When I contacted my friend Shapiro about writing for First Draft, one reason he accepted was to reclaim his surname from the dread wingnut pundit, Ben Shapiro.
That sounded like such a noble cause that I suggested he write about his Shapiro quest. The result is this open letter to Ben who is neither gentle nor a gentile.
To My Nephew Ben by Shapiro
Dear Nephew Ben:
Let me say right off that no, you are not my nephew. We share a last name that’s more common amongst those of our lineage than those outside the tribe suspect. Some of our forebearers came from the old countries with it, some were given it by a harried immigration official at Ellis Island. Whatever. I do have a nephew who is like you in that he is married to a professional woman (a lawyer, I believe your wife is a doctor) and both you and he each have three kids. Like you he trained as a lawyer after attending private schools his entire academic career. Also like you he claims to be conservative bordering on libertarian. Have to wonder if private schooling begats conservative thinking. Nah, don’t have to wonder about it, it’s pretty obvious it does.
I’m writing to ask you to stop using our common name as a way of selling books. It’s a proud name, the name of poets (Karl), scientists (Norman), businessmen (Herman), lawyers (Robert), a few mobsters, singers (Helen who had an opening act called The Beatles in the early 1960’s), and thousands of everyday people who just go about their lives trying to do good and raise their kids to be decent human beings. You are using our name to pridefully insist that you are the smartest kid in the room, that you know better than anyone else. You seem to have forgotten, or perhaps you were never taught, that the smartest people in the room are the ones who know they can still learn from someone else and who can process new information and even change a long-held opinion.
When I use my name it’s in the service of making the world a better place. You use it in a vain attempt to blow up 2000 years of western civilization just so you can buy a bigger house. Even the most ego driven capitalist never went that far; the soon to be booted president being the exception. Then again, he’s a goyim and that’s their gig. We don’t believe in that.
We believe in Tikkun Olem, the concept of repairing the world. Surely at that LA Yeshiva you went to high school at they must have mentioned it, but if they didn’t it basically means live your life in a way to better the lives of others. It is a great way of living; I’ve been practicing it for over 60 years. It’s garnered me absolutely wonderful friends, compelled me to travel to far distant places, to care about my community, and to be able to sleep well at night. I don’t know how well you sleep at night, but if I were calling large swarths of humanity somehow less than human, it would probably be with one eye open.
When you say LGBTQ people should have no rights to marry, let alone no rights at all because they are somehow lesser as human beings for choosing to love a person you wouldn’t choose to that’s not making other people’s lives better. That’s going out of your way to put a vile hateful message out into the world that someone, already filled with rage and hatred, will take as an excuse to assault, and even kill. “Well that smart Jew fella told me I should”.
You call Jews like myself Jews In Name Only (JINO) and deride us because we think that global warming is a greater threat to mankind’s survival than if Exxon gets to hit its stock valuation. You say we don’t care about Israel because we think human rights are a greater imperative than subjugating an entire group of people. You have said that doctors who perform abortions should be prosecuted but prosecuted for what? In case you were absent that day in law school abortion is a legally protected medical procedure. What you call “cancel culture” the rest of us call the consequences of your actions. What you disdain as “political correctness” we simply call good manners. And then of course there is the whole “Big Tech is stifling the voices of conservatives” brouhaha to which I can only say hahahaha. The highest rated cable news network is a conservative mouthpiece plus now there are two competitors that are even more conservative. Big Tech doesn’t seem to have stifled any of those voices. Oh yes, that little KKK koffee klatch called Parler got taken down but that was because the owner didn’t want to abide by the rules that he agreed to when he set up the site. Wow, imagine that, a tech company enforcing their rules. Next thing you know restaurants (when we can go to them again) will enforce “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service”.
Oy, just oy.
And now you’ve stepped into another minefield with this piece you wrote for Politico.
The events at the Capitol on January 6 were not directly at your command, but you gave the mob an intellectual underpinning that allowed what we have been seeing in all the days that followed from Republicans and their allies:
“STACEY ABRAMS never accepted her election loss (she still claims she was the victim of voter suppression).”
Stacey Abrams’ followers never marched on the Georgia statehouse calling for the beheading of the governor, nor did she incite them to.
“The real impeachment charge against Trump is extraordinarily reckless and inflammatory rhetoric and behavior. But that sort of rhetoric is, unfortunately, commonplace in today’s day and age, and sometimes even ends with violence (see, e.g., a Bernie Sanders supporter shooting up a congressional softball game).
First of all you are in large part responsible for the commonality of inflammatory rhetoric and behavior today. And if you don’t want to admit credit for that you must at least admit that you yourself do nothing to tamp down that vitriol. As for the guy who shot up the congressional softball game, he was a nutcase acting alone with (and I can’t help myself on this point) LEGALLY purchased guns not under the direction of anyone other than the voices inside his head. The President of the United States didn’t tell him to do it.
Then there’s this infamous Tweet:
Literally every regular human I know owns zip ties. This is like Pauline Kael on steroids. https://t.co/qEHC1uedgB
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) January 13, 2021
Where do I start with that one? I tell you, let’s just leave it at no one has ever used a Hefty bag zip tie to secure, well, even a Hefty bag let alone a government official.
You could do so much to make the world a better place. You have the intelligence and charisma to command attention and thoughtfully delineate a point of view. Instead you choose to take those gifts and throw firebombs. In fact, you’re not just yelling FIRE in a crowded theater, you are locking the doors from the outside, calling the fire department telling them to disregard the alarms, and forcing ambulances down the wrong street. You incite instead of inspire, tear down instead of buildup, negate instead of collaborate. You hate with a ferocity generals would want in their shock troops. Those are characteristics I find abhorrent in anyone, but in someone with the same last name as mine I take an even greater offense.
One last thing, you are not a conservative. By definition classical conservatism does not reject change, but insists that changes be organic, rather than revolutionary, arguing that any attempt to modify the complex web of human interactions that form human society purely for the sake of some doctrine or theory runs the risk of running afoul of the law of unintended consequences and/or of moral hazards. No you are as revolutionary as they come. The reason you write and speak and broadcast what you do has nothing to do with a desire to make the world better, but to enrich yourself and those who have placed the MAGAphone in your hands. You could say you believe in oligarchy. I would say you believe in fascism.
My editor, Adrastos, suggested I call this piece Give Me Back My Name after the Talking Heads song. After reading so much of what you have spilled out into the world, I thought a more appropriate song reference would be from Bob Dylan, Idiot Wind:
Uncle Shapiro Out.