Forgive me for choosing a colleague and friend, but I've been waiting for exactly this kind of media appearance from someone -- anyone! -- on our side to make this point with, and it just so happens that last night it was Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro who delivered as perfect an example as one could ever hope for. This is a must-watch for the rest of this column to make any sense whatsoever.
As one of our Founding Fathers once said, "Facts are stubborn things," and when faced with facts, calm logic, and someone fully prepared for the encounter, after a fifteen minute appearance last night with our own Ben Shapiro, CNN's
Morton Downey Jr. Piers Morgan was left gasping for air. This was Morgan's worst nightmare realized and, for a whole host of reasons, something we need to see happen more often all across the media landscape.
What made Shapiro's appearance last night especially worthy of note had nothing to do with the fact that a left-wing media demagogue had his head handed to him. It's not enough anymore to simply win the media moment. For example…
Throughout the presidential election, we saw John Sununu regularly kick all kinds of butt on MSNBC. But how many minds did he change? How many votes were swayed? Calling Andrea Mitchell out as an Obama partisan might make the choir cheer (it did me), but this is a hearts and minds campaign.
More often than not, after one of those appearances, the Sununu clip was then used by the media to make Team Romney look combative, or worse. In the end, the media was able to use Sununu's "wins" as a means to their own end -- which, of course, was to win Obama a second term.
When it comes to Piers Morgan and his gun control mania, we've seen more than a few Sununu moments created by our side that might have made the choir cheer but did little to change many minds. In the end, it's all noise; it's all flash; it's all a meaningless game of checkers.
Ben Shapiro came to play chess.
Shapiro had obviously studied Morgan's rhetorical tactics and arguments, and prepared himself for them -- not with insults or ad hominem, but with direct rebuttals based on facts, history, and logic.
First off, Shapiro opened by calmly stating a very simple fact: that the lazy premise Morgan has used for weeks now to bully those who dare disagree with him is unconscionable:
What you tend to do is you tend to demonize people who differ from you politically by standing on the graves of the children of Sandy Hook, saying they don’t seem to care enough about the dead kids. If they cared more about the dead kids they would agree with you on policy.
Faced with this fact, all Morgan could do was symbolically grasp his pearls and literally squeak, "How dare you."
And this was the moment that changed everything.
With that false premise removed from his arsenal, what followed was a real, grown-up debate that never would've happened otherwise. And in this environment, Morgan was in completely over his head. The idea that a Brit can’t comprehend the idea of a democratically-elected government instituting tyranny is almost beyond comprehension. But by making this potent point, Shapiro not only exposed Morgan's ignorance; he made the best case for the Second Amendment I've heard on television since Sandy Hook:
Shapiro: I think the reason that it’s about left and right here is because fundamentally, the right believes that the basis for the Second amendment--and they believe in the Second Amendment--the basis for the Second Amendment is not really about self defense, and it's not about hunting. It's about resistance to government tyranny. That’s what the Founders said, and that’s what the right believes in this country.
Morgan: Which tyranny are you fearing, yourself?
Shapiro: I fear the possibility of a tyranny rising in the country in the next fifty to a hundred years. Let me tell you something, Piers. The fact that my grandparents and great grandparents in Europe didn't fear that is why they're now ashes in Europe. So this kind of leftist revisionist history where there's never any fear of democracy going usurpatious or tyrannical, is just that. It’s fictitious.
If there are people out there still open to having their minds changed, this is exactly the kind of argument that will accomplish that. Moreover, at the very least, no one can portray Shapiro as some thoughtless gun nut. But even more importantly, there is no footage from this appearance Morgan or CNN or anyone in media can use to make Shapiro look like anything other than the calm, reasonable person he is.
For years now, the media has used rhetorical tricks to bait our side into divisive arguments based on the kind of false premise Democrats never face. Whether it's abortion, contraception, same-sex marriage, or guns -- the media hits us again and again and again until someone like a Todd Akin says something stupid enough that it can be used to tar the party as a whole and our presidential nominee.
This isn’t fair, but it is reality. Complaining about it will get you nowhere, and exposing it has proven absolutely worthless, because you can't shame the shameless.
Instead, we have to start beating the media at its own game.
After Fox News rose to prominence, Democrats trained themselves to face the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly. Because Democrats weren't used to being challenged, they were frequently caught off guard. The videos would go viral online, and the damage would be done. You don’t see this happen anywhere near as often as you did ten years ago. That's because Democrats fixed the problem.
Republicans need to first come to terms with the fact that they have a problem, a big one. Then they need to man up, go to school, and do something about it.
And they can start by studying Shapiro's CNN appearance last night like the Super Bowl game-tape it is.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC