole, maximize human potential and well-being while minimizing societal intrusion into individual lives, but even this would be contingent on factors social, cultural, political, etc., and it’s not anything remotely close to innateness.

  6. Keith

    It is a good essay – bit overlong relative to the subject, as I stated in private – but it’s amazing that contemporary conservatism is so thin, intellectually, that this guy has a platform. I could genuinely make better arguments for this guy’s views than he can.

    Reply
  7. Blaine

    On the abortion argument, his logic is not invalid. All of his conclusions are based off of his belief that an unborn baby still has rights. All of your conclusions are based off of your belief that they don’t. Your differences are ideological, not logical.

    Reply
    1. Dan Schneider

      There are no logical argumants against abortion; certainly not based in science. To say that is to claim it’s ideological to laugh at Flat Earthers, those who believe in a historical Jesus, or Creationists.

      You revealed your own ideology in making such a statement

    2. Blaine

      Are there any logical arguements against Hitler attempting to murder everyone with a genetic disease at the beginning of his regime? You still believe that was wrong, right?

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Blaine- yes, his logic is not invalid, but his argument is unsound. That’s not some minor philosophical difference. I agree that, logically, there is no reason to prefer death vs. non-death, genocide vs. no genocide, etc., but that wasn’t the point of the argument. Shapiro begins with an illogical premise which he continues to assert and refer to, thus begging the question wherever he fails to make his argument scientifically. He slippery-slopes his way to a conclusion that can only work if you accept the original premise. The default position is NOT ‘the unborn are human with full human rights’ in the same way that an acorn is not an oak tree, and barring a proper argument, the point of departure is still the default position.

      Of course, it would then (and only then) be incumbent upon me to argue why the default position is better, logical, or both, but that is WAY outside of the scope of this essay. What I have is enough to kill off the anti-abortion argument. It is not an argument for the alternative, although I would obviously argue the alternative’s better.

  8. Blaine

    As for the second part of your comment, you strawmanned me. But, I will not commit an argumentum lapidem and show you why those examples are an equivocation of my point.

    When you said “ideological” in your examples, you were referring to what they believe about a physical fact. I don’t agree with Flat Earthers either (duh). Flat Earthers don’t believe a Physical Fact despite obvious evidence to the contrary on the basis of what they believe.

    When I said “ideological”, I was referring to what Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Sheremet perceive human rights and the social contract to be, which is the philosophical outlook behind the conclusions they both made. Sorry for the misunderstanding, and thank you for your time.

    Reply
  9. Astro

    Too long. As a rule, if it takes you that many words to prove someone is a fraud, they probably aren’t. Not worth the time to rebut. Shapiro is not that important and neither are you.

    Reply
    1. Blaine

      I wasn’t saying he was a fraud, I’m saying he misunderstood my comment. And mine isn’t the longest one here. If your only complaint is that it was too long I think I did a good job.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Astro- sorry, I don’t follow your ‘rules’. And “Not worth the time to rebut” assumes you’d be able to. In fact, you’d be in the same position had I written 5 words or 15,000- namely, blundering, empty, and dumb.

    3. Czach

      Astro,

      The great thing about this essay is that it isn’t just a ‘rebuttal’, but Alex uses it as a jumping point to set up the ‘ground’ behind the debate as well – and uses it to ruminate on higher things within the sphere of politics.

      On the other hand, your comment is a rebuttal in the smallest sense of the term – a dismissal – speaking nothing of world nor reaching out to anything but yourself.
      Look at this paragraph that opens into the cosmic purpose of the political divide itself – do you think such a comment is merely ‘rebuttal’?

      “Yet for all that, I just can’t bring myself to adopt Shapiro’s tack of waging war against some ‘side’- some imago of my own making. As I’ve argued before, true conservatism and liberalism are two world-tendencies predicated upon an organism’s needs: the need to stray, on the one hand, but also the need to periodically return to one’s source, and reject that which- after some experimentation- turns out to have not worked. THAT is the function of the liberal/conservative divide, and it always amuses me when conservatives assume things will merely be how they’ve always been, and liberals insist that everything they’re fighting for can be won on the exact terms they’ve imagined. In short, if liberals are here to probe ideas and try new things at the risk of failure, conservatives are here to ensure that liberals don’t get us in too deep and trip into some bottomless pit of their own gouging.”

      Your life is probably filled with such petty wranglings that you cannot believe that attack/rebuttals can be more than such a thing – but true attacks are always more than the conflict, because they open up the field that the struggle takes place in.

    4. astro

      Alex-You seem a bit oversensitive to criticism.

      But OK. I’ll put my dumb, blundering empty mind to it. LOLL. The first six paragraphs you tell us Shapiro is supposedly “lazy” and “self-serving.” Incisive stuff. Only took two pages.

      Turning to the argument, the first question presented is curiously a question Shapiro did not answer. Which allows you to argue with clouds. Oh I don’t know. Maybe his answer would be that he considers abortion a form of murder and that he believes that it is a much more serious ethical/moral issue than not wanting to subsidize dairy products? Hardly unanswerable despite the slippery slope assumptions. Merely requires not treating all ethical objections as equal, which we never do. We make moral distinctions, just as the law does, and shockingly we are able to do so in practice. Still I find it amusing that you start with a question Shapiro did not respond to, and then seemingly only to set up strawmen just to knock them down.

      Next, you again present a question Shapiro did not answer, and instead insert something Shapiro allegedly stated elsewhere so you can presume how he would respond. Does not seem particularly fair or meaningful, but OK. So Kansas supposedly has budget woes due to low taxes. Are you suggesting that no state economies have benefited from lower taxes (Texas, Florida, etc) or suffered from high taxes (Connecticut, California)? You then proceed to cite some studies that support your viewpoint about higher taxes and raising the minimum wage while derogating studies that disagree. An economic issue with conflicting viewpoints? What will they think of next? Does this debate ever end? Not in my lifetime or yours. But if you think you definitively refuted the opposing view, more power to you.

      Next, you do not like some of his libertarian answers regarding health care in the Reddit Q & A. Actually neither do I. On health care I think he is all wet. Not too hard to critique. But that becomes a jumping off point for a long, meandering discussion about his position regarding abortion and his alleged hypocrisy along the lines of “if he claims all life is precious and worth protecting in the context of abortion, how can he say that health care is not a right?” Actually whether you or I are persuaded by it the rejoinder is simply that he does not see preventing murder (as he sees abortion) and providing subsidized health care on the same plane. And therein lies a basic and evergreen disagreement. You take issue, give us a usual discussion about when life begins (etc.) but the same old disgreement still remains. But again if you want to believe you have conclusively resolved the philosophical issue, whatever works.

      Then to gay marriage where we get another slippery slope argument with the claim that a bakery should not be forced under legal compulsion to make a cake for a gay wedding is equivalent to racial or religious discrimination. Here again, you are not critiquing any actual response. Perhaps Shapiro would respond that the first case involves legitimate religious convictions/traditions and that there needs to be a rational balance against a recently recognized right and established religious traditions, whereas the second case involves plain, old irrational discrimination. Agree. Disagree. Whatever. Still seems like a straightfoward response to your supposedly irrefutable logic.

      Finally we get a discussion about privilege where you disagree with Shapiro (and Thomas Sowell for that matter on the importance of culture) and cite studies that seemingly support your claims of racial bias in the justice system. Other studies are left out, inconvenient details ignored (for example buried in a footnote in the Atty. General NYC stop and frisk study was the fact that whites were actually stopped without reasonable suspicion more than any other group), and things like the demographics of crime not discussed. Again the standard disagreement and statistics battle.

      The rest is more of the same.

      Here are some other rules that may be helpful. First, become comfortable with criticism. You just published a (imho) longwinded “take down” attempt of someone you politically disagree with. You are big game hunting, trying to be noticed. People that engage in public criticism should not be so defensive. I merely suggested you needed editing. Second, try not to praise yourself so much in your own writing. Comes across as childish and insecure. Let other people praise your supposedly towering intellect.

    5. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Astro:

      Prior to getting to my response, I’m going to point out the chronology of events, and let others be the judge.

      YOU felt the need to address ME- a stranger- with a flippant, transparent dismissal of an article you’ve not understood. YOU said that I wasn’t “worth the time to rebut”, yet just hours later ended up writing the longest comment in this thread thus far. Why? Were you so upset at my needling that you had to come back with 9 full paragraphs just to emphasize how unimportant I am? Really- all this due to 3 little sentences, yet I’m the one who can’t “handle criticism”? Jesus, it’s like- here’s a bit of crape. Now hang.

      Turning to the argument, the first question presented is curiously a question Shapiro did not answer. Which allows you to argue with clouds. Oh I don’t know. Maybe his answer would be that he considers abortion a form of murder and that he believes that it is a much more serious ethical/moral issue than not wanting to subsidize dairy products? Hardly unanswerable despite the slippery slope assumptions. Merely requires not treating all ethical objections as equal, which we never do. We make moral distinctions, just as the law does, and shockingly we are able to do so in practice. Still I find it amusing that you start with a question Shapiro did not respond to, and then seemingly only to set up strawmen just to knock them down.

      I started with a question Shapiro did not answer because it was the highest-rated and most visible question, which Shapiro conveniently decided to ignore as it stymies his entire ideological framework. It also furthers my assertion that he is lazy. That you do not see this is your own issue to resolve.

      And it’s irrelevant whether he “believes” abortion is murder. I mean, did you fail to read that part, or what? First, he’s never proven that conclusion- merely question-begged his way to it in the hope no one would notice, then argued for an ethical exemption in his case. The argument, then, is from BELIEF. Yet any rational person can see that if you argue for one belief-based exemption, you can argue for almost any other, whether it’s vegans who question-beg their way into concluding meat-eating is murder, or folks who with much more justification do not wish to subsidize unwarranted, murderous adventures in the Mid East. They are not “clouds” unless one is ready to contradict oneself from one answer to the next. You are right, I made quite a few assumptions there- the biggest one being that Shapiro was intelligent enough to see how quickly he’d opened up his own objections to a free rider problem of which he’d quickly lose control. Was that assumption warranted? Dunno, because- as you’ve demonstrated- there really are a lot of idiots who can’t follow a rather simple line of thought.

      Next, you again present a question Shapiro did not answer, and instead insert something Shapiro allegedly stated elsewhere so you can presume how he would respond. Does not seem particularly fair or meaningful, but OK.

      Yes, another really popular question he conveniently ignores, which (again) further backs my claim that he was lazy. And it is both fair and meaningful if you were to be philosophically consistent- or are you attacking me for giving Shapiro too much credit there?

      So Kansas supposedly has budget woes due to low taxes. Are you suggesting that no state economies have benefited from lower taxes (Texas, Florida, etc) or suffered from high taxes (Connecticut, California)? You then proceed to cite some studies that support your viewpoint about higher taxes and raising the minimum wage while derogating studies that disagree. An economic issue with conflicting viewpoints? What will they think of next? Does this debate ever end? Not in my lifetime or yours. But if you think you definitively refuted the opposing view, more power to you.

      I am suggesting that one of the biggest and most extreme modern examples of his stated economic principles led to a spectacular failure- a failure that began immediately after these principles were tapped, and one that he refused to defend. You could have well-functioning states with high or low taxes, with a million other confounding variables to boot. Your point is what, exactly? Nor did I cite ‘some’ studies, but 1) 35 years of growth indicating little relationship with tax rates and GDP, which itself was based on a meta-analysis of multiple studies through 1995, 2) one of the larger pieces of evidence- an analysis of 26 studies by the Tax Foundation, which was analyzed in turn by CBPP to show that neoliberal tax reform is little more than a dart-toss. What I’ve ignored are libertarian think-thanks which routinely condemned by economists.

      Nor did I state that I ‘definitely refuted the opposing view’- I mean, what? Are you unable to read? Despite the lack of evidence, I actually grant Shapiro the ‘possibility’ (based on my own dart-toss) that such tax reform might in fact have a modest effect on growth, only to finish my argument on completely different premises altogether since both positions, as I explicitly state, are a mere “hunch” that must logically default to the tax-equity position until we get real evidence one way or the other. And still you’re not happy? Aww.

      Next, you do not like some of his libertarian answers regarding health care in the Reddit Q & A. Actually neither do I. On health care I think he is all wet. Not too hard to critique. But that becomes a jumping off point for a long, meandering discussion about his position regarding abortion and his alleged hypocrisy along the lines of “if he claims all life is precious and worth protecting in the context of abortion, how can he say that health care is not a right?” Actually whether you or I are persuaded by it the rejoinder is simply that he does not see preventing murder (as he sees abortion) and providing subsidized health care on the same plane. And therein lies a basic and evergreen disagreement. You take issue, give us a usual discussion about when life begins (etc.) but the same old disgreement still remains. But again if you want to believe you have conclusively resolved the philosophical issue, whatever works.

      Note your strange tack- I do not ‘like’ his answers? Uh, it’s beyond like or dislike- they are clearly ridiculous, if you simply look at his suggestion to beg friends and family for cash if you’re dying as reasonable health policy. For a guy who emphasizes efficacy and what “works”, this is an internal contradiction he must inevitably deal with.

      I also correct Shapiro on his own claim- he doesn’t mean “protection of life” (which healthcare can logically fall under) but “prevention of murder”, which is a completely different thing altogether. You think it irrelevant that he misuses words and gets basic definitions wrong, but I beg to differ. Nor is the second part needless or meandering. I point out that Shapiro keeps calling things ‘rights’ when in fact a right is a mere fiction and descriptor of some given reality at some given time- and even uses his bullying concept of ‘rights’ to shift his argument from a relativist position to one of immanent ethics, thus leading to his anti-abortion argument where this plays out more specifically. As for your other objections, see my comments above. Your same fallacy is at work there.

      Then to gay marriage where we get another slippery slope argument with the claim that a bakery should not be forced under legal compulsion to make a cake for a gay wedding is equivalent to racial or religious discrimination. Here again, you are not critiquing any actual response. Perhaps Shapiro would respond that the first case involves legitimate religious convictions/traditions and that there needs to be a rational balance against a recently recognized right and established religious traditions, whereas the second case involves plain, old irrational discrimination. Agree. Disagree. Whatever. Still seems like a straightfoward response to your supposedly irrefutable logic.

      Uh- what? Sexual orientation is a protected class according to our present Social Contract- just like race. No, they are neither contextually nor historically equivalent, yet they ARE legally equivalent since the state has a vested interest in preventing discrimination against protected groups. Nor is the state- as I point out- required to review things on a case-by-case basis, since you can literally come up with any sort of hypothetical that might fall under the umbrella of religious, etc. expression, which creates an ever-increasing burden on a protected class from which some perpetrator seeks to absolve his own responsibility. Had the bakery refused to bake a cake for a couple whose sole identity was “I enter bakeries, and curse at the bakers” there’d be no controversy. There’s a reason why such a group is not a protected class and why others are. I fail to understand how you don’t see this.

      Again- it is 100% irrelevant whether Shapiro would or would seek a “rational balance” or not. The point is that there can BE no “rational balance” under Shapiro’s own assumptions about religious protection, axiomatically, and, further, in the state’s own vested interests. It is one thing to not be friends with blacks or gays, or refuse to host them for dinner in your home. It’s quite another to refuse a business or medical service that- in exchange for permission to do business- exists under a state-defined rubric of non-discrimination. If there is any “rational balance”, it is in those examples of private conduct which both you and Shapiro conflate with something else altogether.

      Finally we get a discussion about privilege where you disagree with Shapiro (and Thomas Sowell for that matter on the importance of culture) and cite studies that seemingly support your claims of racial bias in the justice system. Other studies are left out, inconvenient details ignored (for example buried in a footnote in the Atty. General NYC stop and frisk study was the fact that whites were actually stopped without reasonable suspicion more than any other group), and things like the demographics of crime not discussed. Again the standard disagreement and statistics battle.

      Jesus, just look at your own dishonesty. ‘Seemingly’ support my claims? ‘Other studies are left out’? Really- I’m the one cherry-picking? By my estimate, roughly 80-90% of the studies that I’ve seen indicate racial discrimination at multiple levels of life, especially in law enforcement, which means I am taking a position consistent with mainstream data. This is further supported by whistle-blowing cops all over the country who indicate the same, as well as multiple investigations by the Department of Justice and 100,000 pages of internal police documents spanning roughly 20 years in NJ- the state Shapiro (by his own choice) decided to focus on, and the state that- in order to be fair- I likewise devote a good amount of attention to. And the Stop & Frisk study was fairly treated- ‘more than any other group’ is meaningless if the majority of folks stopped in a non-crime white area are non-white, while cops are putting forward lawsuits left and right complaining that they’ve been forced to racially profile as this was happening. To say that I’ve been in any way unjust here is ludicrous. You simply ‘dislike’ my position here. But tell me why I should give a fuck?

      Here are some other rules that may be helpful. First, become comfortable with criticism. You just published a (imho) longwinded “take down” attempt of someone you politically disagree with. You are big game hunting, trying to be noticed. People that engage in public criticism should not be so defensive. I merely suggested you needed editing. Second, try not to praise yourself so much in your own writing. Comes across as childish and insecure. Let other people praise your supposedly towering intellect.

      Thank you for your suggestions. And now, some for you. First, do not get involved in an argument for which you are ill-equipped. Try reading the article(s) in question, and write down some of the more difficult logic so you don’t find yourself in a conundrum of your own making. Second, do not contradict yourself- Shapiro cannot be “not that important” in one breath, while I am “big game hunting” in the next. By your own logic, there are far better targets for me to bleed. Yet here you are, feeling the need to fit me into some narrative just because I wrote 3 sentences that got you fired up enough to completely change your mind about my importance.

      Well, thanks for the affirmation, I guess. Now, where are you hiding that self-destruct button? Oh- there it is. Hold tight, now. Click.

    6. astro

      Alex-You might not be cut out for this line of work. At least not yet. Pot and Kettle and all. YOU (lol) just published a very lengthy attack on someone with a clickbait title on a public website with an open comment section. It is your website so with that allowance said, you then proceeded to overreact to the slightest criticism in the comments section (you need an editor; deal with it) and engaged in childish name-calling. You do it again in your “rebuttal”, which between the playground insults comes off as conversation from freshmen philosophy class. (“Yes but if you make one allowance for a moral belief, but all morality is relative, then you must recognize all moral beliefs are equal and therefore reductio ad absurdum in any practical application of moral reasoning.”). Ah, memories.

      If you want to argue with anonymous people in a comment section for articles on your own website, fair enough. But for pete’s sake if you get published in a magazine resist the urge. And most of all, if you think a comment is stupid or petty, IGNORE IT. You’ll thank me.

      No need for a last word.

    7. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Astro,

      You commented despite my unimportance- farting out of your mouth, basically, in the hope that I’d smell it and get pissed. Got slapped a little, then shot back with 9 fuckin’ paragraphs that were summarily dealt with. Continuing with your narrative re: my utter worthlessness, here you are again in an attempt to regain some face, yet refuse to engage what I’ve actually written to you despite the time I’ve wasted crafting a fair, thoughtful response to your objections.

      Now you impugn my motives, and assume this and that. Ok. Let’s pretend you’re right, and argue from your premises as I’ve so charitably argued from Shapiro’s. Hell, let’s pretend that I’m even worse than what you claim. Let’s say I’m a pedophile and murderer, and simply wrote this essay ‘just’ to humiliate Ben in an attempt to fuck his wife. And? What does my repulsiveness have to do the substance of my argument? More, why do you care? You don’t know me. You only see the text before your screen, and you’ve decided (for whatever reason) you do not like it. I’m still waiting, however, to hear what your point is.

      You say I can’t take criticism, but what did I do with your objections? I answered them in detail and tried to be as even-handed as possible. In response, I simply got more badgering, insults, accusations- which you expect me to merely ‘accept’ as if they’re legitimate critiques. So, why are you even here? Stop wasting my time- and, worse, from your perspective, stop wasting yours. Go home to your wife, have dinner, catch up on some reading, pull out a vibrator, and fuckin’ go to town. You’d get a lot more out of that than you ever will from our interactions, which are so one-sided that they’re both comical to watch and painful for me to write.

      Now that it’s been a few days and I’ve had some time to think, I (almost) regret writing this essay. Not that I don’t think it’s good- it’s better than virtually any political writing out there, if I may be so bold. Yet, as you might have guessed, I do have personal flaws I try to work on and often fail to resolve. One of them is my fixation on losers like Ben. This is, coincidentally, also the reason why I’m still writing to you. Oh well, we all have our demons, as the cliche goes. But I get the feeling I’d rather deal with mine than with yours.

      Note that, like my original comment, this is not an invitation to respond. This is an act of mercy. Just go, as this is the last time I’ll be addressing you.

      Thanks for reading.

    8. astro

      Alex-Well at least you are honest. Trust me, you are not close to the worst. Heck I once had a very well-known college professor threaten to beat me up for criticizing his Op-Ed. I think I had that email exchange framed I was so proud of it.

      I won’t be back so you do not need to respond. I won’t see it. I’m out. 🙂

    9. Invalid ID

      I bet he actually did hang up an angry email on his wall. I guess Astro doesn’t have much to take pride in. Thanks for admitting you’re nothing but a pathetic lowlife. This is so self-defeating it isn’t even funny. At least it knows when to fuck off!

    10. meso

      I agree with the first part. This article was way too long.
      To say Shapiro or Alex aren’t “important” that’s just silly.

  10. Andrew Geary

    Shapiro is just another public “intellectual” whose purpose isn’t to expand discourse or understanding, but to act as an ideological hero for people to rally behind. What’s surprising is how dumb and lazy he seems. If he’s supposed to be the intellectual giant of the alt-right they must either be desperate, delusional, or simply don’t care and just want someone who can strike a pose.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Yep, although he’s not alt-right. He’s been abused by them with anti-Semitic slurs, etc., when he disavowed Trump and left Breitbart.

  11. Paul

    This could be the dumbest article ever written. I am not some Ben Shapiro fan or an American-Flag-attached-to-the-cab-of-my-truck-pseudo conservative. I’m neither.

    But I know garbage analysis when I see it. And this author’s overtly lengthy synopsis of one recent Reddit appearance is more galling than the conservative’s appearance over there.

    He clickbaits his article by labeling Shapiro a fraud, has a limitless # of synonyms for Shapiro’s “childish” thinking and yet wastes the reader’s first 10 minutes of time recounting two questions in which Shapiro did not even respond. This author fills us in on the reasons why the conservative author didn’t respond, apparently having been present and sitting next to Shapiro at his computer at the time.

    This author then laboriously winds his way through pages of analysis of ONE online AMA to draw his conclusion, despite admittedly knowing little of the guest previously.

    So, this author has drawn his conclusion based on the massively flawed and imperfect platform for hosting a Q&A. Where as he knew nothing of Shapiro’s previous work, he now magically is expert enough to render a conclusion after reading a one sentence response the guest typed out, for example, to a submitted question.

