Why They Hate Ben Shapiro, and Us

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

Laura Miller of Slate recently had an interesting interview with Eric Nelson of Broadside Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. Broadside publishes conservative books within a major publishing house. A good deal of the interview is Nelson making his pitch to Slate’s liberal audience for why liberals should not want to use contract-canceling campaigns to drive conservative book-publishing entirely out of mainstream publishing and into an ideological ghetto of right-wing publishers. The conclusion of the interview talks about Ben Shapiro and why he is so hated:

Broadside publishes Ben Shapiro’s book. What has the response to that been?

His new book is called The Authoritarian Moment, discussing deplatforming. And he is a very well-known guy who is not going to be invited on anything mainstream. We already know all the media that could possibly be willing to have him. It would be nice to think that you could get him on a morning show, even for an unfriendly interview, and they’re just not going to do it because there’s not enough upside.

Plenty of people think Ben Shapiro shouldn’t be invited on any kind of show.

Exactly. Shapiro is thought of by the right as moderate in many ways, basically the way that maybe Ezra Klein is thought of on the left. But the difference is, if Ben and Ezra each decided to have each other on as guests, Ben’s audience would say, “Oh, man, you really showed it to Ezra!” And Ezra would lose 100 percent of his audience if he didn’t then spend at least two weeks on a listening tour of the people he had hurt and expressing profuse apologies for allowing Ben the platform of speaking with Ezra.

The left is continually saying, all these people over here are too far to the right. They’ve been carving those people off for so long that now they’re carving off Matt Yglesias and Glenn Greenwald. And the right is embracing them. Ben Shapiro is such a frequent target because he’s the farthest person to the right that the left is willing to pay attention to. So while there are people on, you know, Newsmax and OAN with far more controversial opinions, liberals would much rather go after someone fairly mainstream and conservative than someone pretty far to the right.

So what you’re saying is that people who are seen as fairly centrist in the world of conservatives tend to become the bêtes noires of the left media?

The more things you have in common with the left, the easier it is for them to find you and be mad at you.

I’m not sure “moderate” is exactly the right word here, but certainly Shapiro’s willingness to take a metric ton of flak for not being intellectually all-in for Donald Trump marks him as a different animal from, say, OAN. But Nelson’s point, especially his last line, applies more broadly, and not only to commentators as sharp-elbowed as Ben Shapiro. If you pay much attention to the Left’s pundit and intellectual class, the people they hate more than anyone — the targets that really raise their blood pressure — are conservatives who are educated, conservatives who are well-spoken and/or well-read, conservatives who speak the language of the upper middle class. In other words, the sorts of people who write at National Review. A lot of these folks have a deep-seated need to mock the idea that a conservative could ever be any of those things. You could see this, for example, in how much more viscerally many of them hated Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio than they ever hated Trump. Trump, after all, flatters their self-image; he presents a face of conservatism that marks conservatives as uninformed people with crude vocabularies who belong to a lower social class.  But anyone who threatens the idea that all the smart people know to be on our side, that is who really raises their ire.