Ben Shapiro’s fans apparently think he is very smart; it is not clear why

Nathan J. Robinson in Current Affairs:

27877116392_3cedaf9b8e_k-1024x646It’s easy to laugh, as some of us do, at the phrase “conservative intellectual.” When the most prominent public spokesmen for the right’s ideas include Milo Yiannopoulos, Charles Murray, and Dinesh D’Souza, one might conclude that the movement does not have anything serious to offer beyond “Feminism is cancer,” “Black people are dumb,” and “Democrats are Nazis.” (Those are, as I understand it, the central intellectual contributions of Yiannopoulos, Murray, and D’Souza, respectively.)

But according to the New York Times, it would be a mistake to write off Conservative Thought so hastily. For we would be overlooking one crucial figure: Ben Shapiro. Shapiro, we are told, is “the cool kid’s philosopher, dissecting arguments with a lawyer’s skill and references to Aristotle.” The Times quotes praise of Shapiro as a “brilliant polemicist” and “principled gladiator,” a quick-witted man who “reads books,” and “takes apart arguments in ways that make the conservative conclusion seem utterly logical.” Shapiro is the “destroyer of weak arguments,” he “has been called the voice of the conservative millennial movement.” He is a genuine intellectual, a man who “does not attack unfairly, stoke anger for the sake of it, or mischaracterize his opponents’ positions.” He is principled: he deplores Trump, and cares about Truth. Shapiro’s personal mantra, “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” captures his approach: he’s passionate, but he believes in following reason rather than emotion. Shapiro, then, represents the best in contemporary conservative thinking. And if the cool kids have a philosopher, it is worth examining his philosophy in some depth.

I will confess, I had not spent much time listening to or reading Ben Shapiro before reading about him in the New York Times. That might be a damning sign of my own closed-mindedness: here I am, a person who considers himself intellectually serious, and I have written off the other side without even engaging with its strongest arguments. So I decided to spend a few wearying days trawling through the Shapiro oeuvre, listening to the speeches and radio shows and reading the columns and books. If Shapiro had arguments that Destroyed and Decimated the left, I wanted to make sure I heard them. I consider myself a bit of a leftist, and I like to know when I’ve been decimated.

More here.