    The equivalent to this author’s work and summation in this article is for me to determine that an automobile is a piece of crap not because I test drove it, not because I understood the mechanical history of its manufacturing, or not because I fully consumed its safety testing, et al…….but from the 2 sentences the manufacturer included in its advertisement in the pages of Sports Illustrated.

    I’m responding for no other reason but my distaste for strong assertions (“Shapiro total fraud”) minus the evidence and/or requisite work from the author to have earned the credentials to use such strong conclusions. IE a Reddit appearance with 2 sentences-long answers and a handful of past articles is not enough to conclude this unless something else is to be gained: article views.

    Reply
    1. Ezekiel

      “I’m responding for no other reason but my distaste for strong assertions”

      written earlier:

      “This could be the dumbest article ever written”

      ???

      You have the credentials to make such a strong assertion?

      The lack of cooperation and willingness to respond to the quite leftist AMA is telling, on Shapiro’s part.

      Sheremet is critiquing the conservative mindset in which Shapiro participates, and espouses. The article is long, sure, but to dismiss it completely is wrong – he provides a good amount of evidence for his claims and linked videos in which Shapiro appears, and so critiques his spoken opinion. Not just one sentence and a handful of articles. Whether or not you agree with Sheremet is beside the point. At least read his article properly.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      And this author’s overtly lengthy synopsis of one recent Reddit appearance is more galling than the conservative’s appearance over there.

      Actually, it is an analysis of both his Reddit appearance as well as- oh, I don’t know- ALL of his key claims on abortion, gay marriage, economics, and racism as taken from his own articles and talks beyond Reddit. Guessing you didn’t read that far before you felt the need to pass gas?

      He clickbaits his article by labeling Shapiro a fraud, has a limitless # of synonyms for Shapiro’s “childish” thinking and yet wastes the reader’s first 10 minutes of time recounting two questions in which Shapiro did not even respond.

      It is ‘clickbait’ only in the sense that it’s an accurate reflection of what’s in the article, an article which YOU decided to click on. Nor is it a ‘waste’ when Shapiro explicitly avoids popular questions/comments that would reveal his own ideological inconsistencies, a pattern in his thinking which I highlight not only in the questions he misses but the far meatier stuff outside of Reddit which I later get to. Pointing out his failure to answer 2 or 3 questions is not ‘my argument’, as you disingenuously straw-man. Rather, it is a minor supplement to an argument which spans a full 15,000 words.

      This author then laboriously winds his way through pages of analysis of ONE online AMA to draw his conclusion, despite admittedly knowing little of the guest previously.

      Again- this is factually incorrect.

      I’m responding for no other reason but my distaste for strong assertions (“Shapiro total fraud”) minus the evidence and/or requisite work from the author to have earned the credentials to use such strong conclusions. IE a Reddit appearance with 2 sentences-long answers and a handful of past articles is not enough to conclude this unless something else is to be gained: article views.

      Right. You begin with “this is the dumbest article ever”, yet go on to feign a “distaste for strong assertions”. Then you pretend as if I’ve somehow cherry-picked Shapiro’s views. I mean- really? Does he have better anti-abortion arguments somewhere? What about gay marriage- I guess an article on Townhall plus comments on The Rubin Report were insufficient for Shapiro to make his case? Racism- I guess he has a whole cache of studies that he refused to tap for a lecture on black whining? What about his economic outlook- was I unfair there, too, when I cite all the mainstream data I could find on the topic, which amounts to hundreds of studies altogether spread across several pages of argument which contradict his own?

      You need to make up your mind, Paul:

      Either this article is “too long” in tackling the meat of Shapiro’s worldview (as you claim), or it cherry-picks and does not deal with Shapiro’s worldview comprehensively enough (which you also claim).

      Either this article draws its conclusions “only” based on “a single Reddit appearance” (as you claim), or it also draws on several key articles and media appearances beyond Reddit to prove a point (which you also claim).

      Do you understand the logic of ‘either/or’, or are you simply looking to whine? I mean, just look at your own cowardly tactics- you bitch about this or that strategy of mine yet ignore every single argument I’ve in fact made in favor of generalized bitching. You are either lazy and don’t give a damn, or you realize that my comments are not so easily answered.

      Stop wasting everyone’s time.

    3. Paul

      “rights are nothing but what the social contract confers” writes this author. And then proceeds to attempt to prove his claim that Shapiro is a total fraud, lazy intellectual, etc (we all cant graduate from Univ of Florida. Nope. I take that back, we all can.)

      So understand this: this author gives us the end result of deliberation, arbitration (and compromise) that produces the social and legal current contract of “rights” and points his finger back at Shapiro to find cracks in his logic using this as a basis.

      The problem here is you are not being genuine, author. Where the FUCK does Ben Shapiro agree to the terms of YOUR one sided (he is not here to confront his accuser) approach to discussing hot topic rights vs commodities?

      Because he would certainly reject and rightfully so the rules YOU SET in this unnecessarily long article. (I love how you wrote somewhere within “snipping some of the BS” of a Shapiro article. hello? Mirror?? If I snipped the BS in YOUR article, MY responses here wouldn’t need to be so long)

      He would reject your premise of social contract because you are framing the discussion to suit your needs. You mention this around the issue of ‘healthcare as a right’. When Ben is articulating his position on the matter, it is from his position of natural rights….*not what actors in the government have currently agreed to”. This allows you to play the game.

      I would love to go point for point in your article (because it is BEGGING to be torn to pieces) but to do so I’d have to do it in small chunks here because you get paid by the word, apparently which makes it impossible to do the whole thing in one shot.

      So the summary is, you alter the details of the subject matter covered in his reddit AMA (example: his position on what are NATURAL INALIENABLE rights vs your post-reddit review to ‘rights stemming from the social contract’) which then enables you to make asinine comments like(paraphrased) “it was just as correct to say blacks in 1850s had no rights as it is to say you have a a right to abort fetuses in 2017”.

      No shit, sherlock. Shapiro is not arguing what was and wasnt LAW. In any video I’ve seen from him – he understands what are natural rights and what are laws and how these are not guaranteed to be the same -especially when idiot liberal leftists conflate the two. Go Gators.

      ps I dont care if this is too long or it “wastes everyone times” get over yourself. no one is reading this but me and you. Dont write a dissertation and expect a twittereque response then.

    4. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      “rights are nothing but what the social contract confers” writes this author. And then proceeds to attempt to prove his claim that Shapiro is a total fraud, lazy intellectual, etc (we all cant graduate from Univ of Florida. Nope. I take that back, we all can.)

      Uh, so what’s the contradiction between “rights are nothing but what the social contract offers” and then pointing out Shapiro’s errors?

      And I didn’t graduate from Florida U, nor have I ever been in Florida, you dunce.

      So understand this: this author gives us the end result of deliberation, arbitration (and compromise) that produces the social and legal current contract of “rights” and points his finger back at Shapiro to find cracks in his logic using this as a basis.

      I didn’t argue for the superiority of my own position re: abortion, which was beyond the scope of this essay. I merely argued for the logical shortcomings of Shapiro’s. That you fail to distinguish the two is unsurprising.

      The problem here is you are not being genuine, author. Where the FUCK does Ben Shapiro agree to the terms of YOUR one sided (he is not here to confront his accuser) approach to discussing hot topic rights vs commodities?

      Except I argue first on Shapiro’s terms, then, when they fail, on mine. Is there an issue with my argument? If not, why are you here?

      Notice how, 3 quotes in, and you fail to provide a single counter-argument, merely bitch.

      Because he would certainly reject and rightfully so the rules YOU SET in this unnecessarily long article. (I love how you wrote somewhere within “snipping some of the BS” of a Shapiro article. hello? Mirror?? If I snipped the BS in YOUR article, MY responses here wouldn’t need to be so long)

      4 quotes in- not one counter-argument, just more accusations of “bullshit” by fiat, and whining.

      He would reject your premise of social contract because you are framing the discussion to suit your needs. You mention this around the issue of ‘healthcare as a right’. When Ben is articulating his position on the matter, it is from his position of natural rights….*not what actors in the government have currently agreed to”. This allows you to play the game.

      Except that natural rights are a fiction, a fiction which conveniently gets all sort of shit thrown into it (abortion, etc.) which suits the debater’s needs, but axiomatically leaves everything else out which doesn’t. My point is that BOTH categories are essentially a form of question-begging, yet that Shapiro’s peculiar question-begging is not even consistent in the global scope. This is not a “game”. It is ordinary logic. Sorry.

      I would love to go point for point in your article (because it is BEGGING to be torn to pieces) but to do so I’d have to do it in small chunks here because you get paid by the word, apparently which makes it impossible to do the whole thing in one shot.

      You will not rip it up. You will not even attempt it. You might try in your dreams, still commenting, as you are, weeks after your first comment, but in reality will just end up precisely as you’re doing now: farting in my arena, in the hope that I’d smell it.

      6 quotes in- not a single counter-argument.

      So the summary is, you alter the details of the subject matter covered in his reddit AMA (example: his position on what are NATURAL INALIENABLE rights vs your post-reddit review to ‘rights stemming from the social contract’) which then enables you to make asinine comments like(paraphrased) “it was just as correct to say blacks in 1850s had no rights as it is to say you have a a right to abort fetuses in 2017”.

      I’ve altered nothing. There are no natural, inalienable rights. That would be a theological argument, not a logical one.

      7 quotes in, and…

      No shit, sherlock. Shapiro is not arguing what was and wasnt LAW. In any video I’ve seen from him – he understands what are natural rights and what are laws and how these are not guaranteed to be the same -especially when idiot liberal leftists conflate the two. Go Gators.

      8.

      That’s how many times you were just smacked in the mouth. Go get some ice, and call me in the morning.

  12. Paul

    ???
    You have the credentials to make such a strong assertion?

    reply:
    No. And either does the author of this article who a couple of weeks ago was unaware of Shapiro. But 5 minutes later, he assures us all the guy is a total fraud because of the answers he typed out on a computer to a couple of questions.

    The difference between me and him is I’m not in the business of click-baity enterprises (see: title of this article)

    The lack of cooperation and willingness to respond to the quite leftist AMA is telling, on Shapiro’s part.

    reply:
    No it’s not. And the reason it isn’t is because unlike a debate stage, an audio interview, or best yet an in-person conversation, you do not know the mechanics of the Q&A process online. Maybe he didnt see a question. Maybe his time is short and he can only pick and choose a couple of quick questions.

    I wrote a comment here challenging the author’s analysis of the conservative commentator. The author didn’t respond as of this note. HIs lack of cooperation is really telling.

    The article is long, sure, but to dismiss it completely is wrong – he provides a good amount of evidence for his claims and linked videos in which Shapiro appears, and so critiques his spoken opinion.

    reply:
    the majority of his analysis comes from either 3-sentence answers he stripped from an article here or there or less than a couple minute long. How does one then determine someone else, and I quote “a total fraud” from a sum of <20 minutes total on all thoughts. Why doesn't this author extend an Shapiro an opportunity to interview him or ask him questions? You know, the same way Shapiro begins every single one of the Q&A lectures he has by inviting all opposing views to step first in line to discuss their thoughts with him?

    Reply
    1. Ezekiel

      Sorry for the long post, but I disagree with many of your points. First of all, the author of this article culls (and paraphrases, to be clear) several central, fundamental arguments of Shapiro’s from written and video sources. He even explicitly quotes him, at times, and not just from the AMA. To suggest he’s simply responded to a few responses from the AMA is wrong-minded. To do anymore would be to lengthen the essay, and the current length you have already deemed a demerit.

      Nowhere in the essay did Sheremet say he was unaware of Shapiro. He said he was unfamiliar with much of Shapiro’s work, i.e. a considerable portion of it. His admission of points of agreement at essay’s start signifies that he had some knowledge of the conservative pundit’s views – enough, at least, to share a few.

      Shapiro did not see the 444-point top-rated question? The point of an AMA is to engage with your questioners. I’ve seen a good number of successful AMAs (granted, most were not as charged as politically-leaning ones) with substantial answers. If, then, Shapiro’s time was short and could only shoot off a few, quick answers, why agree to participate, knowing one’s limits? At best, Shapiro fumbles the AMA for whatever exterior reason, and damns himself to a bad look.

      “I wrote a comment here challenging the author’s analysis of the conservative commentator. The author didn’t respond as of this note. HIs lack of cooperation is really telling”

      Is this an Ask Me Anything? He’s responded to most – all I can say is, be patient. For Shapiro, however, the AMA is over.

      “the majority of his analysis comes from either 3-sentence answers he stripped from an article here or there or less than a couple minute long”

      I totally disagree. Sheremet’s analysis consists of balanced responses to Shapiro’s own AMA answers (which, evidently, Shapiro deemed substantial enough to toss into the public sphere, or else he would not have responded at all – like with many of the earnest questions), critiques of his ideas in three videos (the shortest being 8 minutes, and suffering the same flaws Shapiro rightly critiques leftists for engaging in), and spreading out into considerations of more general conservative viewpoints. This is the level of analysis that allows Sheremet to think his target a fraud. Now, whether you agree with his conclusion or not is another thing. But he CLEARLY went over enough of Shapiro’s fundamental ideas to come to SOME kind of conclusion.

      “You know, the same way Shapiro begins every single one of the Q&A lectures he has by inviting all opposing views to step first in line to discuss their thoughts with him”

      On the point of sharing the article with Shapiro, you’re gonna have to take that up with Sheremet. But on the above quote: an admirable move from Shapiro, which is why I’m disappointed – an AMA allows you to more clearly elucidate your views through the written word, outside of the pressure of speaking in person, and time limits – limits, in fact, more stringent than those prescribed in an AMA. Plus, in Shapiro’s Q&A lectures, it’s pretty much a room full of conservatives and a tiny, mixed bag of leftists, some genuinely curious, some very dumb. Not much disagreement there – just another opportunity for Shapiro to lay a verbal smackdown on hotheaded millenials, and, of course, the general fawning. On the other hand, the AMA was hosted in a left-leaning subreddit, offering the OPPOSITE atmosphere – a BETTER opportunity for Shapiro to put his money where his mouth is and trade ideas wholeheartedly. Think about it: was that achieved, in any way?

    2. vincent cuttolo

      This website is substandard. I posted to salute Paul for a well- reasoned and crafted response, but the site misplaces my response as if I’m congratulating Alex Sheremet’s defender. This original article is endless but contains little of substance. The author, though, sure is impressed with himself. Yawn.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Ah, another highly specific response going through all of my errors and lapses in judgment for which I have no rejoinder. Damn, I just can’t deal with all of these sophisticated arguments.

      Pussy.

  13. Aaron Shelton

    Nothing morally wrong with killing unborn children while they are inside their mother’s womb? Nothing at all? It doesn’t do any damage to society and culture? How about the women who have abortions and the emotional problems they suffer from afterwards?

    And why is god a mere fiction? To make such a bold claim, I would hope you have meditated extensively, studied theology, taken some sort of pilgrimage or the like. Unfortunately, smart people can justify really anything which is why we might not be able to abandon the existence of god just yet as our moral compass. Because if one can justify killing an unborn baby, which by statistics (I believe) states is around 80% a matter of convenience, perhaps we should feed the poor with these aborted children while we are at it. I mean its not a life in there, just a bundle of cells. Bringing it back to the existence of god one should ask this question: Being that the universe is infinite, and that there is possibly multiverses as well, wouldn’t anything be possible? Is it more scientific to say there is absolutely no god in the universe, or that being open to the possibility of a god is more scientifically accurate?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Nothing morally wrong with killing unborn children while they are inside their mother’s womb? Nothing at all? It doesn’t do any damage to society and culture? How about the women who have abortions and the emotional problems they suffer from afterwards?

      I neither accept your premises nor your conclusions.

      I am not trying to be nasty, but- did you understand my objections to the typical anti-abortion arguments? You are asking questions that have been answered.

      And why is god a mere fiction?

      Lack of evidence, for one.

      Being that the universe is infinite, and that there is possibly multiverses as well, wouldn’t anything be possible?

      Certainly anything MIGHT be possible, but it does not follow that you therefore should believe absolutely anything just because. Just consider the implications of such. How will you organize your life- and, more, how would one organize a society based around such principles?

      Is it more scientific to say there is absolutely no god in the universe, or that being open to the possibility of a god is more scientifically accurate?

      Actually, I am technically open to the possibility of god’s existence. I cannot, for example, prove a negative. So, I guess I’m actually an ‘agnostic’. I use the term atheist since it does not privilege the question of god over any other probable fiction we never think about. For example, people don’t generally believe in pink elephants, the Easter bunny, and so on, because these things have never been given cultural importance and so a lack of belief in them is merely expected. Yet these things have about as much evidence for their existence as god does, but because god is in a culturally privileged position, we have a technical term for a lack of belief in god- atheism. To me, this places an unnecessary philosophical default back to god’s existence which should be argued against as opposed to in fact proven, like any other phenomenon. So, I call myself an atheist although I wouldn’t begrudge others using the more correct (but maybe worse) term.

      Hey, see- you engaged me with a little bit of respect, and I’ve returned it and even took your objections seriously. Perhaps some other commentators in this thread should learn from your example.

      Thanks for reading.

  14. Dan Schneider

    Astro is one of these trolls that has no answers but the pat arguments, gets handed his ass, then can only try the ad hominem approach because he has no reply. Then he tops it off with the if I’m such a troll why did you debunk me gambit; which if Alex HAD followed his advice, he’s have his hands down his pants saying, ‘See, he couldn’t touch me.’

    Game, set and match for Sheremet.

    Reply
    1. vincent cuttolo

      Astro destroyed this self-aggrandizing embarassment. And you libs can’t handle it.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      In fact, Astro let himself out thru the doggy-flap. I suppose you wanna chase his scorched asshole, now? Breathe deep, Vince.

  15. Dan Schneider

    Yet another troll infested article by people wielding biases and not minds.

    And, next, they trot off to argue about video games.

    Reply
  16. Dave

    Personally, I interpreted his slippery slope arguement as his arguement against people who contend that abortion is okay up until a certain point in the womb, not for those who contend for the right to abortion at any time during a pregnancy.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      The slippery-slope argument depends upon a single premise: that an inviolable human life with full rights begins at conception. So, technically, under this assumption, one never truly has the right to abort, whether it’s a zygote, a fully viable being, or something in between.

  17. Raihan Alam

    Great essay. I was trying to pop my liberal bubble living in SF. I was very left in my freshman year of high school. I realized that I didn’t feel “strong” about all the social justice stuff I’ve been spewing. This summer, before my junior year, I’ve been researching the other side. I’ve been listening to conservative podcasts, arguments, “intellectuals.” I wanted to be on the right side of everything. I feel like the conservatives aren’t wrong when they’re against BLM, 3rd Wave Feminism, and when they defend free speech. I stumbled onto Ben Shapiro and thought he was a genius. I saw his videos and thought he must be right. His abortion video made sense to me. In popping my bubble I was stuck on the right. I started being very mean to my liberal friends. I forgot to research my own side. This article has reminded me that maybe I was on the “right” side all along, and that I have to research my own side as well. Hopefully, from now on, I won’t succumb to rhetoric like Ben’s. Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Raihan,

      I wrote this essay precisely for people like you- intelligent folks who might be on the fence on this or that, but are willing to look past their own biases and listen to argument. Shapiro has a troubling demagogic streak; just look at that white privilege video again, and consider how ‘equipped’ he seems with this or that study, merely by cherry-picking information which others cannot call him out in in real-time. I call it ‘demagogic’ because in an actual debate where things can be cross-checked, like via essay form, he’d simply get wrecked. Just imagine him using those tired economic arguments against a Stiglitz, or hell, even a Dean Baker? He can’t help but stumble into his own shit face-first.

      What are your issues with BLM? I support BLM’s core message- that black people feel the disproportionate brunt of bad policing, economic discrimination, structural injustice, etc., but many of its peripheral messages are just idiotic. This year, for instance, they said they wanted to dismantle the nuclear family- uh, what? Stick to what you know and don’t make a fool of yourself. Even basic things, like science, have been co-opted by both the Right AND the Left to further an agenda which has nothing to do with it. Now everyone, even BLM, thinks they are an evolutionary biologist.

      It’s inevitable that we will look upon ourselves as either liberal/conservative, etc., and that’s fine, but it’s important to not get caught up in every little position. This is why so many liberals went full-hog for a fake like Hillary Clinton, or conservatives for another fake in Donald Trump. They assume the ‘side’ matters when a side is merely a bunch of individual positions that need to be evaluated piece by piece. Note how, in this essay, I offer lots of qualifiers to everything from my pro-minimum wage stance, to white privilege, and more. About the only thing I do NOT qualify is abortion, since that is necessarily a black/white issue, and in fact needs to be in order to remain philosophically consistent. Yet there is only one position (pro-abortion) that is impervious to a reductio ad absurdum.

      Thanks for reading.

    2. Resigned Sidekick

      @Alex

      Sorry, but I was with you up until you went on a diatribe about “fake Hillary”. Sanders has more in common with Trump than Hillary and I don’t mean that in a good way.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      diatribe
      noun
      1.
      a bitter, sharply abusive denunciation, attack, or criticism

      I literally spend half a sentence on Clinton to make a deeper point about tribalism, and now you feel free to misuse words to satisfy your own emotional needs, thus proving my original claim. Seriously- why write if you have nothing to say, and no further explanation of your position?

  18. Raihan Alam

    Exactly. I think the BLM movement is becoming extremely radical. Your example of their call to dismantle the nuclear family hits the nail. There have also been cases of the movement excluding white people from events and making white professors leave campus. It’s becoming a bit absurd.

    I also think that the words “Black Lives Matter” aren’t pleasant. It implies that the majority of people don’t know that. I’m pretty sure almost all of us think that everyone’s life, no matter their race, is sacred.

    I think that blowing up cases of bad policing and using that to claim America is racist just isn’t right. The same people on the left who defend my religion, Islam, saying that the acts of a few Muslims don’t represent Islam or the vast majority of Muslims, are the same people who use incidents of bad policing to suggest that America is racist.

    I also, I’d appreciate it if you would be able to explain to me, don’t understand how protesting against racism works. If racism is in people’s heads, how does protesting, or even the government fix that? I think as long as their are minorites, even in small numbers, who commit crimes, racism will exist. Racism is in our nature. We, as humans, like to defend ourselves from potential harm.

    Lastly, I’d like to see ways the BLM movement could adress the problem of black kids growing up with a single parent. There’s a large percentage, 70%(it’s probably lower because that’s just the number out of wedlock), of them living in a single parent home. I think that fact critically hinders their path to success. Childhood is everything. You’re a smart guy, you’ve probably been encouraged to read and write when you were younger. Your parents probably also pushed you to do well in school. There’s a strong correlation with having a bad childhood and becoming a criminal, as well as having a good childhood and succeeding.
    You’re more prone to having a “bad”childhood when you have only one parent looking after you. Especially when that one parents has to do everything else, like working, cooking, etc.

