Do Daily Wire Hosts Want to Tear Down Culture or Build It Up?

Which way, western man? Behind the Candace Owens/Ben Shapiro feud lies a deeper divide over the purpose of cultural conservatism.
on Nov 16, 2023

Hey, thanks, The Daily Wire!

This week at Lorehaven, I had a very nice podcast episode with Zack Russell: Can Political Pundits Create Fantastical Stories?

We were being all optimistic about this media outlet’s turn toward making fantastical stories, which may have staying power beyond the 24-hour news cycle.

Then the next day on Twitter, all Hell broke loose. DW-contracted personality Candace Owens is now feuding publicly with DW co-owner and founding personality Ben Shapiro.

This feud offers lessons in actual biblical peacemaking. It can help us:

  • Recognize passive-aggressive tactics (like Owens used)
  • Prevent reckless responses that look bad to casual onlookers (like Shapiro did)
  • And help us avoid bad dizzernment from a distance (like many of their critics/fans).

Yet these cracks betray signs of a deeper divide. This divide is widening and getting worse, between a type of right-wing rhetoric that aims to tear down, versus beliefs and actions that aim to build up culture and individuals—that is, one based on conservation of virtue.

This article from The Daily Beast helps summarize the brouhaha.1 A passerby or someone only paying attention to these folks on Twitter would wonder what the ruckus is about. Or they would make a snap-judgment based on silly stereotypes (such as “Ben Shapiro is so elitist/whiny, etc.”) and think they’ve been dizzerning.

Owens v. Shapiro: my summary

  1. Candace Owens bothers some critics due to her seemingly late “conversion” to the cultural right, and previous other decisions.
  2. Some think she’s a “grifter,” i.e. just doing all this for the money. For example, she’s gotten all the way onto the Trump bandwagon.
  3. Lately, she’s often associated with folks like Kanye West, who make no secret of their (inherited?) hatred of who they call Jews.
  4. On the Israel issue, Owens errs on the side of defending pro-Hamas protests, apparently due to libertarian views on free speech.
  5. She’s not even said “Hamas shouldn’t rape/assault people.” Instead, she’s implied that Israel’s leaders may be guilty of “genocide.”
  6. Clearly she’s the odd one out, ideologically, at Daily Wire. Most of their hosts aren’t yuge fans of ex-president Trump. (Neither am I.)
  7. Ben Shapiro is founding host and part owner of Daily Wire. I listen to him, yet I often disagree with him on style and substance.
  8. Shapiro is Jewish and believes in American support for allies, based on many traditional conservative foreign policy positions.
  9. At a private event(?), yet on video, Shapiro called Owens’ take on the Israel issue “disgraceful,” yet has not publicly elaborated.
  10. Yesterday, Owens went on the Tucker Carlson show on Twitter to express her disagreement with Shapiro’s critique.
  11. Her foreign policy is best described as “isolationism.” That is, “we have big problems at home, so let’s avoid all other wars.”
  12. She also said some (at best) monumentally stupid things, such as accusing Ron DeSantis voters of being thoughtless war-hawks.
  13. She then gets on Twitter and posts, without obvious context, Bible verses in which Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
  14. And yet these tweets are not in isolation. They have clear context of previous views/behavior about Israel and foreign policy.
  15. Shapiro engages directly and publicly. He dares her to quit Daily Wire if she truly feels she is choosing between “God and money.”
  16. Owens says she was just quoting a Bible verse with no other context. She acts as if Shapiro is making this post all about himself.
  17. She claims Shapiro is simply opposing a quoted Bible verse, as if denying her the “right” to echo New Testament religious truth.
  18. She then posts the phrase, “Christ is king,” once again using a glorious biblical truth as a political “clobber,” possibly against Jews.
  19. This is manipulative behavior, wielding Scripture as a weapon in a clash over worldviews (at best) or personalities (at worst).
  20. Unfortunately, Shapiro also took the bait and started a fight he couldn’t finish. It would have been better to keep silent there.

There’s more, such as the obvious signs of behind-the-scenes drama at The Daily Wire. At this company, personalities such as Owens are under contract to do podcasts, movies, and certain collaborative events. And if there is a clash of personalities or ideological differences, that must get really awkward for everybody. From here it’s clear Shapiro wants Owens to leave DW. He is willing to get very aggressive. And she is willing to respond with passive-aggression. That’s a trick I’ve seen pulled in person. If you’re sensitive to this, it’s an effective ploy, but once you see it, it’s impossible to unsee it. Don’t fall for it (as Shapiro did).

Owens v. Shapiro: my early thoughts

First, this dustup shows the futility of some alliances on the cultural right. In my view, and focused solely on the issue of how Americans should think of Israel, Shapiro is right, and Owens is wrong. Ideally, we’d have room to debate these things. But here, one party like Owens is making common cause with folks like Bruce “Caitlin” Jenner and the greasy grift-engine of the Trump “campaign” as well as rank Jew-haters and misogynists like Andrew Tate.  The other party is not doing that. In this case, there’s really no debate.

Second, typically Trumpian tactics are poisoning the “conservative movement” over time. By this I refer to passive-aggression, valuing rhetoric and promises over actions and proven records, and acidic nastiness over sober-minded control of the tongue (James 3).

Third, cultural conservatives ought to know this biblical truth that there is “a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up” (Ecclesiastes 3:3). But what if a self-styled influencer on the “right” has no a biblical foundation for understanding humanity’s purpose? What if such a person comes into these ideas from a place of vengeance and/or profiteering? Then he or she will get stuck in tear-down mode. Their influence will be like “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). On the scale of generations, to say nothing of eternity, this “profitable” influence will prove worthless.

I’d prefer The Daily Wire focus on building new things, using profits from podcasts/news stuff for that end.

So as Daily Wire and other cultural conservative platforms continue to grow, I can only hope they will put down roots into the deeper soils of a Judeo-Christian foundation—and trim off their fruitless branches.

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  1. I thought about embedding the tweets here. But (a) by the time you read this article, one or all of these tweets is likely to be deleted, (b) frankly, I’m too discouraged about this whole thing to bother with screenshots.
E. Stephen Burnett explores fantastical stories for God’s glory as publisher of and its weekly Fantastical Truth podcast. He coauthored The Pop Culture Parent and creates other resources for fans and families, serving with his wife, Lacy, in their central Texas church. Stephen's first novel, a science-fiction adventure, launches in 2025 from Enclave Publishing.
  1. Karen Campbell says:

    Such a good article. You nailed it.

What say you?