I invited Ben Shapiro onto the Justin Brady Show for a discussion about his new book, The Right Side of History. Shapiro is the editor of The Daily Wire, Host of The Ben Shapiro Show and has amassed an impressive following as a conservative pundit and personality. You’re probably familiar with the thousands of viral videos of him publicly debating a very wide range of hot-button cultural issues.
We discussed God being replaced by government, why people blame mysterious dark forces for their problems, the growing victim problem in life and business, and why both sides of the aisle have lost hope for success. I also asked about his recent interview with Andrew Neil on BBC, why he made the call to end it early and his funny tweet after it happened.
Listen to the full interview with Ben Shapiro
Full Transcript of My Ben Shapiro Interview
Justin Brady: Welcome to The Justin Brady show. My guest today is Ben Shapiro, author of the Right Side of History and editor of the Daily Wire and host of The Ben Shapiro Show.
Justin Brady: Ben, thank you so much for joining me. I appreciate it.
Ben Shapiro: Hey, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Justin Brady: I’ve seen you knock down giants, and indeed that’s your brand. It’s just an unmovable brand. I got to ask though the interview on Andrew Neil on BBC, what was different about this, and does it negatively impact that just unshakeable Ben Shapiro brand? And I should say I’m a big fan, by the way.
Ben Shapiro: Yeah. I mean, I think people are going to think of my brand whatever they think of my brand. I hope that I’m honest enough, even about my own failings that when I do a job that I think is subpar, that I admit it, which is why I went on Twitter and said, “I think that I did a poor job in this interview.” I think what really happened is I got wrong-footed. I kind of was not expecting it. That’s my own fault. I mean, that’s the fault of my team. I didn’t know who Andrew Neil was. I never heard of him, and that’s apparent from the interview. And so I sort of took the interview from the angle of, okay, here’s a BBC objective journalist, supposedly, whose producers are telling me, producers, that this is going to be effectively a cordial interview about the book. And his first question calls the pro-life position effectively barbaric and dark ages, and so I assumed, just like I would with any U.S. reporter, that this was a person who was on the social left who was masquerading as an objective reporter. And so I asked him questions from that point of view.
Ben Shapiro: Eventually the interview, it became clear that he was engaging not really in interviewing but more in character assassination, drudging up old stuff. And I basically, at that point, abided by a rule that I’ve told people for literally years in all of my speeches, which is if somebody’s involved in character assassination, if they’re not actually interested in talking about what your beliefs are, your philosophies, policies, if they’re not interested in any of this, if it’s just a bunch of gotcha crap from 10 years ago, then that’s a character assault, and there’s no reason for you to stick around for it.
Ben Shapiro: So I feel bad for mislabeling him on the left, even though I think that on abortion he clearly was making comments that were pretty vicious about the pro-life movement. And I feel bad that I got defensive because I felt like I was under attack because frankly, I was. So that I feel bad about.
Ben Shapiro: As far as walking away from the interview, I don’t feel bad about that in the slightest. I mean, it was pretty obvious what his agenda was or it became obvious to me what his agenda was, and that was character assassination. And I think it’s a perfectly appropriate response when somebody is assassinating your character. Not discussing politics but trying to dredge up every bad thing you’ve ever said, even though I’ve written a column that lists all the bad things I’ve ever said, even though I’m happy to apologize for things I think that are bad. If somebody is interested only in asking a bunch of gotcha questions, refusing to listen to the answers, then at that point the interview is useless. There’s no point to it anymore.
Ben Shapiro: So I don’t feel bad for a second about having walked away from it. Listen, when I said that I thought the interview was badly motivated, I did. That said, did he successfully ambush me, of course. Should I have prepped better? You bet.
Justin Brady: No, and you make a good point. First time I saw the interview, I was like horrified. But then you do bring up a good point, which is you’ve already addressed this stuff in the past over and over and over again. You’ve written it down, and I want to give you credit because it did not take long at all for you even to tweet out the own meme. Like Andrew Neil destroys Ben Shapiro, which I give you a lot of credit for, and it was actually pretty darn funny.
Ben Shapiro: I mean, again, the fact is that when you make the mistake of getting into the ring without knowing who your opponent is, then you sort of deserve what you get. And I think that that’s basically what happened there. As you say, not only is there that giant list, I mean, in the interview itself he asks me about all of these things. I tried to answer them to the best of my ability, and then he refuses to listen to the answers. And he tries to keep doubling down on that. At a certain point, it’s clear. This is not an interview that is about elucidating ideas or even elucidating my positions. This is an interview about going back through history, trying to make somebody look as bad as possible. Apparently, that’s one of his shticks. I didn’t know that. But, again, more credit to him for being able to pull it off.
