Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: Why iHate Steve Jobs/Apple products, and Hoffa, SOB’s, and the New Conservative Crybabyism

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Matt Labash
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      Matt Labash

      Hi, welcome to “Ask Matt Labash.” I’ll be your host, Matt Labash. The idea for this column – if idea isn’t too strong a word – is that it is not a column at all. Rather, it’s a conversation. One in which I do ninety-five percent of the talking. If you did most of the talking, you’d have to watch my eyes go dead and my attention wander until it was my turn to talk again. So trust me, it’s better this way.

      For those unfamiliar with me from my day job at The Weekly Standard, I’ll give you a capsule bio by way of introduction: I have the gift of wisdom. Does that sound arrogant? I’m sorry, that wasn’t my intention. I didn’t choose wisdom. It chose me. If I had my druthers, I’d have chosen another gift, perhaps the untold riches of Lil’ Wayne, whose teeth are made of actual diamonds, or to be the sexiest man alive, like Rachel Maddow. But wisdom is what they gave me, so wisdom is all I have to give back to you.

      This is not, you should know, a mere advice column. If you need advice, I’ll give it. But the only rule here is that there are no rules. You can ask me a question about anything that’s on your mind: current events, pop culture, media, theology, string theory, fishing tips, wicker repair. The only limits we have are those of your imagination. And those of my knowledge base. Which is considerably limited, truth be told. So try not to ask me anything that requires research. Though they tell me I have access to Google on this computer if we need it.

      If all goes according to plan, ours will not be a traditional writer/reader relationship. It’s more complex than that. I might empathize or cajole. I might educate, instruct, or inspire. I might pretend to answer your question while actually reporting you to Social Services, since you’re a dangerous person who should not have contact with children. I might tell you to climb up on my shoulders, that you’re not heavy, you’re my brother. Or I might tell you that you are heavy, and that you should hop down until you lose a few pounds. I might just sidle up behind you, put my big strong man hands on the small of your back, and whisper in your ear the words of the poet, Kenny Rogers: “We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?”

      To which you’ll say something like, “I can’t, I’ve got to go home and wash my hair.”
      To which I’ll say something like, “Shhh. We’ve got tonight babe, why don’t you stay?”
      Wherever this takes us, our journey begins now:

      <i>Matt Labash is a senior writer with The Weekly Standard. His first book, <a href="">Fly Fishing with Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys</a> will be published next month by Simon & Schuster.</i>

I can’t believe James Hoffa said all those nasty things about Republicans the other day with Obama on the stage. Doesn’t that bother you? – Fawn Liebowitz

Not especially. Because I’m a grown man with a fully-developed  life that exists outside the manufactured outrages of some faux news cycle. And I strongly suggest you look into getting one of those as well. Let’s review the facts:

1) Did James Hoffa call Republicans “sonsofbitches”?  Yes.
2) Was Obama, who has called for the need for civility in our discourse, present as Hoffa advocated on his behalf with such remarks?  Yes.
3) Is this on its face, hypocritical? Sure, why not.
4) Is Hoffa himself a sonofabitch? One could make a case.
5) Does it trouble me? No.

If you took all the hypocrisy out of politics, it would no longer even be politics. The entire edifice is built upon gassy, divisive rhetoric, unconvincing artifice, and hoping that the other side gets caught fudging worse than yours does. That’s the American way. And if my cynicism sounds complete, it’s because that’s what the system as currently constituted requires of me. In fact, I’ve always found  it useful to think of politics as the British writer Ernest Benn framed it: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.” Stake your identity on it at your own peril.

Though that seems to be the problem these days, people internalizing this stuff way too much. The expletive hadn’t even left Hoffa’s lips before every conservative commentator within screaming distance let loose with blood-curdling indignation. Considering paranoid, hypersensitive leftoids will use any opportunity to portray overheated or even underheated Tea Partyish rhetoric as hate speech, this is understandable. So on the one hand, fair’s fair.

Still, I was troubled less by the sonofabitchiness of the comment, than by  the New Conservative Crybabyism, in which my winger brethren have become as comfortable on the language-police beat as the left, which once had the market cornered on screechy political correctness, but sadly, no longer does. Whether incessantly caterwauling over sexism or bias or hurt feelings, the right has, with alarming regularity, started sounding as whiny and pussified as their ideological rivals. If you find that kind of company desirable, why be a right-winger at all?  Why not just become an associate professor of semiotics and communication theory at Oberlin, or get your own show on MSNBC?

Did Hoffa sound like a union thug? Of course he did. He is a union thug. That’s his job. With declining membership and an ever-shrinking manufacturing base, the labor movement doesn’t have a lot left to offer. So let them have an off-color word or two as a rallying cry, to remind them of past glories and what relevance once felt like. But as my friend Jonah Goldberg, who was virtually alone among conservatives, pointed out on Fox, “We are in a really weird place where the head of the Teamsters can’t talk tough. I mean, I guess ex-cons are the only ones left who can still talk like men every now and then.”

So toughen up, crybabies and civility scolds. Even if you’re being those things under the guise of tit-for-tat. The whole point of picking sides is that you believe yours to be better. So here’s a wild suggestion: why not prove it by actually being better? All I hear about these days from Tea Party types is what a fight we’re in. And one could easily argue that we are. But if you want to go around getting into fights, sooner or later, you’re going to have to learn how to take a punch without bursting into tears.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is now available in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.