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Politico’s Ben Shapiro Freakout Is A Perfect Illustration Of A Much Bigger Problem

The left’s ‘both sides’ media critique is extremely dangerous both because it’s deeply flawed and because it’s fashionable in corporate media circles.


The Politico newsroom melted into predictable chaos after Ben Shapiro guest-authored its sacred Playbook newsletter on Thursday, one day after MSNBC host Chris Hayes did the same. The Online Left used that juxtaposition to rail against the “both sides” ethos they believe dominates the corporate press, which equates mainstream conservatives with mainstream progressives.

This, they say, is at the root of the media’s failure. Hayes may be an ideologue, but Shapiro, the argument goes, is a reckless disseminator of bigotry and disinformation.

It’s certainly true that conservative media is populated by some grifters, and they’re truly a scourge. Shapiro is not among them, and leftists able to make it past the media’s caricature of him should understand that. I’d argue Hayes is absolutely worth listening to as well, despite him spreading his fair share of bad information.

It’s natural, of course, for progressives to have an unfavorable perspective of Shapiro and a favorable one of Hayes. When the corporate press is run by domineering millennial journalists absolutely convinced of the progressive-or-bigot binary, that’s how you get the discord at Politico. When decent people read coverage that implies they’re bigots, well, that’s how you get Donald Trump. And that’s how people radicalize.

A tweet Shapiro posted amidst the uproar captures the dynamic impeccably. He wrote:

My point: conservatives believe that Leftists want to ostracize them as evil, and then shut them down

Politico staff: conservatives ought to be ostracized as evil and then shut down

What’s useful about that point is that illustrates our cultural impasse. The cultural left—those who run our newsrooms and boardrooms and writer’s rooms—largely refuses to accept that any conservative is not personally driven by or responsible for promoting bigotry. Because they’re our cultural gatekeepers, this has created a bitter ideological monopoly in the ruling class and sown immense discord. That’s why these newsroom skirmishes are important flash points.

The Daily Beast published a story headlined, “Matthew McConaughey Keeps Flirting With Alt-Right Darlings” this week, impugning the unusually thoughtful actor because he sat down for interviews with Joe Rogan and Jordan Peterson. The progressive-or-bigot binary means ideologically homeless thinkers like Rogan and Peterson, both of whom are liberal on a whole lot of issues, are smeared as “alt-right.” This is made even more dangerous given that Big Tech takes its censorship cues from the corporate media, along with the soon-to-be-ruling party in Washington.

The left’s “both sides” media critique is extremely dangerous both because it’s deeply flawed and because it’s fashionable in corporate media circles. This is the key trend to watch as Joe Biden assumes office.

There’s nothing I can write here that will convince the cultural left that Shapiro is a perfectly reasonable, decent human being, or that it will benefit all of us to give him a mainstream platform that allows our political discourse to reflect a realistic version of the country. That’s another conversation entirely, and it’s a difficult one.

The corporate press should know, however, that by disenfranchising Shapiro, they’re not disenfranchising the Nazi scum who actually despise him. They’re disenfranchising a wide swath of the country, and that wide swath of the country is hearing about it. It’s what makes this new crop of aggressive, unpolished Republican lawmakers attractive. For some people, it’s also what makes fringe voices attractive.

But even that’s not really the best reason the corporate press should welcome Shapiro’s contributions. He’s worth listening to because he’s smart, reasonable, and decent, and even people who hate everything about him should at least be able to concede he’s hardly a bigot.