What is there to gain from having Ben Shapiro on your platform of choice? Is it the possibility that he shares his appearance with his audience, and hopefully some of that traffic drips down to you? Is that tradeoff worth it? On the latest episode of his podcast for The Ringer, Larry Wilmore chose to have the Islamophobic agitator on to plug his book and engage in debate, and the hourlong conversation didn’t even go anywhere. It was pointless!
As Wilmore says at the beginning of the interview, Shapiro was on because Wilmore was previously on Shapiro’s podcast. (The economy of podcasting hosting and guesting is shameless to me, even more so than for late-night talk shows, but everyone else seems fine with it.) The man who was mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette’s favorite Twitter follow will take any publicity he can get, even if three years ago he called Wilmore “the second Unfunniest Human on Comedy Central,” and wrote that Barack Obama was a disgrace who was “polarizing America along racial lines” because the president laughed after the comedian called him “my nigga” in a punchline at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Shapiro’s happy with any opportunity that allows him to be presented as an opposing yet reasonable view on something, even when that thing doesn’t necessitate one. For example, take the Equal Rights Amendment. This was at about the 30-minute mark of the episode:
SHAPIRO: I don’t mean to press on the Moral Majority thing, except that I think that it’s important to recognize how reactionary our politics are.
WILMORE: Mhm. That I do agree with. Politics are ultimately reactionary.
SHAPIRO: And that’s why—I think you can pick almost any time in American history and, if you’re living in it, it feels very polarized. And then you look back and go, “That wasn’t that polarized.”
WILMORE: Right. Part of that has to do with nostalgia.
SHAPIRO: Well, that too. But I think that the Moral Majority was a reaction to the Equal Rights Amendment, where people thought they were going to obliterate male and female bathrooms, which of course is now an issue. There was a fear that the law was going to demand—
WILMORE: Because God forbid we put in the Constitution that women are equal to men. That’s gonna blow up everything.
SHAPIRO: Well no, it was the consequences of putting that in. Meaning, how do you then determine if there’s not 50 percent of firefighters who are male and 50 percent who are female—
WILMORE: No, no, no. A lot of these arguments that were made, by even Phyllis Schlafly at the time, were ridiculous. Because the Equal Rights Amendment was so simple. The language was very simple in it.
SHAPIRO: But the problem is that once you encode that—no, it’s the ramifications—
WILMORE: No. But the reason why I have to stop you is—the fact that there would be a problem with saying that women and men should be treated equally under the Constitution is ridiculous.
SHAPIRO: Well, I’ll give you a perfect example of how the aspirational idea—an idea with which I agree—that does not necessarily play out legally, the way you might want them to play out. Let’s take, for example, the so-called wage gap. So, how do you determine how much of the wage gap is due to sexism and how much of it is due to natural inclinations in differences between men and women? Right? Women take different jobs than men. They take less dangerous jobs than men. They work fewer hours than men on average. They want to take more time off from the workforce on average, to take care of kids. They move in and out of the workforce in a different way. When my wife had a baby, she was in medical school. She took off a year. I took off a week. Right? I mean, that was something she wanted to do. In fact, the gender gap is bigger in countries that are supposedly more progressive, like Norway and Sweden, because women have more choices. So, if you have in the Constitution that men and women are to be treated exactly the same under the law, how do you—now somebody sues, and they say, “Okay, I’m being paid less than a man.” Is the presumption that they are being treated with sexism, or is the presumption that there are differences between men and women? That’s not clear from—
WILMORE: I would say that’s why we have courts to decide these things, right? And also, a lot of people don’t realize, how do you get to that point? How do you get to the point of needing an Equal Rights Amendment? A lot of people forget those types of things. How do you get to the point of needing a civil rights legislation?
SHAPIRO: Well, but here’s the point—
WILMORE: But, Ben—
SHAPIRO: We didn’t need a Civil Rights—I mean, not—we didn’t need an Equal Rights Amendment. Women are the majority of college students. Women in major cities, fresh out of college, are earning more than men, according to a Time magazine study from 2010. So, it didn’t happen. Women are not subservient in our society. Women have a better track, economically, than men do, if they don’t drop out of the workforce and have babies. So, that amendment never happened. Women aren’t under the heel. This is one of those areas where the attempt to codify things in government may not actually be necessary, even if—again, I agree that women should be paid the same for the same work.
At this point, the discussion has become excruciating and meaningless. Shapiro’s citing a nine-year-old study he read about in a magazine to argue that women have it pretty good. What he left out is that this is only the case for women in major cities who are unmarried and childless—that is to say, they have no families and devote themselves wholly to their jobs. That’s not a sign of progress; that’s depressing. But to Shapiro, it proves women should be paid less since they have babies and take time off, and since it came from a study, the cool kid’s philosopher can pretend he has an argument based in evidence.
Wilmore isn’t prepared to dispute it—why would he have researched a nine-year-old study that’s not relevant to the topic at hand?—so the takeaway for The Ringer’s audience is that Ben Shapiro has a reasonable argument, when he’s actually a drawstring toy with four superficial talking points who relies on his talking speed to “win” an argument, and will get tilted if anyone rebuts him with direct questions. Shapiro relitigates anything if given the chance, and Wilmore gave him an hour on a podcast. Here’s a snippet of the conversation immediately following the part above:
WILMORE: Also, because of the resilience of women, it doesn’t mean that there should be a constitutional language that expresses this, when there was explicit language supporting men, especially white men, as we know, in those days where it didn’t have women, and wanting to be included in that—
SHAPIRO: Well, I mean, “All men are created equal” did not, was never intended to mean just men.
WILMORE: Of course it did.
SHAPIRO: This is a fundamental question, as to whether you think that that principle was meant to include all people or if it was meant to include a particular subset.
WILMORE: Well, of course it did.
Who the fuck at The Ringer approved this? If you work there, please let me know.