    Reply
    1. Raihan Alam

      Woops, it looks like you can ignore my last paragraph. I just remembered the ending of your piece. I still have those demagogic Shapiro stats in my head!

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I’d agree with your critique of BLM, save for the name. I mean, yes, it is true that most white people might in fact ‘care’ for black lives in the intellectual sense, but don’t you think that’s a self-absorbed way to look at things? If even half of BLM’s accusations are true, it means that black people are under a state of siege- from police, from the courts, from structural poverty, and so on. But not only are many (if not all) of these phenomena denied by a majority of Americans, little, in fact, has been done to address some of these issues. I’ll take structural poverty as an example. If it is true, in fact, that blacks where ghettoized and stripped of their wealth from the 1920s-1960s, both by racist politicians as well as some otherwise well-meaning programs, it ALSO means that changing this is tough without resorting to rightfully unpopular strong-arm tactics, such as forcefully re-districting neighborhoods by race and such. I, myself, have very few solutions to any of this, except very slow ones. So, I am merely pointing out the problems. “BLM” is a way of saying- thanks, I guess, for your concern, but do you truly believe what you say, and are you willing to accept the fact that you and I live very different realities? Yet if 50% of America is Republican-esque in its politics, that’s already half of America answering ‘no’ to that question. Thus, BLM is justified both in its name as well as its core message.

      Also- let us assume, for a second, that the ‘real problem’ in the black community is being born out of wedlock to a single-parent home. Let’s not dispute Shapiro’s stats, but embrace them. Ok, what now? Well, Shapiro’s solution is mind-numbingly stupid. He says- ‘that’s ok, just don’t have kids out of wedlock, graduate high school, find good work.’ But do you see the issue with this? As much as conservatives wish to deny it (or liberals exaggerate it, for that matter), human behavior is a mere probability space. This means that if you throw in parameters X, Y, and Z into a pot, it will get you a rather predictable set of results. Yes, one can, technically, transcend almost any behavior, but transcendence is simply not a group reality. It is an INDIVIDUAL one. Again, Shapiro might deny it, but how can anyone with even a basic understanding of history suggest otherwise? 10,000 years ago, the murder rate in most societies was anywhere between 100 to 1000X higher than ours. What caused this change? A few sermons and moralizing? A spontaneous decision to ‘be better’? Or the substitution of Parameter X for Parameter Y?

      Nor is it that a majority of blacks refuse to work or graduate high school. This is clearly untrue. It is that, on average, they are less likely to tap one portion of the probability space over another- and, if you look at this as a few thousand meaningful decisions over a lifetime, such things really do add up. It doesn’t take ‘many’ criminals, etc., in a given neighborhood to turn it to shit. A white neighborhood might have 1% of its inhabitants being out-and-out criminals. A housing project might bump that number up to 2-3%. Yet the difference between 1 and 2%, as a sociological reality, is much greater than the numbers imply, and completely changes the entire nature of the probability space. Crime does not go up by a factor of 2, but a factor of 5-10 in this scenario. To say that this won’t have an appreciable effect on whatever aggregate lives, within, is just absurd, as the deck is already stacked against even an unborn child who had (to use conservative parlance) a crack-whore of a mother whose decisions are thus inherited by the child. What do you do in that case? Do you tell the child: don’t repeat your mother’s poor choices, and here’s some help and a strategy to keep you on the right path? Or do you go against the grain of history, and deny the nature of inheritance as a whole?

      In sum, we ought to ALWAYS hold individuals accountable for their actions. There is no way around that. At the same time, we ought not to be surprised at the predictability of groups. This is a subtle difference for which the human brain — used to the blame-game as an adaptation for small-group tribal identity — is ill-equipped to handle, much less with sub-mediocre thinkers like Ben. Perhaps this is why political thinking is such shit to begin with. You give a bunch of apes with congenital biases a room to just go wild and come up with a theory of justice, and what do you get? Self-absorption, myopia, and just all-around stupidity.

  19. Shaun

    Wow, this was brilliant. This is more than just a specific response to Shapiro; this is a deconstruction of essentially the most common “intelligent” conservative talking points. One of the best articles I’ve read.

    Please keep posting more well-sourced things like this where you deconstruct popular political stances or “myths”.

    Reply
  20. Shaun

    Yeah, I’ll definitely be showing this to some of my more conservative friends. I also frequently debate politics on reddit (actually asked Shapiro a question during the AMA on r/politics – he didn’t answer haha) so I’ll likely keep this article in store and cite it when people try to use same kinds of arguments that Shapiro uses.

    Personally I’ve always found them pretty hard to address, so it’s nice to see them logically countered piece by piece. It seems that one of the hardest parts about arguing against Shapiro is fending off his disingenuous gish gallops; I’m genuinely glad that there is someone like you out there who is willing to take the time to deconstruct them, especially considering how popular he is amongst conservative college students.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Ben Shapiro ain’t bad with typical lawyers’ tricks, hammering folks with a barrage of facts (no matter how incomplete, as I’ve shown), etc., but is awful at writing and formal argumentation on paper. If you force him to sit down and engage in a textual debate with someone who can cross-check citations and the like, there’d just be nothing left.

  21. Nick Miller

    Can this piece be updated to include and address Shapiro’s recent statement that the original Ghostbusters is a bad movie?

    Reply
  22. Joey Cormier

    What do you think of the Ben Shapiro, Cenk Uygur debate? I bet you think Cenk beat Ben simply because Ben goes against your personal beliefs. Somehow, because I do not want to riot to get my point across, is white privilege.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Actually, I think Cenk did badly, as expected. I don’t consider The Young Turks to be a good show despite agreeing with most of their positions. Of course, Ben lied his way through the debate, as usual, but that’s a separate issue from winning/losing.

      The rest of your comment is just as idiotic.

      Thanks for reading.

  23. Alan Borda

    You made a great point in your conversation with Raihan and in your piece about the predictability of groups. Do you have any, or know of any solution that will help Black people to tap those parameters?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Tapping those outcomes means black wealth needs to be re-built, neighborhoods re-vitalized, and so on. I’d break up housing projects, as well, in favor of subsidized housing littered in bits and pieces across cities. If a true corporate tax of 50% is imposed (meaning, they actually PAY 50%, minimum), tax breaks can be used to encourage investment in a more balanced way.

  24. Alan Borda

    I also believe a lot of conservatives make the case that out of wedlock births have increased after the 1960s welfare programs, women started to marry the government. Which is why there are a lot of conservative propositions aiming to cut welfare.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      The effect of welfare benefits on out-of-wedlock births is roughly equal to the effect of male marital ineligibility. In other words, both liberals and conservatives are technically right on this point. Yet both of those are dwarfed by the effects of the decline of shotgun marriages from the 1960s onward, which is neither a liberal nor conservative position- merely an empirical one. And all 3 are dwarfed by the fact that married black women are having very few children, thus changing the proportions of black/white mothers across various subcategories. Of course, this is even less political, as it’s simple math. Yet conservatives only pretend to understand numbers, whereas liberals understand numbers only when it suits them.

  25. Trey Gowdy

    Great piece Alex. I was wondering what are your tips on being objective and processing arguments. I also think the internet is such a great tool. Anyone, with discipline of course, can be well versed in many things. What tip would you give an aspiring politician, or a tip to anyone in general on gathering information. I’ve kind of made a bunch of google docs about important issues of today. I’ve tried to have a least 5 reasons opposing and 5 reasons for let’s say an increase in minimum wage. Then I’d ask myself which 5 make more sense, or do the pros outweigh the cons. Idk if you find that efficient.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Thanks. Probably the best way to be objective is to develop as few emotional attachments to ideas as possible. More specifically, do not assume that some viewpoint is necessarily ‘you’ in a fundamental sense. The view isn’t, but the way one gets to that view is. Your strategy can be a useful one for controversial things that don’t have much consensus (the minimum wage, though, is not one of them). But what can be even more useful is to seek out those controversies, and try to get to the bottom of why they are discussed in the way they are- particularly if they are needlessly controversial, such as minimum wage in punditry.

  26. Barack Obama

    Great advice up there. I noticed you said you don’t believe in God because of lack of evidence. I’m on the fence too, and was wondering if you’re familiar with Dr.William Lane Craig

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I’m not really on the fence, though. I am saying that there is no logical reason to accept God’s existence. This is a technically weaker position than saying “God does not exist,” but it is not meaningfully weaker, since we can replace “God” with any other sort of fiction (Zeus, elves, unicorns, etc.) and have the same exact logical outcome.

      William Lane Craig is a great debater but terrible in his actual arguments. This is why he has won every debate, yet lost every argument. This is a subtle difference most people don’t really get. He’s typically up against folks who are not philosophically rigorous and therefore can’t deal with Craig’s style. However, there were at least 2 other instances whee he was up against true philosophers, and got his ass kicked left and right.

      Here is one, on the necessity of God for morality-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rm2wShHJ2iA

      Here’s another, with a physicist on the evidence for God’s existence-

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0qKZqPy9T8

  27. Barack Obama

    I, like Raihan, have also been trying to give conservatism a shot. I had the same exact problem. My brain wants to pick a side and stop researching data on and on. It got the point where I stopped calling bullshit when things were actually bullshit. I was overgenerous with their arguments. I haven’t really gone too deep into Healthcare, the literature seems complicated, but a lot of people have told me the simple solution for Universal Healthcare is more, or smarter, taxes for the wealthy to fund the poor, and that the wealthy don’t want to pay them. Is that a fair assessment? Also how do you not get to a point to overgenerosity and start calling out bs when you’re pretty sure it’s bs? And I think conservative economics have gained some popularity because all the major leaders on the right like to oversimplify economics and give everyone an economics 101 lesson. “Taxes are bad, they hurt growth. Minimum wage increase will logically increase unemployment.” They make intuitive sense, especially to those college students outside of school. But when it comes to reality and concrete evidence it just doesn’t match. Would you agree?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      As you can see, the human mind is ill-adapted for political thought. People might wish to see the truth in this or that little arena, or their day-to-day experiences, but once you introduce 1) a tribe (Dem/Repub), 2) personal identities fixed to viewpoints (abortion), you will not only tire yourself out, but box yourself into thoughts you might otherwise know better than to entertain. This is why, in fact, I spend very little time on politics, choosing instead to focus on things like art and other, deeper concerns. I’d recommend everyone reading this (even the political junkies) look for something in their lives outside of political debate.

      Re: your specifics, yes, I’d say that’s a fair assessment of healthcare. If you saw Ben’s recent debate with Cenk, Ben disingenuously ‘wondered’ why a 100% tax wouldn’t work if a 91% progressive tax rate did. Well, no one actually paid 91% on their final millions; the true rate was somewhere around 50%, which is, incidentally, what we see as perfectly workable both in empirical evidence as well as more theoretical studies. Around 50% of ‘true’ taxation does not appear to hinder economic growth, and it’s possible the rate is even higher. To say otherwise is to simply lie about the literature on this topic.

      Conservative economics is popular in some circles, but even that phrase is misunderstood. There is both legitimate and illegitimate ‘conservative economics’. One pillar that is not legitimate is supply-side econ, which is NOT subscribed to by any economic mainstream. There’s simply a lot less wiggle room for mutual difference in the field than is thought, because the bulk of these differences tend to crop up in more scholarly arguments- for example, from the 1990s: should the Fed adjust its policies when unemployment hits below 6%, in order to bring unemployment past the 6% threshold again? Alan Greenspan said no, and was ultimately proven correct, indicating that at least one economic model (NAIRU) does not necessarily play out in reality. Notice how the argument is not “people should get a job” or “people should get skills” or some other silly value judgments- that’s something for the pundits to yell about, and is not an area of scholarly debate.

      So, yes, there’s obviously a disconnect between economic models and the reality. The whole REASON why we conduct these studies to begin with is because our intuitive sense of reality is NOT the same as reality. You would expect that ANY rise in min wage will lead to economic problems, but it doesn’t. You would expect that ANY person winning millions of dollars on a lottery ticket will be rich for life, but are often bankrupt after just a few short years. And so on.

      If you think something is bullshit, just say it’s bullshit.

    2. John

      “There is both legitimate and illegitimate ‘conservative economics.”

      Can I question by what standards you consider them legitimate and illegitimate?

      “One pillar that is not legitimate is supply-side econ, which is NOT subscribed to by any economic mainstream.”

      Backed upon which standards you judge the legitimacy of a heavily subcribed field in economics, I would like to request some citations on this.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi John,

      Can I question by what standards you consider them legitimate and illegitimate?

      That which has clear empirical basis is legitimate, and that which hasn’t, isn’t. Genuine debate is within those parameters only. Let’s leave the theoretical discussions to Marxists and theologians- and I don’t necessarily mean this as an insult, either. It has its place, but not in serious policy discussions.

      Backed upon which standards you judge the legitimacy of a heavily subcribed field in economics, I would like to request some citations on this.

      Did you read the essay though? There is little empirical basis for this “heavily subscribed field in economics” (and ‘heavily’, in this case, means a minority of economists). The VAST majority of economic papers deal with stuff like the nuances of regulation, Keynesian arcana, the speed at which the minimum wage can be increased, federal vs. local interplay, rather than theoretical discussions of tax policy. Yeah, I get it, Cato and the Von Mises Institute disagree, but the literature is way more boring than pundits want you to believe. I don’t know of any definitive surveys of economists themselves; I’m simply looking at the abstracts and popular literature.

      As an example, Joseph Stiglitz is a centrist economist (Euroskeptic, anti-laissez faire, Georgist, min wage gradualist) whereas Paul Krugman is more conservative by the standards of published literature. Yet both are considered very left-wing by TV and Internet pundits simply because they insist on empiricism.

    4. John

      Hi Alex,

      Are you implying that supply side economics does not have an empirical basis? That appears to be contrary to the evidence when you look at the success of some of the most economically free countries as listed by The Index of Economic Freedom, such as Hong Kong and Singapore and plenty more.
      https://econlife.com/2014/05/laissez-faire-countries/

      Not to mention that the relatively free markets of classical times is what drove the industrial revolution and essentially what made the west so wealthy. I do not see what the theologians have to do with the discussion.

      Compared to that: where exactly has Keynsian economics and the policies derived from it ever worked to grow and sustain an economy for the long term, with so much evidence that proves exactly the opposite? After observing the economic failures occurring in Spain, Ireland, England, Italy, Greece, and even here in the U.S. with the failure to increase growth, despite an extra $800B being pumped into the economy. It’s empirically verifiable how the Keynesian philosophy of spending your way out of debt gets you. Retrospectively, the examples that Keynesian economists have cited as the success of government intervention is being challenged in recent years. It is in fact laissez faire policies that got it out of the 1990’s economic crisis.

      https://mises.org/library/stagnating-socialist-sweden

    5. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hello John,

      Are you implying that supply side economics does not have an empirical basis? That appears to be contrary to the evidence when you look at the success of some of the most economically free countries as listed by The Index of Economic Freedom, such as Hong Kong and Singapore and plenty more.

      As I’ve pointed out in the article as well as in the comments, we have plenty of evidence for both great and terrible economic growth under a variety of tax and economic climates. One reason why laissez faire policies are so controversial is because they make a lot of sense on purely theoretical grounds but still do not have good empirical backing. Nor can you simply point to a state or a country that adopts (or does not adopt) these policies as proof of concept, since there are usually a thousand other variables at play which cannot easily be controlled for. And I am not denying a relationship between tax policy and growth. I am denying that it is well-understood, and suggesting that the room for error (taxes too high/too low) is much larger than BOTH the Left and the Right typically believe- with 71% (rather than our former 91%) recently being called an ‘ideal’ progressive rate. I am also suggesting that unless we have strong evidence to the contrary, tax policy logically defaults to being an issue of fairness/soft redistribution rather than anything else.

      Yeah, lots of free market states have done well for themselves. But do you know who else has done well under the rather narrow terms we are discussing? China and the USSR. These 2 are the most impressive examples of social engineering and command-growth, ever, as well as good examples of a common misperception- that it’s individual economic choices (capitalist, socialist, etc.) which are primarily responsible for a nation’s most dramatic growth as opposed to the simple shift from feudalism to industrialism. Russia literally went from a potential vassal state with a near-feudal economy in 1900 to a superpower in 1945, to a somewhat cosmopolitan, decaying welfare state by the 1970s/80s. China was almost prehistoric in 1949. Today it is the world’s largest economy and has managed double-digit growth for years. Much of this is obviously the result of ‘opening up.’ Yet it is not an ‘opening up’ done in a way that Mises would approve of.

      The deeper point, of course, is “so what?” There are obvious flaws in the USSR that should never be replicated. I mean, the USSR is dead. But we’re not talking about how to build the best and happiest and most productive society here- we’re simply doing the supply-side tactic of discussing growth at the exclusion of all else. Were I to even concede that cutting taxes down to 5% would double our GDP, it does not logically follow that this is AT ALL desirable, nor that anyone except the very rich would see a benefit from this. Growth is not some magical good in and of itself. If you contextualize growth against human suffering, a loss of freedom, rampant inequality, etc., you are now pursuing a purely abstract good by way of tangible costs. And, yes, a ‘good’ that almost exclusively benefits a tiny portion of society is in fact an abstraction- i.e., it is simply not real for anyone else.

      To turn to one of your own specifics- let us take Hong Kong. Does it have low taxes? Yep- but it *also* has significant govn’t intervention in virtually every part of society, especially in public works and the economy. It has a sophisticated welfare system paid not by corporate nor income taxes, but by huge land taxes. There is no such thing as ‘private’ land. It is ALL govn’t owned and leased. It is an open question, then, what would happen if they were to go full lib, shutter their massive and unconventional forms of interventionism, and see how the economy would react. So, are they a success story due to supply-side practices, a success story *despite* supply-side practices, a mix of both, or neither? John- I do not mean to be condescending, but you MUST do better than link to Cato or von Mises or use typical libertarian talking-point examples without looking at all the other information they willfully ignore. They are ideologues, not empiricists. If you are not aware of this, you will be hoodwinked by every fast-talking charlatan you ever come across.

      Same with Singapore. Yes, it has one of the freest markets in the world, but what else is Singapore? Oh, that’s right- a weird hybrid authoritarian state that raises revenues with a huge govn’t stake in the corporate world, most of whose citizens live in heavily subsidized housing, and are required by law to invest into their own retirement accounts, enjoy a quasi-socialist healthcare system, enjoy MASSIVE govn’t interventions by way of job training, and many more things von Mises would indubitably frown at. Let’s not get into the educational model, the fact that some of the most expensive goods are cheaper for Singaporeans due to de facto govn’t monopolies, and an almost eugenicized social demographic where things like crime, travel (due to govn’t laws intentionally making car use prohibitively expensive), health care, etc., are more or less non-issues that have been engineered out of consciousness decades ago. Moreover, Singapore- a rather small state- is able to lopside its own labor pool by synthetically attracting very rich, highly educated people for work visas, where even just a handful of such folks can carve out a niche and reverberate through all of Asia in ways that are practically impossible elsewhere. There is a cliched admonition that economists like to use with new students- “do not invoke Singapore as an example of any economic principle.” Why? Because there is literally no place like it in the world, and by the time you sort through a hundred salient variables, you now have to control for another hundred.

      More recently, Kansas tried supply-side for a few years without adopting Hong Kong’s and Singapore’s compensatory tactics. What happened? And I know that Cato, et alii always have an answer as to why so many clear supply-side examples (like Kansas) burn and fail. Yet the Marxists always have an answer as to why the USSR failed. I find neither discussion very interesting- just a No True Scotsman fallacy writ large for the sake of some emotional self-satisfaction from two groups of theologians arguing about the merits of their Holy Book and the demerits of another.

      Not to mention that the relatively free markets of classical times is what drove the industrial revolution and essentially what made the west so wealthy. I do not see what the theologians have to do with the discussion.

      Yet this is true only by accident. Relatively free markets did not drive the USSR. Relatively free markets did drive America. Capitalism has helped Africa tremendously. Yet if Africa had been consolidated in 1945 by some Stalin-like figure into a weird command economy, it would have developed, too- dare I say it, even better than it has in the past 7 decades. The point is that when we really want to go from an agrarian state to modernity, almost anything (including gulags, genocide, and starvation) can get us there. Again- we’re not talking about building the good life. I am arguing specifically from your turf- the fetish of ‘growth’. These questions are only tangentially related.

      Compared to that: where exactly has Keynesian economics and the policies derived from it ever worked to grow and sustain an economy for the long term, with so much evidence that proves exactly the opposite?

      Virtually every modern, mature economy in the world is a modified Keynesian economy. Has the past century not ‘worked’ spectacularly for the vast majority of people? Has not the decline of real wages, etc. etc. etc. correlated with the introduction of supply-side myths? Both are true. You write ‘compared to that’, but the two examples you explicitly name- Hong Kong- is not even laissez faire in the traditional sense.

      There’s a quip among economists- ‘We are all Keynesians in the foxhole.’ What do you think it means, and why do you think they say it?

      After observing the economic failures occurring in Spain, Ireland, England, Italy, Greece, and even here in the U.S. with the failure to increase growth, despite an extra $800B being pumped into the economy.

      More talking points. If you wish to discuss these states, specifically, this is what I need from you:

      1) Choose a country

      2) Describe, in your own narrative, why they entered into stagnation

      3) Present and respond to at least one objection from a known economist to that narrative so that we can at least be on the same page

      I think I’ve been very fair in the article and in the comments section, in responding to specific arguments and numbers from ‘the other side’. I *understand* that other side and know how it is typically presented. This is not meant as an insult, but I do not think that you, yourself, understand the other side at all, nor the objections they typically present to your own side’s objections. Do you know what centrist and left-wing economists say of Greece, Spain, etc.? Do you know how they interpret the Euro? Do you know why economists like Piketty and Sitglitz might appear to be on the same side, yet use very different tactics to reach similar conclusions? My point is, this is almost like discussing abortion with an anti-abortionist who is still at the slippery-slope argument, when the conversation has long shifted to more nuanced rejoinders from BOTH sides.

      It’s empirically verifiable how the Keynesian philosophy of spending your way out of debt gets you.

      Where? Because we’ve done it, too, and came out as the world’s only credible superpower even after squandering our original gains. Look at our debt to GDP ratio (the true relevant number, in fact, rather than *just* debt itself) in the 1940s vs. today. Then look at the tax rates then vs. today. Then consider that virtually all of our debt, today, is due to a change in tax policy. Now consider that Trump’s proposed tax cuts would absolutely send us over the edge of a healthy debt/GDP ratio- and then, of course, Cato can just blame it all on welfare, and propose even more spending cuts that will make even more people miserable. Then, when taxes must inevitably rise (and they will) while we’re in a decades-long slump their own ideological framework has single-handedly created, Cato can blame the slump on the new tax policy, as they’ve always done. Then people will read it, nod, crown Reagan with a second godhead, and jerk off on the interwebs. It’s almost funny, really.

