Self-described “expert” on “far-right extremism” Talia Lavin has struck again, this time falsely accusing Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro of stoking the flames of racism against Muslims and pushing conservatives toward a race war over the destruction of Notre Dame cathedral.
Lavin, a “guest instructor” for New York University’s journalism program, made her ridiculous claims in the storied Washington Post, which published her op-ed entitled, “How the far right spread politically convenient lies about the Notre Dame fire.” In it, she alleges, without regard to the political position of the commentator or the real meaning of their words, that just as the first flames were licking the roof of Notre Dame, conservative writers set about to pushing conspiracy theories on how the fire started, apparently in the hopes of inciting violence against Muslims.
It’s not immediately clear how Lavin came to her conclusions — though she does draw “Beautiful Mind”-esque connections between all manner of conservatives — but she does know, it seems, that writers and commentators share an affinity for “dark conclusions,” and that Ben Shapiro, whom she refers to as a “fast-talking far-right pundit,” is among the leaders of the movement.
Shapiro, she claims, blew a dog-whistle for anti-Muslim violence when he commented that Notre Dame was a “monument to Western civilization” and “Judeo-Christian heritage.” To drive her point home, she juxtaposed Shapiro with Richard Spencer, perhaps the best known American neo-Nazi, as if Shapiro had anything to do with Spencer, whom Shapiro has repeatedly and vociferously condemned.
Lavin’s claims are downright bizarre. Notre Dame is, indeed, a monument to the civilization — the Western civilization — that built it over the course of several hundred years. It is not simply a work of art and architecture, but a monument to Christianity, and specifically Catholicism. It is a place of worship that houses one of France’s largest collection of holy relics and religiously-inspired art and sculpture.
As for the term “Judeo-Christian,” Lavin, who prides herself on her knowledge of white supremacist terminology (an accolade she, of course, bestowed on herself), believes Shapiro means to deliberately exclude “Islam” from the equation, putting Muslims on the “outside” of the culture that built Notre Dame. But the term “Judeo-Christian” means nothing of the sort; it refers directly to the ongoing, interconnected history of Judaism and Christianity, which share not just a common ancestry, but an ethics and values system that specifically incorporates the natural law as defined in the first several books of the Bible.
Notre Dame, being a church, again, is a product of Judeo-Christian culture and heritage.
Shapiro quickly shot back at Lavin’s spurious accusations.
“This, from @chick_in_kiev, in The Washington Post, is the sheerest form of disgusting bulls***. I blamed no one for the Notre Dame fire, since it was an accident by all available evidence, and imputing malicious intent to me is simply gross,” he tweeted.
This, from @chick_in_kiev, in The Washington Post, is the sheerest form of disgusting bulls***. I blamed no one for the Notre Dame fire, since it was an accident by all available evidence, and imputing malicious intent to me is simply gross. https://t.co/e5gvQqQc2G pic.twitter.com/T98E2JWJXe
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) April 16, 2019
A number of others, from across the political spectrum, rushed to his defense.
This is INSANELY dishonest and irresponsible and wapo should fix it now and prevent it in the future https://t.co/19qccBRFIZ
— Seth Mandel (@SethAMandel) April 16, 2019
— Conor Friedersdorf (@conor64) April 16, 2019
Notre Dame is a monument to Western civilization! How is saying so anti-Islamic incitement or “far-right”?
Enough of this semi-literate nitwittery! Is Fred Hiatt editing WaPo opinions or some third-rate Edward Said wannabe at Fresno State? https://t.co/0BaRGRTk7h
— Sohrab Ahmari (@SohrabAhmari) April 16, 2019
The combination of illiteracy and malice is breathtaking. https://t.co/vx91XmKyej
— PEG (@pegobry) April 16, 2019
.@benshapiro and I disagree on Trump. We have from day one.
But to claim that Ben hasn’t been an unwavering supporter of Christianity and Conservatism is just dishonest and dumb.
Stop the pearl clutching over an ill timed joke for which he apologized.
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) April 16, 2019
But Lavin, of course, didn’t stop there. She has thoughts, it seems, on how to solve this “problem” of “inciting” violence through speech: de-platform anyone she finds objectionable, including Shapiro.
“It should not take the imprecations of journalists to restrain this dangerous flow of misinformation,” she writes. “It is past time that those who stoke inflammatory rhetoric, knowing its potential to catalyze racist violence, were made to stop playing with fire – before it’s too late to control the inferno.”
Lavin has experience with stoking inflammatory rhetoric and imputing malicious intent. She, the “expert” on far-right extremists, is perhaps most famous for turning all of left-leaning Twitter against an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement analyst — and veteran of the war in Afghanistan who lost two legs to an IED attack — whom she mis-identified as a neo-Nazi based on an elbow tattoo she thought was a Nazi “Iron Cross.”
It was not an Iron Cross. It was a simple cross — the symbol of his Marine platoon in Afghanistan.
She and her then-employer, The New Yorker, promptly parted ways. She was picked up a month later as a researcher on far-right extremism for the left-leaning “media watchdog” site Media Matters. She has since left that job, as well, and will, instead, be teaching — what else? — how to identify and research members of the “far right” to the next generation of ideological journalists as a guest instructor at New York University.