During the Q&A after his recent speech at the University of Buffalo, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro had a wonderful dialogue with a young liberal woman who started by asking him if his speeches and public discourse incited violence. The discussion ranged from that issue to a discussion of the trans and homosexual communities and Shapiro’s view that transgenderism was a mental illness that was tragic for those who suffered from it. The full exchange is below:
Young woman: So you’ve come out against the rioters in Charlottesville and all their violence and bigotry.
Young woman: The leaders of the Charlottesville rally were empowered by the rhetoric and agenda if Donald Trump and a lot of his associates as they’ve come out, as a Vice documentary claimed. You’ve not only said controversial things, but you’ve had a couple of attacks against the trans community, transphobic attacks; even your call for the transfer of Palestinians, which I don’t know if you’ve redacted that —
Shapiro: Yeah, I redacted that eight, nine years ago,
Young woman: I just wanted to make sure; I just wanted to ask you. (Turning to crowd) I’m just learning about Ben.
Shapiro: No, really, that’s fine. That’s fine.
Young woman: Even with that, do you feel that a lot of your speech can incite the same kind of violence?
Shapiro: You heard my speech tonight. Do you feel that my speech can incite violence? I mean that seriously. That’s an honest question.
Young woman: I know you’re asking honestly. I feel that, for me, as an individual, it isn’t, but I could see how a lot of your points I really disagree with. (Indicating her cellphone) I literally have a list of questions I have for you.
Shapiro: And that’s fine; that’s the good part, right? Where we disagree and we can have a conversation.
Young woman: I just was wondering — what I mean by inciting violence is encouraging the same people who believe in like, your transphobic beliefs, even that like homophobia is a sin, based on your religious beliefs, do you believe that because of what you say you can encourage a lot of people to act on those beliefs?
Shapiro: So, I have a very strong standard with regard to incitement, and I’m very consistent about this. If I’m not telling somebody to commit violence, I am not inciting them to violence. I’ve held this standard for Barack Obama, when he was saying anti-police things, and then somebody went and shot up some police officers in Dallas; I said that’s not Barack Obama’s fault; when a Bernie Sanders supporter went and shot up a congressional baseball game, I said that’s not Bernie Sanders’ fault because Bernie Sanders wasn’t calling for that.
Political debate requires that you talk to people, and people take your words as what they mean, not as an excuse to go and do violence. I’ve never called for violence, nor would I. As far as the idea that my words are some sort of attack, a violent attack, for example, on folks who are transgender, my view —
Young woman: I’m not saying —
Shapiro: I know; I’m responding to the people who are not you who might say that. The idea that I am transphobic, for example; this is a bizarre kind of attack, in the sense that I don’t know that I’ve ever exhibited phobia of trans people; I’m not afraid of trans people.
Young woman:: Well, transphobia is more along the lines of disagreeing, well, prejudice against the trans community —
Shapiro: I actually think that your first characterization was right. I think that transphobia is really disagreement with the basic principle that the trans community is trying to purvey, which is people’s sex is malleable, that people can move from male to female and that it is my job, objectively, to call them the name they wish to be called and to teach my children that men can be women and women can be men. I fundamentally disagree with at point.
Now, with that said, is everybody in the United States entitled to the same rights? Of course. But your right does not extend to forcing me to call you what you want me to call you. That’s not the way this works. That violates my freedom of speech.
So in interpersonal relationships, if I were out to dinner with a trans person, would I make a point of noting their proper biological sex? No, because that would be impolite. When I’m talking about the general principle of is a man a woman or is a woman a man, the answer is, I will say that a man is a man and a woman is a woman and a he is a he and a she is a she. And if I’m in a public debate with somebody I’ll say the same thing.
Young woman: So I do want to clarify that what I meant, I wasn’t trying to say disagreement; I was relating it to the same definition of homophobia which is prejudice, or prejudice, or I tried to say discrimination.
Shapiro: Right. So I think that again, homophobia, there are some people who actively, there are some people who actively want to do violence to people who are gay. Those people are not me or anybody that I agree with, obviously; I have never, at any point in my entire career, ever advocated violence, God forbid, against anybody in a civilized society. That’s not something that I believe in, and I think it’s evil. As far as, as far as, I think, again, your original definition of transphobia actually is better applied here as well; I think it’s disagreement with certain principles that the homosexual community wishes to espouse.
Young woman: What I was saying was that not that I was —I was considering saying disagreement, I was saying discrimination.