      Retrospectively, the examples that Keynesian economists have cited as the success of government intervention is being challenged in recent years. It is in fact laissez faire policies that got it out of the 1990’s economic crisis.

      It’s being challenged, but not successfully. There’s too much data that these ‘new’ arguments (really, same old stuff, but repackaged) are ignoring. Again, if you’d like to present specific arguments and examples, crafted in your own words, I’m game.

    6. John

      Hi Alex,

      I’ll be honest that I really have not attempted to understand what the demand side economists had to say about some of these talking points, so I cannot deny your critique of my lack of knowledge on them. I speak from the layman’s perspective of economics who finds reason in what those on the supply side, free market side, non-government interventionists have to say. It’s not just the pundits either. Almost everyone I see on the internet like on forums and other sites seem less fond of Keynesians and the idea of government intervention in general, and so I just irrationally assumed some of these positions were right by default. It’s also the reason I find it difficult to accept your claim that this is only popular within certain circles. But I will rest this conversation for now because I lack the knowledge to make it worthwhile for you. Would you recommend any books, blogs, or writers that I could read from and familiarize myself with the other side?

    7. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi John,

      I agree there’s a lot of theoretical basis for supply-side econ, but my point is that’s not enough. The entire reason why we have studies and point/counterpoint is because reality can be counter-intuitive.

      I’m not ‘telling’ you to abandon supply-side, or anything else for that matter. However, if you return to these forums or wherever else, it might be useful to evaluate the claims you read with the following thoughts in mind:

      1. If we see strong examples of positive supply-side economies (Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.), are they strong economies because of or in spite of these policies? Are there any other variables we can point to that could have led to similar outcomes even if many of the policies were changed? How can we control for these other variables, and disentangle them from tax policy? If we can’t disentangle these variables, can we even definitively ascribe growth to supply-side and not to something else?

      2. Even if we were to concede that tax policy has a highly specific and predictable effect on growth, is economic debate merely about growth, or should it involve other questions, as well?

      As for recommendations, I’d always recommend Joseph Stiglitz. He has pioneered lots of work on information asymmetry, rational actors, and lots of other libertarian myths. Here is a piece that he did which puts it all into context, and likely introduces some new terms you might not have heard before:

      http://evonomics.com/joseph-stiglitz-inequality-unearned-income/

      Dean Baker is good on specific policy issues (Social Security, etc.). Krugman has good, accessible material, and Thomas Piketty is very in vogue right now.

      Also, this is a great takedown of other economic myths:

      http://www.cosmoetica.com/B650-DES554.htm

  28. Barack Obama

    Also, what is your counter to the Kalam Cosmological argument that there has to be a prime mover, and that prime mover must be something very powerful if it created this world? A lot of questions, just very interested in your opinions.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      The short answer is that there is no reason to assume that we need a First Cause for universal origins. That is simply a human bias due to the fairly rote logic of living our day to day existences where things have clear antecedents, which is now (wrongly) applied to Day 0.

      Notice, too, that the Prime Mover argument invokes a PRIME mover- meaning, it is a way to get out of the counter-intuitive notion that the universe does not have a conventional ‘start’, yet it gets there by positing a being who, by definition, does not need to himself have a cause. Yet the only reason why this definition is used is to be able to get out of the logical follow-up: well, what caused the prime mover? The theological answer could be: nothing! My definition does not require a cause!

      That’s just a semantic game, obviously.

  29. Raihan Alam

    Hi Alex, I was wondering what question you’d ask Ben if you were at one of his Q&A’s? Or a topic you think someone could easily hammer him on.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I wouldn’t ask a thing. Shapiro is dishonest, yet knows he is a good bullshitter and that his audience is dumb enough to lap up what he’s saying. This is not someone I’d engage. It’s like going to Hannity for genuine dialectic. I see no good faith here, merely oneupmanship, from a guy who spends most of his time on TV and Internet dummies, but would never engage in a debate circuit with genuine experts because he knows he’d get slaughtered. Yet experts win and lose debates all the time, and it’s rarely a big deal. It’s a huge deal for Shapiro, however, because his entire reputation is skin-deep and utterly dependent on image. In other words, I wrote what I wrote, and am no longer interested. I literally have no idea what the guy is up to and do not care to find out.

      I’m glad you guys are getting some utility from this essay, but my point in writing it was to rile up the more intelligent types, then get them to move on. I understand why someone might ask me how I’d ‘catch’ Shapiro on this point or another, but what I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter. Look at some of the names I’ve mentioned in the article. Folks like John Rawls and Robert Nozick (as different as they are) will still be read decades from now, while the Shapiros of the world have an expiration date no matter their current celebrity. You will ultimately get a lot more out of genuine ideas and philosophical inquiry than you ever can watching TV-level hacks dish it out to other hacks, while the monkeys jeer in the background and organize themselves into sides.

  30. Brad

    Well, I wanted to respond to a number of things as I was reading, but then I realized the article just… keeps going and going… and then I realized that it’s basically an essay. I’ll need more time to read, when I’m not at work looking at this in passing. I may not come back, but if you’re serious about this stuff, here is my quick feedback:

    I enjoy reading alternative view points, and you get some credit for at least taking a somewhat in-depth approach to addressing the topics, citing studies etc.. However, each time you “debunk” Shapiro, I could think of numerous rebuttals, criticisms, logical fallacies in your approach etc. just off the top of my head. This makes your article seem either lazy or biased, and neither is good. For me, then it becomes, “okay, do I really want to spend time writing a counter-article to something this long…” Probably not. It would devolve into some back and forth with two people who disagree..

    I’d just encourage you to do the opposite of what you’re doing. You’ve already written an article “debunking” Shapiro (in your mind). I think if you were intellectually honest, you would now write an article debunking your own debunking of Shapiro, if you will. Trust me, it’s very easy.

    Turns out, there are two sides to these things for a reason.. You can’t boil an entire topic down to 5, or so, paragraphs when a book would be necessary to truly describe the entirety of the issue – opposing viewpoints, exceptions, studies, points, counter-points etc. etc.

    Also, never present your own point of view without simultaneously presenting the opposing point of view just as aggressively as your own. It leaves room for people to think you’re purposefully being biased.. Unless your goal is simply to pander to people who already want to agree with you. I did not get that vibe; it seems like you’re genuinely interested in being logical, but maybe let your bias get the best of you here. I see in the comments you have an affinity for Rawls and Nozick… I could have guessed this off the bat… Try to debunk yourself, not others… It makes for a more logical world.. my 2 cents..

    Reply
    1. Czach

      Brad

      It is not a particularly good technique to place yourself on a ‘higher position’ and look down condescendingly on an article – giving ‘tips’ while refusing to engage with the material & creating an aura that you are more knowledgeable than you really are.

      Even if you do have the necessary information required to go against Alex, as you claim, and even if you do plan on dealing with the points later – using this tactic makes it seem like you are not only too lazy to even deal with a few points currently, but that you also have some kind of egoistic stake in the conversation by claiming a ‘victory’ early on, before even engaging in the conversation. For all your talk regarding intellectual honesty, you have the trappings of a sophist yourself.

      If you look at some of Alex’s comments, though, his point is indeed that “you can’t boil an entire topic down etc…” – at least regarding Shapiro. If you claim that Alex is not a part of this ‘conversation’ – then Shapiro himself is, much like many Lowest Common Denominator pundits – eons away from the conversation. This piece succinctly attacks the over-simplicity of Shapiro’s arguments, characterizes & summarizes much of the positions of the conservative punditry, and even goes into the psychological reasons for why humans might fall into such dualistic positions in the first place. It has served the purpose that it outlined. Your comment, on the other hand, is neither convincing (to Alex or any other reader) nor does it seem to have any purpose other than to stroke your own ego.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Brad,

      Well, I wanted to respond to a number of things as I was reading, but then I realized the article just… keeps going and going… and then I realized that it’s basically an essay.

      It’s not basically an essay; it is an essay, being 15,000 words with a clear beginning, middle, and end, with dozens of citations in between. I get not everyone wishes to engage with such, but then again, this is why I’m writing these sorts of long-form pieces while others talk fast on TV.

      I enjoy reading alternative view points, and you get some credit for at least taking a somewhat in-depth approach to addressing the topics, citing studies etc.. However, each time you “debunk” Shapiro, I could think of numerous rebuttals, criticisms, logical fallacies in your approach etc. just off the top of my head. This makes your article seem either lazy or biased, and neither is good. For me, then it becomes, “okay, do I really want to spend time writing a counter-article to something this long…” Probably not. It would devolve into some back and forth with two people who disagree..

      Of course, this may be 100% true, but you give exactly zero specific objections, and offer no actual “rebuttals, criticisms, logical fallacies in (my) approach etc.”. Look at the comments above yours. Only one person seriously tried to address these ‘fallacies’, and failed. The rest did what you are doing- namely, broad-brush generalizations, as if they are a reasonable substitute for argument. Interestingly, you yourself admit this. Yet if you feel that I am not worth countering, why are you even writing to me? Do you know how many idiotic articles I come across each day? I don’t reach out. I simply forget them, and move on.

      I’d just encourage you to do the opposite of what you’re doing. You’ve already written an article “debunking” Shapiro (in your mind). I think if you were intellectually honest, you would now write an article debunking your own debunking of Shapiro, if you will. Trust me, it’s very easy.

      If it’s so easy, why don’t you just do it yourself?

      Turns out, there are two sides to these things for a reason.. You can’t boil an entire topic down to 5, or so, paragraphs when a book would be necessary to truly describe the entirety of the issue – opposing viewpoints, exceptions, studies, points, counter-points etc. etc.

      By your logic, you can’t dismiss healing crystals, flat-earth theories, and various other forms of myopia in 5 paragraphs either, but need a book in order to be taken seriously for such counter-views. I answered Shapiro’s 4-5 key ideological claims easily, fairly, and comprehensively. Hell, I even anticipated various objections, and answered those, as well, while trying to find as much middle ground between us as I could. Nor do I even make too many black and white claims- my take on minimum wage, racial privilege, abortion, taxation, etc., are ALL outside of the liberal mainstream when you get down to details, whereas Shapiro is a mere stereotype of conservative thinking from rhetoric, to misuse of sources (which I’ve carefully documented, of course), to argumentation.

      Also, never present your own point of view without simultaneously presenting the opposing point of view just as aggressively as your own. It leaves room for people to think you’re purposefully being biased.. Unless your goal is simply to pander to people who already want to agree with you. I did not get that vibe; it seems like you’re genuinely interested in being logical, but maybe let your bias get the best of you here. I see in the comments you have an affinity for Rawls and Nozick… I could have guessed this off the bat… Try to debunk yourself, not others… It makes for a more logical world.. my 2 cents..

      I’d love to hear these biases picked apart in a way that is specific, detailed, and in keeping with the points I’ve made. Until that happens, what more can I really say?

  31. John B

    I think your title implying Ben Shapiro is a fraud is incorrect. A Fraud is defined as “a person or thing intended to deceive others” Like a TV minister who preaches the gospel, while privately breaking most of the commandments would be a good example. He cannot be a fraud if he believes in what he is saying and acts accordingly. I would argue Shapiro seems committed to being a conservative, and lives by the principles he preaches.

    I also would also disagree with you about some of your references to people you see as intellectuals/experts while claiming Shapiro little more than a pundit. He has openly written or debunked many of your circuit guys positions and I would suggest will do fine debating any of them. I have never seen him shy away from an open forum argument either. In fact, I cannot find anything out there to prove he is anything but genuine and seems rarely stumped on subjects he is knowledgeable in. You may not like him for his ideology, but that does not make him a fraud. Thanks again for the article

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi John,

      I get what you’re saying, but did you read the whole essay? No doubt Shapiro believes much (if not all) of what he argues. The real issue is how he gets there. Just look at how I dissect his position on racial privilege. There is no way that Shapiro could have researched, say, bank lending discrimination, and reached the conclusions that he did. Why? Because if you Google those keywords, you get, literally, dozens of studies proving my claim and disproving his, plenty of federal investigations into such, and over a $100 million paid out in settlements from the last decade by financial institutions who practice the very thing Shapiro denies. And Shapiro denies it because he coughs up a single study that, by ignoring all of this other data on the subject, he can safely pretend is mainstream when it is in fact an outlier. Thus, you HAVE TO shut down your brain in the course of such research in order to reach these conclusions, which is not at all the behavior of an honest person. Hell, I believe in increasing the minimum wage, but look at how carefully I qualify those statements, since I know the data cannot support liberal daydreams on this front, even though it contradicts typical conservative exaggerations, too.

      And that’s just one example. In a more general sense, however, it would be one thing if Shapiro merely presented himself as a Sean Hannity type. Instead, he basks in being some intellectual icon of the Right, yet refuses to do the hard work such a thing entails. Just look at his take on abortion. Sure, there are a good number of anti-abortion philosophers out there, but they would never, ever make the sort of arguments Shapiro is making- and even fewer would dare call abortion murder in all (non-fatal) cases since Judith Thomson’s thought experiment from the 1970s. Put another way, Shapiro is to the abortion debate what Sam Harris is to the free will debate- and even that is being really charitable to Shapiro.

      As for Shapiro not shying away from debate- you are wrong. Yeah, he’ll debate the Cenks of the world, but he (along with Dave Rubin) refuses to debate Michael Brooks from Sam Seder’s show. He went on David Pakman, once, but that wasn’t really a debate to begin with, and David Pakman is the ‘nice but firm liberal’ to the Michael Brooks’s left-wing savage. I disagree a lot with Brooks on stuff like sexism and the regressive left, but he’s a guy who has lots of experience with policy on the ground (Middle East and elsewhere), is funny as hell, and sharp-witted enough to slaughter Shapiro in a debate even if Brooks had zero knowledge of the topics he in fact knows quite a bit about. Ben realizes this. Now that Brooks has his own show, I expect him to call Shapiro out more explicitly until we get a similar meltdown like we had with Sargon of Akkad.

  32. Kevin

    An excellent summary of who Shapiro is, with sources to boot. A great read.

    I’ve spent a lot of time listening to this guy speak to understand the mindset of the modern day conservative. It seems to me that the conservative position is talk backed by selective facts. Shapiro is a perfect spokesperson for this position because he is an admittedly good debater (at least in the modern sense of what a debate is), knows his talking points, and a selection of facts that support them. If you make a passing glance at Shapiro, he actually seems like he knows what he’s talking about to the lay-person, with his fast talk, occasional source of information, delivered with some wit. I can see why he’s popular.

    If you spend some time looking into what he does not say, however, you’ll learn quickly he is a fraud. His sources lacks context or ignore the bigger picture.

    I wanted to know your opinion on the seeming rise of the right in America since the beginning of Obama’s term. Republicans have won 1,000 legislative seats in the last eight years, won the presidency and the majority of state governorships. I don’t consider myself a Democrat, but an independent, aligning with Bernie Sanders’ 2016 platform.

    I feel that the left’s (or at least, the Democrat’s) insistence on identity politics and political correctness are the primary reason for their losses. I’ve spent some time watching some of the increasingly popular internet political commentators (Shapiro, Crowder, Carl Benjamin, Milo, Dave Rubin) and they are all vehemently against identity politics and political correctness, however their opinions on other subjects range from left (Benjamin, Rubin) to center (Milo) to right (Crowder, Shapiro, Milo). The most outspoken of those batch on their political stances are from the right, while Rubin and Benjamin only occasionally talk about public policy.

    Based on comments I’ve read from their supporters and the selection of videos they seem to raid on liberal commentators (mostly SJW topics) like TYT, Pakman, Kulinsky, it seems to be the same for them – a divide on political opinion while agreeing on the central tenet that political correctness and identity politics are wrong. It seems to me that these two topics are the main driving force for politics in general right now – even if they are not necessarily political topics, more cultural ones. I tend to agree with them on that single issue alone.

    Would you say that’s accurate and do you feel the left needs to let go of identity politics, political correctness and the SJW mantra if they are to be successful?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Kevin,

      Yes, Shapiro would NEVER agree to a textual debate with a persistent opponent for that very reason- he knows he will be cross-checked, and quickly done for. It’s hard to believe how people live their entire lives as self-conscious frauds, yet are OK with it.

      Some of the Right’s rise is due to an intensification of gerrymandering since Obama, meaning, Democrats have to win perhaps 60% of the vote for 50% of the seats. Take that away, however, and you’d still have the Right in ascent, which I’d split into a few parts: 1) the Dems/Repubs refusing to address some key economic issues; 2) the Dems’ inability to beat back the Republican economic narrative, as championed by folks like Ben Shapiro; 3) racism; 4) general liberal stupidity and political correctness.

      Of course, as I’ve pointed out in the essay, you can’t picnic on lies forever. Bit by bit, the Keynesian argument is winning out economically and the Rawlsian ethic is beating back the Nozick ethic. This hasn’t penetrated policy, however, because libs in America have given up the argument. This is untenable, though, because economics will follow ethics, and certain things, like healthcare, social security, etc., are now so far to the Left that they are logically inconsistent with any other economic model. Nor can you sustain it merely on GDP growth (as we have done) forever. You WILL eventually need to raise taxes, a political no-no but much less of a no-no than cutting social security or keeping healthcare under any model but the universal one. Look back, historically, on the sorts of political debates of the 1800s (monetary standards, abolition), 1500-1700s (the function of the state), or Seneca (not abolition, but the treatment of slaves). Those ideas, as passionate as they once were, are too quaint to ever truly be revisited any longer. Keep in mind that in a century or two, people will be saying the same thing about us.

      As for racism, it is obvious that the election of someone like Obama will galvanize some of the worst parts of American society, as we saw. Repubs hated Bill Clinton in the 1990s, but not as much as they hated Obama, and the media showed it. I’ve been critical of how the media has been handling Trump, but overall they are way fairer to Trump than they were to either of those two. Same with Hillary Clinton, as much as I dislike her. Yet racism, too, is clearly on the outs. I mean- Obama was president by a comfortable margin, twice, and enjoyed good favorability as president and is thought even more fondly of today. I consider much of the nationalistic shit you’re seeing now to be a dying gasp, at most, or a high point before the inevitable tapering. People forget how cyclical the world is, because as bad as the culture wars are, today, there is NO comparison to the culture wars of the 1950s-70s…nor THE culture war of the 1800s, which led to outright war. This is why I tire of the idiots who compare Trump’s rise to the rise of Hitler or Mussolini. There is a much larger chance of nuclear destruction than there is of a Weimar-like regime in America, so pick your practical and intellectual battles wisely.

      And liberal stupidity- of course, it’s a part of the Right’s rise. Lots of people hate political correctness, even if they have no real political thoughts to begin with. Lots of people hate what liberals do, even if they have no name for it. Third Wave feminists casually denounce men, activists insist on dumb arguments about whether or not homosexuality is genetic (thus giving up their own ethical high ground), liberals go out of their way to suppress free speech, there is a toxic and disgusting campus culture out there that leads to, for example, the kind of shit you saw at Evergreen College earlier this year. Then there is the Google memo, where a guy who basically writes a precis of fairly uncontroversial academic findings in sexual dimorphism fired not merely for violating HR protocol (which might have been a justified firing), but lampooned, as well, by folks in tech who should know better for being “wrong” about his documentation. He wasn’t wrong, even if one might disagree with his policy suggestions, as I do. It’s just shocking, to me, as a fan of biology (both popular and technical), that liberals can ignore the sorts of things that Richard Dawkins, Jared Diamond, James Toobin, Leda Cosmides, Steven Pinker, Matt Ridley, and E.O Wilson have been writing for *decades* all the while denouncing conservatives (rightly, by the way!) for being anti-science. It’s like, pick a side, and stick to it.

      That said, if liberals wish to be assholes and idiots yet still managed to bring us mass unionization, tax hikes for the rich, universal healthcare, an end to poverty and homelessness, etc., they could be as identity-obsessed as they’d like, and would still win every single election. So, I don’t wish to understate the role of PC and identity politics in all this, but I don’t wish to overstate it either. A big reason why identity politics seems to be such a critical flaw is because if Dems have little else to offer, it becomes a liability. Again- the nation voted quite comfortably for Obama. People need to remember this.

      Thanks for reading.

  33. theforsook

    I have no idea how I landed here. I have been habitually listening to Shapiro as a means to get the other side but found his logic to be shaky but couldn’t quite put my mind in it.

    But I will say this and I don’t say this lightly. You sir are a hero. We need an outspoken liberal who can articulately defend the ideals of liberalism.

    Any thoughts on youtube channel or a podcast?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Thanks, glad you got something out of it.

      I am thinking of a YT channel or podcast down the line, but have little interest or time for such now. Also, it may not be obvious from this essay, but I only have a passing interest in politics at best. I am more interested in the arts, history, and philosophy, and the fact that a layperson such as myself can so easily deal with the Ben Shapiros of the world is a sign of how poor political thought has been the last few decades. At least when it comes to these lame-ass ‘pop’ figures, who are pretty much dead to the cosmos as soon as they are birthed.

  34. Adam Pimentel

    Hi Alex, I came across this essay while conducting a random Google search of Ben Shapiro. I admire and respect the manner in which it was written, even if I could only fully grasp parts of it, due to my own understanding.
    I primarily wanted to leave a comment just because I am a 20 year old who has never really excelled in school or took an interest in politics, but has always strived to be a generally good person. I find myself now desiring slightly more than that, and would like to really educate myself about different positions on specific topics, and simply finds what makes the most logical sense. I was wondering if you would have any suggestions on how to conduct this search for truth, As well as your personal opinion on what pursuits are truly worthwhile in life. Being a young man who admittedly has never had much friends, I am practically a blank slate opinion wise, without much bias in any direction.
    This entire comment is likely a jumbled mess of sorts, especially compared to your writing, but I would definitely appreciate a response. I think it’s great that you take time to answer your commenters.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Adam,

      Excelling in school is just a means to a practical end, and nothing more. I did badly in school for most of my life, and was even (initially) rejected from a really competitive program at my old university when I applied in high school. Yet I ultimately graduated Valedictorian from a program that didn’t even want me. Nothing of substance changed- only an exterior. The point is, don’t let ‘school’ ever be a part of your identity, especially if you are trying to read and to better yourself and to understand more.

      I can’t really answer how to conduct a search for truth. Who knows? But reading widely, fact-checking what you come across, learning how to both use your intuition as well as how to keep in check from overpowering things, can help. I was a Marxist when I was 16, but I only got that way by trying to read Lenin- and almost crying in public over “The State And Revolution” because it took me 45 minutes to get through a single paragraph. My response was to stay home from school and lock myself in my room for a few weeks, and read that and other books while summarizing each paragraph with my own paragraphs. It was much easier to follow arguments just after a month or two of that sort of thing, though, and my own writing got much better. If I didn’t know a reference or a name while reading, I would write it down and look it up later since I knew that if I wanted to compete on ‘that’ stage, I would have to know as much as I could. I also spent A LOT of time on Internet debate forums, mostly politics and philosophy. I did not engage in public point-counterpoint bullshit, like Shapiro, but tried my best to construct bulletproof arguments with references and allusions to others’ arguments. It was a matter of survival, really, since I was not very confident when young and became a lot more so only by working at it, and realizing that I had something to contribute.

