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Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro: The Fight for the Right

In my previous article, I discussed the basic fundamental divide between the Young Right in America today: soft-spoken moderates who tow the same ideological line as the dying neconservative movement while disavowing Trump, and bold conservatives who are trying to revive paleoconservatism and firmly stand with the President.

One avoids political incorrectness, while the other embraces it. One side cares simply about policy specifics and diplomacy, while the other cares about the culture war and defeating the Left. In the California College Republicans, the politically incorrect culture warriors ultimately triumphed over the soft-spoken wannabe-wonks when Ariana Rowlands was elected and re-elected as state chair.

In the same vein, this divide between the focus on politicking versus a focus on culture, as well as being anti-Trump versus being pro-Trump, is manifested in the stark contrast between the College Republican National Committee and Turning Point USA. But most importantly, this divide has presented itself in a very recent—and very public—social media battle royale between some of the biggest commentators on the Right today.

A Tale of Two Figureheads

Here we come to perhaps the most important part in determining the future of the Young Right: who to lead it.

After all, no idea or ideology in the world—however great or popular—can be effectively promoted and implemented without a figurehead to lead the charge. Donald Trump was the figurehead in the United States, just as Nigel Farage was the figurehead in the United Kingdom.

However, among the Young Right in America, it is only the anti-Trump crowd that has consolidated behind a clear leader. That is, Ben Shapiro. The 34-year-old columnist and podcaster, who has written a number of books and articles since he was 17, has been steadily rising on the national scene since his gun control debate with Piers Morgan in 2013, immediately after the Sandy Hook shooting. From there, he gained a national platform with Breitbart before founding his own website, The Daily Wire; his infamous departure from Breitbart was explicitly because he objected to the site’s pro-Trump tone, and he has consistently been a harsh—and often unfair—critic of the President ever since he first came onto the scene in 2015.

Shapiro has continued to grow, with his podcast becoming one of the most listened-to conservative podcasts in the nation, and with mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times already crowning him as the leader of the Young Right.

However, Shapiro serving as the standard-bearer of the Young Right is bad news for other rightists. As far as policy and ideology goes, he is essentially no different from the neocons of old; whether it’s his support for continued foreign intervention or still maintaining obvious losing stances on such issues as gay marriage, he truly is no different from the past generations of Republican thought that led to the rise of Barack Obama.

He’s truly not even that controversial. Shapiro won’t talk about issues like immigration (even outright denying the dangers of illegal immigration), or acknowledge the real threat of America being cheated in international trade. His most controversial statements often revolve around how radically left-wing college campuses are (it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out), how transgenderism is a mental disorder, or how life begins at conception (both true statements). In short, he brings nothing new or truly controversial to the table.

It’s especially crucial considering that Shapiro is easily the one and only hope that the neocons have of maintaining any kind of connection and appeal to the youth. After all, his contemporaries are such inspiring and energetic figures as Jonah Goldberg, David French, and Bill Kristol—individuals with the charisma of a wet towel, whose platforms and popularity are rapidly dwindling. Shapiro, for all his incorrect beliefs and even efforts to censor right-wingers he disagrees with (sound familiar?), at least has a level of wit in his critiques of the Left, knows how to crack a quick derogatory punchline in campus Q&A’s, and has a sense of humor (however dry it may be). If Shapiro’s star were to fall, the neocon-National Review crowd would truly have no hope left of connecting to the Young Right.

But as of now, the pro-Trump Young Right still does not have a clear leader. As mentioned before, Milo Yiannopoulos was originally in a solid position to take up the mantle; he was a rising star, wildly popular on college campuses, and breaking into the mainstream with his first-ever book deal. But then, when the “Principled Conservatives” teamed up with the left-wing media to take him down, it was too great of an assault from two fronts, and he lost a lot of ground. Although he remains defiant and still maintains an audience, it must be admitted that he is not quite where he once was.

If someone could come along who uses the same tough rhetoric, is unapologetically politically incorrect, and defies many of the Left’s stereotypical norms (just as Yiannopoulos’ homosexuality defied their standard for the LGBTQ community), all while promoting a Trumpian political philosophy to shift the Right in a new direction, then a lot of ground could be made up in time to present a clear challenge to Shapiro and the attempted revival of neoconservatism.

But someone has already begun the process of doing just that, and is already skyrocketing to the top of the Young Right’s atmosphere.