Justin Brady: Well, I guess if it makes you feel any better, I had no idea who he was either. Let’s get to some ideas then. I think we have a growing victim problem in the country, and I don’t really think it’s linked to any specific group. Writers these days are on the hunt like part of their job, or at least freelance writers for the Huffington Post, is to find the wrong and find the victim in even the most positive stories. But even business leaders I’ve interviewed in the past on my own podcast are explaining one of the biggest challenges they face is the belief they are the victim. Business leaders are the victims of the economy, poor engagement, those darn millennials, low work ethic and all that crap. So I mean, do we have a victim problem, and is it rising far beyond politic spheres and beyond politic or social groups?
Ben Shapiro: Well, I mean, listen, I think there’s certain policies that obviously historically have victimized particular groups. Jim Crow comes to mind, and their policies now, they victimize particular people. That would be anti-business policies, for example, inside business regulations. So if you feel like a regulation is jacking you, I don’t think that’s totally unjustified, but in the freest country in the history of the world and the most prosperous country in the history of the world. If you’re spending the vast majority of your time blaming your problems not on a specific policy but on some sort of shadowy force beyond your control, I think that’s self-defeating, and I think that it’s actually pretty ungrateful. The reality is in a free country, the vast majority of your life is under your own control. And the decisions you make are the ones that are most likely to bring you success or failure.
Justin Brady: Right. So is there a view then that success just can’t be accomplished? Again, I see this on both sides getting a handout is the only way forward. Of course, Republicans like to focus on corporate standpoint, corporate welfare and the fact that success cannot be achieved unless I get some kind of handout, and Democrats usually go the more social standpoint. So are both sides these days, maybe to prove the point or at least enforce the point of your book. Are both sides facing a kind of hopelessness and loss of the American dream?
Ben Shapiro: I mean, I think that that has been inculcated. I think politicians pander to it. I think that, look, a politician is only going to be as strong as the feeling behind the politician that the politician can solve your problems for you. So if the politician is unwilling to say that he can solve your problems, you’re unlikely to elect him. It’s in the interest of politicians and the media to tell you about all the problems in your life. You’re not to blame, it’s everybody else who’s to blame, and we’re here to defend you. We’re here to solve your problems. The truth is, as I say, the vast majority of problems that people have are generally their own fault, and that’s true across all lines. I mean, that’s true when it comes to personal life, it’s true when it comes to raising children. There are issues that are beyond your control. That doesn’t mean they’re somebody else’s fault. There are issues that are beyond your control. Maybe they’re beyond everybody’s control. But most issues that impact your life on a daily basis are really issues that you should be looking first and foremost inward and say, “How can I solve this?” And that’s a values problem. I don’t think it’s really a political problem.
Justin Brady: Is it as simple as people don’t want to take the blame and they want to blame someone else, or is that an oversimplification?
Ben Shapiro: Nah. I think that’s fair. I mean, I would say we want to blame other forces. It’s not always other people. Very often it’s not other people. That’s sort of the problem. If you want to blame an individual for your own suffering, then we can all objectively verify whether that individual is in fact responsible for your suffering. If you want to blame shadowy forces, institutional racism, sexism on a broad level, if you want to blame bigotry on a broad level or economic malaise, none of these things are able to be pegged down to actual policy or actual people. You’re fighting ghosts at that point. You become Don Quixote after the windmill, and that is counterproductive. If you’re fighting ghosts, the chances that you win are nil.
Justin Brady: More with Ben Shapiro up next on The Justin Brady Show.
Justin Brady: Welcome back to The Justin Brady Show, everybody. I’m still joined with Ben Shapiro. We want to get back into where we left off. Speaking about hopelessness in business and people not wanting to take responsibility for their actions. I often hear people say, “Good help is hard to find these days. We just can’t find good help. Millennials are motivated.” Basically, the overall idea that we can’t find… There are no good employees, and then I drive up to Chic-fil-a, and I see a bunch of amazing employees. It’s got to be leadership, right? It comes back to the leaders.
Ben Shapiro: Well, again, look, I think that it is fair to say that sometimes it’s hard to find good employees. I mean, I run a business, and some employees are great, and some employees are not so great. But in the end, you’re the one who’s going to have to choose. And there are a lot of very qualified people, people who are hard workers. I do think that when it comes to the employment market, we need to re-invocate in the potential employees the fact that you’re not owed anything. I think that there are a lot of millennials that seem to feel that they’re owed something because they have a college degree or that there are a lot of millennials that feel, “I don’t have to move for a job. The country owes something to me.” And that’s not just millennials. I think that there are a lot of Americans that feel that way. In other words, if an employer is angry because they feel entitled to something from the employees, very often this works the same way from the other side. Employees feel like they are owed something by the world, but employers are not willing to give them.