      Also, do not say that you are desiring “slightly more than that”. Desire A LOT more, as much as you can, really, and even if you burn out and fail, at least you know where your limits are and what you can and cannot do in the future. As for friends, I have always been and still am a bit of a loner. But so what? Books can be your peer group, too, and eventually you do form friendships based on these deeper interests.

      Thanks for reading.

  35. SouthernBlue

    Thank you, sir, for this.

    Lately, I’ve been having Mr. Shapiro and other PragerU videos forwarded to me by my Father. His presentation style and body posture threw red flags from time spent long ago in high school debate.

    I’ve tried pointing out tactics such as the Gish Gallop in the past, but I’m too rusty to stay on point and stay articulate (especially when third or so bourbon really takes hold).

    My Father and I have an ongoing discussion as we try to hash out where we stand politically and ideologically. Coming from a small town Louisiana, staunch evangelical household, my marrying a first generation Asian American from Minnesota has provided a wealth of conversation and debate.

    Fortunately, our talks are coming from the position of finding common ground and digging deep into our family values, “how we were raised”, the shifting culture, and the opportunities (or lack there of) that are out there.

    I’ll be forwarding him this essay, and look forward to reading more of your work.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Glad to hear you can at least have some rational debate between family members.

      What do you mean by body posture? I haven’t watched too much of his stuff; just enough for this essay, in order to treat his work fairly.

    2. SouthernBlue

      He stands in a stiff, ‘presentation’ posture. Combine that with the way he tends to tilt his head and look through his brow, leans forward when speaking, and the machine gun like, flat intonation and he comes across as though he enters a response mode.
      Sometimes you’ll catch him shifting from a listening posture to a delivery posture, but they both feel robotic, and for me, disingenuous.
      When he’s listening, it comes across he’s waiting for keywords to which he can delivery one of his pat responses.
      They are all speech techniques I learned years ago, but they aren’t meant to be so easily read/discerned.

  36. Paul

    You’ve covered most of my objections to Shapiro’s stance on abortion=murder. including his unsubstantiated position that human life has any more intrinsic value than any other – after all, he argued that if we found a single-celled organism on Mars, we could identify it as life yet I am sure that he would take antibiotics to cure a bacterial infection.
    There is a glaring philosophical inconsistency in his position which you did not cover and I think should be highlighted over and over again to demonstrate his intellectual dishonesty.
    When asked about the situation where a woman is raped and he returns to his “it’s still a life” position, he then follows up with “kill the rapist”. This is almost within the same breath – Does he not listen to himself?
    He really cannot see just how toxic religion is to an otherwise functional intellect.
    Another thing which I think betrays his thinking is his statement, “I can understand the arguments for atheism”.
    No, Ben. YOU have the burden of proof. Let me fix that statement for you, “I can understand why we have failed to convince the atheists of our position.”

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Paul,

      When asked about the situation where a woman is raped and he returns to his “it’s still a life” position, he then follows up with “kill the rapist”. This is almost within the same breath – Does he not listen to himself?

      I can understand the objection, but I also don’t think it’s a very good objection. Shapiro (as well as anti-abortionists more generally) do not merely think “it’s still a life”, but that it is an *innocent* life with a viable claim to life that has nothing to do with prior actors. So, Shapiro’s “kill the rapist” shtick is still philosophically consistent with this position even if it brings up fresh problems. Yet it’s purely a shtick, regardless, since that is simply his way of appearing a bit less callous when he tells a raped woman that she MUST carry her rapist’s DNA to term and pay (whether capable or not) for any resultant medical treatment. He knows, of course, that this is both monstrous and idiotic, and needs to save some face. I wonder if his audience were any less stupid whether he’d still take such positions. As it stands, he knows he is a bit more intelligent than they are and simply condescends.

  37. Shaun

    Hey Alex,

    Just out of curiosity, who are some modern progressive/liberal thinkers that you think are beneficial to listen to? How about conservative thinkers?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      The only show I watch regularly is David Pakman. I think he’s the best of the pundit-type political commentators. He’s balanced, articulate, funny, and knows how to hammer his guests when they are being idiots. I still love this interview he was subjected to by one doofus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lD-B44Uxjew

      I watch Michael Brooks (an offshoot of Sam Seder’s “Majority Report”) sometimes. Guy is funny and smart, although I disagree with a lot of what he says.

      As for conservative commentators, I listen to EconTalk with Russ Roberts. To be fair, however, I only listen with regularity because he doesn’t go out of his way to push a libertarian agenda with his guests, and tends to interview everyone across the spectrum. But, I guess, if there was an entertaining conservative out there that was both witty and fun, like Buckley, I might tune in. I see none of that, however, either on the Left or the Right.

  38. Max

    Hi Alex,

    It’s eerie to me, seeing a sort of cult of personality springing up around people like Ben Shapiro and Stefan Molyneux. When I’m on YouTube I constantly find videos titled “Ben Shapiro DESTROYS ” as if he were some kind of righteous conservative Incredible Hulk.

    They just repeat the same tired gimmick over and over again. Find some inexperienced hyperemotional student with liberal leanings and give a snappy witty retort. I can’t for the life of me recall an interview or debate where one of these conservative idols went up against a competent well-informed opponent.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Yeah, I know. Many of them are uploaded by Shapiro’s own channel. I recall one where Shapiro “destroys Don Lemon,” only to see a video where the two don’t even have a disagreement. Let’s see Shapiro go against Dean Baker on the economy, or a textual debate with a philosopher of abortion. Yet he won’t even go on Sam Seder/Michael Brooks, much less debate a true policy guy.

    2. A TRUMP VOTER

      Been there, Max.

      I think the proliferation of air horn-blaring “Ben the Jewmerican Hero/ Destroyer/ Truthsayer/ Thug” videos are all low-brow by design to appeal to the emotions over the intellect, and continue to get a lot of views despite ritually rehashing old content. I take it to be more of a meme/click-bait phenomenon, as opposed to an indictment of Youtube viewers. Shapiro tours the country, in his words “protecting” free speech by getting paid to court controversy wherever there are large assemblies of naive, impressionable young people.
      Plus, every engagement adds to the series of pro-Shapiro Youtube channels that get a lot of hits from those seeking the newest dose of, by Ben’s definition of teenage tantrums, ‘liberal outrage’. So glad teenagers are the genius Shapiro’s designated spokesmen for the Left. Stirring shit and selling the fumes through media id this trade, but obfuscating is Ben’s true talent, because he could not survive an intelligent debate.

  39. Shaun

    Wow, just watched that David Packman interview with Jesse Peterson. That had me almost crying from laughter.

    The ending quote of Peterson and his crew’s “post-game analysis” was pure gold too. This is their best attempt at insulting Packman:

    “He’s a facts kind of guy. He likes to gather…information.”

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Yeah, it’s pretty funny. A lot of his interviews are like that. Don’t know why Jesse even has a show.

  40. Dave

    Thank you for this article and everyone else’s comments. I don’t feel so alone.

    I’ve been saying for a year now that if Shapiro or Crowder had to debate (insert names previously mentioned) in an empty cabin with a moderator and access to the internet, they would both be destroyed. In theory, on the face of their arguments, they should be eviscerated during the Q&A segments of their speaking engagements because they are hypocrites who don’t even understand their own ideals.

    Shapiro (and Crowder and Coulter and Milo Ianapuloss (spelling incorrect) purposefully seek out audiences without fully formed frontal cortexes (no offense, mine took at least until age 27 to develop). My point being, you take away the audience and the applause breaks, and Shapiro will starve in the face of true debate.

    Reply
  41. Raihan Alam

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elqhp99Fz0I

    Hey Ben, I went to the Shapiro meet at UCB. I tried to bring up the points from your article about bank-loaning discrimination. I got pretty nervous. But thanks for this article again, it’s really helped with my political thinking. I’m at 1:44:30. I don’t think I did you justice but there it is.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Ah, so we go from “I have never found any evidence of bank lending discrimination whatsoever” to “oh look, an isolated incident”- despite the fact that it’s not isolated, at all, but part of a deep and broader problem that has affected multiple large institutions just within the last decade alone. And if you don’t want to look at the hundreds of millions paid out in lawsuits on this very thing, you can look at the smaller studies, too, which show a clear bias against blacks from a purely theoretical standpoint, as well. Yet this doesn’t fit Ben’s narrative, and so, it never happened. Poof!

      And redlining has not been debunked. It is, literally, the standard way economists (meaning, not Shapiro, but those studying the real world) tend to interpret the destruction of black wealth after Reconstruction. Everything else is just the cherry on top.

      Good of you to get out there and ask questions, Raihan, but here’s my point- Ben is not an honest person. He will have a nice, canned answer for you like the one he delivered, but this is exactly what the essay outlines and dissects.

  42. Joseph Stalin

    I’m really curious to how you’re so knowledgable and how you’re just oozing with information. After reading your comments, I can tell, you know your shit. I was also wondering, because I’m in high school, how do you really understand information. Not just memorize the facts, but really understand something, like when I’m reading my APUSH textbook. That last one’s a bit technical but I feel like you have an answer.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I think understanding information usually takes the form of *wanting* to take positions on it, first, before you can be dispassionate about it later. Like I said in some earlier comments, I used to spend a great deal of time debating politics and philosophy on various Internet fora as a kid, where I needed to be pithy and full of info against a wide range of personalities and tactics. By contrast, if you spend your time on debate teams and whatnot, you’ll be better at sophistry and off-the-cuff remarks than true debate.

      That said, if you don’t care about a topic (and it seems that you do care), it’s hard to get enough information to matter. I felt like those guys were my peers, and I needed to survive against them, which meant not only knowing more but also knowing how to frame an argument. I was an insecure kid growing up, in some ways, and this talent was a great defense mechanism to hurt others with.

  43. Christopher

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve listened to Ben Shapiro a couple of times, but I couldn’t bring myself to agree with some of his “arguments”. There was always something I felt was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. You’ve hit the nail right on with his debate tactics; he and Steven Crowder wouldn’t last 10 seconds in a real discussion.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      There are people out there who could make much better arguments for Shapiro’s own positions. I had to fill my essay with answers to potential objections not because I thought Shapiro would necessarily object in such a way, but because I know there are others who operate on a level higher than Shapiro’s, even if they fall into the same opinions by accident. If anything, I was kinda shocked at how goddamn elementary his arguments are- the stuff on gay marriage is child-like, his anti-climate change talks literally scrape just the surface of climate change objections, his more ‘philosophical’ stuff on free will, God, and ethics is laughable, his abortion crap would be shouted down by even the most staunch anti-abortion philosophers, while the rest is just pure deceit. Yet he knows his audience will never call him out on it, which means he loathes even his own fanbase.

  44. Joseph Stalin

    Thanks. Also, thanks for dropping names like David Pakman. In my quest to get information and becoming a strong and smart dude, his channel has some great analysis. I just watched a video of him debating with libertarian economist Steven Horwitz. It was beneficial.

    Reply
  45. Christopher

    Also, curious, from your perspective was there anything that Clinton could have done to win the election, or was she doomed from the beginning? Let me clarify that I am no fan of hers, just wanted to hear your take on it. Would Sanders have fared better? Can all of this really be traced back to Barack Obama’s policies? Thanks a bunch for replying.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I’d say she was doomed. From her shilling for Wal-Mart in the 1980s, to her support of Bill Clinton’s more disastrous policies, to the fact that she became both the face of ‘New Democrat’ corruption and had no real message and a toxic history with both racial politics and the Left, she was more or less a nobody from the beginning. Putting aside even all that, though, you should look at Jonathan Haidt’s analyses of political wins, and the role that charisma plays in it. Clinton had no charisma.

      This isn’t an Obama thing. Obama wanted to be a weak sort of corrective to the New Democrats of the 1980s onward, and barely squeaked through even that. This goes far deeper than Obama. I do think that Obama, in a different century or context, could have been a truly great politician. He had both the talent and the personality and probably even the heart to do so. And yes, Sanders would have done much better.

    2. Christopher

      Thanks so much for answering. You said that the media was more fair to Trump than Obama? Could you elaborate on that? Let me clarify that I am no fan of Donald Trump, but it seems that the media takes a lot of what he says out of context. Also, have you watched any videos from the youtuber styxhexenhammer666? He seems to know a lot about what he’s talking about, but I don’t know if he’s another one of those toxic rhetoric bullshitters.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Christopher,

      Did I say that the media is more fair to Trump than Obama? If I did, I must have meant something else, because it’s a complex topic. Obama, for example, was absolutely killed by the conservative media in ways that were merely race-baiting bullshit and outright lies. FOX News and similar outlets pushed everything from conspiracy theories to idiotic snipes- his choice of suit color, where he wore or did not wear a flag pin, his choice of mustard- while ignoring Trump’s actual deficits. Then again, I am loath to include FOX in ‘the media’ because they are not a news organization, but the propaganda arm of the GOP. So, yeah, you would expect them to be idiots.

      Obama was definitely given a free pass by the press on his various hypocrisies, such as, say, being pro-whistleblower on the campaign trail then hunting Snowden as bad as any reactionary. He had needless bombing campaigns and clear mistakes in foreign policy that would have been red flags pre-9/11, yet this sort of behavior is now more or less accepted as a new norm. Further, they’d NEVER go after him with gifs of the First Lady swiping his hand away while walking, or gossiping about his personal life, or crafting headlines about “forcing” Chris Christie to eat meatloaf (that was Talking Points Memo) or that Trump gets two scoops of ice cream, whereas everyone else is allowed only one (that was CNN). And, yeah, many of Trump’s states are indeed taken out of context, but then again, he’s said so many absolutely moronic things that at this point they’re just cashing in on clicks, since the public is waiting for the next dumb thing from Trump. It maybe unfair on a case by case basis, but they’ve still captured Trump’s spirit well. Note that this is not the same thing as saying that they are EFFECTIVELY combating him (assuming that’s a proper goal to begin with), since they’ve made quite a few mistakes at this point. The only reason they are winning against Trump is because Trump, himself, is such an idiot that they will never run out of legitimate criticisms. Had they adopted their same strategy against a smart and deft and cunning manipulator, they would get their asses handed to them.

      Finally, there’s that other double-standard- race, and to a lesser extent, liberalism, and what liberals may and may not get away with. Let’s be real- imagine if in ’08 a tape was released where Obama said “grab ’em by the pussy”. There is no way he would have won, and people would have went absolutely nuts. His own base would desert him, since liberals are not loyal to people, only ideas. Or imagine if Obama won by his comfortable margin against McCain, then made speeches about “3 million illegal votes cast by white felons in suburbs”, and set up a “voter fraud commission” in fact meant to disenfranchise whites. We literally would have had no functional government as the GOP would have gone on a mass strike and riled up every news outlet, voter, and donor to support them. Obama’s presidency would have been over on day 1. There is OBVIOUSLY a far greater standard of conduct for liberal pols, ESPECIALLY if they are black.

      Now add in charges of Obama’s collusion with Russia, hundreds of settled fraud lawsuits, stuff like Trump U, and countless other legitimate Trump scandals. Again, Obama would not have survived. The media is only a small part of this, really.

    4. Christopher

      Thanks so much Alex. Your insight has been most beneficial to someone who just recently started paying attention to politics. I assume you supported Senator Sanders during the election campaign, yes? Politicians that genuinely want to help the common citizens are incredibly rare these days. I’ve heard arguments from the other side that he “let” BLM women walk all over him during a speech, but I found that incredibly moronic. People are suffering and living paycheck to paycheck every day lamenting that no politician is listening to the people. Then comes someone like Sanders who’s willing to listen and suddenly they accuse him of being weak. Should he have just shut them up and force them off stage? They toss out these cheap insults like Socialist, Communist, or some combination of the two and I can’t believe anyone would take these seriously. That isn’t even the worst of it; they go after the fact that he has multiple homes , his wife being under FBI investigation and even an essay he wrote over 40 years ago. Then there’s that media blackout of Sanders during the election, which certainly played a part in having Trump elected. From your point of view, is there any valid criticism of Sanders that isn’t mired in childish banter? Thanks a bunch for responding to a random stranger’s questions.

    5. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Actually, I agree with the criticism of Sanders there. Fuck BLM for what they did- and this is coming from someone who is obviously 100% behind their core message. Sanders looked weak by letting these morons walk all over him, especially after struggling with the mic. These morons got on stage, literally threatened to “shut this rally down” unless he gave in to their demands, screamed, and ultimately guilted the white guys on stage. Again, fuck that. The rational response would have been to throw them out on their asses, THEN invite BLM on stage in another event for a civil discussion- where BLM and Sanders could BOTH headline. This would have let BLM get a worthwhile message across plus saved face and reduced resentments, since both BLM as well as his white base lost respect for him there…including me.

      That was probably his worst aspect. Bit of a one-trick pony in many ways, even though I’ve liked the little bit he said on foreign policy. He did not do a good Obama-like job of building a coalition and establishing proper boundaries, like with BLM. Yeah, the media was in the tank for Hillary, but I think this was a major part of his loss too.

    6. Christopher

      You know, I’ve never thought about it that way. Watching the video again, yes those people WERE acting like brats. I guess I’ve been too personally endeared to Senator Sanders to truly see what a huge mistake he made. Frankly, like many people, I’m sick and tired of both Democrats and Republicans. They’re both beholden to the same interest groups, and they’ll both bleed you for money. The only difference is the Republicans will outright stab you in the gut, whereas the Democrats would knife you in the back. Putting Bernie Sanders on a pedestal may not have been the right idea, as he still has his flaws. However, Clinton’s recent interviews made me regret ever voting for her; she never looked at what she did wrong during the campaign. She only blames others for her own failures, shifting blame to Comey, Sanders, and “deplorables”. In the end, the only silver lining I can see is that Trump is such an idiot that he’s tearing the Republican party apart and highlights the weakness of the Democratic Party. Anyways, thanks again for answering this Leftist’s questions, Alex.

    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Do you mean stuff like economic policy, or what? There’s also dry books on day-to-day political functions, Wikipedia, etc.

  46. Eric

    Hey Alex thanks for posting this, it’s an amazing piece of writing. I also really enjoyed your essay on feminism and the Red Pill, maybe one of the best articles on sexual politics I’ve encountered. I wondered what your take on Sam Harris is, I noticed you panned his approach to free will above, can you elaborate on that and possibly point to some good sources on the matter? I’ve always assumed free will is bullshit but I’ve never dug into it much. I’ve been a huge fan of Harris ever since The End of Faith but that certainly doesn’t mean I can’t be convinced he’s wrong on this.

    Also. even though you’ve said here that you aren’t as interested in politics as you are in art, I’d like to really encourage you to do more essays like this. I found this website by searching for criticism of Shapiro and I’m frankly amazed at the dearth of results I got from Google. YouTube was even worse, all that popped up were about a million “Ben Shapiro destroys” videos and one clip of Chapo Trap House hilariously shredding Shapiro’s God-awful novel. Charlatans like this need to be held accountable and as you’ve said the state of political punditry today is quite poor. I’d love to see someone like Milo or Ann Coulter get the same treatment here. Just a thought.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Thanks. Too bad my Red Pill essay hasn’t received as much attention as this piece, though.

      I don’t think much of Sam Harris, really. I find it shocking he takes surveys, polls, or even written statements of fanatics at face value, and representative of anything at all. Yeah, you can get 80% ‘approval’ for sharia law in Muslim nations, or the majority of Christians to agree that the Bible ought to be our standard of conduct. But this is akin to asking a post-modernist whether the world is underpinned by logical foundations. They will say no, of course not, when pressed right then and there for their philosophical point of view, yet go about 99.9%+ of the rest of the day implicitly believing the exact opposite. Same with Christians. Should abortion be illegal? Yeah, except for me. Must we go to church? Yep, but we’ll beat and curse at each other when we get home. This lazy, self-serving idiocy is EXACTLY how people are, and it’s absurd that a neuroscience Ph.D. does not seem to get that people’s more extreme affirmations of this or that ‘rule’ is primarily a way for them to feel good, moral, and better than others, rather than giving a shit about the content of such.

      Also, it is absolutely true that religious and/or ideological fervor (of any stripe) uniquely situates one into a position of being able to die for that worldview- this much I agree with it. Yet it is not true that we can change anything at all about a text or an ideology (except reducing it to a non-ideology) in order to attenuate what we presently observe. Modern suicide bombings are a tactic which originated with Sri Lankan Marxists, not Muslims, and it is mere historical accident that they were appropriated by Muslims. You do not need a TEXTUAL justification for suicide bombing. You simply need a successful EXAMPLE of it, and charismatic justifications for its spread no matter the form these justifications take. Once you have an ideology in place (secular or not), the rest is easy. If it were simply an issue of pointing to a text, you then have to deal with the logical problem of why an opposing message from the same text does not take root- *especially* if it’s publicly championed by pretty much every major Islamic cleric in the world. The point is, once that convention is in place, it is almost impossible to stop it. This is the obvious answer to Harris’s silly question as to why Palestinian Christians don’t get involved in bombings. It is simply not a part of the modern fabric.

      Can you point to something in the Bible which can justify the IRA’s death toll? I’d argue not- especially since the IRA’s aims were national, whereas the New Testament has an explicit condemnation of nationalism. The Pope (Catholicism’s chief interpreter of Divine Law) condemned them, too, and it did not matter. Ask them, though, the most important thing in life- God! Yet there’s an even stronger ideology at play here which has nothing to do with God. Same with ISIS. They can bullshit all they want about wanting an Islamic state, but the fact is, they want an ‘Islamic’ state because they could not get a Western one. You think ISIS would exist if Iraq and Syria were full of fast food, skimpily-dressed women, video games, and jobs? Of course not. And the second ISIS fighters gain power, they do what- oh, that’s right, develop a sophisticated sex-trafficking network where they get precisely what their religion forbids. “But the text says…!” No one gives a shit, apparently- not even ISIS- except Sam Harris.

      As for the free will stuff, I’d not recommend him as an intro to any question of free will. I am a compatibilist, myself, and fully reject the notion of libertarian free will that Harris likewise rejects. Yet the arguments he uses to get there are unsophisticated and he plays semantic games. If you’d like a good look at this, read Daniel Dennett’s response to the book: https://www.samharris.org/blog/item/reflections-on-free-will

    2. Max

      Thank you very much Eric.

      I might never have found that book review if I didn’t see this comment. Holy shit, that was a riot. And it provides some fascinating insight into Shapiro’s worldview.

