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AvatarComments by pillsy in reply to Andrew Donaldson*

On “Ben Shapiro Works Those Feelings

Yeah for me that "being a steelworker is better than being a waiter" is a view that I really can't wrap my mind around unless you're talking about how the job pays, the working conditions, and the like.

Like you can accept the logic of capitalism on this or reject it and I kinda go back and forth TBH but this seems to be a particularly weird halfway point to end up in.

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I have a similar opinion of Douthat.

MBD is, IMO, mostly a more intense Douthat. More likely to be interesting, but also more likely to be truly awful.

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FWIW I just generally think it's silly to valorize some kinds of work and disparage others as "not real work".

Like me personally I'm extremely fortunate that despite the fact that I have the work ethic and ambition of a basement-dwelling NEET video game addict, I have some a real knack for math and grew up in a stable home environment with parents who really valued education so I could turn that knack into marketable skills sometimes sort of despite myself.

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I think the best plan is the one he dismisses as "redistribution".

Like I get his discomfort with the idea of a country that's all middle and working class people providing services for rich people, but somewhat richer middle and working class people would consume more services while somewhat poorer rich people would consume fewer services.

Which is better as I see it. Imperfect, but what isn't.

As for the cultural thing? I dunno. Maybe that's not solvable, or not solvable by public policy, or maybe everybody will get used to it.

EDIT: Am I open to policy approaches other than redistribution? Absolutely. But most of them would just allow more people to succeed and make a decent living in the service economy.

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Liberals could be wrong about what they want [1] and actually want Y, or you could be wrong that Shapiro is really all that X, or you could be wrong that liberals want X.

[1] And look I know this could be dishonesty but really people say and think they want stuff they don't (and vice versa) all the time. If we're lying we're probably lying to ourselves and then earnestly repeating the lies to you.

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Yeah I was carefully stepping around saying "privilege" despite the fact that it was exactly what I meant because, I dunno, using the word around here often seems to spark needless fights.

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This makes it harder for short men to politicize the issue because tall men have no reason to be sympathetic.

I'll kinda cop to this.

Like I'm tall now and was a really tall kid (hit my full adult height by 12 or 13). And always really thought it was an odd thing to care about because, like, it's a bit convenient in some contexts and a bit inconvenient in others and didn't really ever get the association of "tall" with "attractive".

Not, like, didn't find it attractive myself (but I'm straight so such things are kind of abstract) but didn't really know the association existed.

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Eh like seriously it's a nasty cheap shot that I, as a matter of self-observation, am far more willing to indulge in than I should be. But I think in general shots against physical appearance, especially when directed against men,[1] are just more socially acceptable for a complicated array of reasons.

And it's not like people only do jerkass things for a single identifiable reason.

[1] And to be clear this seems sort of OK to me? Like it's not good but it's less bad than some other things in this general class are? But I can't justify it?

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So either Shapiro is so stupid as to choose a book title from the speeches of his opponents, a phrase that he as previously condemned, a phrase which implies that all of his beliefs are wrong, and is surrounded by people who didn’t catch the mistake, or he is making light of the phrase.

Like I said, it wasn't obvious it was a joke.

As to the rest of your comment, do you think that Shapiro is unaware that the West’s journey to modernity wasn’t always pretty?

I don't know. But the sheer ugliness, conditional and often ephemeral nature of the changes for the better, and general fact that some of the things he cites as good are maybe two generations old tends to seriously undercut the argument that this is all the "heritage of Jerusalem and Athens" once you include how much the exact opposite of the virtues he espouses are also part of that heritage, and historically have been justified in identical terms, and continue to be justified in those terms.

Like to rip out one particularly egregious bit from the passage you quoted, this is severely dumb:

"If you believe that life is more than materialistic pleasures and pain avoidance, you are a product of Jerusalem and Athens."

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Yeah MBD is... often horrifyingly wrong about things I didn't even know you could be wrong about, but also much more likely to write something that's actually worth reading and thinking about and arguing with than Shapiro is.

That piece is a good example of the latter.

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It's an obvious pun, but nothing in the passage (or elsewhere) made it obvious to me that it was a joke (i.e., not meant seriously aside from the wordplay which I think is kinda clever actually).

But I retract that part of the comment.

Still have my problem where there's a tremendous amount of bad mixed in with the good in stuff that Shapiro characterizes as "Western values".

On “Manifest Trumpestiny

Also for completeness here's the pixelated boat Tweet, which I still think is hilarious satire, and here's Snopes dutifully debunking it.

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This is great.

Still I have to object:

Was this a guerrilla-channel style hoax?

First, it was much funnier IMO because it was the gorilla channel and I'm going to pretend that you weren't the victim of a typo or autocorrect going rogue in order to state that point.

Second, it wasn't a hoax anymore than Babylon Bee stories are, but just like sometimes people don't realize those are jokes, a lot of people didn't get that joke either. And that made it so much funnier because a lot of the people who got taken in really think they're so smart and sophisticated.

