Ben Shapiro’s new book documents progressives' penchant for demonizing their opponents -- and their disdain for honest debate.
Editor’s note: Ben Shapiro will be speaking at the Freedom Center’s Wednesday Morning Club at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles on April 9, 2012. For more information and to register, click here.
To purchase Bullies, click here.
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Ben Shapiro, an attorney and writer and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is the author of the new book, Bullies: How The Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America.
FP: Ben Shapiro, welcome to Frontpage Interview and congratulations on your new book.
Let’s begin with you telling us what the book is about and what inspired you to write it.
Shapiro: What inspired me to write Bullies was the growing realization that the left was completely uninterested in political discussion, and instead was interested in resorting to bully tactics to slime their opposition’s character. Andrew Breitbart was one of my mentors, and he always used to say that the folks on the left were more interested in demonization than they were in debate. They wanted to polarize Americans from one another so they could then pick up the pieces and form them into a coalition for leftism. When Barack Obama was elected, we were supposed to see America transformed into a unified nation once again. Instead, Obama pursued the left’s favored bully tactics more than any president in American history. I felt I had to expose that.
FP: What are some of the Left’s bullying tactics?
Shapiro: The left’s favorite bully tactic is painting its opposition as morally deficient and unworthy of being part of the conversation. The left uses this tactic on virtually every topic. Sequestration? It turns out that those dastardly right-wingers just want to hurt first responders and teachers. Gun control? Those conservatives just don’t care about dead kids. Gay marriage? Conservatives hate homosexuals. Once you paint your opposition as morally bankrupt, you don’t have to win the debate. You win by default. That’s the basis of the political correctness movement.
The Obama administration uses that tactic to destroy its opposition. They work with groups outside the government to target their political opposition and destroy them personally and economically, launching smears and boycotts rather than countenancing the argument.
FP: Who are some of the biggest leftist bullies out there right now?
Shapiro: President Obama is clearly the ringleader of the leftist bullies. He seeks conflict so that he can paint his opposition as evil. Then he tells the American people that the people he’s facing just won’t compromise –- even as he refuses compromise at every turn – and begs for public support. It’s very effective.
But the left couldn’t get away with any of this without the media. The media are the greatest of all the leftist bullies, because they play at objectivity while sliding the knife in as deep as humanly possible. By lying to the American people about their disinterested reportage, they are able to convince Americans that people of good heart cannot take conservatives seriously. That’s a damaging message.
FP: Your thoughts on how the bullies have taken over our media, many of our institutions and academia. Why are all the major vehicles of political persuasion controlled by the Left?
Shapiro: We see leftist bullies in all the major institutions of American life: the university system, Hollywood, the non-profit world. The left thinks institutionally; we think individually. They think about how they can take over institutions and use them as weapons of mass conversion; we think about how we’d like to be left alone. The left understands that it’s more important to control the means of distribution than to convince individuals. That’s why they see Americans as members of groups: religious groups, ethnic groups, age groups, classes. Nobody is an individual. We’re all interchangeable widgets, defined by our socioeconomic environments. That means we’re infinitely changeable if we only had an institution to guide us. Conservatives don’t think this way, so we lose.
FP: Can you talk a bit about how the Left pretends it is on the side of the poor, women and minorities but how reality shows that the opposite is actually the case?
Shapiro: The left defines itself solely by its self-perception that it stands up for the poor. It can’t claim any victories on that score – civil rights was a bipartisan victory, and in the aftermath of the civil rights movement, the left proceeded to absolutely cripple minority communities through “helpful” government programs that created a massive cycle of dependency. But members of the left have to sleep at night, and so they still define themselves as the folks standing up for all minorities. That’s why they can’t tolerate members of minority groups (those interchangeable widgets) who disagree with them politically. If minorities don’t agree with the left, how can the left claim to stand up for minorities? The only way members of the left can justify their incompetence to themselves is to pretend that those who oppose their agenda oppose minorities, even though it is leftist programs that have done more damage to minority communities than anything since Jim Crow.
