Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new darling of the Bernie Sanders left, won some points today on Twitter by shutting down conservative personality Ben Shapiro after he offered her $10,000 to debate him. Here's what happened:
I try not to cover too much "he said, she said," gotcha style politics, particularly if it's on Twitter -- it does little to further discourse and doesn't help readers get to grips with the problems facing society. I couldn't really care less if Ocasio-Cortez "owned" Shapiro, or vice versa -- but the interaction was nevertheless an interesting one.
There are a couple of things worth mentioning here. The first is that Ocasio-Cortez is at least partially right -- she isn't obligated to talk to Ben Shapiro, much less debate him. Shapiro maybe a big internet star with a stellar reputation amongst young white men for "owning the libs", but the rest of the world doesn't owe him anything because of it.
I find Shapiro to be a mildly engaging speaker who is, contrary to many of the pundits you see on Fox News, actually interested in discussing issues honestly. He is however, an arch conservative with some particularly nasty views, especially when it comes to Arabs and Muslims:
Shapiro tried to explain this away later claiming he was the victim of liberal smears and only saying that Arabs in the Arab-Israeli conflict were subhuman violent psychopaths. His later tweet apparently cleared this up:
These Arabs ostensibly include the Palestinians who have had their land stolen from them by Israel -- a country that has been condemned by the entire planet for their illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. According to Shapiro though, you must be a sewer rat if you have the gall to want your land back.
After watching a speech by Shapiro, Nathan J. Robinson of Current Affairs summarized the conservative firebrand's world view as follows:
America is the greatest country in the world, that there are no real injustices facing black people, women, and poor people, and that if you don’t do well economically here it’s entirely your fault.
Having listened to a fair few Shapiro interviews and speeches, I can't think of a better way to describe his overarching philosophy. It's standard conservative trope delivered pithily for a Youtube audience of young white men who can't stand liberal identity politics.
Here is where I have trouble with Ocasio-Cortez's withering Twitter put down though. As much as I like the rising star's confidence and ability to energize Democratic voters, she is in danger of becoming a victim of her followers. The liberal Twitter mob has found a new figure to rally around, and they will hang on her every word. When Ocasio-Cortez likens Ben Shapiro to a misogynistic cat caller, that is what Ben Shapiro then becomes, regardless of whether there is any veracity to it.
I have listened to Shapiro enough to know that he is not a misogynist and would be literally the last person on earth to engage in cat calling. I'm not a fan of the guy, but he is a decent family man who is respectful to those he engages with. You can disagree with his politics all you want, but you cannot insinuate he is a sexual predator with absolutely no evidence whatsoever. While Ocasio-Cortez has every right to tell Shapiro to fuck off, she doesn't have the right to unfairly smear him. Based purely on the publicly available evidence, Shapiro was sincerely attempting to have a debate with Ocasio-Cortez, and nothing more.
Ocasio-Cortez will be protected from this type of criticism by the identity politics left that will frame this as an example of "mansplaining". And given I am a man, I am fully expecting the mobs to come after me for daring to defend someone like Shapiro. Thankfully, my job isn't to pander to any particular subset of the Democratic Party, so I couldn't really care less.
While the raging left insists on fanatical tribalism, it is entirely possible to detest someone's political views, but not see them as an inherently bad person. I'm not sure this still holds for Trump supporters, but there are many conservatives I disagree with vehemently, but still regard as decent people.
Shapiro may be many things, but he is no cat caller, and to claim otherwise is morally indefensible.
(image via Wikimedia)