Talia Lavin: Ben Shapiro 'evoked the specter' of war between Islam and the West (Update: MMFA)

Writer Talia Lavin has a piece in the Washington Post today which suggests Ben Shapiro was setting up some kind of war with Islam by tweeting that the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was “a monument to Western civilization. Here’s the paragraph in which she manages to squeeze Shapiro in with Richard Spencer:

Many figures on the right took the opportunity to turn Notre Dame into a metonym for Western civilization as a whole, intimating that far more than a cathedral was in peril. Just as the fire hit social media, conspiracy theorist and brain-supplements salesman Mike Cernovich dramatically tweeted that “The West has fallen.” Shortly thereafter, fast-talking far-right pundit Ben Shapiro called Notre Dame a “monument to Western civilization” and “Judeo-Christian heritage.” Given the already-raging rumors about potential Muslim involvement, these tweets evoked the specter of a war between Islam and the West that is already part of numerous far-right narratives; it was also a central thread in the manifesto of Brenton Tarrant, the alleged Christchurch, New Zealand, shooter. Richard Spencer, professional racist and coiner of the term “alt-right,” openly advocated for such warfare, stating (and misspelling) his hopes that the fire would “spur the White man into action — to sieze power in his countries, in Europe, in the world,” and declaring such an insurgence a “glorious purpose.” And, as Buzzfeed’s Jane Lytvynenko reported, other, more oblique figures managed to go even further, from provocation in the abstract to more concrete incitement. A “parody account” masquerading as Fox News fabricated a tweet from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) that said, “They reap what they sow #NotreDame.”

Here’s the tweet Lavin is talking about.

And that led to this tweet disputing the point with a writer for the Intercept:

Shapiro is making a case for Notre Dame as representing more to the world than just one particular faith. I think a lot of the secular Parisians who watched it partially collapse yesterday would agree with that. What I don’t see is any references to Islam or war or any suggestion this was anything but an accident. He’s just saying it’s heartbreaking, which again many millions of people watching the fire thought it was. Shapiro objected strongly to the suggestion by Lavin that he was invoking any specters, calling it “the sheerest form of disgusting bulls***.”

What Lavin is doing here is what Democrats have claimed (falsely) that Republicans have done to Rep. Omar. In this case, Shapiro’s comments have been twisted well beyond any fair reading and combined with things he didn’t say at all to produce a completely invented claim that he was evoking a war with another faith. It’s an absurd and unjustifiable claim.

Talia Lavin is no stranger to false accusations. Last summer, she was one of the most prominent people to suggest a disabled veteran working with ICE had a Nazi tattoo. She deleted the tweet and apologized but was fired from her job at the New Yorker. She was recently hired to teach a class about reporting on the right for NYU’s journalism school. If this piece in the Post is an example of her reporting, students should demand their money back. Generally speaking, it’s not a good approach to conflate what someone actually said with rumors other people were circulating and suggest the two were connected to make your point.

Update: MMFA has something significant to add to this discussion.

Did I significant? I meant angry and stupid.