Ben Shapiro's Worst Take (And Mine)
Plus: McCarthy's farce and Fox's non-flip on vaccines
Amid all the complaints that Big Tech is silencing conservative voices, NPR reminds us that the undisputed king of Facebook is Ben Shapiro.
The conservative podcast host and author's personal Facebook page has more followers than The Washington Post, and he drives an engagement machine unparalleled by anything else on the world's biggest social networking site.
An NPR analysis of social media data found that over the past year, stories published by the site Shapiro founded, The Daily Wire, received more likes, shares and comments on Facebook than any other news publisher by a wide margin.
Even legacy news organizations that have broken major stories or produced groundbreaking investigative work don't come anywhere close.
How big is Shapiro’s site? How has it weathered Big Tech’s attempts to censor, gag, and suppress right-wing views?
In May, The Daily Wire generated more Facebook engagement on its articles than The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News and CNN combined.
Much of that engagement is straight from the MAGA sausage factory of faux outrage, election trutherism, vaccine skepticism, and lib-owning. A recent sample of Shapiro’s emails includes:
AZ Audit: Ballot Count, Certified Count ‘Do Not Match,’ Says Senate President
Trump Announces Lawsuit Against Multiple Tech Companies For ‘Illegal, Shameful Censorship’ Of Americans
Carlson: Biden Admin Spied On Me Because I Wanted To Interview Putin, They’re Just Like Him
Police Investigating The ‘Suicide’ Of A Reporter Who Broke Clinton Tarmac Story [Note quotation marks]
DeSantis Team Offers ‘Don’t Fauci My Florida’ T-Shirt, Triggers Leftists
Rob Schneider, Dana Carvey Torch Dr. Fauci
It wasn’t always like this.
Back in 2016, Shapiro declared that he would never, ever, under any circumstances vote for Donald Trump.
At the time, he seemed serious about it. He wrote:
I will never vote for Donald Trump.
I will never vote for Donald Trump because I stand with certain principles. I stand with small government and free markets and religious freedom and personal responsibility. Donald Trump stands against all of these things. He stands for Planned Parenthood and trade restrictions and targeting of political enemies and an anti-morality foreign policy and government domination of religion and nastiness toward women and tacit appeals to racism and unbounded personal power. I stand with the Constitution of the United States, and its embedded protection of my God-given rights through governmental checks and balances. Donald Trump does not. I stand with conservatism. Donald Trump stands against it.
I stand with #NeverTrump.
This was the sort of video he used to post in the Before Times.
Some of us had high hopes. David French called Shapiro a “principled gladiator.”
“He appeals to the better angels of his audience’s nature, while still being a pugilist, and that’s quite a skill,” Mr. French said.
And I offered my own cringe-inducing quote for a 2017 New York Times profile, which I think is probably my single worst take of the last five years.
“So often I’ve felt turning on Fox, it makes you dumber, but you listen to Ben Shapiro and you are likely to be both entertained and enlightened,” said Charlie Sykes, a conservative pundit and Trump critic. “He’s high octane. He reads books. His mind works really fast. He likes to get under people’s skin. He’s clearly part of this younger generation. I could imagine Bill Buckley looking down and smiling.”
Welp. Never mind. Shapiro evolved. By 2020, Shapiro was on board with both Trumpism and Trump. By the time the election had rolled around, Shapiro was a right-wing-media clickbaity juggernaut and a rock star of lib-owning in the MAGAverse.
He had also moved on from Bill Buckley to hiring Candace Owens ("If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, okay fine.")
Shapiro still has pretensions as a Serious Person, but his own tortured explanation for his flip-flop on Trump is a museum-quality artifact of rationalization and wrongness. In making his Trump endorsement, Shapiro insisted that he was “simply wrong about Donald Trump on policy.”
But it was his second argument that needs highlighting, especially in light of recent events.
“Whatever damage he was going to do, he's already done, and it's not going to help if I don't vote for him this time,” Shapiro said in October 2020.
By then, of course, we had already seen more than enough to get a good idea of who and what Trump was, and what he was capable of doing. Shapiro had seemed to understand Trump’s character even before he was elected in 2016. Since then, however, he had watched the lies, corruption, bigotry, and mendacity of Trump’s presidency, and decided — “let’s have four more years of that.”
What more damage could he possibly do with a second term? Shapiro asked. Hadn’t we seen the worst?
What could possibly go wrong?
Of course, that was before the Big Lie.
Before Trump’s attempt to overturn the election. Before he delayed the transition. Before he demanded that his vice president nullify electoral votes.
Before military leaders feared he might stage a coup.
“Whatever damage he was going to do, he's already done,” Shapiro argued.
Since then, he incited the January 6 Insurrection.
Since then, Trump praised the rioters as “patriots” and “peaceful people.” Since then, he made delegitimizing the election a litmus test for the GOP.
And since then, Ben Shapiro has ridden the wave.
Kevin McCarthy’s Farce.
The GOP leader gets no points for subtlety here.
Three out of the five lawmakers chosen to sit on the [January 6] committee objected to certifying the election results; all of them voted against impeaching former president Trump; and at least one of the members — Rep. Jim Jordan —spoke with Trump on the day of the insurrection.
Make sure you read Tim Miller’s analysis in today’s Bulwark:
McCarthy had vacillated for weeks on the decision. Politico reported that he considered “naming more experienced members to the probe, filling his seats with firebrands, and refusing to tap any members at all.”
In the end the invertebrate House minority leader took the most low-risk path he could, appointing a pair of firebrands named Jim to please Daddy T and filling the other committee seats with lesser-known members, including one in his first term. Among McCarthy’s picks there are two more appointees named Jim than there are women or people of color. Take a look.
A Fox Pivot on Vaccines?
Three developments, possibility related (and possibly not at all.)
First: “Fox has quietly implemented its own version of a vaccine passport.”
This is all good, and maybe it will save lives. But…
And: “After Fox Colleagues Encourage Vaccines, Tucker Carlson Tells Viewers They ‘Should Ignore’ People ‘Giving You Medical Advice on Television’”
This is actually pretty remarkable.
A personal note:
1. The Freedom Phone Is a Cynical Gimmick
Yevgeny Simkin writes about the latest con aimed at fleecing gullible conservatives scared of Big Tech.
What a great formula for a grift: Find some gullible idiots who wish to “free” themselves of the tyranny of Big Tech, and get them to use your platform or buy your equipment. For the last year, various MAGA types have tried to set up alternatives to Twitter—most notably the clown shows of Parler last year and Gettr this year. And now we have the advent of the Freedom Phone, which promises to be “Completely. Uncensored.” and comes pre-loaded with apps that freedom-lovers love to love, such as Parler and Rumble.
The device has been criticized for failing to deliver on the promise of breaking its users free of Big Tech. In fact, the phone offers very little by way of “freedom” except freeing you of an excess $500 that’s been weighing down your pockets. The Freedom Phone itself is a clunky product designed to fleece naïve consumers who don’t understand how they are being exploited and productized by the tech industry (for a primer on this subject be sure to watch Netflix’s The Social Dilemma).
2. Virginia GOP Makes a Mockery of the Redistricting Process
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, this week, the judges selected Virginia V. Trost-Thornton from the Republican list to be one of the citizen commissioners who will decide how Virginia’s district maps are drawn.
And, if her social media is any clue, Virginia V. Trost-Thornton apparently believes that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election.
So instead of having elected political hacks redrawing the district lines for the House of Representatives and state-level offices, Virginians will get an unelected conspiracy theorist.