Her name is Candace Owens.

Most have surely heard her name by now. After all, it was her who was the catalyst for Kanye West’s entire redpilling journey, which all started with one Tweet. Prior to that, she started her own YouTube channel with a focus on spreading the message of conservatism to blacks, and pointing out the objective failures of the Left and the Democratic Party to this particular community. Just as Yiannopoulos enjoyed being a blend of minorities—a gay Jewish Brit—who supports Trump, Owens similarly boasts that special kind of crossover appeal that drives the Left insane: a young black woman who supports Trump.

She has since enjoyed even more exposure as a result of Kanye’s transformation, and as mentioned before, even met with Kanye—alongside Charlie Kirk—in Los Angeles a few days after his initial Tweet. She has already surpassed Kirk in her total amount of Likes on Facebook, and she has been making the rounds on major news outlets.

But recently, one particular media appearance has caused quite a spectacular dust-up between Owens and Shapiro; this very well could be a battle for the future of the Young Right, right here and right now.

On May 2, the founder and leading personality of InfoWars, Alex Jones, announced on Twitter that he would have both Owens and Kanye on his livestream. This prompted a shockingly swift response from Shapiro, who harbors a long-held dislike of Jones for unspecified reasons, in which Shapiro tried to shame Owens and Kanye into not appearing on the show. Owens responded, claiming that she would not be on InfoWars that particular day, while also criticizing Shapiro for essentially trying to tell her where she could and couldn’t appear, and saying that you can’t just dismiss a source when it has a sizeable following. Shapiro’s rebuttal focused primarily on the latter claim, insisting that “there are tons of crappy outlets with big numbers who watch them.”

However, despite all this, Owens still appeared on Jones’ show, sort of. Jones presented pre-recorded footage of an interview he did with Owens, in studio, back in October of 2017. He also posted a compilation of footage he shot with Owens from the same month as part of a “live on the streets” segment.

As it turns out, Jones deliberately hid the footage and saved it. He then hinted at a live appearance by Owens on his show months after the fact as a sort of bait. The fish that he was out to catch? Any right-wingers who were ready to punch right, and attack Owens even as she is currently the most talked-about conservative commentator not named Kanye West.

And the fish didn’t just take the bait; they took the entire rod. What ensued was an all-out Twitter war between the pro-Trump Right and the anti-Trump right, a spectacle that puts any of the Marvel movies to shame.

Jones fired right back at Shapiro, challenging him on Twitter to a debate. He even said that Shapiro “can name the place, date, and time,” and called him “a neocon coward” if he refuses. Naturally, Shapiro refused, instead simply posting screenshots of headlines from mainstream media sources criticizing Jones without offering any of his own criticisms whatsoever. Jones taunted him further, to which Shapiro mocked him in return and said that he wants for everyone to “see [his] crazy firsthand.”

The Twitter spat quickly spread to other commentators, as if the opening fight from “Gangs of New York” was taking place on the Twittersphere. YouTuber Mark Dice accused Shapiro of hypocrisy in his claim that conservatives should avoid certain outlets if they disagree with their views (even if said outlets get millions of views), by pointing out that Shapiro has frequently appeared on CNN. (Ironically enough, one of Shapiro’s employees tried to use the same logic to criticize Owens, accusing her of “endorsing CNN.”)

Paul Joseph Watson, another prominent InfoWars host, said that while “Shapiro is incredibly smart...his incessant boundary policing of the conservative movement can be very annoying at times.” Shapiro responded by claiming that “boundary policing” is simply “having some standards,” to which Watson repeated Dice’s point that Shapiro, by that same logic, should stop appearing on CNN.

One of the aforementioned National Review contributors, David French, came to Shapiro’s defense and also mocked Jones, as well as Milo and former Breitbart head Steve Bannon. Watson responded to French as well, pointing out that French had “stabbed Trump in the back and vocally joined the Never Trump movement.”

Another major pro-Trump commentator, Mike Cernovich, also came to Owens’ defense on Twitter following Shapiro’s criticism. He said that now that “Owens is a big deal, people want to control her,” and asked “Who gave her a shot when she was coming up? That’s what matters.” He ended the statement by saying “F-ck all of you who couldn’t see her greatness.”

