Ben Shapiro (Simon & Schuster/Yehuda Remer)

Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro blames Hollywood's "broken leftist culture" for Philip Seymour Hoffman's death

Breitbart.com's editor-at-large didn't bother to wait 24 hours before blaming Hoffman's death on liberals


Elias Isquith
February 4, 2014 3:22AM (UTC)

Right-wing pundit Ben Shapiro didn't bother to wait even 24 hours before turning the unfortunate death of Philip Seymour Hoffman into a political cudgel with which to bash Hollywood and the left.

Writing at National Review's website, Shapiro made sure to blame Hoffman's untimely passing on Hollywood's "broken leftist culture" and, implicitly, Hoffman himself.

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"Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the most talented actors of his generation," Shapiro begins before calling Hoffman "a leading man without leading-man looks, an actor whose magnetism onscreen sprang from intelligence and fervor rather than appearance."

(Note: Hoffman was never a leading man; and saying his "magnetism" came from his "intelligence and fervor rather than appearance" is basically another way of saying, again, that Hoffman lacked "leading-man looks." Other than that, great sentence.)

Having awkwardly begun with a few clichés one could produce without being even remotely familiar with Hoffman's work, Shapiro then dispenses with treating Hoffman as a real human being and immediately moves on to his real goal: using the actor's death as a pretext for an incoherent attack on Hollywood and the left.

According to Shapiro, Hoffman's "self-inflicted death is yet another hallmark of the broken leftist culture that dominates Hollywood, enabling rather than preventing the loss of some of its greatest talents."

Strangely for a rant against the left, Shapiro then goes on to warn that "Libertarianism becomes libertinism without a cultural force pushing back against the penchant for sin" and claims that Hollywood "has no such cultural force."

"No one knows what sort of demons plagued Seymour Hoffman [sic]," Shapiro writes. "But without a sound moral structure around those in Hollywood who have every financial and talent advantage, the path to destruction is far too easy."

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What the hell any of this means, we can't be sure. Perhaps Shapiro is advocating for a stronger nanny state for Hollywood actors? Maybe he'd like to see organized religion play a greater institutional role in the production of American movies? Possibly he's hoping to see the War on Drugs focus its fire on Beverly Hills?

Here's our best guess: Shapiro has previously shown himself to be unconcerned with veracity or basic decency when it comes to dealing with those he considers his political enemies — or "bullies," as he might call them. So, when confronted with the death of a famous actor, he saw an opportunity to exploit a tragedy and reiterate the only real point of his entire career in political journalism: Left-wing people are BAD!

The fact that anyone with a passing familiarity with Hoffman's work would never describe him as any kind of representative of "Hollywood" — or that, actually, we basically know nothing about Hoffman's death other than its likely cause and date — was hardly reason enough for Shapiro to pass up such a golden opportunity to take a shot at his opponents.

This might strike you as grotesque in its pettiness and solipsism, but that's probably just because you're damaged by Hollywood's "broken leftist culture."

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

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