Recently The Economist called Ben Shapiro “an alt-right sage” a claim they walked back to “far right” after much criticism from conservative commentators and even threats of legal action from Shapiro himself. However, The Economist backed down, they caved, even though Ben Shapiro clearly is an alt-right sage. He paints a worldview which enables and intellectualizes (or tries to) the hateful ideas of people like the Christchurch mosque killer, among others. Ben Shapiro is a two-bit fascist with a Harvard Law degree and lots of viral YouTube clips of him SAVAGELY OWNING SJWs. This gives him a fair bit of cover, but at the end of the idea, the actual content of his ideas aren’t that far from the alt-right or the terrorists that movement inspires.
Western Civilization is dead or dying, immigration and the culture of “people who like to live in sewage” is partially to blame. Social Justice Warriors, socialism and transgender people are also to blame. As are feminists, anyone who eschews traditional family structures or refuses to follow a fairly orthodox/fundamentalist version of Judaism or Christianity. There is a battle being waged for the heart and soul of “western civilization” and the sides are clear. The aforementioned on one end and those who wish to uphold tradition and values on the other.
This is the type of rhetoric that flowed through the hateful 70+ page manifesto published by the Christchurch mosque shooter. It’s the rhetoric found on far right internet boards like 4Chan and 8Chan. It’s also the type of shit people like Ben Shapiro push relentlessly in a sad attempt to veil hateful ideas in the trappings of intellectualism. Make no mistake, 4Chan shitposters, like the one who live streamed his hate fueled massacre that left 50 people dead, didn’t come to fully flushed out white nationalist world views on their own.
Most of their ideas were given to them, largely by people like Ben Shaprio, Tucker Carlson, and a slew of other far right commentators consistently injecting etho-nationalism into the mainstream.
When the New Zealand Shooter’s Manifesto consistently calls immigrants “invaders”, is that really so different than Ben Shaprio, Tucker Carlson, or even the president consistently referring to “the situation and chaos at the border.” Is it really that different than sensationalist disinformation about “the caravan” or “the invasion” the caravan represents? Because if you read between the lines, the caravan, the chaos at the border, all of this alludes to immigrants as invaders. It’s really not that far of a leap to go from the invasion rhetoric of Ben Shapiro, Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump to the ideology of the Christchurch killer who in his mind was meeting that invasion these people talk about so frequently, with violent force.
When Ben Shapiro says stuff like “a country without borders is not a country” or refers to “the vast welfare state immigrants want to take advantage of” it seems like perfectly reasonable immigration policy. Especially coupled with stuff like “I’m a libertarian on immigration, but we have to control the borders.” However, all of this enforces the same narrative, these people are making the country worse, which in Ben Shapiro’s mind is why they want to take advantage of our welfare state. We have to control the borders, and keep our country “a country” through border control, because again, immigrants are a problem.
When Ben Shapiro points to the asylum laws as the legal way to immigrate or the differences between now and 1907 when the border was open, he tries to act as though he’s thought the other side of the argument through, but it’s just a veiled attempt at ignoring the fact that immigrants clearly add to the country economically, culturally, and commit less crime as a whole. There is no factual basis to see immigrants or immigration as a problem, a half hearted appeal to Shapiro’s “libertarianism” is as empty as Carlson’s constant calls to his own populism. At the end of the day, they both traffic in racist tropes about the consequences of immigration.
To make matters worse, many of these figures, especially Tucker Carlson, paint these sort of violent reactions as inevitable. A tried and true byproduct of immigration and shifting demographics. In Carlson’s mind these events prove his core thesis, it’s difficult for different cultures to coexist (a sentiment found in things like Ben Shaprio’s ‘Palestinians live in sewers’ tweet) if not downright impossible. So when we try, violent outbursts like the Christchurch killing are the result. At least in Tucker’s mind, a narrative that conveniently ignores his role in spreading the ideas which lead to the shooing in the first place.
At the end of the day, pull back all the memes and edgy neckbeard bullshit and remove the overt call for violence, and the Christchurch shooter”s ideas are the same hateful bile spewed by Ben Shaprio and Tucker Carlson every single day.
