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I Feel Bad for Ben Shapiro, Andrew Neil is A Bad Faith Interviewer

I never thought I’d want to extend an apology to Ben Shapiro over anything. Mostly because I’m rarely ever wrong…

I never thought I’d want to extend an apology to Ben Shapiro over anything. Mostly because I’m rarely ever wrong enough to have to do such a thing, but also because you can probably tell Shapiro and I have very little in common.

Andrew Neil has long been one of the stewards of the decline of conservatism in the United Kingdom.

I think Shapiro was wrong to resist candidate Trump and embrace the “mUh cHarAcTer” arguments against the President. He also comes off a bit smug for me. But what he isn’t is stupid. And that’s why I feel the need to apologize on behalf of ordinary Britons for what he had to undergo at the hands of Andrew Neil on the BBC.

That’s not to say Shapiro didn’t lose this one on his own merit, but I also want people to know what a snidey man Neil has been, and continues to be with guests who challenge the British political establishment view.

Andrew Neil has long been one of the stewards of the decline of conservatism in the United Kingdom. You’d think, from watching the interview, that he would identify as a leftist. But he doesn’t. He pretends he’s on the political right, even being the chairman of the right-leaning Spectator magazine.

But Neil is a neoliberal through and through.

He’s not concerned with conserving anything. In the same way Jeff Flake is not concerned with conserving anything.

He was a rabid proponent for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has made a career from long, boozy lunches at fancy Westminster eateries. No wonder he thinks the pro life position is “barbaric”. The political classes of Westminster haven’t heard a socially conservative argument on the matter for decades, let alone after so many recent medical science breakthroughs.

Brillo – as they call him due to his hair’s resemblance to a Brillo or scouring pad – also has form assailing social conservatives who believe in life, liberty, and national sovereignty.

BEN-GHAZI

Neil seems to have a real problem with people called Ben.

In 2015 the BBC summoned for Benjamin Harris-Quinney, chairman of the oldest conservative think tank in Britain: the Bow Group. Full disclosure, Ben is my best friend and also writes for Human Events.

Simply put, Neil is a bad actor, and somewhat of a liar, too.

At the behest of Conservative Party HQ – specifically Paul Abbott, then chief of staff to the party chairman, and Mark Clarke, the now-disgraced manager of the party’s election machine entitled ‘Road Trip’ – Neil proceeded to abuse his position at the public broadcaster to try and discredit Mr. Harris-Quinney.

Harris-Quinney attempted to set the record straight on the BBC

Instead of asking him why the Bow Group was breaking from their tradition of supporting the Conservative Party and endorsing UK Independence Party candidates in 2015 – the real news story of the day – Neil rambled on about how Harris-Quinney was not the president of some local branch of the Conservative Party’s foreign arm in Madrid, though he claimed he was. And he was. But Neil took his briefing directly from Tory HQ, and would scarcely let Harris-Quinney respond. The clip no longer exists on the BBC website, but you can watch an extract here.

Simply put, Neil is a bad actor, and somewhat of a liar, too.

BEN-DING THE TRUTH

Neil’s lengthy interview with Shapiro is riddled with lies and tells from the BBC man’s side.

Shapiro was there to discuss his new book, The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great, but the interview began with Neil stating: “You worked for the right wing Breitbart website, uh, but you left over its support for Donald Trump”. That’s not really true. 

Yes, Shapiro was uncomfortable with Breitbart’s pro-Trump positions, but as he goes on to explain, he left because Michelle Fields was allegedly grabbed by Corey Lewandowski, and Breitbart News took a skeptical view of its own employees’ account of the affair. Neil can’t even get the basics right.

Shapiro was not only right to nail him on the semantics, but also right to repeatedly throw it back at Neil for the rest of the interview.

The greatest two tells throughout the interview however, are Neil’s use of the phrase “dark ages” when referring to pro life policy positions and legislation in the United States. Shapiro was not only right to nail him on the semantics, but also right to repeatedly throw it back at Neil for the rest of the interview.

“I’m interested that you think there’s a thought movement inside the Republican Party. I mean haven’t the conservatives run out of ideas in America? All the new policies: the Medicare for All, the $15 minimum wage, the Green New Deal, they’re all coming from the left, and they’re popular,” asked Neil.

Adam Boulton and Andrew Neil

Well firstly, that’s just not true.

Medicare for All is popular when people are told they’re going to get free shit. It’s unpopular when people are reminded government is inefficient and their quality of health coverage will likely become worse. Neil would do well to read this very easily found article by the Associated Press explaining just that.

The $15 minimum wage only attracts 55 per cent of support from U.S. voters (hardly an overwhelming endorsement), and the Green New Deal is monumentally unpopular in America, with even the left in disarray and disagreement over it.

If the premise of Neil’s question is so flagrantly flawed, how can Shapiro be expected to engage with it?

Shapiro initially does well in calling Neil’s bizarre premises and line of questioning into question itself.

The veteran broadcaster flexed his liberal establishment credentials when going after Shapiro on the question of abortion.

The veteran broadcaster flexed his liberal establishment credentials when going after Shapiro on the question of abortion.