      It turns out we’ve all been misled about the controversial police shootings in America. It’s all because of black adults bribing their kids to instigate fights with cops by calling them “Honkies”. I mean fuck me, where would we be without Ben’s incredible deductive reasoning?

      The man is seemingly incapable of imagining a scenario where his wonderful enlightened conservative establishment could be in the wrong. In his mind the Iraq War really was justified. Apparently the WMDs were real all along and in a stroke of diplomatic genius, Saddam convinced the very nation he launched a genocidal campaign against to hide them on his behalf.

  47. Shaun

    ” By contrast, if you spend your time on debate teams and whatnot, you’ll be better at sophistry and off-the-cuff remarks than true debate.”

    This is so true. I was in “forensics” (debate team) in high-school, and it was completely useless. At a high level, the debates sometimes literally devolve into who can talk faster and present more arguments, fallacious or not (i.e. a contest of who was the better ‘gish-galloper’).

    Internet debate fora are a fantastic way of truly learning debate and the positions you’re debating about (assuming you pick a good forum with intelligent members). Unlike formal debate, where the goal is to “win” by scoring more “points” in the eyes of the “judges”, Internet fora require you to present convincing arguments because the whole point is to convince/refute the opposing debater. And it’s text-based, which is always going to bring about more sophisticated arguments.

    Reply
  48. Eric Richo

    You say that his responses to problems are too short and easy to intellectually counteract the left’s argument of certain issues such as white privilege, in which he will simply state “it doesn’t exist “. I think its because nobody showing him hard evidence help him conclude it doesn’t. To some its simply a mechanism for the left to fight for their agenda. Of course , maybe we see mostly white people succeed, but is that because they are white…. or because they earned it. Show him instances where a black man was held back by the white man. Just a few won’t cut it. There will always be a little bit of something negative. We can’t general against the whites, blacks, or any one specific just because of a few. How much is too much to be considered a problem. That’s what I want to know.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Eric,

      Some of Shapiro’s positions might in fact be genuine, but I do make the point that Shapiro HAD TO go out of his way to suppress information in the course of research. Look, again, at my bank lending discrimination example- he cites a single, obscure, outlier study indicating there is no such discrimination. Yet to get there, he had to willfully ignore the literally hundreds of examples of the exact opposite- all mainstream info, of course, both academic and empirical, plus hundreds of millions paid out in the last decade alone to rectify the problem after courts found these institutions guilty. There are so many ongoing federal investigations, as well. In short, this is pure dishonesty on Shapiro’s part, and he knows it.

      As for the rest of your comment, I am genuinely confused. I go out of my way to cite literally dozens of studies, which themselves total to hundreds of thousands of people- millions, even- spread across the last 3 decades and multiple states. Hell, I even focused on some of the states (such as NJ) that Shapiro used to make his own argument, going back to his own preferred sources. So, the argument is lost even when it’s argued from his own turf. Do not imply I have cherry-picked anything. I am literally giving you the mainstream consensus.

  49. Patrick

    There was a period in my life, not too long ago, where I regularly read and listened to conservative “thinkers” and nearly became a full-blown conservative myself. The reason I ditched the left was because I felt that almost all representatives of the left were driven by emotion and only tangentially driven by facts (think CNN, MSNBC, the Young Turks, etc). It soon became obvious that the right was just as bad, if not worse. I realized that even the most serious of them (Shapiro, Prager, Levin—yeah, that lineup doesn’t say much about the right!) were also driven by emotion but tried to cover it with a pseudo-intellectual veneer. They often did this by talking to completely uninformed and emotionally driven leftist questioners (often college students) and making them look foolish. Getting sick of this ploy, I went out to try to find a time when they actually debated a serious and informed person from the left. I couldn’t. But I did find this essay that does an admirable job of exposing the brightest intellectual star of the right. It concerns me that people like Shapiro, Molyneux, Cenk, Sam Harris seem to have almost a cult following when every single one of them advocates a “think for yourself” approach. You should do a piece like this on Harris and Molyneux when you get time as well.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Yes, I see this too much. Lots of ‘normal’ people predictably get fed up with typical Leftist bullshit and go full moron into the other camp, as if it’s a rational response. Obviously, that doesn’t work. The Left’s problem is that it has, in aggregate, stumbled upon the correct positions by accident, and is therefore unable to articulate a good intellectual defense of them. The Right, by contrast, has stumbled upon all the wrong positions, often on purpose, and bends over backwards to justify what is logically indefensible. In short, the Left suffers from a lack of talent and insecurity (which itself leads to stuff like bad academic writing and hyperbole). The Right suffers from being a bunch of fucking morons.

  50. Guest

    As far as I know Ben Shapiro has not responded to this piece or accepted a debate. I wonder why that is when he usually responds to an attack immediately…

    Reply
    1. Christopher

      It could be because this essay outlines Shapiro’s whole character and spiel. This essay essentially cut through all of Ben’s BS and exposes him for who he really is; a pseudo-intellectual who, when you strip away the fancy talk, is no better than a Liberal caricature.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      As I pointed out in previous comments, Shapiro has not responded to nor accepted debates from quite a few others- Sam Seder, Michael Brooks, the guys at Chapo Trap House, etc. Nor has he sought out actual policy experts or philosophers for any long-form debate. He knows he just needs to continue scraping the bottom of the barrel, since his fans don’t give a shit, anyway, and loathes his own audience.

      That said, I’ve not sought out Shapiro and do not plan to. I literally have no interest in him after this essay and I’m still surprised this piece has gotten 100+ comments rather than just 1 or 2 dozen. My note’s up at the top of the article just in case, but, realistically, the whole essay’s argument is that he is a willfully dishonest hack who is not worth anyone’s time, and goes out of his way to outright lie in his public appearances where he cannot be fact-checked.

    3. Guest

      Really, Alex, is Sam Seder what you consider a serious commentator about politics? Better than the Shapiro’s of the world, sure, but his show is really not at all serious and very low-brow.

    4. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      “Low-brow” is not a synonym for “bad”, though, and he’s good at what he does. No, it’s not very serious, but it’s funny, and- to be fair- I’m mostly talking about pundits. The issue with the more serious commentators is that they speak directly to intelligent people who take a lot of what I wrote in this essay for granted, and don’t necessarily test themselves against non-believers. Many of Seder’s anti-libertarian ‘debates’ (if you can call them that) show how to frame an argument and deal with claims both on your own as well as others’ turf.

  51. Jack Larm

    Alex, this is a keeper. In fact, I’m so Old School that I’ll finish reading it when I print it out.

    I’ve been fascinated by people like Shapiro all my life. Most likely it’s got to do with my slightly obsessive need to try and understand the ‘mature’ mindset that still clings to fantasy and magical thinking. Sure, it might have a place in the way we ‘play’ with our children, i.e. tooth fairy, santa claus, the devil. As a father, although I seldom indulged in this sort of make believe, I never judged anyone that did.

    Unfortunately, Shapiro is on my current radar because of his apparent influence on one of my children (now an adult, but will always be my kid). Anyway, thanks for not only articulating what I’ve been feeling for a while now, but also backing up your claims with more than enough evidence.

    Cheers,
    Jack from Australia

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      One can still cling to fantasy and magical thinking, yet be mature about it. Thrown in the promise of money and fame, however, and there’s no hope for an intellectual mediocrity.

  52. Patrick

    This has to be tremendously time consuming but it is a terrific resource! I wonder if you plan on doing any more of these lengthy essays about other pseudo-intellectuals with a huge following? Molyneux would be a nice one. Sam Harris deserves to be exposed as the hack amateur philosopher and scientist he is. Someone like Crowder is probably not even worth as he can’t even be mistaken for a serious commentator for one minute.

    Reply
    1. Gisele

      Agreed. I think I’d read each and every one. Alex’s analysis is adroit, perceptive and brilliantly written. What a colossal exercise, yet it feels like it was potentially effortless on his part.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Someone asked me about this, but no, not really. I’m a slow writer and this essay took me 2 weeks to finish. These folks just aren’t worth it when I’m working on my novels or reading shit that actually matters. It’s perhaps worth covering 1 in a broad category, however, because you in effect cover them all. I don’t need to get at a Crowder or a Molyneux or a Rubin because, if you read between the lines, this essay is an attack on ALL of that kind of thinking while ostensibly focusing on just 1 person. Shapiro likes to say liberals employ this or that tactic, but what does it say of conservatives when a single article can knock all of them down at once?

  53. Billy

    Oh boy, people can’t seem to leave this article alone.

    I have a meta-question for you again, Alex (since the topic itself has been pretty much beaten to death already): you keep on stressing that the studies/data you picked to back up your claims represent mainstream consensus. Is this a pragmatic choice on your part as a layman? I mean, given that kind of logic, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift would be among the greatest artists of all time …

    What I’m trying to get at is, a lot of the softer sciences like sociology have been in pretty bad shape in recent years (in decades, probably) due to failure to replicate, bad methodology in general, and—for a lack of a better word, let’s call it—political “infiltration” (you know, when people try to pull bullshit like “feminist glaceology” or the entire topic of gender—which I know wasn’t part of the article, I just want to give an example—in general is really toxic nowadays). Given this, how can you be sure that the mainstream data is correct? I mean, as a layman it requires a tremendous amount of work to not only read but also completely understand all the studies, to find mistakes, and to check for good methodology and for replication studies, which then also have to be understood and checked, etc. (I’m not trying to insinuate whether you did or didn’t put in the work; I’m more interested in the conceptual/theoretical aspect here). How do you sort through all the bullshit?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      The two examples are not analogous because the “mainstream consensus” in the arts is completely antithetical to what art is. The two may sometimes overlap but only by accident. In time- say, over a century or two- this is no longer accident, but genuine ideas (and especially those ideas’ mode of expression) take time to break through the primate need for jeering and conformity. If you’d like a little break from the political stuff, here is a discussion I’ve had this morning over another article of mine dealing with the arts. Scroll down to the last comment: http://alexsheremet.com/pauline-kael-one-films-worst-ridiculous-critics/

      That said, I understand your objection and will address it. Yes, the sciences, both hard and not, are subject to the same biases as anything else is, and often settle on wrongheaded information or pet theories because of conformity. This is why Thomas Kuhn’s wonderful book, “The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions”, has been so controversial- scientists do not wish to accept that they are subject to the same monkey-like behavior as any other people in the world. Yet by that same token, lots of charlatans (like Ben, if he actually knew how to read books) tried to use Kuhn’s observations for a wholesale skepticism of science and consensus to further their own agenda. Yet it is important to separate a couple of issues here:

      First, a consensus in anything is not a guarantee of anything. This much is true. But since both policy and science are FAR more understandable to a layperson than is commonly believed, people CAN and SHOULD comb through studies to see what people are doing, how they are doing them, and if there are any reasonable deductions to be made here. This is what I did- I looked through as much of the available information as was reasonable, I looked at the methodologies, I looked at competing and contradictory information, and synthesized it into a broad consensus. I know, for example, that lots of people tried to deride Shapiro’s invocation of the early 2000s study on black Turnpike drivers purely for political reasons, but as I pointed out, I saw nothing wrong with the study’s methods. It was, in fact, quite rigorous, and I correctly state that the study is a good jump-off point for further study. What I do NOT do is throw up my hands in defeat, downplay the findings (as liberals do), nor exaggerate them (as Shapiro does), because one can find so much competing information that shows the opposite, as well as more recent, equally rigorous studies which go even further. Further, Shapiro uses the NJ study in order to make an unrelated argument by extrapolating Turnpike information from just once experiential slice into well-established discriminatory behavior (like, 100s of thousands of pages of internal documents from the NJPD itself) observed across the entire state by assuming what happens there likewise happens here, which is obviously not supported by the data.

      Note, however, what Shapiro does NOT do. He does NOT deride the use of studies- he DOES use them, but unlike the above methodology, he uses them selectively and wishes to focus on any corroborating information at the exclusion of anything else that’s thrown at his face with a mere Google search. This is almost exactly what you describe as bad practice. It is also easily avoidable. I also disagree that the layperson has to do a tremendous amount of work to sort through this stuff. Perhaps some of it, maybe, but to get back to bank lending discrimination- if you literally just Google the keywords (bank lending discrimination + black), you get NOTHING but study after study from legit, disinterested groups as well as academics of various political stripes coming to the same conclusions. Is it possible they have all entered a cabal to shame white people? Uh, maybe, but combine that with like 5 or 6 contemporaneous federal investigations into the same issue, you need to do just 5 mins of research to get at the most probable picture. Yeah, when it comes to climate change, etc., it gets hairier, but if you do have a genuine interest in the topic, you can become conversational with the typical objections and the objections to those objections with just a little research.

      I mean, look at Shapiro’s lecture on climate change- literally, he presents only the first-order objections to climate change science because that’s all his audience knows, anyway, and he doesn’t give a damn about educating them. These objections in fact go to 5 or 6 levels, with a lot of back and forth which ultimately ends up in the pro-climate change side’s favor. Yet if you know only the first or second level objections, you can be hoodwinked into thinking it’s all fraud. That’s what Ben is banking on. He doesn’t even need to go further, though, because it’s not like people give a shit about learning this stuff, anyway, and so he can coast on by. He would die against a well-informed layperson though, much less an actual climate scientist.

    2. kenny

      Hi Alex,

      It’s funny how Ben and the rest of the neocons wanted Assad’s head on a stick for the gassing of civilians, yet they never talk about the war crimes in Yemen by the U.S and Saudi Arabia. By their logic, shouldn’t other countries intervene and bomb Riyadh and Washington to stop the killing and starving of Yemenis? I was wondering what you think of that ? Why don’t neocon sites like the DailyWire ever cover the Yemen war ? Also, how do you think a debate between Ben Shapiro and Norman Finkelstein on Israel-Palestine would go? I’d love to see Norman put Ben in his place, like he did his Harvard professor Alan Dershowtiz.

      Thanks

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Kenny,

      What’s there to think, really? They’re idiots. Yeah, we’ve got Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, but maybe invading ‘one more’ Middle Eastern country will turn out differently. They brought us ISIS, Syria, and Afghani warlords, and now wish to be entrusted with correcting such screw-ups by repeating the same patterns that brought us there. No thanks.

      As for Shapiro/Finkelstein- there’s no way Ben Shapiro would ever debate Finkelstein. I have never seen Finkelstein lose a debate, to begin with, and if he could get a world-famous lawyer squirming and twitching over his own lies to the point that he refuses to ever appear in the same room with him again, what can a wannabe like Shapiro do to the most knowledgeable and articulate person on Israel/Palestine in the world today?

      If you’re curious about “American Radical”: http://alexsheremet.com/review-david-ridgens-norman-finkelsteins-american-radical/

  54. Stephen

    I really enjoyed this critique. I could see myself responding with a similar line of reasoning in some of the issues where Ben spoke and also gained additional insight on several other topics thanks to your articulate elaboration and included links. I never thought I’d get what did when I initially judged this for the clickbait title – proven wrong. Thank you for writing this piece.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Thanks. It’s clickbait only in the most literal sense- it gets you clicking. Yet it delivers on what the title promises.

    2. Stephen

      Indeed, I would say it delivers even better than what it promises and perhaps exceeds the viewer’s expectations. I’m also happy to see this reader-interactive comment section of yours where you have responded to most, if not all of the people who commented here, including the guys who just outright dismissed the article without actually addressing any of the arguments you made.

      While scrolling down, I saw some of the claims you made on universal healthcare and Senator Sanders. So I am curious to hear your thoughts on some of the alt-right and libertarian objections to single-payer and the numerous allegations attacking the lack of knowledge of Bernie Sanders on the subject of economics. Objections state that the country doesn’t have the budget required to support single payer system, they include that is partly due to America’s larger population and the culturally diverse population making it more difficult to work compared to other countries. Paul Krugman explained in his book “The Conscience of a Liberal” for example, that the unwillingness and refusal from the whites to pay for the public healthcare of blacks is one of the reason every attempt at providing universal healthcare has failed.

      Alternatively, the right proposes their own free market solution to the healthcare problem, arguing that selling health insurance across state lines would deliver quality care and cheapen the costs. I’m pretty sure you already knew that but I just wanted to spell it out to get your response. I know Ben Shapiro ascribes to this position himself and even declared a trichotomy of what is feasible in healthcare: 1) Universality. 2) Affordability. 3) Quality. He claims you can either have two of these things but not all three – which has raised small doubts in my mind. What are your thoughts?

      Also, mind if I may include another question on the current American welfare system, that whether or not it is affective and beneficial to us so far, cost-effective and utilitarian wise? I’m sorry if I am asking a lot of questions, but they usually play inside my head. From what I see conservatives appear to dominate most political discussions, especially on the topic of healthcare and economics, which I think you already responded to by saying something along the extent of them picking from the lower hanging fruit: purposefully choosing to bash college students/or shallow political pundits and not the real experts on the matter. In that case, who exactly do you have in mind who would level the field here? That will be my final question I leave, thank you for reading so far.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Well, what do YOU think? What do economists say about universal healthcare, both here and abroad? What do they say about America’s current healthcare system? What are the conclusions in the empirical research?

      American welfare is to some degree wasteful due to the reasons you’ve alluded to, plus things unique to the US, but the point is that a larger and more comprehensive welfare system is still possible that saves us even more money, gives us even more of a return, protects even more people, and is less wasteful. Overall, however, American welfare (even in its current iteration) has without a doubt improved the lives of millions and conferred a strong net benefit. This is not even a superficially ‘controversial’ point of economics like tax cuts/growth. This is simply what the literature IS.

  55. Billy

    Thanks for your reply, Alex. Yeah I saw the discussion on the Pauline Kael article. I was actually waiting for a reply from you over there. But yes, I agree with your objection. I didn’t think this one through.

    But overall, I see we’re pretty much on the same page here, actually. Although I still slightly disagree about the amount of work. Yes, people SHOULD put in the work (if one wants to be intellectualy fair and honest, which I do), but I don’t know whether many actually CAN. At this point I have to admit that I’ve neve actually read a sociology study, but instead, I’m extrapolating from my own background, which is computer “science”. There, you usually have to, in my experience, push through a lot of jargon and other crap just to find out at the end that the study/paper either was bullshit or didn’t say much at all. They way I was “taught” to read papers properly is that it takes at least an hour or so to read a paper superficially (i.e., without deeply understanding all the proofs and such, but still getting the gist of it, etc.). And trying to really understand it takes many hours more, and all of this even if you are an expert in that (sub-)field and do read papers on a regular basis. So yes, Googling might throw up study after study, but this isn’t where the work is, is it? You would have to spend hours and hours just to get to the bottom of a single point (and as you’ve mentioned, objections can go 5 or 6 levels deep). And when you’re not an expert in that field, it just gets harder and harder. But maybe, you’re right after all wrt to the softer science. Maybe it is easier/less work there. Or maybe I’m just being to much of a perfectionist. I don’t know.

    And yes, you are right, I certainly didn’t want to imply that there was some massive political conspiracy, but—as you’ve phrased it—that scientist are subject to monkey-like behaviour that very often creeps in, to varying degrees. But you know, personally, I’m always “afraid” that I might miss the obvious (which happend often enough before).

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Billy,

      I mean, some of it takes time, sure, but it’s not like I’m not an expert in anything here. I’ve just spent most of my free time reading up on various topics (not just politics) since I was a teenager. I assume other people can do the same if they feel like it. My talent is simply in the articulation of these ideas and my ability to make connections. I am actually a slow reader and forget things easily, but doing your personal best is usually better than the laziness 99%+ of people are guilty of, including Shapiro.

  56. Billy

    Hi Alex,

    I don’t know what you’re an expert in and what not (besides what I can piece toghether from your public persona on the web). It seems I didn’t distinguish clearly enough between the discussion of the general case and you specifically. That’s where probably most of the miscommunication stems from. (Articulating ideas is actually one of my weaknesses …) Just to be clear: I aknowledge the effort you put in (as you’ve described it) and I think it shows. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered coming back to your website again and again.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Billy,

      Thanks for the comment. I don’t actually think there’s a miscommunication, and realize you think highly of this piece. All I’m trying to say is, I’m just a guy with a bunch of different interests with a website (and books) to communicate these interests. My point is that my talent (that is, the articulation) is what’s special about me, but that it’s not necessary to get a good grasp of anything, really. You weren’t asking about how to write or even necessarily how to argue a point, but something I’ve always considered to be much simpler than both. I do think most people can learn to differentiate between true/false if they really felt like it. This is especially true of the Ben Shapiros of the world who do follow politics and do invest themselves quite a bit into all that, but willfully ignore anything that makes them uncomfortable.

  57. Christopher

    One final question, Alex, have you read Trump’s Tax plan? In it, he’s planning to get rid of the estate tax(he and many conservatives peg it the “death” tax), simplifying the tax code to 4 brackets instead of 7, and reducing corporate taxes to 20%. He claims that the middle class will also benefit from these breaks, but if you reduce taxes for everybody, doesn’t that just cause more problems for middle class Americans?. In the end, it’s just a benefit to those who don’t really need a tax break. I would imagine it just adds to the federal deficit and eventually cause another recession. Am I missing something here, because I can’t wrap my head around this logic, especially with what you’ve highlighted happen to Kansas. Thanks again for writing this essay and giving the reader a lot to think about.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      It’s a tax cut for the rich, which is bullshit in purely economic terms, and unethical in purely ethical terms. The justification Shapiro and others use is that a tax cut for the rich translates into more jobs and growth for everyone else, which is simply untrue for the reasons I’ve already gone over.

      Taxes need to go up on everyone except America’s poorest. This includes taxing the middle class, as well.

  58. A S Broad

    Your position of profiling is inherently inconsistent. You state that an individual who can be classified, based on particular individiual characteristics, as belonging to a group X, which in turn has been found, consistently, to correlate significantly with particular group level properties, should not be subject to inferrances, and actions, at the group level. I.e. an individual who is black should not be associated with the demonstrable higher propensity for certain criminality of blacks as a racial group. Yet, it is precisely making inferences at the individual level from observed probabilistic and statistical trends at the group level that we apply in any area of human existence. Medical treatments, and prevention in particular, are based on inferences about individuals that follow from trends determined over population samples. For the purposes of societal, and individual, security particularly taking a pragmatic profiling approach isn’t unfair. If Muslims are significantly likelier to perpetrate Isalmist terrotirst acts that statistically significantly relate to air travel (whether planned but prevented before execution or successfully executed) then how is it not only pragmatically justified as well as determinedly not ufair that Muslims are more frequently subject to more extensive searches at airports on the basis of profiling that in fact derives from the higher probability of Muslims preparing for and committing terrirst acts at airports and on plains? Why is profiling in relation to security unlawful and unfair but done in precisely the same way, functonally, it is not so in relation to healthcare, for example? Or indeed, in relation to education, where profiling associates positively – as in advantageously – rather than negatively – as in costly, in terms of e.g. time, social perception, etc. – with the subject(s) of profiling? Besides, discrimination based on the propensity for X, as in for committing a crime or e.g. carrying a knife (in London) is not equivalent to such discrimination based on ability. To clarify, your hypothetical of discriminating against a female candidate for a Physics lectureship in favour of a male candidate because females are statistically less likely to graduate in Physics is quite different from randomly stop-and-search-ing a black male because black males are statistically more likely to e.g. carry/sell drugs. In the former case, likelihood of females graduating in Physics tells nothing of how female graduates compare academically to male graduates in the same subject, so as to infer from probability for X a probability for Y, which is what you’ve done. Similarly inconsistent is your attempt to aggregate the propensity for X, with a scalable property of X so as to infer inadequacy of e.g. profiling of blacks on the basis that the crimes for which they’re profiled carry speculatively smaller social cost than say crimes committed by whites, or people in particular social categories that in fact cut across race, e.g. upper middle class and above executives in the financial sector. Given that you profer the comparison in the contenxt of racial profiling you commit, yet again, the error of not comparing like with like. None of the costlier, at societal level, crimes you compare to those on which basis racial profiling occurs are likelier to perpetrate by whites. A cursory consideration of such crimes internationally would suffice there. A more relevant comparison, and one I feel demonstrates much better existing racial bias, would be the level of profiling applied to white males in gun sale checks, considering the propensity of white males for mass shooting in the US. Finally, I must pont out the disingenuousness of your extrapolations from the question of average propensity for Xin relation to racial, etc. profiling to insinuating criminality, indeed ‘apartheid’, of a state. Bizzarelly, you appear to not have read the artcile you link to in your ‘apartheid state like Israel’; the article doesn’t in fact justify the conclusion you imply in your reference. Apart from the fact that arguably the majority if not all of the contributors to the UN report the article centres around would be by their own (and their report’s) definition apartheid states (with respect to minorities of all kinds, but yes, race, ethinicity and religion-based ones in particular), whether Israel itself meets those criteria is debatable. For one, the notion that non-citizens would enjoy the same rights for entry into a state or property right, etc. as that state’s own citizens is simply legally indefensible. Similarly, the notion that Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin are subject to legal discrimination – which would be a requirement in the classical sense for apartheid to exist – is simply factually erroneous.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hello,

      You state that an individual who can be classified, based on particular individiual characteristics, as belonging to a group X, which in turn has been found, consistently, to correlate significantly with particular group level properties, should not be subject to inferrances, and actions, at the group level. I.e. an individual who is black should not be associated with the demonstrable higher propensity for certain criminality of blacks as a racial group.

      Yes, this is, incidentally, how America’s legal system works- something that conservatives (I presume) ought to feel compelled to defend? You do not discriminate against individuals for that individual’s group-tendency, which is by definition apart from the individual, who cannot be the sum total of an aggregate. Otherwise, you are placing an undue burden on completely unrelated individuals who are connected to the group tendency merely by happenstance- that is, it does not logically apply to them except by way of cognitive bias.

      Keep in mind, also, what many of the studies I’ve linked to claim that when we control for variables such as increased crime in, say, black neighborhoods, the levels of police violence and discrimination are *still* out of proportion even with the modification. It’s pretty interesting, to me, that everyone who has decided to push back against this portion of the essay specifically ignores this uncomfortable point.

      Yet, it is precisely making inferences at the individual level from observed probabilistic and statistical trends at the group level that we apply in any area of human existence.

      Yes, we do- and often to our detriment. Inference-making at the individual level had a number of functions in the Ancestral Environment, most of which 1) had to do with groupings of less than 100 people, 2) wars of attrition against the out-group. Do I need to explain why this might not work so well when we extrapolate such biases into 300+ million people living under a Leviathan whose behaviors have in fact become remarkably SIMILAR even across out-groups, and where criminal pathology is now exactly that- a pathology, an aberration, rather than a norm we can’t quite shake?

      Look at any ‘safe’ white neighborhood vs. a violent black one. The difference in criminality can quite literally be accounted for by a jump from 1% to 2% of criminals residing in the general population- which is absolutely meaningless in absolute terms vis-a-vis virtually any black person you or I might meet, but creates a VASTLY different perception of danger that simply has nothing to do with reality. This is why controlling for these variables still leads to disproportionate police responses. You don’t seem to understand that the law recognizes such innate cognitive biases, and is partly there to short-circuit them whereas you- for whatever reason- think it’s preferable to exacerbate it.

      For the purposes of societal, and individual, security particularly taking a pragmatic profiling approach isn’t unfair.

      It is unfair for the reasons I’ve already stated, and especially if the ‘pragmatic profiling’ is in fact NOT pragmatic, but takes a very real discrepancy- differences between black and white ‘visible’ crime- and blows it up out of proportion even when that discrepancy is controlled for. We are not merely talking about a greater police presence in violent neighborhoods. We are talking about the difference between a kid getting stopped and hassled over 100 times in his high school years over nothing (most of my friends), vs. another kid getting stopped zero times (me) for the same behaviors. I presume there is not a 100X difference in crime? What of the study with black off-duty police officers getting guns pulled on them by other cops at a rate of 20%- really, this is justified by ‘pragmatism’? What about blacks being targeted even in rich neighborhoods- where their skin color is obviously stripped of most or all violence correlatives, since they are now stripped of the deeper, underlying context as well? Another example of cognitive biases not working in the sort of complex society they are simply ill-suited for.

      And speaking of visible crime- you DO realize you are about 1000X more likely to die due to corporate malfeasance (lies about tobacco, sugar, carcinogens, environmental pollution, opioids) than street crime, right? So why do I get the feeling that you have not spent 1000X of your psychic energy on said malfeasance, and much more on stuff like ‘pragmatic profiling’? This is another example of cognitive biases that the law ought to rectify- we fear (and try to control) everything we ought not to fear and cannot control while ignoring very real dangers that do affect us. I’d recommend you read Jared Diamond’s “The World Until Yesterday” which goes into these biases more deeply, since- and I don’t mean to be rude here- it is only those people, in my experience, who lack all historical context that make such tired, easily rebutted arguments.

      If Muslims are significantly likelier to perpetrate Isalmist terrotirst acts that statistically significantly relate to air travel (whether planned but prevented before execution or successfully executed) then how is it not only pragmatically justified as well as determinedly not ufair that Muslims are more frequently subject to more extensive searches at airports on the basis of profiling that in fact derives from the higher probability of Muslims preparing for and committing terrirst acts at airports and on plains? Why is profiling in relation to security unlawful and unfair but done in precisely the same way, functonally, it is not so in relation to healthcare, for example?

      Oh, I don’t know. Could it because specifically targeting Muslims in this fashion galvanizes anti-American feeling in the first place? Could it be that this is precisely the sort of hysteria that led us Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and ISIS? Could it be that this focus encourages hacks like Sam Harris to interpret religion, terrorism, etc., as true existential threats, rather than what they in fact are, and thus take attention away from everything else in the world that are credible threats both to the world more generally, and individuals more specifically?

      I suppose that if we cybernetically re-engineer human beings, and take away ‘fluff’ like human resentment, attention deficits, and other psychological drives, we MIGHT be able to get away with willfully ostracizing an overwhelmingly large number of innocents for the sake of capturing an overwhelmingly small number of criminals. Until that happens, however, how do you propose reducing terrorism by playing on the very things that terrorists point to as their inner reason? Further, what would be your argument against ever-harsher restrictions on human freedom for the sake of some objective good (reduced crime, etc.)? You have already decided- without doing any actual work arguing it- that terrorism is bad enough to justify such. Yet I can point to far greater dangers with proposed solutions you’d never in fact support, because it would not gel with your (or even my) ideological framework.

      It’s kinda shocking, to be quite honest, that you are comparing profiling the etiologies of amoral human diseases, etc., to the unconstitutional targeting of massive numbers of human beings, as if both have the same social consequences. Jesus. Yeah, you are right- we can probably stop ALL Muslim terrorism in America by wiping out all Muslims in America, but is that a solution? We can stop ALL crime by bloating the NSA to Minority Report status, but is that preferable to our current state of affairs? Your argument, of course, is that these two solutions are ‘too extreme’ compared to ‘merely’ increasing racial profiling, but have you GENUINELY looked into the overall social costs of profiling, and the positives it might confer (and there ARE positives, obviously) versus the net costs (because they ARE net costs)? The counterpoint is not as absurd as you are assuming it to be. The issue is that you have not even entertained the possibility.

      To clarify, your hypothetical of discriminating against a female candidate for a Physics lectureship in favour of a male candidate because females are statistically less likely to graduate in Physics is quite different from randomly stop-and-search-ing a black male because black males are statistically more likely to e.g. carry/sell drugs. In the former case, likelihood of females graduating in Physics tells nothing of how female graduates compare academically to male graduates in the same subject, so as to infer from probability for X a probability for Y, which is what you’ve done.

      Except the black male who is stopped for drugs IN CHELSEA is in the same exact logical position as the job-ready female graduate of Physics- i.e., their group-tendency has been superseded by a FAR more important context which human cognitive bias renders invisible at a time when it’s literally the ONLY salient data point. These are all rather elementary errors which you- strangely enough- are projecting on to me.

      Similarly inconsistent is your attempt to aggregate the propensity for X, with a scalable property of X so as to infer inadequacy of e.g. profiling of blacks on the basis that the crimes for which they’re profiled carry speculatively smaller social cost than say crimes committed by whites, or people in particular social categories that in fact cut across race, e.g. upper middle class and above executives in the financial sector. Given that you profer the comparison in the contenxt of racial profiling you commit, yet again, the error of not comparing like with like. None of the costlier, at societal level, crimes you compare to those on which basis racial profiling occurs are likelier to perpetrate by whites. A cursory consideration of such crimes internationally would suffice there.

      ‘Speculatively’? I really need to know what you mean here. Surely you are NOT asserting that the most important man-made ill which we need to watch out for is street crime? That would be quite absurd, so I am simply going to assume that you’ve inserted this word into your comment to subliminally attack a very fair and salient point without in fact addressing it directly.

      And, yes, I am aware I am not comparing like with like. That is the entire point of my veering off, at the end of the essay, from a discussion of street crime to other crimes. I am saying that there are a set of invisible and far more costlier crimes which CANNOT be perpetrated by black people, whereas human cognitive biases are geared towards seeing- and respond to- only more stereotypically ‘black’ crimes. In other words, we have an issue that is several orders of magnitude GREATER that we rarely (if ever) talk about, much less offer solutions for. I’d argue that’s a fair objection, really. So, what was the point of your response, except to throw in the word ‘speculatively’ to fulfill a transparent rhetorical purpose you hoped I would not notice?

      Finally, I must pont out the disingenuousness of your extrapolations from the question of average propensity for Xin relation to racial, etc. profiling to insinuating criminality, indeed ‘apartheid’, of a state. Bizzarelly, you appear to not have read the artcile you link to in your ‘apartheid state like Israel’; the article doesn’t in fact justify the conclusion you imply in your reference. Apart from the fact that arguably the majority if not all of the contributors to the UN report the article centres around would be by their own (and their report’s) definition apartheid states (with respect to minorities of all kinds, but yes, race, ethinicity and religion-based ones in particular), whether Israel itself meets those criteria is debatable. For one, the notion that non-citizens would enjoy the same rights for entry into a state or property right, etc. as that state’s own citizens is simply legally indefensible. Similarly, the notion that Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin are subject to legal discrimination – which would be a requirement in the classical sense for apartheid to exist – is simply factually erroneous.

      Sorry- Israel is an apartheid state. Stop referring to ‘my’ extrapolations- again, a ploy not unlike the word ‘speculatively’ (above), since I am merely reiterating both world opinion as well as the facts on the ground. What I say or do not say on this front, on a more personal level, really does not matter.

      So, let’s go through the evidence-

      First, ‘legally indefensible’. Interesting. So, the Palestinians have been trying to establish a state for decades now, and every year, pretty much the entire world votes for Palestinian statehood, but because of the U.S. veto power, that’s irrelevant. In other words, we have this strange situation where millions of people are forced into a kind of limbo of both occupation and non-recognition. Now, when they demand rights from the only monopoly force in the region- which, incidentally, ALSO refuses them statehood- they are asking for something ‘indefensible’? Normally, I’d just tell you to fuck off, but since you do seem to at least be engaging in good faith, I’ll ask you to at least think through your own position here. There is nothing ‘indefensible’ about demanding equal treatment IF Israel wishes to be Palestine’s de facto custodian, since Israel assumes the Palestinians are not “adult” enough to rule themselves without an illegal crib (the Wall), illegal dietary restrictions (sanctions), illegal corporal punishment (bombing campaigns that specifically target civilians), and so on. If Palestine really is a big fuckin’ baby that cannot be let out of its cage, guess what- Israel, who has unilaterally made that judgment, needs to take care of that baby according to the same international norms it is routinely found to be in violation of.

      Second- with THAT in mind- what are the features of an apartheid state? I want you to give me a rundown of the salient traits. Once you have those, tell me if they resemble any of the following-

      Human Rights Watch- “Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel’s Schools”- https://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/israel2/

      B’tselem- water discrimination- http://www.btselem.org/water/discrimination_in_water_supply

      Land discrimination- https://972mag.com/high-court-okays-plan-to-raze-arab-village-build-jewish-one-in-its-place/106637/

      Housing discrimination- https://www.adalah.org/en/content/view/8327

      Citizenship rights- http://www.jurist.org/hotline/2012/02/jabareen-zaher-israel-citizenship.php

      US State Dep’t on life for Palestinians within Israel more generally- https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/236814.pdf

      Give it a few decades. Israel will eventually have an even worse reputation than apartheid-era South Africa, when otherwise intelligent folks stop denying the obvious.

  59. Gisele

    I enjoyed reading this critique and deconstruction as implied by an earlier comment on this essay. I have already shared it a handful of times on Youtube videos where the threads are openly brimming with pro-Shapiro commenters. They appeared to contentedly caper about in their own conservative echo chambers, often eagerly remarking amongst themselves on the gaping lack of any valid, intelligent dissent or counterpoints from the left (or at least from the people pundits like Shapiro choose to engage). In any case, I optimistically imagined some inventive or imaginative discussions could follow, but expected nothing.

    Well, someone did respond. And this was their response:

    “First off, the very beginning of the article itself shows immediately that there will be major issues with it. Calling someone as respected as Shapiro a “total fraud” then picking apart minor items (that are quite debatable) again mostly based on liberal feelings, is HARDLY proof that someone is in error, and if anything just proves that yet again, liberals ignore facts, or at the very least, ignore facts that support conservative leanings. Sheremet is an idiot himself, he takes conservative ideals promoted by Shapiro, points out a minor area where they didn’t work, failing completely to note the majority of situations where the ideas do work.

    The entire article is a negative vapid load of nonsense, loaded with personal insults, and finding more offense towards him being a conservative, and his viewpoints, than to actually proving the viewpoints themselves are incorrect. Of course conservatives view abortion as murder, simply because Sheremet disagrees with that assumption, that doesn’t make a conservatives position incorrect on principle with the “All human life deserves protection”, liberals do not see abortion as taking a life, conservatives do.

    Take for instance comparing use of tax dollars to fund subsidies for farmers and subsides for planned parenthood. Perhaps if everyone in the United States needed an abortion that would be a valid analogy, but everyone in this country DOES need to eat, and it’s a common ignorant argument against farming subsidies by those who fail to understand that those subsidies help keep family farms in place (and yes, admittedly, they are abused by some corporate farms, that does need to be fixed), and those family farms are the main reason why a loaf of bread or gallon of milk in this country tend to cost about 1/4 of what it does on average in Europe. Cheap food is the backbone of our economy more so than any financial market or big city in the United States. Substantially more people would be affected negatively by farming subsidies being taken away, than if subsidies are taken away from Planned Parenthood.

    Then later, Sheremet basically bashes on Sowell’s incredible amount of work, backed by data, and calls it “odd” and dismisses it, this is a complete mystery, Sheremet does not explain himself whatsoever aside from the fact that he disagrees.

    Stating that someone is not called out on fallacies, then posting up a blog post where a person does it, all while the person posting the blog has plenty of laughable fallacies within his own post, is rather humorous. It’s very easy to sit back and critique someone via written text, when that someone has the balls to do live broadcasts. I seriously doubt that, given equal time on a state in a debate, Mr. Sheremet would fair too well on the opposite side of Mr. Shapiro.

    Yes, it was an interesting read, but digging deeper into Sheremet’s blog, I find his viewpoints to be trapped within the shallow confines of emotional feelings that simply don’t have factual support.”

    A few things happened for me during and after reading this reply. Initially, I was surprised that someone had indeed read the essay. In fact, I still am; there was curiosity on his part, and he ostensibly stuck it out till the end, although it appears the title primed the reader’s negative appraisal. The second thing that struck me was a distinct feeling that he had gotten it wrong, that he was biased and was committing logical fallacies himself. The third thing was paralysis. His comment was a direct response to my own neutral one in which I stated that this was an interesting analysis worth checking out. What would I say? I had no interest in attacking; I wished to post a meaningful response and remain detached from the outcome/reception, but didn’t know what to respond with. It also made me acutely aware of my default knee-jerk reaction to reading something I didn’t agree with, and of the dissonance that invariably followed “feeling” that I didn’t agree with it yet not knowing -how- to justify that position. The fourth thing was this inclination to search for contrasting literature and research that could definitively disprove the author’s limited examples, but this also seemed to stem from some base urge to win the debate. Dropping only facts and links leaves something to be desired anyway. It all felt disingenuous so I chose not to write back.

    You wrote, “…do not assume that some viewpoint is necessarily ‘you’ in a fundamental sense. The view isn’t, but the way one gets to that view is.” I share many of your views, and for the most part, think that I could defend them, yet I don’t know how to go about doing just that in this instance. How would you respond to such a comment? What are your thought processes while you’re responding? You’ve taken it upon yourself to consistently respond to comments here. What keeps you in check? You’ve taken each comment head-on. I understand you’ve arduously honed and refined your writing skills since adolescence–how about what goes on within? How do you separate your SELF from your views and trust that you achieved that? What keeps you in check? How do you know you’re not being too absolute? Do you often catch yourself out on writing fallacious arguments or assuming biased stances? In this article, you took on different positions and unravelled those one by one. How do you know how far to go and when to stop? Was it your repeated exposure to arguments and the many ways they could be framed (and the biases, prejudices, blindspots and fallacies that bled through) that led to where you are now?

    As I clawed through almost every blog post here, I’ve edged closer to the limits of my intellect in a way that transcends that feeling one might get when they realise how little knowledge they actually possess. No, this is something else. This isn’t just about the acquisition and dissemination of information; you explain it, you couple it with opinions and interpretations that elevate it, and you make it come full circle. And while I can more or less grasp the gist of your reviews, analyses and so forth, there is still much to be humbled by. The clarity of your writing is remarkable, and it is a great deal better than a lot of the stuff that is prevalent online. Despite that, I wonder whether I am not guilty of some idealisation. Maybe, to me, this essay is perfect because I can neither identify any contradictions nor can I articulate them. But then this suggests I am weighing in on whatever I read in much the same way as the supporters of the Ben Shapiros, Jordan Petersons, Milos, etc, do. I can’t seem to observe myself from a vantage point severed from emotion and identity. How do you do it?

    Thanks again for reading my meanderings and I apologise for the length and all the questions. I am so very curious.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Gisele,

      Thanks for sharing, but keep in mind that virtually everyone in those cesspools will react to this essay with hurt and frustration. What does Shapiro like to say? ‘Facts don’t care about your feelings’- and yet, look at the dumb comment you quoted, and the morons who invaded this page in the first week the article was posted. They don’t give a shit about addressing specific points, and won’t touch the studies I’ve linked. This, to them, is purely an issue of identity- they are playing identity politics and don’t even know it! They are exactly what they loathe, and are self-loathing because they have nothing except an idol and his YouTube appearances. They wanna be Shapiro, but can’t, because Shapiro has expertly whittled away his own audience until all that’s left is kids even less intelligent than he is, so he can now lord over them. I know you want to ‘get through’ to them, but keep in mind that if you manage to break this spell, they will simply replace it with another one. So, if you link around, I’d just do that and not engage at all with the fallout. Really, it’s a waste of time. If you wish to debate politics, find a serious Internet forum with long-form discussions where the members clearly knowing something about history, philosophy, etc. You will gain a lot more.

      Re: the comment you quoted. I mean, what can I say? This moron is not any less of a moron than any other, save for the fact that he is at least grammatical. Congrats, I guess! To say that I nitpicked Shapiro rather than engaging Shapiro’s statements in-depth, from multiple angles, from preferred turf, and using dozens of references, is absurd. Where’s the nitpick? Shapiro is respected by whom- academics? Or does the commentator mean YouTube dick-jerkers such as himself? Ben has refused to debate any expert on anything, and refuses to even show up on the less friendly liberal talk-shows because he feels like he can’t keep up. Look at the other ‘points’. I did not say we should cut subsidies. I merely said cutting subsidies is a position consistent with laissez faire principles, and it is irrelevant whether 1 or a million people need something if the discussion is ethics in the global scope- but, I digress. Sowell was not the subject of this essay, but of a short comment in which I already point out that Sowell’s positions are in fact identical to Shapiro’s on several key issues, thus making any longer commentary redundant. Yet this jackass wants me to write another essay for him to glibly dismiss? Fuck off, leech! His objection to take on abortion is already answered in the article. Sorry- the fallacy (and emotion) are both his.

      To answer your more specific questions. When I argue, I first try to give the other person some benefit of the doubt- that is, I argue from their preferred turf. It is mostly irrelevant, to me, whether tax cuts lead to GDP growth since GDP growth is not the main goal I have in mind. Yet I begin with why even that conclusion is wrong before I start arguing from my turf. Same with abortion. Look how long it takes before I get to my own core position- abortion as an extension of basic, social contractarian positions that we ALL ascribe to, whether or not we’re willing to admit this (and conservatives generally do not). Instead, I start with abortion by using Ben’s own arguments against him, and highlighting the inconsistencies, within. This allows me to kill off an argument from multiple angles, and forces you to practice thinking from the ‘other’ side even if the ‘true’ argument comes from another angle. The final argument is tested with the strongest 2 or 3 objections I can think of, and if it fails, I do not use it or adjust it so that it does pass. Merely framing an argument incorrectly opens you up to red herrings and nitpicks, and you have to backpedal even if the core claim is 100% correct.

