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Commentary: Ben Shapiro is entitled to free speech, too — even if it criticizes Candace Owens
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Commentary: Ben Shapiro is entitled to free speech, too — even if it criticizes Candace Owens

Yesterday, Jason Whitlock penned a column attacking Ben Shapiro for a number of things that Ben did not say. The column accused Ben, unfairly, of not supporting free speech — or worse, possibly being more loyal to Israel than to free speech. The criticisms leveled against Shapiro are unfair and unfounded in fact.

To begin with, Shapiro is accused of being "united in animus" with a number of other people, including "ultra-BLM black elites," against Kyrie Irving. I confess that I am at a loss to understand what Kyrie Irving has done to deserve being white-knighted by many on the right, other than refusing to take the vaccine. Other than his refusal to take the vaccine, Irving is and always has been a pro-social-justice liberal and an ardent supporter of the very Black Lives Matter movement that Whitlock frequently pans. Irving took the lead in urging NBA players to refuse to return to play in the wake of George Floyd's death and publicly blasted the decision not to charge the officer who shot Jacob Blake, even after enough evidence came out to convince any person who was paying attention that Blake's shooting was thoroughly justified.

I am also at a loss as to why the single fact of Irving's refusal to take the vaccine merits such a vociferous defense of Irving's completely unrelated decision to promote a documentary that is, by his own admission, offensive to Jewish people as a whole and filled with things that are not true. I get the impulse, in the modern times in which we live, to assume that virtually every accusation of racism is false, given how often the accusation is thrown around without merit.

But no matter how many times people falsely cry "wolf," it's dangerous to start believing that there's no such thing as a wolf. Whether the documentary is boring or not has nothing to do with whether it is dangerous. The reality is this: Throughout history, Jewish people have faced persecution that has been justified by a number of oft-repeated and unjustified tropes, one of which is that they are guilty of "dual loyalty," under which they are accused of valuing either their allegiance to Israel or to some hidden Jewish agenda over their loyalty to their home country or its ideals or principles. We are not talking about being overly sensitive about hurt feelings here: Real, actual Jewish people have been killed en masse, displaced from their homes, and removed from their jobs on the basis of this rhetoric. But more on that later.

Returning to Shapiro and the issue at hand, the first fact to note is this: Missing from Whitlock's column is any evidence at all that Shapiro has any animus toward Irving. Nor is there any quoted evidence that Shapiro would "hate Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali," as the column claims. Shapiro is not quoted anywhere in the column displaying animus toward Kyrie Irving, X, or Ali or even saying anything about those men at all. In fact, the column contains an implicit admission that there is no actual evidence that Shapiro has either animus or hatred toward Irving, X, or Ali, as it says, "Any distaste Ben Shapiro, an orthodox Jew and establishment conservative, might have for X and Ali would make perfect sense" (emphasis added).

This raises the question: Is there any evidence at all that Shapiro actually hates any of these three individuals, or is the entire column based on distaste that he might or might not have, for all anyone knows? If the evidence does exist, we are left to wonder what it might be, because it isn't even mentioned in passing, which seems like a bizarre omission for a column titled "Ben Shapiro and ultra-BLM black elites united in animus toward Kyrie Irving, Muhammad Ali, and Malcolm X."

What the column does provide evidence of is that Shapiro criticized Candace Owens — a television personality who was offered a show at the company Shapiro founded — for retweeting anti-Israel liberal Max Blumenthal. Because he did this, an accusation of dual loyalty is leveled against Shapiro, including the completely unfounded claim that Shapiro "could very well value Israel above free speech."

Not only is this claim unfounded, it is contradicted by Shapiro's entire public career. It is a tired and dangerous canard leveled at Jewish people who support the right of the state of Israel to exist. The sole evidence offered in support of the explosive charge that Shapiro has insufficient loyalty to free speech is that he criticized Candace Owens. So, I guess, if Candace Owens tweets her opinion, that constitutes free speech — but if Shapiro tweets that he disagrees with Candace Owens, that constitutes evidence that he does not believe in free speech? What a bizarre point of view.

The way free speech works is that people have the right to express their opinions, and then other people have the right to peacefully express disagreement with those opinions.

Which is exactly what Shapiro did. He didn't call the cops on Candace Owens. He didn't report her to the DHS for "disinformation." He didn't seek to make her unemployable. In fact, the company he founded continues to sign her paychecks. He expressed his disagreement with her. That's it. That isn't evidence of disloyalty to free speech; that's an exercise of free speech.

For good measure, Shapiro is accused of engaging in a "deplatforming strategy" against Owens and called a "deplatformer ... on the right." Again, at the risk of stating the obvious, Candace Owens' current largest platform is at the company founded by Ben Shapiro. She's still there today, tweeting about how everything is still great between her and the Daily Wire. When it comes to Candace Owens, Ben Shapiro is the opposite of a deplatformer.

Words mean things, and the word "deplatform" should not be thrown around without justification. The charge is a rhetorical nuclear weapon on the right, where everyone knows someone who has been kicked out of the public square for wrongthink and made unable to make a living on the internet — or sometimes even to interact with family and friends on Facebook or Twitter. That's what being deplatformed means. And Ben Shapiro has in no way done that to Candace Owens. In fact, he's done the opposite. All he's done is criticize her. Throwing the word around and twisting it to mean that everyone who's been criticized by another person has been deplatformed cheapens the very real pain that people who have actually been deplatformed can feel and makes the accusation carry less weight when it is real and true.

Finally, the accusations that Shapiro is an idolator of "power and money" who is afraid to get "crossways with global corporations" is likewise both unfounded and contradicted by Shapiro's entire public career. A casual perusal of Shapiro's Twitter feed immediately reveals attacks on the Coca-Cola Company, Amazon, Nike, Disney ... the list could go on virtually forever. If Shapiro has cowardice toward large multinational corporations, he sure has picked a bizarre way of displaying it.

The sole evidence offered that Shapiro is afraid of getting crossways with global corporations is, again, that he criticized Candace Owens. However, there exists a different, equally plausible reason that Shapiro criticized Candace Owens: Perhaps, just perhaps, he actually disagreed with her. In the absence of any evidence at all that a person is speaking from ulterior motives or has a habit of speaking from a certain ulterior motive, I find that it's generally best to assume that people say things because they mean them, not because of reasons I have invented in my head, particularly when the reasons I have invented are contrary to all of their public actions.

The same thing could be said about the unjustified accusation that Shapiro got the vaccine and initially refused to support Donald Trump out of fear. I don't know Ben Shapiro personally. We've traded tweets, but beyond that I don't really know him from Adam. I am pretty sure we have never met in person, in spite of the fact that we live in the same metropolitan area. I don't, however, have evidence that he is a pathological liar or a coward, so when he says things, I tend to believe that he says them because he believes them (whether I agree with them or not). I do that because that's how I like to be treated. I seem to recall that being a rather central tenet of the faith in God that Whitlock referred to in his column.

Last week, Jason took exception to people who accused him of anti-Semitism without knowing what was in his heart or his mind when he wrote a particular tweet. On the basis of much less evidence, he has accused Ben Shapiro, on the basis of a tweet, of being disloyal to free speech and a coward.

I don't agree with everything Ben does. But I do know that in general, he is in the same trench with Whitlock, fighting for the same things. He deserves better than the unjustified accusations that were thrown at him — whether he disagrees with Candace Owens or not.

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Leon Wolf

Leon Wolf

Managing Editor, News

Leon Wolf is the managing news editor for Blaze News.
@LeonHWolf →