Shapiro: I know, and I’m saying that I agree with your original definition and not your definition. So the definition that you made—
Young woman: I’m not saying that it’s mine; it’s one that I like, Googled, that I found —
Shapiro: Right. And I think that that definition is wrong and I think that the one that you Freudian-slipped was right, is what I’m saying.
Young woman: So I’m saying, like, based on the institution of, I don’t want to say the institution of Google, ‘cause that’s an extremely general thing to say. But in terms of as soon as you search “transphobia,” “homophobia,” this is what comes up.
Shapiro: Right. And I think —
Young woman: Do you feel like, even though you’re disagreeing with the trans community, which I believe we all have our own disagreements, I’m asking, do you feel that the fact that, with your disagreement you’re inherently, through the institutions that have provided these definitions, discriminating against trans community.
Shapiro: And I’m saying —
Young woman: Thus, thus, encouraging other people to follow. I know it’s a long question, but I’m encapsulating a lot of things.
Shapiro: That’s fine. So here’s what I’m saying. Either their definition is wrong or it’s overly broad in its application.
Young woman: Okay.
Shapiro: So if the idea is that if I say, “A man is a man and a woman is a woman,” is inherently transphobic, that’s not discrimination; that’s disagreement. If they say that’s discrimination they’re overly applying their own —
Young woman: Well, I think when you say, like, they’re mentally ill, like that —
Shapiro: Well, I have said, and I will continue to maintain, that gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder, whichever DSM you choose to use, is a mental illness. And again, and again, God forbid that it should be said with any animus, because this is not said with animus. When people are suffering — these are clearly folks who are suffering — when people are suffering you shouldn’t be saying stuff with animus. I’m not saying that as a “got you” to people who are transgender. The point that I’m making is that when a society begins treating folks who have mental illness as though they are representing an objective reality, they are doing no service to the people who actually suffer from the mental illness. My grandfather suffered from schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia; he was institutionalized. If the doctors had said to him, “Nate, you’re fine, we believe that the radio is actually talking to you,” that is not a service to him; that would have been terrible for him. They put him in an institution, they gave him lithium, and it helped.
Now I’m not saying there’s even a great solution for folks who have gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria, because the solutions that I’ve seen, including gender surgery, are not intensely effective, from all the studies that I’ve seen. It’s a tragic, tragic situation. But the solution is not to redefine as a society what sex means along anti-biological lines.
As far as the homophobia point: my own religious belief about the sinful nature of particular people’s behavior should have no impact on how you act in a free country or how you think. It’s a free country, do what the hell you want. There’s “religious Ben,” which is, what I think is sinful, which is Jews who violate Sabbath; Jews who eat shellfish; there’s a lot of things we think are sinful in Judaism.
And then there’s the stuff, where, “Do what you want, because it’s a free country.” I think people do a lot of sinful stuff all the time, and I’m not calling them on it. I think that people who are living together outside of marriage are sinning, according to my traditional religious beliefs; it’s a free country; do what you want.
So when people say “homophobia,” I think what they are saying is that “you disagree with me.” I’ve never called for violence, and not only that, I’m in favor of the legalization of same-sex marriage in the sense that I want the government completely out of marriage. I don’t want the government in the marriage business at all.
So I think that what bothers me is when folks assume that a disagreement means that they can ascribe animus, anger, hatred, wish for violence, to me.
Young woman: Which is what a lot of the Charlottesville rioters were doing.
Shapiro: Well, the Charlottesville rioters were garbage people. I did two full episodes about how garbage the Charlottesville rioters were.
Young woman:: Well, I know. This has been really great, actually, to have this dialogue.
Shapiro: I was the number-one target of the alt-Right in 2016 according to the Anti-Defamation league.
Young woman: I know. I looked you up. Yeah. Sorry, didn’t mean to be sassy. What I really wanted to understand was, because you have such a large platform, I mean, even through Twitter, through social media, through your website, just all your work, I don’t know of any particular cases where someone has said, “Ben Shapiro told me to literally go murder a trans person or someone who —“
Shapiro: And if they did they would be lying.
Young woman: Yeah, okay. I just wanted to ask you about —
Shapiro: Right. And If they did they would be lying. And again, anybody who commits acts of violence or evil in my name is a violent evil person, and I hold that standard for everyone. I really appreciate you coming out; it really means a lot to me. Thank you.
Young woman: Thank you.