      Thanks for your other words, but keep in mind WHY this essay is (or seems to be) so bullet-proof. It is not simply because my examples are well-chosen, well-argued, and supported by mainstream data. I’ve become a really good rhetorician over the years and so, I’m constantly in a position where I can go for a lazy, well-articulated argument instead of a correct one, since I know how to phrase things in such a way that they are unanswerable- even if they might be wrong. No, I do not engage in such, but the point is, I can, and this is where that ‘perfection’ (as you call it) comes from. It also makes me VERY sensitive to the possibility that I can be wrong on many things, simply because I know how to think my way out of appearing wrong. There is no doubt in my mind that I’m likely wrong on any number of issues- yet the only difference between me and any other person is that 1) I’m willing to admit it, 2) I do put an honest, careful effort into being right. I don’t think anything in this essay is dishonest. Yet even writing the abortion section, I was surprised at how many sophistic, super clever, pro-abortion arguments came to mind that I had to essentially drown, in favor of arguments that might be less clever but more intellectually defensible. Do you think this sort of conflict even crosses Shapiro’s mind? I don’t. Most people DO go out of their way to be dishonest, and you CANNOT fully separate the intellect from emotion. Literally, the primary reason why we even have a liberal/conservative divide is because of a psychological orientation that gets inherited at birth, and honed over time. People who truly cross over are uncommon. And many are simply extremists that swing from one extreme to the next- see Horowitz and Eldridge Cleaver, for example, two commies who became arch-conservatives when the thing which once fed their sickness eventually dried up. Yet they were never cured, and quickly moved to feed on the next corpse.

      In sum- I don’t want you to idealize me in any way, whether it’s my writing or my person or anything else. This goes for any reader on this page. I have idealized many people before, and wrongly, it turned out. It’s just a bad idea. Look at religious idiots, the Sam Harris sycophants, the Ben boosters. I may not be in their category, but how do YOU know that? I am revealing to you only what I wish to reveal. I am revealing to you only what YOU are willing to see- or are smart enough to see! I could simply be a sophist. Or I could merely be deluded. I welcome, obviously, any attempt to prove this by way of argument and reason, but the point is, until that successfully happens, you will have to simply take my word for it. And you shouldn’t. Take whatever you need from this essay or others, but I don’t want to be a pundit or thought of as someone with lots and lots of answers. I have many, but I will never have enough for any one person- your needs are simply not my own. You strike me as a smart person, so you likely already know this, but just keep this in mind if you haven’t yet thought about what YOUR needs are.

  60. Shaun

    Hey Alex,

    You mention political debate forums as a way to learn more. Do you have any specific forums that you’d recommend?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Not really. It’s been too long. Yet if you search for “politics forum” or a “philosophy forum”, you’ll get a bunch, the latter of which most likely has a politics sub-section. You can also post to ideological boards, if you feel like you won’t get sucked in too deeply into one way of viewing the world.

  61. Samuel

    Hey Alex,

    Since you are against tagetting individuals for their group tendency despite the fact that they may have consistently been associated with crimes and acts harmful to society. How would you then, propose to handle the current Muslim problem? Immigration and foreign policy, accepting refugees, border control, etc. Would you also prefer to adopt a similar constitutional stance against pragmatism for gun control?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Hi Samuel,

      That depends on what you mean by gun control ‘pragmatism’. I am actually quite pro-gun, although not in the ways modern Repubs might be, and for very different reasons. Before you answer this question, keep in mind what happens when you disaggregate certain data points in favor of salient traits.

      As for the modern Muslim ‘problem’- again, that depends on what you mean by the word ‘problem’. Are you specifically referring to terrorism? Where? In America, abroad, or both? In general, the best way to deal with terrorism is to stop doing things that promote terrorism. So, no more money for Wahhabism, no Mid-East adventures, no coups against moderate factions in favor of extremists (such as Israeli support for Hamas in the 1980s against the PLO’s ‘peace offensive’), no playing off both sides of the Sunni/Shia divide and their respective patronage networks, and- perhaps most importantly- working towards both a diplomatic and economic Marshall Plan to bring Muslims what they want the most…including, of course, video games, girls in thongs and various forms of lingerie, booze, weed, McDonald’s, and American television. The goal- as maligned as it is- is utter mediocrity in the medium term.

      All of this assumes, by the way, that religious-based terrorism is an existential threat to the United States. It is not, and when most Americans are actually dying from the marriage between personal stupidity and corporate malfeasance, I’m gonna insist that these far more boring concerns is where we put most of our attention to. A typical American has virtually nothing to fear from terror, and everything to fear from too many carcinogens, some poorly regulated pharmaceutical, and sugar being pumped into his food.

    2. Samuel

      By pragmatism, suppose that if gun control was statistically shown to be able to decrease gun violence, and the data could further demonstrate that increased number of gun ownership tends to lead a consistency of greater gun violence, would you be for or against it? You wrote a little about our humane cognitive biases of controlling for factors beyond our control earlier in one of your comments, but I don’t see that the logic of attempting to make society safer is necessarily a liability just because it might possibly infringe on our freedom a little bit. It may be a small chance that a terrorist attempt of hijacking planes like 9/11 would occur very frequently, but I doubt anyone would feel safe sitting on a plane knowing there are no safety regulations on it.

      Not exactly an equivalent here, but similarly we have significant portions of data showing that increased influx of immigration and refugees in Europe has led to bad results. I awknowledge the number of terrorist attacks in American soil has been relatively low compared to Europe, but that’s partly also because of our strict border control and immigration policies. That’s also why I asked you what’s your stance specifically on those two. I generally agree with you on everything there, but I don’t suppose you’d think that alone would stop the terrorists? More muslims are being killed by other muslims in their own countries and radical jihadists have terrorized other non-western countries who should be completely irrelevant to their feud with the west. All of those goals cannot be achieved in the short run either. Terrorism is not an existential threat to America, but that doesn’t mean it is not a threat at all. With more recent examples of terrorists blowing off on concerts, killing kids in school, squashing people with their truck of peace – people are becoming more and more concerned about their safety. You cannot just tell them to live with terrorism and not expect someone like Trump to get elected in the process.

      Also how much pro-gun are you really? Because the republicans I know love to push the idea that guns don’t kill people, only people do, and because some gun control policies haven’t managed to deter a few mass-shootings, they are altogether utterly useless and we should remove all regulations. I don’t think you would be the type to argue against basic things like mandatory training and background checks.

    3. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Re: gun ownership, this is what I support. I’d like every city and state to have reasonably accessible concealed carry permits. By ‘reasonably accessible’, I mean this. Every person that owns a gun (especially for concealed carry) needs to pass an annual background check and submit to annual psych evaluations. Any violent offenses are automatic disqualifications. I’d ban all silencers, gun show purchases, assault weapons, and idiotic stuff like that. I’d make sentencing for illegal gun ownership much harsher, as well- perhaps a 10 year minimum or whatever other number can be established to be effective. Conservatives like to posture, and claim that their defense of gun ownership is somehow tied to defending themselves against the state, but that only makes them sound nutty. My argument is simple self-defense that has nothing to do with the state and some hypothetical tyranny. Thus, these suggestions are WAY stricter than what conservatives typically like, but it also opens up legal gun ownership in highly controlled ways in places where it’s otherwise impossible, such as New York.

      By pragmatism, suppose that if gun control was statistically shown to be able to decrease gun violence, and the data could further demonstrate that increased number of gun ownership tends to lead a consistency of greater gun violence, would you be for or against it? You wrote a little about our humane cognitive biases of controlling for factors beyond our control earlier in one of your comments, but I don’t see that the logic of attempting to make society safer is necessarily a liability just because it might possibly infringe on our freedom a little bit.

      It depends to what degree it helps, and how strong the correlation is. Yet I suspect what I’ve outlined, above, can satisfy both the more rational conservatives as well as gun-happy liberals while eliminating gun violence to a significant extent.

      Not exactly an equivalent here, but similarly we have significant portions of data showing that increased influx of immigration and refugees in Europe has led to bad results.

      The net effect of immigration is almost always a positive in the long term. This is both true in tangible and intangible terms.

      I awknowledge the number of terrorist attacks in American soil has been relatively low compared to Europe, but that’s partly also because of our strict border control and immigration policies.

      Then take your argument back to European turf. Are you really willing to suggest that Europe has a serious terrorist problem affecting the general population? If so, how serious is ‘serious’, in your eyes? If the risk of dying from a terror attack, in Europe, is about 1/100th the risk of dying in your bathtub, does Europe truly need a significant policy overhaul- particularly when we compare today’s violence rates (from all causes) compared to one century, five centuries, and ten centuries ago? Further, if we can establish that- say- the risk of death due to corporate malfeasance is 1000X greater than the risk from terror, would you support the media covering such at 1000X the rate? Because, if we assume limited resources and honest risk assessments, I am not very convinced that terrorism (at least in the way it’s presently discussed) is the issue it’s made out to be except in war torn and/or 3rd-world nations. And even there, your risk of dying from, say, a water shortage, or an infection, is astronomically higher than from a terror attack. Again- where do you want to put your attention to, in the face of limited resources?

      I generally agree with you on everything there, but I don’t suppose you’d think that alone would stop the terrorists? More muslims are being killed by other muslims in their own countries and radical jihadists have terrorized other non-western countries who should be completely irrelevant to their feud with the west. All of those goals cannot be achieved in the short run either. Terrorism is not an existential threat to America, but that doesn’t mean it is not a threat at all. With more recent examples of terrorists blowing off on concerts, killing kids in school, squashing people with their truck of peace – people are becoming more and more concerned about their safety. You cannot just tell them to live with terrorism and not expect someone like Trump to get elected in the process.

      Again, I’m going to ask you to put all this in perspective. You are saying “live with terrorism”, etc., as if it’s a constant and enduring threat. How true is this, really? Look at the examples I’ve given above. I guarantee you that there are at least a hundred things (to be quite conservative) far more threatening to the average Westerner than terrorism, often by factors of a thousand or more. Yet there is a reason why people fear terrorism over far deeper and more omnipresent threats, and that is cognitive bias. Further, I’m arguing that the attention things like street violence and terrorism get vs. these other issues encourages not only paranoia, but less impetus to solve real shit that DOES matter.

      Look at Trump’s presidential campaign, for example. He ran partly on an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant platform as if this is part of some American crisis. Lots of bought it. But let’s imagine Trump was not a complete moron, and managed to 1) stop ALL Islamic terrorism in America, 2) ALL illegal immigration, 3) pass one of those idiotic health care packages that would kick tens of millions of people off of insurance.

      Question- which of those 3 would have the most dramatic effect on everyday death rates in America- even if we were to assume a 10,000 casualty terrorist attack gets stopped in the next 5 years due to these draconian policies?

      And that’s just healthcare. Terrorism- as far as I can tell- is being dealt with well enough. I mean, since 9/11, we’ve had, what? A few hundred deaths (at most) on American soil that can be linked to Islam? We’ve probably had many more lives that were saved due to both national intelligence and police work, most of which is not conducted in an illegal or abusive way. Yet the costs of bringing these terrorist attacks down to zero (meaning, NO chance of death for the average person) from a few hundred (meaning, a NEAR-ZERO chance of death for the average person) are way bigger for society — if we implement racial profiling, semi-permanent immigrant bans, etc. — than simply keeping the status quo. It’s just not worth it. The benefit will mostly be a perceived benefit, and that’s not good enough.

  62. Edward Huynh

    I have to say that this is a phenomenal read. You’ve broken down most of Ben’s arguments and exposed them for what they are: empty rhetoric. I’ve taken the liberty of sharing this essay with multiple videos online. However, one of the commentators had this to say; “I’d also like to add I read a bit more of the link and the guy who wrote it is a total moron who accuses Ben of not understanding statistics while making huge mistakes in the analysis of those very same statistics regarding percentages of blacks born to single mothers. Ben’s argument is higher % of fatherless blacks => higher % of black poverty. The idiot then goes on to claim Ben is being disingenuous because he doesn’t mention that the total number of fatherless blacks isn’t higher, not understanding that the total number doesn’t factor on the % of black poverty because it’s a fucking percentage. And this isn’t even the only case where this guy presents studies that don’t contradict Ben’s arguments and pretends they do, either because he doesn’t understand the argument of because he misinterpreted the study.” How would you argue against this? Even after reading your article that highlights Ben’s dishonesty, some still think Ben as someone to be propped up?

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Thanks for the comments.

      First- I’m not denying that TRUE single motherhood (more on this below) will contribute to poverty. I mean, duh. Cut your family’s productive labor by half, and what do you suppose you get? That said, black divorced fathers (or those that have never been married) are typically more involved in their children’s lives than white fathers, which is another confounding variable that has not been closely evaluated. Further, the 70% statistic refers to unwed mothers- not ‘single’ mothers. 60% of black fathers co-habitate with their children- hardly the picture Shapiro is in fact painting. To put this in perspective, roughly 80% of white fathers co-habitate with their children. That’s actually a fairly modest difference between black/white, at present, not some huge, multiple orders of magnitude jump Shapiro implies in the black community alone. It is no one’s fault that half a century ago, almost all parents married, thus skewing an economic reality by the ruffle of a certificate.

      Also- yeah, the 20% difference is real, and can have some consequences as I’ve already said. But what’s the reason behind this difference? Conservatives basically say, close your legs, whore, and it’ll all get better. Economists take a more nuanced view, however. Janet Yellen- you know, an actual, well-respected researcher- has primarily blamed the 20 to 70% statistic on the decline of shotgun marriages in the last 5 decades- a non-negotiable, really, which will forever be with us going forward. From what I can tell, this is the biggest contributing factor. Yet others exist as well, such as the growth of the welfare state (a mild effect that replaces true fathers with a state surrogate), for the poor, and careerism for the better off (thus depressing birth rates among the married and skewing ALL statistics). Another is pure sexual economics. Black females outnumber black males, due to incarceration and significantly decreased mortality. In EVERY society on earth with such skewing, this creates a de facto polygamous arrangement where fathers have multiple children with multiple women, even if they are living with only one child. Rather than blaming it on some deficit in black culture, I’d like Shapiro to give me ANY example, anywhere, present or past, where men who outnumber women DON’T engage in the same sexual practices. It’s the physiology, stupid! So, if these folks really gave a damn about black whatever, they’d really be addressing poverty and incarceration to bridge this 60/80% divide rather than implicitly bemoaning the fact that men and women are no longer compelled to marry. Further, it’s not even clear that unwed parenting IN AND OF ITSELF is a risk factor for anything at all. Keep in mind that in France, only 50% of kids are living with married parents- a 150% jump (if using the same thinking behind their original statistics) from the ‘black illegitimacy’ rate conservatives point to in the black community during its ‘golden’ years (um, ok). Yet France is STILL better of in pretty much every single marker vis-a-vis America. Clearly, there’s something else at play here they are uncomfortable with addressing.

      Second, the moron cannot follow simple logic. IF it is in fact true that the 20 to 70% illegitimacy jump is mostly a product of WEDDED behavior, rather than true fatherlessness, it is simply irrelevant that “the total number doesn’t factor on the % of black poverty because it’s a fucking percentage”. Why? Because TOTAL fatherlessness has been more or less stable, EXCEPT for the fatherlessness that can be accounted rather equitably in BOTH white and non-white populations due to a decline in shotgun marriages (search the comment section for the phrase). This change is simply irreversible at this point for obvious reasons, and implicitly cheerleading for the opposite is just ludicrous. Further, non-white teen pregnancy has dropped 50% over the last few decades- surely that would stall black poverty, at least? Right?! Yet the gulf between black/white continues to grow dramatically, and sorry- economists have pinned this on all the reasons I’ve already written of in the article and comments, NOT on the culture war bullshit this moron wishes to engage in.

      And Edward- do not be surprised that anyone in an ideological bubble does not wish to see reality. I’ve had tweets by liberal morons, too, who hated the fact that I called out the Left in this essay. I’ve had morons who could not stomach the fact that I ‘attacked’ the lying Emma Sulkowicz. Then there are Men’s Rights morons who think I don’t go far enough in my critiques of feminism. Fuck ’em all. I’ve had enough of these parasites that want you merely for completing their own agenda. Too bad, as I happen to have my own agenda.

      By the way, this is the last time I’ll be responding to comments from anyone other than those directly posting under this article. If someone wishes to engage me, they are free to write to the site like everyone else. I’m uninterested in hearing what some random YouTuber has to say about me, or else I’d be responding to nonsense all day.

  63. Christopher

    What are your thoughts on all the Russian hacked elections? Or even Wikileaks supposed involvement? I’ve recently started watching David Pakman, and though I agree with many of his positions, it’s these issues that I find myself in opposition to David. Personally, I believe that much of the Russia narrative is just hot air and gaslighting from the DNC. It just gives them an excuse not to address many of the problems the American people struggle with today. I also find it hypocritical of many of these pundits and politicians to point fingers at Russia when our own government intervened in the elections of other sovereign nations and overthrowing their democratically elected leaders. What’s worse is that anyone going against this narrative is automatically labeled a puppet of the Kremlin. It’s McCarthyism all over again. Now, I’m not saying Russia hacking our elections is ok, but I don’t really see any strong evidence to conclude that they did. At the end of the day, Clinton lost to Trump because of reasons that have been stated again and again. None of which are really illegal.

    Reply
    1. Silas

      “Personally, I believe that much of the Russia narrative is just hot air and gaslighting from the DNC.”

      The intelligence agencies are the ones who came to the conclusion that the Russian government interfered with the election. Are you suggesting that the DNC controls the intelligence agencies, even under the Trump administration?

      “It just gives them an excuse not to address many of the problems the American people struggle with today.”

      It doesn’t IMO. Progressives will still battle the ‘centrist’ Democrats for control of the party. Policy will still be argued out. Another faction’s actions don’t absolve the DNC of its issues.

      “I also find it hypocritical of many of these pundits and politicians to point fingers at Russia when our own government intervened in the elections of other sovereign nations and overthrowing their democratically elected leaders.”

      This is classic whataboutism. Even if you can prove that the US government intervened in similar ways to the Russian government and on a similar scale, that doesn’t mean that we should just let it happen to us. Previous leaders/officials have made mistakes in the past – does that mean us current citizens should just take it up the ass?

      By your logic, we should allow terrorists to nuke us in the name of their ideology because we nuked Hiroshima in the name of ours.

      There’s a false dichotomy being created wherein we’re forced to choose between either investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections and protecting ourselves agains it or focusing on policy issues. The reality is that we can do simultaneous justice to both.

    2. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      I agree with Silas, and David Pakman. No, Russia did not ‘hack’ the election, in the sense that they managed to change votes and such, but they did attempt to penetrate voting machines. Yes, Russian bots and FB ads, etc., made up a TINY fraction of all politics-related web traffic/targeting in 2016, but they were there, and they were meant to sway the outcome. A couple of real-life events (however small) were staged in America due to their intervention. A few somewhat known Twitter ‘celebs’ were actually Russian trolls. And Russia IS trying to accumulate as many useful idiots as possible by way of appealing to both sides.

      Some conservatives love Putin- he is anti-gay, nominally religious, etc. Some genuine leftists like Putin too- he is the anti-American in a world dominated by American hegemony. Russia telegraphs multiple contradictory bits of info- Ukraine is a non-state, on the one hand, and has no language of its own. Then, Ukraine is a hostile state, and is repressing Russian-speakers by imposing their own language. Which is true? Putin executes dissidents and the like. Then he calls Edward Snowden a hero, and is cheered. Again- which is true? This is a wonderfully nuanced propaganda tool, and Putin is a goddamn master of it.

      Russia would love to kill off American power. That’s obviously just the way of the world, particularly for a nation (like Russia) with a messianic complex and no tangible worth to show for it. What Russia did is definitely overblown by Dems who ARE trying to use Russia to absolve themselves of any responsibility for 2016. But, that is not the same thing as saying Russia did nothing. You ought to take a more nuanced position here.

      http://alexsheremet.com/the-russian-hacks-are-distracting-you-from-the-real-problem/

    3. Christopher

      Thank you both for answering. That article you linked is another great read. I’ve despised the DNC since their shenanigans in the 2016 primaries and election, but I’ve come to realize it’s the people who are currently running the DNC are what aggravated me. Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk co-founded the Justice Democrats along with Cenk Ugyur. In your honest opinion, do you think they stand a chance? Would a third party be more viable? Thanks for answering!

    4. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      We’ll see. A lot has to change before a third party is viable, such as instant runoff voting. Yet I tend to vote third party anyway, because the alternative – political stasis, and a de facto hostage situation every 4-8 years – ensures that monsters keep coming, and will continue to exploit the system.

  64. Jamie

    A very interesting and informative read. I’ll admit to some confirmation bias as I was actively searching for a critique of Shapiro’s debating style. Not having seen him in action alarm bells started ringing when I started hearing the words “genius”, “intellectual” etc. Terms probably about as overused as “racist” and “SJW” on the internet.

    Despite Shapiro’s reputation the conclusion of your piece isn’t surprising if this is in a country where Trump is considered by many as a competent politician.

    I wrote a short rant on Reddit, about the paucity of quality debate and rational discourse in the World. Plus the rampant use of sophistry in public discourse. I hold what you might consider classical Cynical views.

    I don’t have a background in philosophy or dialectics(other than existing(maybe)) but for the longest time it’s seemed to me that public debate is principally about influencing the audience and not reaching informed consensus or seeking truth.

    Having said that, I’m glad there are people like you taking the time to deconstruct flawed thinking or sophistry, because many of us are exhausted just thinking about adroitly arguing against asinine assertions.

    As they say: Argue not with idiots. Onlookers can’t tell the difference.

    Reply
    1. Alex SheremetAlex Sheremet

      Yes, that’s why I hate public debates. Just look at Politicon 2017. People hoot and scream for a good show, and nothing more. Liars get away with lying, and that can’t really change unless people learn how to read. You can’t weasel your way out of a dumb position if it’s subject to 5 carefully written objections from 5 different sides, and you must answer them knowing there will be a careful riposte. By contrast, a public debate appeals more to what the brain immediately apprehends, even if wrong.

      Thanks for reading.

  65. Silas

    Alex,

    Regarding your vote for Jill Stein, I’m curious what that actually accomplishes. We know based on pre-election polls that Stein had a 0% chance of winning. Wouldn’t not voting give the same result as voting for Jill Stein? If you take away the 3 million people who voted for Jill Stein, nothing changes. The political climate would still be the same. Had those 3 million people voted for Clinton, we would have stagnation for the next 1-2 presidential terms from a progressive perspective, which is certainly better than the years of regression that we will likely be seeing in the years to come.

    Afterwards, the progressives would likely wage war on the corporate Democrats for control of the party, similar to what we saw in 2016 with Sanders. If we assume that the progressive movement will increase the same amount during Clinton’s hypothetical term as it did under Obama’s term, I think it’s reasonable to believe that such a ‘war’ would result in a progressive victory.

    Is there any advantage in increasing the chances of victory for Trump/Republican, which is essentially what voting for Stein did? Perhaps I am missing some nuance to your point. Is it that a Trump victory would actually prove to be beneficial to the progressive cause compared to a ‘corporate’ Democrat perhaps due to the backlash that Trump would face?

    Reply

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