BLOGBen Shapiro on Bullying, and If Civil Discourse Is Possible

By Alliance Defending Freedom Posted on: | August 18, 2017
By: Emily Conley

When I interviewed Ben Shapiro for a Q&A article in the latest Faith & Justice magazine, I booked 30 minutes of his very busy schedule, but when we started 15 minutes late, I thought I’d have to choose from a fraction of the topics I wanted to cover. From listening to The Ben Shapiro Show, I knew he spoke fast - but as it turned out, we not only covered everything in 15 minutes, but when I received the transcript, I had almost 3,000 words to choose from for the 700-word article.

Hence – Faith & Justice Extended, a blog post including more from our conversation.

A little background on how Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is connected to Shapiro: When California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) tried to prevent Shapiro from speaking at a campus event and ordered University police to allow a mob of professors and students to physically block students from attending the speech, ADF filed suit on Shapiro’s behalf. In February 2017, the university settled and agreed to drop their discriminatory speech policies.

Shapiro is the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Wire, host of The Ben Shapiro Show, nationally syndicated columnist, and author of seven books, including Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth. A Harvard Law grad, Shapiro currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

F&J:  When you were backstage at that [CSULA] event, what was really going through your mind?

Shapiro: What I was thinking is, “This is totally insane.” Like, over what? … [W]hat in the world is driving this? And later we find out, of course, that there are professors who have told their students that a white supremacist is coming to campus, and we also find out that the administration has basically told the police to stand back and allow the protestors free reign. And so then it made a little bit more sense. But at the time, you know, I don't have any illusions about my own level of fame. I didn't figure that most of the people protesting me had any clue who I was. So it was kind of puzzling. When you realized that staffers had been the ones helping to organize this, it made a little more sense.

F&J: What changes do you predict we’ll see on college campuses in the next five to ten years?

Shapiro: Well, I think there are two ways this can go. One is that the traditional liberals come out of the woodwork and say, "Enough is enough." We've seen that from some deans, like University of Chicago has come out and said, "Diversity of thought still matters, even if the Left is attempting to quash it." That, I think, is worthwhile, and I think that you will see some backlash.

If the Left gets its way, what you'll actually see is an attempt to shut down every student group on campus that does not agree with the Leftist prevailing mentality, because they are “promulgators of violence.” You'll see the “rioters' veto” become more common, the idea that if there's going to be a threatened riot on campus, you can't allow a speaker in to speak. A lot more campuses will start to look like Berkeley, and then after they look like Berkeley, they'll look like DePaul, so you'll see campuses where rioters go insane, and then the next thing you know, you'll have campuses simply banning speakers before they can even register to speak, because those people might be too provocative for the Left-wing crowd.

F&J:  In your book Bullies you wrote, "America was a nation built on the idea that nobody should be bullied by the government. That's what freedom means. Now the Left has convinced Americans that they're bullies if they oppose increasing encroachment of government. We're bullies if we want to control our own fate; we're victims if we don't get to control how other people live their lives." How do you see that idea played out every day?

Shapiro: I mean, you can see that every day in politics. It's particularly true on campus, this idea that, like you said, they will castigate us as bullies for going on campus and saying things like, “you don't get to stand on your identity to shut down other points of view." And they'll say, "Well, you're bullying. You're bullying." … You say, "Well, wait a second. I'm just saying that we're a free country, and you should be able to live your own life, and you're sitting here telling me I can't say that. Who's the bully?"

But my mere point of view, according to them, is bullying and skewing the system. Because, after all, [in their view] the world breaks down into the powerful and the powerless, and if you are saying something that does not agree with the "powerless" and their hierarchy, then you are one of the powerful, and you are an oppressor, even if you're not actually oppressing anyone.

F&J:  You mentioned in the past, you actually experienced bullying in high school.

Shapiro:  Oh yeah, I was viciously bullied in high school. Yeah.

F&J:  How has that influenced you and shaped your perception of the world?

Shapiro:  Well number one, I hate bullying, and I hate bullies. I think they're the worst people alive. And number two, I think that the only way to fight back against bullying is to stand up for yourself and to stand up for principle. And having experienced it in pretty egregious measure in high school, I think that's true on both the individual level and a societal level, as well.

F&J:  What is your typical response when you're accused of being a bully?

Shapiro: That you'd have to provide me evidence. It's the typical response that I have for every insult, "You need to provide me evidence that it's true, and then we can discuss whether I'm actually bullying or not." But more often than not, people who are accusing me of being bullies are the people who want to shut me down and prevent me from speaking.

F&J: In some of your debates, you've discussed some intense issues, and the more that you stay completely calm and collected, the angrier that seems to make people. And they've called you “uneducated” when you're citing actual biological reality, or “consumed with hate,” when they're threatening to send you home in an ambulance. Is it possible to have civil debate as Americans on things that we disagree about today?

Shapiro: I think it's definitely possible to have a civil debate, but it requires two sides. You can't have a civil debate when only one side is interested in being civil. I've had civil conversations about transgenderism with people like Jesse Singal at New York Magazine. He's on the Left, he disagrees with me about a lot of things I say, but we can have a civil conversation about it. I've had civil conversations with reporters on the Left about this topic. But if you have that conversation with somebody who is motivated to violence, then obviously the conversation is going to go sideways, as you saw in that particular CNN interview.

F&J:  You've also been a target of a lot of attacks online, not just from the Left, but also from the Alt Right. And I think the Washington Post said you're the recipient of the most anti-Semitism on Twitter?

Shapiro:  Yeah, according to the ADL [Anti-Defamation League].Yeah.

F&J:  …But you've said before that you've never blocked anyone or asked for anyone to be banned from Twitter. Is that still true?

Shapiro:  Yeah, that's true.

F&J:  Why is that?

Shapiro:  Because, you know, I think that everybody should be able to view what I'm saying, even if they hate what I'm saying, and I don't think that people should generally be banned from a site that is dedicated to open exchange of ideas, just because they're expressing ideas that are ridiculous. And I think that, while there is a case to be made that harassing language is something that Twitter should crack down on, it's very difficult to draw a line between harassing language and free speech. So, so I'd rather err on the side of free speech and let people say what they're going to say, and if they're jerks, I think they show themselves for who they are.

F&J:  Are you working on any new projects currently?

Shapiro: I'm always working on new projects. I have a book that's going to be coming out shortly, which is 101 Leftist Myths on Politics Debunked, so sort of how to argue with the Left. And it's a handbook, which is, the most-received question I get is always, yeah, I get hundreds of e-mails a day now, and a lot of them are, "I have a specific question about global warming. How do I answer it? I have a specific question about race. How do I answer it?" And so I try to answer a fair number of those in this new book.

I also have a book that's coming out in about a month that's actually a book I wrote with my dad. It's apolitical, about the 2005 White Sox championship season. We wrote it together, and it was sort of a father/son project, so we're going to be publishing that in about a month, so that's exciting. And then, of course, the podcast continues apace - the largest conservative podcast in the country. Plus, I write four times a day at The Daily Wire, and a syndicated column every week for National Review. So, I definitely keep busy.

Read Ben Shapiro’s answers to questions about the value in engaging with opposition, what gives him hope for the future, and why he keeps showing up in the face of intimidation in the August 2017 issue of Faith & Justice magazine.

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