Right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro analyzed what he considered to be the left’s tactics in partisan politics for a crowd of about 40 at the College Republicans event Wednesday night.
“The first point is this: the unearned moral superiority of the left is how they win,” Shapiro said. “They win by looking down their nose at people on the right. If they were to argue evidence, we would actually have a rational conversation in this country and talk about what works and what doesn’t.”
For students who may experience such personal attacks while making their argument, Shapiro offered advice focusing on how to debunk the argument’s framework with an opponent, ask questions and point out inconsistencies.
Shapiro is the author of Bullies: How the Left's Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America, as well as a legal consultant and Editor-At-Large of breitbart.com.
“If you’re on a college campus having a political discussion and you’re on the right, generally it’s going to end with some accusation of racism or homophobia or bigotry or sexism and you’re going to hear phrases like check your privilege, which is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard,” Shapiro said. “It’s specifically designed to shut down debate because of course there’s no way to fight that battle.”
Shapiro explained his issue with the phrase “check your privilege” lies in what he considers an improper focus on improper focus on an individual's background rather than their argument. Related to the ideas of perceived social obstacles, Shapiro said, "If the system in America is not fair to you, work harder."
If challenged with rhetoric attacking character or skewing values in a public debate, Shapiro suggests explicitly identifying the tactics the challenger is using to frame the debate. For example, Shapiro pointed to his experience debating CNN’s Piers Morgan on gun control.
When Morgan pointed to deaths from gun violence or shootings, Shapiro saw Morgan framing the debate to his audience on CNN in an unfair way, portraying those disagreeing with Morgan’s position of increased gun control as people who do not care about the related deaths and violence. In response, Shapiro said Morgan was wrong to use deaths to push forward his political agenda and pushed for a discussion based on the merits of a policy.
Recounting prominent political examples, Shapiro demonstrated how in his view, the left have used rhetorical tactic with more political success than the Republicans. With regards to President Obama’s campaign strategy, Shapiro argued his slogans of "Hope and Change" in 2008, and in 2012, “Forward,” had broad appeal. Shapiro said Obama has had more success in making his opponents appear in opposition to such values, which are perceived as normatively good, while Republican strategies are less effective.
In the 2012 election, “It wasn’t because Barack is caring, it’s because Romney was perceived as uncaring,” Shapiro said.
The left wins, Shapiro said, “by avoiding evidence-based discussion and going straight to the character and intention of who they’re talking about. But it’s not even their real intent or real character.”
In addition to shutting down political debate, Shapiro said the left’s sense of moral superiority in its comments is unearned, especially among college students engaging in this rhetoric. “When have these kids actually done anything?” Shapiro said, arguing that most college students still rely on their parents and have not formed their own ideas in college, regurgitating lectures from the academic institution. Shapiro has discussed his perceptions of the academia’s influence in his book Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America's Youth.
While discussing partisan issues, Shapiro explained his strategy for political debate with a focus on argument rather than rhetoric and buzzwords.