Let me preface this by saying that Matt Walsh, the socially conservative controversialist, occasionally makes some good points. If you go far enough back on my Twitter, you’ll even see that I once tweeted “@MattWalshBlog for president” during my time as a naïve college freshman.
That said, as I’ve followed the reactionary Catholic blogger-turned-Blaze-columnist’s career, I’ve grown increasingly bothered by some aspects of his commentary, most notably his tendency to automatically side with violent authority figures. The latest addition to the list of Walsh’s pet causes is United Airlines, who became the center of controversy when a passenger was violently dragged off a flight on Sunday evening, sparking a PR disaster for the airline as it tried to contain the fallout from a viral video of the incident.
Walsh penned a piece Tuesday arguing that, while he still considers United Airlines to be “the third worst company in America (behind Planned Parenthood and Comcast),” the passenger, Dr. David Dao, “behaved like a hysterical toddler” and “was at least as wrong” as United.
Presenting himself as the Voice of Reason in the midst of an irrational public that he calls the Outrage Mob, Walsh calmly explained to us that Dr. Dao had no right to his seat and that the security officers could not have been expected to risk their jobs by backing down. Later, on Twitter, he said his defense of United was based on his strong commitment to “private property.”
I personally believe that United could have solved the problem by increasing the value of the vouchers they were offering, but Walsh’s points are valid and deserve a hearing. What bothers me is how his defense of United is his most recent—although by no means his first—episode of blaming the one in the hospital bed and backing the one who put him there.
In October 2015, Walsh defended a school security officer who dragged a student from her desk, threw her across the room, and handcuffed her. The 16-year-old girl, Walsh argued, should have been taught to “respect authority” so as to avoid becoming the victim of state violence—violence, which, by the way, was totally disproportionate to her crime of sitting in her seat and offering no resistance other than her refusal to stand up.
Walsh seems to have a vendetta against people refusing to give up their seats.
In August 2016, Walsh encouraged his tens of thousands of Twitter followers to “take note of everyone outraged by the death of Korryn Gaines, and then remember to never take them seriously again.” Korryn Gaines, in case you’ve forgotten, was a black woman fatally shot by police in Maryland. After police kicked her door down to serve an arrest warrant involving traffic violations, she pointed a shotgun at them with one arm while holding her five-year-old son with the other and asked them to leave. An hours-long standoff ensued, after which police eventually opened fire on Gaines, killing her and striking her son.
It seems like it should at least be worth discussing why police thought it was okay to open fire on a woman who they knew was holding a small child, especially since they reportedly didn’t have a search warrant and their account of events was later credibly challenged. For God’s sake, Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore, not the real one) almost lost her job after pulling a stunt like that, and she didn’t even hit the kid! But no. According to Walsh, the cops who shot a kindergartner were above reproach, and you—dear readers—should never take me seriously again.
I hope you’ll at least finish this article, though, because I’m almost done.
Walsh’s knee-jerk reaction of defending the strong when they prey on the weak reveals an authoritarian streak of the worst possible kind.
I’ve often envied Walsh’s confidence in his beliefs. He, according to the subtitle of his blog, is a purveyor of “absolute truths,” and does not hesitate to label opposing ideologies as “satanic.”
The pattern I’m picking up in the articles and tweets I’ve mentioned, however, is not that of authoritarianism in the service of a particular ideology, but rather authoritarianism as an ideology unto itself, a love of civic order and of any violence deemed necessary to maintain it.
The 1999 film “Fight Club” asked its audience, “[A]re you so impressed with authority that you give respect and credence to all who claim it?” It seems Walsh is and does.
Why he might feel this way we can only speculate. Perhaps he looks around and sees a world being cast into anarchy by a veritable blizzard of snowflakes and is willing to salute anyone willing to pick up a shovel…or a flamethrower. But if that’s the case, then despite his more agreeable persona, he’s fallen into the same trap as provocateurs like Martin Shkreli.
It’s a simple process: Say what is perceived to be “the wrong thing,” draw criticism, use that criticism to strengthen your conception of yourself as a persecuted prophet to a world gone mad, repeat.
It’s a common method for embattled conservatives and it’s an easy one to adopt, but it will never be right. Even if the world has gone crazy, we won’t make it sane again by dragging people off of airplanes.