Facts Don't Care About Your Feelings
*Information contained herein is intended to critique perspectives and behavior, not to defame the overt or implied character of individuals with whom these viewpoints and actions are associated.
A Ben Shapiro meme and its later corruption
During the time I was de-identifying with feminist ideology and distancing myself from social justice warrior (SJW) activism, I discovered YouTube content featuring Ben Shapiro. In particular, I recall when the “facts don’t care about your feelings” meme began. Regarding this topic, one source states:
On July 17th, 2015, Ben Shapiro appeared on the American current affairs program Dr. Drew on Call to discuss Caitlyn Jenner, who at the time had recently come out as transgender. When others on the panel criticized Shapiro for disregarding Jenner’s personal pronouns[, he] responded, “Forget about the disrespect: facts don’t care about your feelings.” The clip received more than 8.2 million views on YouTube after HLN published the video.
I appreciated Shapiro’s use of logic and reason when engaging with others through formal debate and informal argumentation. Having taken speech class in high school, I learned that the purpose of debate is to persuade the undecided audience member and not the opposing side of an argument.
Shapiro convinced me that use of logical fallacies, irrational beliefs, and incessant venting, whining, moaning, bitching, and complaining were unfavorable factors for acquiring knowledge, developing understanding, and attaining wisdom.
As an SJW, I allowed my irrational emotion to unhelpfully impact my ability to engage in reasonable discourse. Currently, I take personal ownership of my behavior from that period of my life and it was Shapiro whose example I followed in order to begin the proper use of Stoicism.
However, my admiration of Shapiro faded a number of years after discovering his content. In a blogpost entitled Ban, Ban Just as Fast as You Can, I addressed this matter by stating:
I observed Shapiro transition from teaching his audience how to properly frame a debate to taking a hardline approach to promoting his values rather than engaging in meaningful discussion or debate. Over time, I began to see rightwing commentators assuming similar moralizing positions.
Through his use of demandingness, I realized that Shapiro began admonishing people in relation to what he apparently believed should, must, or ought to be the case from a moral and ethical position. Perhaps that was his modus operandi all along and it merely took me longer than other people to realize it.
Ultimately, I distanced myself from Shapiro’s content when I realized that he’d essentially adopted similar tactics relating to the very sociopolitical opponents he frequently chastised. The Shapiro meme was thus corrupted by horseshoe theory, which one source explains as follows:
In political science and popular discourse, the horseshoe theory asserts that the extreme left and the extreme right, rather than being at opposite and opposing ends of a linear political continuum, closely resemble each other, analogous to the way that the opposite ends of a horseshoe are close together.
Since the initiation of the 2023 Israel-Hamas war, I’ve encountered Shapiro’s online content once again. Disappointingly, it appears as though he and other rightwing partisans have full-on endorsed a feelings-don’t-care-about-your-facts rhetorical and behavioral style.
The meme’s meaning
Regarding this post and for the sake of clarity, it may be important to define terms. When expressing “facts don’t care about your feelings,” what is implied in the statement?
Facts may be defined as things which are known or proved to be true. Care may be described as concern or interest, particularly in regards to attachment to that which is considered important in some way.
Lastly, feelings relate to emotions (i.e., joy, fear, anger, sorrow, disgust, surprise, etc.) or bodily sensations (i.e., tightness in the chest, headache, hot, pain in the feet, etc.). Importantly, I understand that in common parlance, “feelings” refers to thoughts, beliefs, or intuition.
For instance, person X may say, “I don’t know what I feel like eating,” when intending to say, “I don’t know what I think I’d like to eat.” As well, person Y may state, “I feel like you don’t respect me,” when intending to express, “I believe you don’t respect me.”
Likewise, person Z may declare, “For some reason, my feeling is that she isn’t trustworthy,” to imply the statement, “For some reason, my intuition is that she isn’t trustworthy.” Regarding the Shapiro meme, one suspects that the actual and colloquial usage of “feelings” is implied.
As such, to claim that “facts don’t care about your feelings” is to express that objective and evidence-based reality isn’t concerned with your emotions, body sensations, thoughts, beliefs, or intuition. This is likely because truth and reality exist outside of an individual, as nobody maintains a modified version of this principle (i.e., “my truth,” “my reality,” etc.).
How far the rightwing has strayed from the meme
For the reader’s benefit, it may be helpful to cite a number of examples concerning rightwing inconsistency in regards ideological principles—fundamental truths or propositions which serve as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.