These guys try to hide their toxic bullshit in their respective “facts don’t care about your feelings” or “populist bad-boy broadcaster” routines. Yet despite this attempt to frame fascism and xenophobia as intellectual or academic, their diagnosis of the broader problems facing society is largely the same of that of people like the New Zealand killer.
For both Ben Shapiro, Tucker Carlson, the Christchurch killer and future far right killers yet to come, immigrants are the problem. Saying you support people who “want a better life but we have to control the border” doesn’t make up for the coded language and racist narratives. At the end of the day, Carlson and Shapiro paint immigrants as the main problem. Additionally, so are the social justice warriors more committed to their values than stopping what Ben and Tucker see as the cause of inevitable social rot. Other social trends such as women’s rights, LGBTQ equality, or other identity based discourses are often similarly attacked as signs of social and moral decay.
Again for Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson, and the hateful people they inspire, the diagnosis is clear. The solution is where these people really differ.
Unsurprisingly, Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson generally support plutocrats and a policy regime that materially benefits them and their position as multi-millionaire media personalities. More importantly the people whose capital enables their lackluster careers to begin with benefit from these policies. However the people whose eyeballs sell their ads, those people might agree with anti-SJW YouTube hits and Tucker’s nightly 60 minute hate, but the policy agenda these people support is anything but in their material interest. The tell is both figures focus on tax cuts and austerity, wrapped up in the xenophobia that is their hallmark, coupled with longstanding explicit and implicit racialized notions of who works hard and who benefits from conservative economics versus who benefits from the welfare state. The problem, these policies disenfranchise and disenchant normal people.
Not to empathize with the Chirstchurch shooter, but his manifesto makes a few things clear. He was a hateful piece of shit whose only meaningful interaction were in far right online forums. But also, he clearly saw the status quo as broken. He didn’t see Trump as a solution policy wise, only as a symbol of white supremacy. He was a terrorist driven to kill by alienation and an ideological framework that justified it all as an act of war. That framework, that ideology, the one he sketched out to justify his murders, that was largely supplied by people like Ben Shaprio and Tucker Carlson.
Rhetoric about immigrants as invaders, the caravan as an invasion, chaos at the borders, this is all bad enough on its own. Combine with over the top calls of “the death of Western Civilization” and rhetoric discussing the “incompatible cultures” of immigrants with native born citizens in “western” countries, and the logic behind killers like the one in New Zealand becomes clear. They’ve taken the ideas pushed by Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson to their logical conclusion. The line is the same, something like, the country is being destroyed, immigrants are the problem, social justice warriors and socialists and all who enable this destruction are the problem. The shooter took matters into his own hand, Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson simply push sanitized versions of the same ideas espoused in the manifesto. The Christchurch killer had an assault rifle, Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson have some of the world’s largest megaphone, but in the end, the result of their ideas is dead bodies either way.
Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson often present their ideology as academic or intellectual. And they’re taken as such by millions of people. Some small portion of which run with them and use them as the foundation of a world view that justifies murder, displacement, and eventually, if history is any guide, genocide. Calls for a white ethnostate from figures like Richard Spencer already point in that direction.
For most people these ideas simple serve as the foundation for a worldview full of racist tropes, stereotypes, and bias. When people with these views hold power or sway in powerful institutions, like our president, for example, the consequences are disastrous, not necessarily murderous, but sometimes. And even in the absence of an actual death, these biases and stereotypes are disastrous nonetheless. From police shootings to red lining, these biases have life or death implications that have real world consequences for millions of people.
Whether they like it or not, Ben Shapiro and Tucker Carlson give people like the Christchurch killer or Dylan Roof a way to articulate their hate. More importantly they mainstream that hate. They give millions of people the building blocks for the worldview which enables xenophobic or racist massacres like the one in New Zealand. The fact a few alt-right figures attack Ben Shapiro for being Jewish doesn’t change that he has mainstreamed the weapons these people use against immigrants and people of color.
Ultimately, regardless of how “the alt right” feels about Ben Shapiro, he is an alt right sage. As is Tucker Carlson. Because each of them wraps up the same tired hateful ideology and presents it as something new, something informative, and something useful, to millions of people every single day. And when someone takes these ideas to what they see as their logical end, and kills 50+ people as a result, people like Ben Shaprio and Tucker Carlson need to be held accountable. Their life work contributes to these killings and we need to treat them accordingly.