A heartbeart law in Georgia prohibits abortions after six weeks, with special exceptions for mothers who face death or serious harm, and in rape or incest cases. But for Neil and Britain’s liberal establishment, the idea of keeping babies alive is abhorrent. They sneer at pro-life types, and treat them as evil doers.

His comment, that pro life policy positions were a return to the “dark ages” betray his attempted visage of intellectualism. The dark ages – like modernity – had abortions aplenty. It was about a thousand years before this that abortion was discouraged. So not only was “dark ages” a loaded term, it was an incorrect one, therefore only deployed to editoralize and provoke.

This isn’t the job of the BBC, which considers itself, albeit risibly, a national, neutral, public broadcaster.

Another of Neil’s lies relates directly to the Beeb.

The pair square off

When somehow the pair got embroiled in a conversation about money and media budgets, Neil was heard to state that there “isn’t much money to be made at the BBC… unlike American media”. The truth is Neil earns a tidy sum of £250,000 a year ($325,000) for about 2 hours work a day for the BBC. He led a consortium to buy Peters, Fraser & Dunlop in 2008 – a top tier talent agency whose clients just so happen to include Conservative Party MPs and BBC figures. He is the chairman of the Press Holdings Group which owns the Telegraph newspaper, Spectator magazine, and Apollo. He’s also the chairman of the Dubai-based IPT Media Group, which in turn owns dozens of brands of magazines across the Middle East. Big ones, too.

He must be pulling in millions in salary from UK media companies. That he has the temerity to attack Shapiro over money – especially when the annual BBC budget is £5 billion ($6.5bn). The entirety of NewsCorp, with its publishing arms, newspapers, radio stations, and PR divisions is just shy of £7 billion ($9.05).

NEIL BEFORE ME

Shapiro lost the debate/interview/whatever that was. He admits it himself. Which is pretty good form. Neil on the other hand has spent the past 24 hours taking a cringeworthy victory lap and tweeting about his debating credentials. The 69-year-old must be so very proud of defeating the 35-year-old with his team of researchers and prepared “gotcha” questions.

There was nothing remotely dignified about Neil’s victory. It was cheap, and hollow, and he’s done it to others on the harder or more populist left, too. He’s the British establishment’s best media attack dog, and he did well to rattle Shapiro. But mostly through fundamental dishonesty and pseudo-intellectual tomfoolery.

There is nothing remotely satisfying to an inquiring mind than, “Yeah but you tweeted this mean thing, seven years ago”.

We’ve all tweeted mean things seven years ago.

We’ve all tweeted mean things seven years ago.

Neil himself should steer very clear of lobbing rocks at Shapiro, from the confines of his all-window abode.

He (in my view correctly) took to Twitter at 3AM to insult the eminently insultable Carole Cadwalladr. He later deleted the tweet.

He’s also really poor at understanding American politics. He tweets the most inane things and then has to delete them. But he has to pretend to know otherwise the BBC won’t subsidize his jaunts to Washington and New York.

THE DEFENSE OF NEIL 

I’m not going to have spent all this time dissecting Neil’s character only now to defend him, don’t worry. This isn’t the series finale of How I Met Your Mother.

Rather, I want to address Tom Rogan’s piece in the Washington Examiner that does so. Rogan’s a nice guy, and means well, but is dead wrong on Neil. I rarely agree with him on anything, but we get along nevertheless. He says of Neil and the interview:

The basic point here is that Neil’s style is focused on making interviewees uncomfortable so that viewers get a sense both of the interviewee and their passion or otherwise for what they say.

That would be fine if what Neil were saying was accurate or true, but he is misleading viewers by editoralizing questions and leaving them believing that if a woman miscarries in Georgia, she’ll go to prison. Rogan states:

So when Neil started Shapiro’s interview by referencing the Green New Deal as an indication that Democrats have all the new ideas, he didn’t actually believe that. He was just trying to get Shapiro to the point as to why he believes conservative ideas are better.

Again, the point is moot if the viewer –– i.e. the license fee payer in Britain –– is done a disservice in the realm of accuracy and facts. This breaks trust. And funnily enough, the first two editorial guidelines on the BBC’s own Editorial Guidelines page are 1. Trust and; 2. Truth and Accuracy.

It is no good claiming “that’s just Neil’s style”. Lying to the audience about major legislation in the U.S., or about the Green New Deal being popular, is not okay even if it’s “Neil’s style”. Unless Rogan is suggesting the rules don’t apply to Neil, in which case we need to have a bigger discussion.

Anyway, so that’s my defense of Ben Shapiro, I suppose. I didn’t defend him so much as attack Neil. But frankly Neil deserves it. I cannot wait until he retires. Though his replacement will likely be worse politically, I don’t think I know someone with as few journalistic scruples as Neil.

Well, maybe Gamal Fahnbulleh.

Raheem Kassam is the Global Editor-in-Chief of HumanEvents.com

Written By

Raheem Kassam is the Global Editor-in-Chief of Human Events. Previously the Editor-in-Chief of Breitbart London, as well as the former senior advisor to Brexit leader Nigel Farage, Kassam is also the bestselling author of 'No Go Zones: How Sharia Law is Coming to a Neighborhood Near You' and 'Enoch Was Right: Rivers of Blood 50 Years On'. Kassam is a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute, a fellow at the Bow Group, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum

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