Was I taken in? No. But I definitely admit the original tweet had me going for a sentence or two.

On “Ben Shapiro Works Those Feelings

I agree with all of this except for the part where I actually do follow him because let's be honest, I'm an absolute sucker for the bias confirmation industry that patronizes me into thinking I know more than I do.

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Like, maybe.

But, um, I think that points to a deeper problem with Ben Shapiro's argument in The Right Side of History than simple historical ignorance. It was laid out pithily by a guy named Ben Shapiro on Twitter some years back:

"Right side of history" may be the most morally idiotic phrase of modern times. History is not God, and has no morality.

Now I rarely agree with this Ben Shapiro guy but I think he's got a point about this one. And really, if you're looking for Western values and tracing them back to "Athens and Jerusalem" [1] you really kind of need to take the good with the bad.

Which means you also get the 30 Years War, and chattel slavery, and the horrors of both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and Belgian colonialism in Africa, and the list goes on.

It kind of reminds me of an old joke about the C++ programming language: C++ is almost powerful enough to let you fix all the problems with C++. Same with Western Civ, I guess.

Or not. Maybe it's a profoundly flawed way to view history, and a perspective on culture that flattens culture out to nothing but a few banalities.

[1] Which, I mean, you could also do if you were trying to trace the notional origins of "Islamic values", another reason I take issue with the overall approach.

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He's like an Internet punditversion of a Kardashian: famous because he's famous. And yeah, like a number of people who have a sort of self-sustaining celebrity, he's got a genuine talent for self-promotion.

This is not unique to Shapiro: it's pretty common in punditry.[1] Shapiro, as much as I think his views are awful and his affect is annoying, has played the game extremely well. And despite my distaste for him, I routinely play along and talk about him.

Like now!

[1] If you think people spend too much time and attention on Ben Shapiro, let me tell you about a guy named David Brooks....

On “Pushed Over the Edge

Running on a, "Let's get rid of CDA S320 protections to destroy social media as we know it!" might be a winning argument because so many people hate it (even and maybe especially people who use it all the time) but it's also an argument that I've rarely if ever heard.

On “Epstein Dead

To expand on this knee jerk a bit, people who get and keep their wealth and power in ways that our political and economic culture regard as legitimate tend, AIUI, to have a very specialized understanding of how wealth and power work, and can be used.

Having a guy offed in prison is stepping outside that comfort zone, which means that (a) they're likely to fuck up badly and get caught if they try and (b) are unlikely to try because when you get right down to it the "legitimate" stuff has worked so well for them until now.

Is this anything like "knowledge"? Of course not. But I think it can be worth trying to understand why you believe things in the absence of any real data.

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As a general rule, the same conditions that make it possible to reveal the truth without fear of reprisal also make it possible to lie your ass off without fear of reprisal.

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It seems like 4Chan could be a good place to leak stuff, for a lot of the same reasons that claims posted on 4Chan should be treated with massive skepticism.

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If real life, how likely is it that rich and powerful people could arrange to kill a man in jail and get away with it?

I admit I also have no idea, but every knee jerk reaction I have points me to, "Not very likely."

At least when we're talking about US prisons and US (and British) rich and powerful people.

On “Defenders Of The Gold Bikini 2: The Fempire Doesn’t Strike Back

No, that was explicitly presented as a lie the Emperor told Anakin to complete his transformation into Darth Vader.

It also gave us the Big No, another (properly) reviled scene from Revenge of the Sith. I actually like RotS overall [1] but the resolution of Padme's story was total trash.

[1] Yes. Seriously.

On “Choose Your Own Political Narrative: Iowa State Fair Edition

He is definitely one of those people I like less with every new thing I learn about him.

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Both are... more or less true.

My really spicy take is the two archetypes in question are heads of the same coin.

Also like I have never been a fan of Romney even when I kind of hoped he would turf out Ted Kennedy's horrible old ass in '94, but one of the little-remarked-upon things about his campaign is it was better than McCain's (and he did better electorally, not that the two necessarily have much to do with each other).

On “Defenders Of The Gold Bikini 2: The Fempire Doesn’t Strike Back

But nope, for you it all comes down to how this clashes with your views as a feminist, rendering most of if not your entire argument void.

Nyah.

The ways in which it clashes with Kristin's views as a feminist [1] have a lot to do with its failures of drama. "It can happen in real life" is rarely a good justification for story choices, not least of all because real life isn't a story, and lots of bullshit that you'd never believe (much less artistically appreciate) happens in real life. All of the suggested options would have worked much better dramatically IMO. And it's not like they would have been less realistic.[2]

But also the idea that one should just be able to so completely divorce one's political or ethical views from one's film criticism is pretty blinkered in and of itself, because those views will also inform one's sense of whether character motivations, behaviors, and reactions are plausible.

And that last sort or realism is really the only kind of realism that matters for a series of movies about Space Fights involving Muppets with laser swords.

[1] Which, for the record, I agree with, but even if I didn't....

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