Sunday, April 7, 2019

Interview: Ben Shapiro says he is scared Donald Trump's "legacy will be the soul-sucking of conservatism"

Editor's note: This interview was originally published in February 2017.

This is the second half of my discussion with conservative pundit Ben Shapiro. The first article is available here. Material quoted below appeared in yesterday's piece, offering background on the subject matter.
Story by Joseph Ford Cotto 
Making a go of it as a conservative pundit these days is a tricky thing -- due in no small part to our national right-leaning movement's fracture over Donald Trump and the change he represents.
More than a change of policy, though this can hardly be understated, has come a change in attitude. For many years, the left has been home to in-your-face politicking and the siren call of populist uprising. Of course, some of this drifted in a rightward direction from time to time, but it mainly remained ensconced on leftish ground.
How the times have changed.
Nowadays, both the right and the left make politics deeply personal. Diversity of opinion has become the stuff of insult and long-running feuds. This, mind you, applies to differences on the same side of the aisle. What many folks feel about those on the other end of the spectrum cannot be put into words suitable here.
Caught up in the intra-movement crossfire is Ben ShapiroHe has been one of American conservatism’s most recognizable voices for several years. As a bestselling author, syndicated columnist, and editor-at-large for Breitbart News, Shapiro consistently articulated his ideas.
He is not the sort to back down even -- or perhaps especially -- when opposing voices bring more than a bit of controversy in his direction. Shapiro's traditional conservative values draw ire from social justice warrior lefties and alt-rightists alike. 
Since stepping down from Breitbart last year, he became editor-in-chief of and hosts his own radio show. Shapiro spoke with me about several timely topics. Some of our conversation is included below. 

Joseph Ford Cotto: Insofar as the foreseeable future of American conservatism is concerned, do you believe that the 'alt-right' brand is damaged beyond the level of repair necessary for serious influence over public policy?

Ben Shapiro: I certainly hope so. The alt-right is perverse.

Cotto: The social justice warrior left and the alt-right have found success in spreading their ideas via Internet memes. Why has this method of politicking proven so effective?

Shapiro: Trolling is easy, and it's opposition-based. Politics is all about targeting an enemy. It doesn't require truth or research. It just requires pissing off the opposition in order to score a "win." That means that you can become popular simply by saying ridiculous things, then waiting for the response; if they don't respond, you call them a coward, and declare yourself the victor. It's lazy crap, but it's effective.

Cotto: Memes, by their very definition, are simplistic and emotional in nature. Untold millions of Americans, presumably Millennials in large part, appear more influenced by memes rather than longer, more reasonable arguments. Has the Internet dumbed down the political acumen of our country's young adults?

Shapiro: Of course. So has television. But that just means that political communicators are going to have to learn how to grab attention and then hold it long enough to teach, rather than pander. I'm not too optimistic about that.

Cotto: The neo-Nazi movement has a contingent of keyboard warriors who delight in not only sharing their views, but making life hellish for certain individuals. Why are American neo-Nazis so aggressive in using the Internet to spread their political ideas? 

Shapiro: Because they can hide behind "trolling" as an excuse on the Internet. They can hide behind anonymity. They can claim they're just anonymous truth-tellers without having to say things in public. Richard Spencer got tons of attention because he showed his face. They're not interested in showing theirs.

Cotto: What do you anticipate the primary legacy of Trump's election will be; specifically as far as American conservatism is concerned?

Shapiro: I fear that his legacy will be the soul-sucking of conservatism -- the hollowing out of a limited government, freedom-based philosophy in favor of an isolationist, corporatist, big government favor machine on behalf of a particular constituency, with small favors handed out to economic conservatives. I desperately hope I'm as wrong about that as I was about his electability.