A couple of days ago, BuzzFeed, acting true to its nature, published a story claiming that a guy named Nolan Brewer, who has just received a three-year sentence for painting swastikas on a synagogue, became a anti-Semite, in part, by reading the writings of Ben Shapiro which led him to the neo-nazi website Stormfront. This, one has to admit, is quite an accomplishment for an Orthodox Jew. (See Buzzfeed News Links Ben Shapiro To Nazism And Confusion Abounds.)
BuzzFeed got dragged over this and eventually tweeted out a begrudging non-retraction:
We have deleted this tweet because it was inaccurate: the man told prosecutors his road to radicalization included his wife reading Ben Shapiro, Breitbart News, and the Nazi propaganda site Stormfront. pic.twitter.com/MOQdVMHffn
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) May 27, 2019
That didn’t put an end to it.
First, you’ll note, it whether Brewer read Shapiro and became “radicalized” or his wife read Shapiro and became “radicalized” and subsequently “radicalized” her husband is a distinction, and a libel, without a difference. They are the same thing. This was slung back at Shapiro, for instance:
Then some mainstream publications picked up the same theme. This is how the Washington Post’s Katie Miller covers the story:
[Nolan Brewer’s defense attorney Samuel] Ansell argued that Brewer’s radicalization was heavily influenced by what his wife, who was 17 at the time of the crime, had been reading online. “According to Nolan, she began with rightwing yet mainstream views such as those presented on Fox News,” Ansell’s sentencing memo said. “She then moved on to writings by Ben Shapiro and articles on Breitbart News which bridged the gap to the notorious white supremacist and anti-Semitic propaganda site Stormfront.”
Nolan Brewer “bought into the propaganda,” Ansell wrote.
Shapiro is a leading conservative voice among millennials, a Harvard Law graduate with millions of social media followers. He has criticized President Trump but upholds many of the same views as the conservatives who support the president do — including outlawing abortion, repealing the Affordable Care Act and cutting taxes for the wealthy. He previously worked for Breitbart News.
This case is not the first time that Shapiro’s name has been cited by those accused of hate-motivated crimes.
In the month before Alexandre Bissonnette attacked a Quebec City mosque in 2017, killing six people and injuring 19, he visited Shapiro’s Twitter feed 93 times, according to evidence presented at Bissonnette’s sentencing hearing.
Shapiro has previously claimed that the majority of Muslims are radicalized, a false assertion citing math that was later debunked by PunditFact, a fact-checking publication run by Poynter.
This is typical stuff that Ben Smith’s nasty little cyber-tabloid frequently pulls. The idea that you’re going to become “radicalized” from reading either Breitbart or Shapiro is so bizarre one can’t credit the idea that this is an accident rather than a deliberate injection of “stray voltage” into the conversation. Stray voltage is the term that Obama adviser David Plouffe used to describe the tossing of highly charged, even if obviously false, statement into the national discussion gives credence to a discredited idea:
This is the White House theory of “Stray Voltage.” It is the brainchild of former White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe, whose methods loom large long after his departure. The theory goes like this: Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or marginalized ideas in the public consciousness.
That’s exactly what is happening here. BuzzFeed made a scurrilous and ridiculous allegation tying center-right outlets and figures to Stormfront and thence to vandalizing synagogue. Everyone involved had to know it was false and malicious but so long as it serves the cause, who cares? Right? Oddly enough, this method of attack something left and the Never Trump people share. Now we aren’t discussing the douchebaggery of BuzzFeed, we’re actually discussing the possibility that Shapiro’s orthodox conservatism served as a gateway to turning a couple of socially dislocated young people into anti-Semitic vandals.
Notorious Nazi Leader Ben Shapiro Outed As Jewhttps://t.co/NegoehwtY9
— The Babylon Bee (@TheBabylonBee) May 27, 2019