As referenced herein, Shapiro made popular the phrase, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” However, it became apparent to me that he instead adopted a fight-fire-with-fire tactic, which is based in irrational emotion.
As an example, Shapiro recently spoke at the University of Florida and titled his speech, “Why Hamas is evil and those who support them hate Jews.” Prefacing his speech by use of a false dilemma, Shapiro ostensibly defended Israel’s killing of innocent, non-combatant Palestinians.
Also, former United States ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, stated in 2020, “It is time we faced a hard truth: both sides would benefit greatly from a peace agreement, but the Palestinians would benefit more, and the Israelis would risk more.”
Haley’s measured, reasonable response has since been replaced with an emotional plea, as she recently stated of Hamas’ attack on Israel, “This is not just an attack on Israel; this is an attack on America, because they hate us just as much,” as she called for Benjamin Netanyahu to “finish them [Hamas]!”
Additionally, political commentator Dave Rubin apparently stated in his book Don’t Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in an Age of Unreason:
I’m a free-speech absolutist. Yes, even when it comes to opinions I find abhorrent. In fact, specifically when it comes to those opinions. The only exceptions to this rule have already been specified by the Supreme Court of the United States: calling for direct violence against a person or specific group, yelling “fire” in a crowded theater (with the intent to incite imminent lawless action), and defaming somebody through libel or slander. Everything else should get a free pass, every single time. No exceptions, ever.
Although I’m not quite onboard with an “absolutist” approach to speech, I appreciate rational advocacy for free expression. Nevertheless, following the Hamas attack on Israel and subsequent pro-Palestinian protests, Rubin stated, “Maybe the West has a chance” when a number of protesters were condemned for exercising free speech.
Other instances of rightwing suppression of free speech, calls for firing and pleas against hiring, and other forms of typically leftwing behavior have been noted by Glenn Greenwald on System Update. For the last several years, it seems to have been members of the left who predominately participated in this type of cancel culture.
Then again, I’m not unfamiliar with similar practices from the right within my lifetime. I could cite numerous examples of bans on rap music, television shows, movies, video games, books, and magazines since my youth. Moreover, one source clarifies:
Look at the right’s history of silencing former communist party members, or those it called “fellow travelers,” no matter how old their participation was. In the post-World War II years, the right-wing House Un-American Activities Committee and Senator Joe McCarthy used the fear of communism to silence progressives by threatening employers into firing or blacklisting employees in the motion picture industry, the leaders of the Congress of Industrial Unions (CIO), as well as those in government or teaching in universities. Fueling the attacks, many newspapers and radio networks acted as megaphones.
And as such, I’m not certain of how far the rightwing has strayed from the Shapiro meme—because it likely never wandered far from emotionally-reactive perspectives and behavior in the first place. Using similar tactics as one’s opponents very well may be the principle upon which the right stands, not the appearance of logical and reasonable discourse.
Following his 2015 meme-worthy catchphrase, “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” Ben Shapiro played a key role in my deprograming from leftwing ideology. For that influence alone, I remain grateful.
Nonetheless, I recall an instance from social work graduate school when I challenged a group of feminists in regards to their strategy of using unreasonable and emotional discourse as a means of achieving their goals. Their leftwing tactics are something I’ve since observed being used by members of the rightwing.
I maintain that objective and evidence-based reality isn’t concerned with one’s emotions, bodily sensations, thoughts, beliefs, or intuition. Facts truly don’t care about your feelings, if data hypothetically had the ability to care at all.
And while I can use rational compassion to understand the level of fear, anger, sorrow, disgust, and surprise experienced by the right and in relation to matters such as the Israel-Hamas war, I don’t desire to allow myself abandonment of logic and reason in favor of emotional reaction.
I can concurrently denounce the nation of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians while condemning the terroristic actions of Hamas. I can simultaneously advocate human rights for residents of Palestine while supporting Israel’s right to defend itself from imminent aggression.
A paradox may be defined as a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true. Paradoxically, I can support and denounce both Israel and Palestine without the use of feelings-based influence.
Alas, it appears as though I’ve deceived myself to a degree. I mistakenly believed that the right once held a principled stance on the employment of well-reasoned discourse.
However, when factual data from both historical and current context is considered, I realize that cancel culture, emotional outrage, and incessant whining behavior have no specific sociopolitical side. That’s a fact that doesn’t care about my feelings.
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