In Defense Of Tomi Lahren, Or: Stop Fighting Straw Men

I think we’ve all had just about enough of Tomi Lahren. You know, the white lady who gets mad at liberal snowflakes on The Blaze? Whatever stripe of the great political rainbow you fall under, it’s pretty easy to deplore the person who coined the term rapeugee.

 Look, I’m all for a good portmanteau every now and again, but the conflation of people fleeing a conflict zone with an insatiable desire to commit sex crimes because of their country of origin and the ostensible hatred for women that they harbor in their jihadist hearts is plain insulting. The claims arise from the unaccountably high incidence of sex crimes in the Dunkirk refugee camp, but this has a lot more to do with people in desperate circumstances being taken advantage of than it does with the threat of incoming refugees being involved in a sex crime. Dunkirk is a shantytown where people live in constant fear of being sent back to the country from which they’ve fled – Germany experienced a similar problem last year and concluded it was primarily an issue of infrastructure - there are, as yet, zero reported cases of rape being committed by a refugee on US soil in the last year. Lahren is so off base on this one that I question whether she has access to the internet or simply calls Steve Bannon every morning to be told what to say.

It is not hard to find reasons to mock Tomi, I am currently suppressing the urge to do so right now, but we as the educated and reasonable must do our part to resist the impulse. It has become fashionable to make Lahren look like a Shakespearian clown, a caricature of herself who couldn’t possibly be taken seriously by anyone. Like this clip which reduces Lahren’s nearly 10-minute Daily Show interview to less than 2 minutes and makes her look like she learned English yesterday. Or this one. Or this one. It goes on Ad Godwin’s Infinitum (to be clear, a term coined by me having nothing to do with Mike Godwin but one that I hope he would like). The sources of the mockery range from YouTubers unknown, famous ones like the Young Turks, and major networks like CNN. However, we who disagree with Tomi must stop doing this, and more broadly, must stop doing this to people we disagree with.

By reducing Lahren to a soundbite, 40-120 seconds of out-of-context trite that no one could possibly agree with, does little to address the issue that many of Lahren’s arguments are problematic, that some of what she says is untrue, and that there is a reasoned defense against it. For example, when you listen to the 10 seconds where Tomi says that she does not see color, it’s easy to dismiss her as an out of touch, entitled white person. But all you’ve really done there is prop up a straw woman and knock her down.

What would be much more effective, and much more helpful to the dialogue, is to play her statement in its entirety (she goes on the criticize Colin Kaepernick) and let the audience conclude that she has contradicted her own rhetoric. The whole tirade comes out of a criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement, and if she can’t see color then what movement is she criticizing exactly? How does she identify the members? How does she know why Colin Kaepernick didn’t stand up during the National Anthem? (And, doesn’t his action fit under her umbrella of free speech? If not, why Tomi? Jefferson criticized the nation, Lincoln criticized the nation, God knows Donald Trump takes his criticisms for a run every morning, surely Kaepernick is part of a long tradition of people justifiably exercising their first-amendment right.)

But these justifiable (and, to be honest, boiling inside of me for too long) criticisms cannot be arrived at or even heard when Tomi is presented as a farce. We must take her seriously because she is serious. Her fans and listeners take her seriously. Her rhetoric needs to be rebutted seriously. Every now and again she has a good idea. One that is not the monstrous array of racist foolishness and blind Trump allegiance that much of the non-Blaze media coverage portrays.

If the readers of TrigTent will let me, I’m going to coin a term here. I’m going to call what’s happening to Lahren the Jon Stewart Effect. This will describe the process by which consumers of mass media seek to mock it in order to highlight the hypocrisy inherent in the system. The most important aspect of Jon Stewart’s media criticism is that he was Jon Stewart. He and a staff of nearly 100 people did the work of mocking the news for you. Their intention was to highlight things you might have missed. Doing the work of Jon Stewart at home is like brewing your own gin in the bathtub. Sure, it’s cheaper, but you might go blind.

Instead, I’d like to advocate a pro-hearing people out stance which allows us to accurately assess what people are saying, what it might mean in a broader context, how we might react to it. If you can’t or don’t have the time, then don’t bother. Reasoned discussion is the only way to beat Lahren and her ilk, reasoned listening is the only place to start.

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