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While there are mixed opinions about the fitness of Candace Owens as a rising star on the Right today, two things solidify her place as a significant ally, one who brings more assets to the table than liabilities: The first, of course, is her red-pilling of Kanye West and the massive strides that have been made in the culture war as a result.
The second is her fearlessness in taking on the so-called leader of the Young Right, as he has been so graciously coronated by the mainstream media: Ben Shapiro.
Round One: No Press is Bad Press
With his large following at The Daily Wire, his regular guest appearances on Fox News and other cable outlets, and his regular speaking engagements at college campuses and conferences all over the country, Shapiro has established himself as the de facto figurehead of the rising generation of right-wing Americans.
That media attention, and the prominence that has come with it, has successfully obscured all of Shapiro’s inconvenient opinions that diverge sharply with so many in the Young Right. He is anti-Trump, claims that any form of trade protectionism is akin to Soviet-style central planning, doesn’t “give a good damn” about unfettered immigration, and has tried to shame publicly certain right-wing thinkers by falsely labeling them “alt-right.”
Although Shapiro obviously doesn’t represent those in the Young Right who are pro-Trump, protectionist, immigration hawks, or just don’t identify with his brand of warmed-over conservative clichés, his fame and position as the de facto voice of the Young Right has only gotten stronger since Trump took office. The reason? Shapiro’s most significant rival—Milo Yiannopoulos—fell victim to a deceitfully-edited and well-executed blitz-smear campaign against him by a pro-Shapiro, anti-Trump neoconservative group.
Given that situation, most criticism aimed Shapiro from the right flank has turned out to be suicidal for the career of the critic or the desperate acts of fringe figures. But Candace Owens is neither suicidal nor a fringe figure, and her star continues to rise (even leaving her boss, Charlie Kirk, in the dust). She has been welcomed with open arms into the mainstream.
Shapiro and Owens first clashed in early May, during the height of the Kanye brouhaha, when it appeared Owens might be a guest on Alex Jones’ InfoWars. Although Owens did not actually appear on the show the day Jones announced it in a tweet, Jones did feature some old pre-recorded footage of her from October of 2017.
This ignited a firestorm in which Shapiro blasted her for appearing on a “fringe” media outlet, with some of his friends at National Review agreeing with him. Owens fought back, informing Shapiro him he had no right to tell her where she could and couldn’t appear. Owens made the broader point that you can’t just dismiss an entire outlet with millions of followers because of ideological disagreements. She was joined in this sentiment by others in the Neo-Right, including YouTuber Mark Dice and author Mike Cernovich.
At the end of it all, Owens emerged victorious; directly defying Shapiro, reiterating her points without flinching—and she got away with it. No one since Milo had managed such a feat.
Round Two: Trump and the Other Kim
Now, just a few weeks later, there has been yet another Twitter dustup between the two rivals. This time it was over President Trump’s shocking meeting with reality TV star—and Kanye West’s wife—Kim Kardashian to discuss . . . prison reform.
In response to Trump’s tweet about the meeting, Shapiro simply said that “celebrity worship is stupid, whether it’s being done by Obama or Trump.” Owens, who praised the meeting, fired back, saying that Kardashian’s efforts to get an African-American grandmother pardoned over a lengthy prison sentence did not equate to “worship.”
Shapiro then claimed the president essentially was using Kardashian as an “expert” on a political issue, to which Owens retorted: “No one said Kim Kardashian was an expert,” and “just [because] someone is a celebrity does not mean they are not fighting for a just cause.” She further compared this to “Ashton Kutcher fighting to end sex trafficking,” rather than “Meryl Streep . . . moaning about how we must resist our President.”
Owens escalated with another follow-up, rhetorically asking Shapiro if there was “something more noble [Kardashian] should be doing with her platform?” Shapiro tried to change the subject again, claiming he wasn’t necessarily upset over the meeting, but rather upset that Trump was doing “photo ops” with her; he then condescendingly added “This isn’t particularly complicated.”
Owens held nothing back in her next response: “Don’t ever talk down to me. Ever again.” She additionally pointed out that such a photo-op is par for the course, since President Trump takes photos with everyone he meets in the Oval Office.
Finally, she leveled a criticism that echoed Paul Joseph Watson’s declaration that Shapiro is guilty of “incessant boundary policing.” Owens accused Shapiro of “complicating everything in an effort to be right about things that simply don’t matter.”
“It’s getting old,” she wrote.
In the face of this blistering takedown, Shapiro finally caved and ended the exchange with “Agree to disagree,” and “I appreciate the work you’re doing out there,” in a tone that can only be described as shrugging; his more condescending, arrogant, and overconfident tone from literally one tweet prior was nowhere to be found.
On substance, Owens was right throughout the entire exchange, no matter how many times Shapiro attempted to shift the goalposts. Shapiro falsely tried to lump President Trump’s meetings with various celebrities in with the way Obama would bask in Hollywood’s sycophantic and shameless praise of him for doing nothing, even though the two could not be more polar opposite.
When Obama was meeting with celebrities, it was to reassure himself with the false illusion that he was universally loved because he was loved by Hollywood, appearing on late-night talk shows, at the Oscars, and elsewhere during his presidency. And, in the rare event that such interactions involved the discussion of socio-political issues, it was over irrelevant ones like global warming or “not enough representation” for a certain triple-minority in pop culture.
By contrast, when President Trump meets with celebrities such as Kanye or Kardashian (as unusual as these pop culture conduits may be), it is to discuss actual, real political issues such as prison reform or violence in Chicago; because, of course, there is no such illusion of universal love for this president by those in their ivory towers in Los Angeles.
Trump’s efforts only help the Right in the ongoing culture war that—until recently—has been thoroughly dominated by the Left. Through such unlikely allies as these celebrities, Trump is showing the American Right how to wage the culture war in a way that doesn’t look like a pathetic rearguard action. Only recently has the Right been making significant gains, whether it’s in the Oscars’ collapsing ratings, the unprecedented success of pro-Trump television shows such as “Last Man Standing” and the recently cancelled reboot of “Roseanne,” the inroads made among African-Americans by Trump and the Republicans thanks to Kanye, or the NFL’s recent decision to ban kneeling during the National Anthem.
This is a watershed moment, too, in the struggle within the Young Right to define itself amid the confusion over Trump, political correctness, and identity politics writ large. Shapiro has become a kind of demigod for the anti-Trump, National Review faction of the American Right. He has been virtually unchallenged on such issues despite his views being so opposed to those that have proven winners with the public, has repeatedly refused to debate right-wingers who have openly challenged him to do so, and he has failed to represent—and even snidely dismissed—many in the Young Right who do not share his views, and whose grievances should be heard.
If their first bout ended with Owens essentially slapping Shapiro across the face and not apologizing, then this one was more like Owens giving him a black eye and then telling him to go screw himself. And if the first round ended with Shapiro simply sulking away without a proper conclusion, this one saw Shapiro ending the battle by waving a white flag, and even delivering a compliment to the person who had just verbally pummelled him.
Candace Owens has just proven that this supposed demigod does, in fact, bleed.
Photo credit: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images