He’s being deliberately obtuse.
Ben Shapiro is not an idiot, but he’s the kind of guy who thinks that communicating poorly and acting smug when he’s misunderstood is the same thing as cleverness. And he’s the kind of guy who thinks that finding a definition that makes him technically correct is the same thing as winning an argument.
This tweet exchange is a great distillation of his entire personality. Someone asks why a regular person would even own zip-ties. In the context, it’s obvious to anyone paying attention that she’s referring to the ratcheted flexi-cuffs that the insurrectionists were carrying into the Capitol. Those have no use other than to restrain people, and have basically no legitimate uses outside of law enforcement and the military. The only people who aren’t in those fields who own one are either police/military wannabes, or people with very interesting private lives. The obvious point to the tweet is that even owning such a device (let alone bringing it with you when you break into the Capitol) shows exactly what kind of people we’re dealing with here.
Ben Shapiro, reading this, deliberately seizes on her exact words in an attempt to sound clever. After all, “zip-ties” technically refers to any kind of ratcheted cable tie, and those have many, many legitimate uses. Lots of people own them, I have a jar of them in my garage.
Of course, when it’s pointed out that those are obviously not what she meant, Shapiro throws his hands up, and responds with the classic “but you said…” After all, she said the word “zip-ties”, and that’s what “zip-ties” are, I can show you a dictionary. How was I supposed to know she was referring to police-style restraints? She didn’t say that. So I could only assume she meant the common piece of hardware! What was I supposed to do, pay the tiniest bit of attention to context? I’m technically right! I’m very clever!
This is exactly how Ben Shapiro operates. He looks for any word or phrase that someone on the other side of an argument uses, which he can then seize on, claim is wrong, and then declare victory. It doesn’t matter if the word choice has any relevance, whatsoever, to the argument in question, he’s proven the other person to be technically wrong, which means he must be technically right, which means he’s won the argument!
It’s a style of ‘debate’ that’s appealing to a certain mindset. It’s the equivalent of making fun of a typo or a grammatical error in something someone wrote, and then mocking them for being stupid, rather than paying any attention to something they’re actually saying. It has nothing to do with actually proving you’re right, and is based only on trying to embarrass your opponent. It’s the kind of thing you say when you’re fully focused on a very shallow version of “winning” rather than actually engaging or addressing anyone’s argument.
If your goal is to gain knowledge, understand perspectives, and change minds, it’s a deeply stupid strategy. But if your goal is to get retweeted because you “pwn’d teh libs”, then it’s actually very effective. Ben Shapiro knows exactly what he’s doing.
Why “debate me” is such a cursed demand, in 30 minutes. Go to http://curiositystream.com/sarahz and get a free 31 days of thousands of exciting documentaries and access to the streaming service Nebula ( http://watchnebula.com )!
Editor of Current Affairs Magazine, Nathan J. Robinson, explains why Ben Shapiro is a pseudo-intellectual uninterested in actually engaging with the arguments of the political left.