Ben Shapiro: A successful marriage is based on low expectations of your spouse. You marry somebody that you trust so that you don’t have to expect anything of them because you trust them. Well, the same thing needs to hold true of society. It needs to hold true of your employees. You hire somebody because you trust they’re going to be able to do the job, and your employee has to trust that you are not going to screw them. That is based on the social fabric that I think unfortunately is sometimes in decay.
Justin Brady: No, I agree with that. We talk a lot about trust a ton. Listening and empathy and trust are I think the three core ideas behind great leadership. So is this then one expectation millennials, younger workers entering the workforce should have? Is there one expectation they should have, which is to be generally trusted to do their job?
Ben Shapiro: Well, I mean, I think that they certainly should be trusted to do their job, and if they don’t, they should be fired. This is the beauty of a free market.
Justin Brady: No, no, no. I mean, employees to owners. Is that the one thing that they should feel they are owed is trust, at least to start off?
Ben Shapiro: I mean, at least initially. At least initially, you’re owed the trust of your employer to do your job, and then obviously the employer… It’s a “trust but verify” situation. But, again, I think that if people feel that they are not trusted, they are likely to be bad employees in the first place. So it’s incumbent on employers to at least give an initial level of trust, and by the same token, it’s on employees to perform up to that level of trust if they wish to be trusted going forward.
Justin Brady: Yeah, I think that’s well put. Francis Schaeffer, I’m not sure if you’re a Schaeffer fan. I’m a big Francis Schaeffer fan. But he explains men are keenly aware of how alone they are in the universe. And there’s this really cool anecdote he gives about Charlie Chaplin when Charlie Chaplin hears that there was no conscious beings, no life on Mars. He says, “I feel lonely.” So Schaeffer, like many others, argues that we have this inner need for a superior being and because God is… Because no one can have God [with sarcasm] — God can’t be there, has the government become a god? Does this explain why U.S. citizens lose their mind on both sides… Why U.S. citizens lose their minds and act like children when we try to limit or reduce that God in any capacity?
Ben Shapiro: Yeah. I mean, I think that most people look to government to solve all of their problems. In the same way they would look to God to solve all of their problems. That’s a serious issue. If you’re looking to government to solve the problem of you made an irresponsible decision and that’s your own fault, then you’re doing it wrong. You’re making yourself a worse person in the process. If you’re always looking to somebody else to clean up after your toys, you’re never going to learn to clean your own toys. We do see government as the solution to all our problems, including problems that are fully insolvable, insoluble. We’ll have a situation where there’s a mass shooting, and the first move is always, “What government policy can we pursue?” Well, maybe there’s a government policy that we can pursue, but what if there isn’t? Is it really true that government is capable of cracking down on 330 million people to the extent that they know every move that you make? Probably unlikely. There is stuff that government can do better, but the idea that government is capable of preventing all harm every day for hundreds of millions of people is obviously chimera, it’s just not true.
Justin Brady: I got to ask about this just bizarre social pushback that you get a lot of, a lot of nasty comments, a lot of really bizarre comments. Does this realistically shape anyone’s opinion? It just keeps heating up. People keep tweeting out things that are ridiculous. Does this kind of junk actually change anyone’s opinion or is it just fellow insane people? I see tons of it. It’s insane.
Ben Shapiro: Yeah, well, I mean, I do feel like Twitter is full of insane people, which doesn’t say a lot about me since I’m on it so much of the time. But when it comes to whether rhetoric can shape people’s opinions, yes. But I think unfortunately the rhetoric that is most likely to shape people’s opinions is exactly the kind that is character based. So people are most likely to fall for the line that if you disagree with my policy, it’s because you’re a bad person, which is why politicians use it so often. It’s also the reason why I think that is operating in bad faith when you’re having a conversation with somebody to suggest that this person is a bad person. If you truly believe that a person is a bad person, then you shouldn’t interview them in the first place. If you want to hear about political differences or differences in political philosophy, then you should interview them and you should explore ideas. And that’s a productive thing. But if you’re going to spend… If you are going to engage on Twitter and the only engagement you’re having on Twitter is everybody that I disagree with is an evil, terrible, horrible human being. Maybe that’s an effective tactic but it certainly isn’t making the country any better.