FP: Why does the Left hate and bully Sarah Palin so much?
Shapiro: For the same reason the left hates and bullies Clarence Thomas or Larry Elder: if you’re a member of a minority group and dare to disagree with the left, you’re challenging their very identity. They can’t handle that. So Palin has to be demonized as a tool of the right, an idiot, or corrupt – preferably, all three.
FP: In your book, you show how the Duke lacrosse rape case was a perfect example of leftist bullying. Can you talk a bit about that case as an example of your book’s thesis?
Shapiro: The goal of the left in bullying is to set a narrative that jibes with their view of the world. In the Duke lacrosse case, the left wanted a narrative of whites oppressing blacks, especially in the South. So they simply ignored the facts and created a story out of whole cloth about privileged white men raping a black woman. The entire media ran with it in order to talk about how America was still, underneath, a racist country. All of this was designed to remind the left that they are the white hats in this moral equation – that they are fighters against the prevailing racist establishment. It turns out that the whole story was a fabrication. But the left media had already ruined the lives of the white lacrosse players. Even today, some members of the left media express little or no remorse for their actions in the Duke case – including MSNBC’s own Al Sharpton, who has done more damage to race relations in this country than virtually anybody.
FP: How does the Left get away with all of this?
Shapiro: The media is what shapes Americans’ perceptions, and the media is dominated by the left. The truth is that most Americans don’t follow politics all that closely. They bathe in the water of the culture, and the culture is controlled by the bullying left. So when they watch movies and corporations are always nasty and evil, they take away the message that corporations are nasty and evil. When they watch TV and see that all gay families are wonderful and loving, and most straight families are dysfunctional, complete with stupid father and put-upon mom, they take away the socially liberal message that all family structures are created equal. The right is still operating under the assumption that the background noise in this country is still conservative. It isn’t. Every day that we refuse to fight back, we lose more ground.
FP: What if we continue to allow the Left to engage in bullying without fighting back?
Shapiro: Then the left will continue to win. The only way to have a civil debate with someone on the left is to get past their character assassination. And that takes guts.
FP: How can we fight back? What can we do to make a change? As you reveal in your book, Andrew Breitbart had some of the best ideas and tactics in this regard, yes?
Shapiro: Andrew was a warrior. He recognized that if we’re going to win, we have to walk toward the fire. The left will attack us no matter what. We have to embrace that and tell them that their slings and arrows mean nothing. When they call us racist, sexist bigots, they have no arguments – they are showing their weakness. All we have to do is turn those arguments back on them. If they lie about us, we will tell the truth about them. It is not racist to support voter ID. It is racist to suggest that supporting voter ID somehow makes you racist – and it’s even more racist to suppose that black people are somehow incapable of getting a voter ID. It’s most racist of all to use the charge of racism to cover for your own incompetence, keeping millions of minority children in failing schools to pay off your teachers union cronies and bilk taxpayers out of billions of dollars.
FP: Tell us some of the Left’s reactions to the book.
Shapiro: They hate it, predictably. Most won’t read it. That’s okay. It’s a handbook on how to fight them. It’s foolish of them not to, just as it’s foolish for conservatives not to read Rules for Radicals by Alinsky. The left has reacted to the book and to my arguments by threatening me, tweeting my home address, and targeting me personally. I had to move my wife out of the house for a week. No shock there. This is who the left is, when the mask is off.
FP: Final thoughts?
Shapiro: We cannot win unless we see this as a war. The left does. We’ve seen this as a hobby, because we always figured that the status quo of capitalism and family values would carry the day. That’s no longer the status quo. William F. Buckley famously said that it was our job to stand athwart the rails of history yelling stop. That’s no longer true. The train ran us over awhile back. Now it’s our job to get another train – a bigger train – and run it down those tracks at higher speed. We have to derail the left’s agenda, and then push the country back in the right direction.
FP: It was an honor and privilege to speak to you Ben Shapiro. Thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
And we encourage all of our readers to get their hands on Bullies. It is an absolutely brilliant book. BUY IT!
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