But what all this chaos in the mouth of madness truly boils down to is the fact that the pro-Trump Young Right has just found a figurehead. They have united behind Candace Owens as she continues her meteoric rise to the top, and Owens—with a little help from her friends—just directly took on Ben Shapiro. Granted, although she did not actually appear live with Jones on the day of the social media war—that would have been the ultimate act of defiance—she still had appeared with Jones several months prior; hence the reason for her Tweet saying “I am not on InfoWars today.”

Nevertheless, she devoted the majority of her Tweet not to acquiescing to Ben Shapiro’s sudden demands; but instead, she punched right back and criticized him for attempting to dictate conditions of free speech, as well as for suggesting the naive notion that you can write off any platform you want, even if it has millions of viewers. In other words, she called him out for using the same tactics that a leftist would use. And despite Shapiro currently having more followers than her, her Tweet far surpassed Shapiro’s in terms of both Likes and Retweets.

The Aftermath

The entire ordeal amounted to perhaps one of the best right-wing takedowns of Ben Shapiro in recent memory, as well as one of the biggest clashes of multiple anti-Trump and pro-Trump right-wing commentators ever.

First off, Owens is 100 percent correct in her point about outlets with large followings; you may hate The Young Turks or InfoWars, just as much as you may hate CNN or MSNBC. But at the end of the day, be it on your TV screen or on your computer, these outlets have followings in the millions. Views are views, and any form of outreach can only help to spread your influence even further. And again, even if Shapiro may disagree with the ideological bent of the platform, what right does he have to tell someone else where they should or shouldn’t appear?

Furthermore, Shapiro’s cowardice in the face of a potential debate with a fellow right-winger was put on full display. After all, this is certainly not the first time he’s rejected a debate from someone on the Right who doesn’t fall in complete lockstep with his neocon ideas; he previously rejected a debate offer from Milo on the subject of Donald Trump, and more recently refused to debate Spencer Morrison of the National Economics Editorial on the subject of whether or not tariffs are good for the American economy.

Now, Shapiro has made his most high-profile rejection yet. Considering that Shapiro thinks Jones is certifiably insane, and thus not a very intelligent individual who would surely be easy to defeat in a debate, he sure is scared of debating him.

Perhaps because he’s afraid of losing? Perhaps because he’s jealous over Jones having exponentially higher views and subscribers (1.5 billion views and 2.3 million subscribers) on YouTube than The Daily Wire does (109 million views and 650,000 subscribers)? Perhaps he’s just determined to continue efforts to deplatform Jones? It’s hard to tell which reason is worse, more cowardly, and more like a tactic of the Left.

But at the end of all this, it’s not even about Jones, or Watson, or French, or Cernovich, or Dice. This comes down to Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro, with the former being the first major pro-Trump commentator to directly and fearlessly take on the latter...and win. At long last, for the first time since Milo’s peak, someone has arisen to challenge Shapiro’s attempted monopoly on the Young Right; someone who is every bit as articulate but unapologetically pro-Trump, and much more in tune with the importance of the culture war than Shapiro is. Someone who can claim herself as a blend of various minorities that foils the Left’s game of identity politics, and is also younger than Shapiro (29 to his 34).

The developments of this dynamic in the immediate future will be crucial to watch. Owens’ star is rising, and she’s proving herself to have a serious impact as she charges head-on into the culture war. In that charge, she basically just slapped Shapiro across the face and didn’t apologize. No one has done that and gotten away with it since Milo, and it presents a rare threat to Shapiro’s stranglehold on the Young Right.

Watch how this goes from here: expect Owens to continue being controversial and defying Shapiro, and don’t be surprised if Shapiro begins actively engaging in a smear campaign against her—with help from his friends at National Review—in an effort to kill this challenge to his power while in its infancy.

This is a watershed moment for the Young Right, as the Right begins making historic strides in the culture war while the 2018 midterms loom on the horizon. And beyond that—with the 2020 election next up on the list of major battles—it will be important to see which side, if any, ultimately emerges victorious in the battle for the heart and soul of the Young Right. The anti-Trumpers led by Ben Shapiro, or the pro-Trumpers led by Candace Owens.

Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum

Eric graduated University of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in Political Philosophy. He authored, "You’re Damned, Right! A Concise Timeline of How and Why the California GOP Has Failed."

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Candace Owens and Ben Shapiro: The Fight for the Right
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