Justin Brady: Well, no. It’s definitely not making the country any better. I don’t know if you agree with this, but it does seem to work. And that’s what I can’t wrap my mind around.
Ben Shapiro: It certainly works. It’s effective. It’s going to take a lot of people, a lot of self-control not to engage in that and to forcibly disavow it. And listen, I’m not innocent in that. I don’t think anyone in politics is really innocent in that. And this also doesn’t mean that we can’t use charge language with regard to ideas. I think charged language with regard to ideas is very often not only useful but correct. I mean, I think that AOC’s Green New Deal is garbage, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. Does that mean that I think AOC is herself a bad human being? No. I don’t know AOC. I mean, she might be a perfectly nice human being. I think that she is ignorant on policy, but the converse is that AOC thinks everybody who disagrees with her is a badly motivated human being who wants to see the world burst into flame.
Justin Brady: Right. I mean, I’ve had this discussion several times with people. I think Barack Obama when he was president, I have this conversation over and over again. I think Barack Obama gets up every morning and wants to see the country do well. I honestly think that. Do I agree with the way he’s doing it? No. But I don’t think he gets up and wants to screw the country over as some of my Republican friends would claim all the time. It’s ridiculous.
Ben Shapiro: Well, again, I think that when it comes to Barack Obama, I don’t think that Barack Obama is a bad person. I disagree with him a lot on policy. I think a lot of his philosophy is really perverse. I think that his perception of what makes the country better is a bad perception of what makes the country better, and I don’t think that’s an argument in favor of his policies. But do I think that he is in and of himself a person who is free of character? No. I don’t think that at all. He seems like a guy who has a lot of character. I disagree with him when it comes to his philosophy because I think that his philosophy is dangerous.
Justin Brady: So most of the times the attacks that we see, just the people that kind of challenge who are coming from the left. But reading through your book, you don’t attack the left. You attack both sides. You point out very glaring problems in both sides. But why don’t I see the right attacking or harboring any animosity against you, or am I not just seeing it?
Ben Shapiro: Well, I mean, there are certainly some that crops up on the right. But I think that the reality is that people construct boxes and then they place you in the box. And once you’re in the box, it’s very hard for people to perceive anything outside the box. So because I am conservative and because the left has made the mistake of conflating all conservatives with the alt-right as The Economist did or suggesting that they are Neo-Nazis or racists or bigots or sexists or any of the rest of the stuff. Now you no longer have to deal with them as human beings. I told this sort of anecdote a lot. I have many friends who are on the left in journalism, and very often when something bad happens to them, I will tweet out in their support, or when they have a birthday, I will tweet out, “Happy Birthday.” When something happens in my life, very often I will get texts from these people. I have yet to hear any of these people tweet out publicly in support or even say, “Happy Birthday,” because that would be acknowledging humanity. They don’t want the blowback. That is a serious problem, and I find it unfortunate obviously.
Justin Brady: Right because it’s a lot of intellectual work if I have to relate to you as a human being. It’s much easier for me, and not saying for me personally, but it’s much easier- [crosstalk 00:16:36]
Ben Shapiro: Generally, yes.
Justin Brady: Yeah. Exactly. To just write someone off and say, “Oh, that’s a difficult opinion they have. I don’t agree with it. I could either relate to them as a human being or I can completely write them off.” And the only justification you have to write someone off is to just label them the worst thing in your grab bag of worse things I guess.
Justin Brady: Before I let you go, you often discuss a lot of really contentious, a lot of difficult things. But I want to know, what is the Ben Shapiro utopian thing? What is the Ben Shapiro utopian state of the United States? What does that look like?
Ben Shapiro: I mean, the utopian state of the United States is the eternal founding vision of what I think is the American civilization, which is leave me alone, and we have a functioning and beautiful social fabric in which we care of each other outside the auspices of government because that’s the only way we’re going to have a functioning society anyway. If you start looking to government to cram down your vision of the good, you are going to end up shattering the most diverse and good society in the history of mankind.
Justin Brady: Mr. Ben Shapiro, author of the Right Side of History, where is the best place for everyone to go and buy that book?
Ben Shapiro: Oh, you can go check out the book anywhere Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble. It’s available at all the bookstores. Obviously, it’s a big, bestseller, thank god. And you can check out all my work both at Twitter and Daily Wire.
Justin Brady: Author of The Right Side of History, editor of the Daily Wire, and host of The Ben Shapiro Show. Mr. Ben Shapiro, thank you so much for giving me and all the WHO Radio listeners some time today. I truly appreciate it.
Ben Shapiro: Okay. Thanks so much.
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Photo Courtesy Ben Shapiro and The Daily Wire.