Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro was invited to the late-night show of American comedian Bill Maher, Real Time with Bill Maher, where he debated with MSNBC contributor Malcolm Nance and Maher himself about both the rise of authoritarian behavior in America and the effects of Critical Race Theory in America.
Maher, who despite being a liberal has a large history of raging against “political correctness” and has invited a wide variety of conservative personalities to his show, set the stage for the fiery debate by asking Shapiro why he feels that the left’s authoritarianism, which is sustained in soft power and societal pressure, is less worrisome than the right’s lurk toward authoritarianism over the last years.
Ben Shapiro and Maher clash on authoritarianism
Maher quoted a poll where 55% of Republicans said that the traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that it might be time to use force to save it and that almost 50% of Americans think it might be time to take the law in their own hands. Maher also criticized Tucker Carlson’s interview with Viktor Orban (who has been accused of being authoritarian) and questioned how would the reaction be if Democrat politicians had met with another authoritarian leader.
Shapiro countered these points by saying that while he does not deny that there is authoritarianism on both sides of the aisle, only one possesses the institutional power. He said that for all Trump attempts to overturn the 2020 election results, not a single major American institution stood with him, while “every single major institution mobilized” in favor of the BLM protests last year.
Shapiro also countered Maher’s latter point by saying that Democrats had, in fact, met with well-known authoritarian leaders, he said that Obama had infamously held hands with Cuban dictator Raul Castro and promised a flexibilization with 20-year-old dictator Vladimir Putin, a point that Maher immediately conceded.
Before finalizing the section on authoritarianism, Shapiro said that while there has been much discussion about the threat of authoritarianism coming from the right of the spectrum, currently liberals hold all major levers of power (both institutional and social) which is why he argues that the threat for left-wing authoritarianism is more worrisome today than that coming from the right.
Maher also made a few quips against “the power of wokeness” and its effects on the real world. He said that the Defund The Police “came from wokeness”, which has caused the deaths of people, while also criticizing the New York Times for allegedly suppressing any further investigation over the lab leak theory because it was “racist”. For Maher, this type of authoritarian soft power does exist, only that he thinks it is not as dangerous as that coming from the right.
Shapiro explains CRT and its consequences
The most controversial part of the show, however, came afterward when Bill Maher introduced the issue of Critical Race Theory. Shapiro explained a summarized version of what CRT is and what it spouses, he explains that “Critical Race Theory, essentially, argues that racism is baked into all the systems of American society and that any sort of neutral system is in fact a guise for racial power”.
Shapiro continued saying that for CRT things like meritocracy, or capitalism is just power structures to keep the racial structure in power. For CRT, any type of disparity among whites and non-whites is just a sign that the system has been rigged in order to harm racial minorities, a system that whites have the moral obligation to dismantle, Shapiro explained.
Shapiro gave an example of this type of logic, saying that according to some CRT exponents, Brown V Board of Education (the decision that desegregated schools) was not a triumph of civil rights but actually “a way from the white community to leverage its own power”.
Nance said that he completely agreed with Ben’s definition of CRT as Malcolm said they are “grounded in truth” and he expanded by saying that this conception of America is not only true for Blacks but also for other minorities in the country, citing examples of acts enacted against Native Americans and Chinese Americans in the 1740s and 1840s, respectively, which are episodes of history that he argues are not being talked about.
Shapiro rebuffed that supposition, saying that it is just not true as he himself has talked about such issues. He then pointed out that Nance himself (who is a former intelligence officer) has benefited from the meritocracy and that if he wants to “condemn the meritocracy as an outgrowth of white supremacy then you will have to tear down the system that you’ve succeed in”.
Maher said that if CRT is “teaching history unabashed” or that “racism persists today” then he would be completely in favor of it, but if CRT is “making kids in school fixate in race” or “if it is a toxicity from being born white” or “dividing everyone into oppressor and oppressed” then he does not support it.
Malcolm said that CRT was a term being “hijacked” by the right in order to make the left look worse and that he is only preoccupied with teaching history, Shapiro then accused him of purposefully redefining CRT as history, a “cheap semantic trick” according to Ben.
Leaving asides the hurling insults and heated debate between Nance and Shapiro, the center of the issue remains the same: it will be up to the American people to decide if they will accept the totality of CRT tenants at face value, disregard them completely, or take a more mixed approach like Maher’s.