28 September 2021
I read The Authoritarian Moment: How the Left Weaponized America’s Institutions Against Dissent by Ben Shapiro because one of the smartest readers I know recommended that I take a chance on it. It is not my cup of tea but I tried to keep an open mind and be thoughtful about.
The question that I will pose to my friend is “what exactly did you find compelling in here” – I am very curious to know what resonated with him.
The book is not a serious book. The author throws out anecdotes to fit his desired narrative, and uses bombast in place of data to sell his story. He purposefully ignores anecdotes or data that don’t fit his story. I don’t think the author is stupid, this is all intentional, he seeks to enflame and enrage people who already agree with him, not advance the dialog about issues.
He makes much of the term “ultracrepidarianism” — criticising left-leaning “experts” who opine outside their domain, while he opines outside his domain. Consider the chapter on corporate behavior – Shapiro has not spent his career inside of corporations at the executive level – his analysis of how corporations operate is so off it is “not even wrong”. There is certainly criticism to be leveled at corporations, but being agents of the authoritarian left is not one of them! CEOs and boards are focused on the profits and quarterlies, execs are focused on their own careers and their own comp. The revolving door between gov and industry to drive regulatory capture is a real thing and it is driven by $s, not by any authoritarian left motivation. I am sure there are examples ocassionally of corporations acting in different ways, but it is not the norm or a significant theme. I suspect the other chapters on media and entertainment are just as off, but I have less experience there.
Throughout the book Shapiro repeatedly comingles the behaviour of the progressive left and the behaviour of anti-Trumpists. They are completely different motivations. He claims that anti-Trumpists “hated Trump because they hated his supporters” and this is utter rubbish. I know a lot of anti-Trumpists and they are pretty clearly focused on Trump and his coterie.
Shapiro repeatedly claims that conservative views are being stifled in society. Given the ratings of Foxnews, and given his own status as a bestselling author and a media presence with a lot of reach (which he brags about), this just isn’t supported. He and other conservatives seem to have plenty of ways to reach their audiences. He just doesn’t like the fact that not everyone wants his message.
And that is the core point – much of the book seems like whining. People are judging him, people aren’t listening to him, boo hoo hoo. In the last chapter, he quits being a whiney bucket, and talks about taking matters into his own hands, and creating media content and media platforms that are aligned with his politics. And I say bravo, this is what he should do, and is free to do. He and his allies should get their stories and views out in as compelling fashion as they can and find an audience. May the best ideas carry the day. He should work on more compelling ideas to bring forward, and spend less time on whining.