Aside from Insinuating Matt Daniel is Anti-Semitic, Shapira’s Latest Piece Wasn’t So Bad

by James A. Bacon

The Washington Post’s Ian Shapira has finally published his piece about Matt Daniel, head of the Spirit of VMI PAC and one of the more vocal critics of the current VMI leadership. It may be the most balanced piece Shapira has ever written in his coverage of VMI — admittedly, an extremely low bar to clear. Even though Daniel declined to answer his questions, Shapira made a decent effort to present his point of view by quoting from the public record. 

I cannot say what accounts for this departure in Shapira’s journalistic practice, but it cannot entirely be coincidence that Daniel had pre-empted a feared hit job by publicly releasing a list of questions that the WaPo reporter had emailed him shortly before publication. (Bacon’s Rebellion reported on those questions here.)

Still, Shapira can’t help being Shapira, and he described two incidents that grotesquely insinuated that Daniel has Nazi and/or anti-Semitic proclivities.

Here is the first incident:

By the end of 2020, Daniel said on Facebook that he opened an account under the username @EggBoyRises on Gab, a social media platform popular with white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other far-right figures. About six months later, the Spirit of VMI also started a Gab account.

Both accounts have been used only rarely. But, in one December 2020 post on the @EggBoyRises account, a drawing of “Egg Boy” stands next to what appears to be an ostrich with its head in the sand under a sign that reads, “Leftie Training Camp Station #1.” The comment above the drawing reads, “EGG-BOY UBER ALLES!”

The phrase “Über Alles” was once in a verse of the German national anthem and means “above all.” But it was cut from the song after World War II because the phrase was embraced by the Nazis and is considered offensive.

I don’t know much about Gab — I’ve never used it, never visited it — but I do know that it became popular with conservatives and the far right after it became clear that Twitter and other social media were suppressing their views. Linking Daniel to neo-Nazis for using Gab would akin to linking Shapira to Antifa by noting that Twitter is “popular with Antifa and other radical revolutionaries.” Guilt by association. Guilt by extremely tenuous association.

As for the phrase “über alles,” I suspect that Shapira is reading way too much into the cartoon. Many people, conservatives at least, use it as a negative phrase. The term is meant to invoke Nazi-like authoritarianism. I’m not sure whether Daniel meant his “EggBoy” cartoon character to be sympathetic, or unsympathetic, or ironic, or whatever, so I cannot say for certain what he meant to convey with the words “über alles.” But I know for a fact that Daniel is not a Nazi sympathizer, so I would interpret the cartoon (based on Shapira’s description) as a derogatory reference to the authoritarian tendencies of lefties.

Here is the second incident:

He’s also invoked the names of the World Economic Forum’s executive chairman Klaus Schwab, and Jewish billionaire George Soros — favorite targets of antiglobalist and antisemitic conspiracy theorists.

In a LinkedIn post that’s been taken down, he wrote, “[I]t’s the Dr. Evil Gepettos like the Klaus Schwabs, George Soros (and others) that create hell on Earth.”

This time Shapira is shamelessly linking Daniel to anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. This is an old trope of the left. Conservatives who criticize Soros, a leftist who happens to be a Jew, are criticizing him because he is Jewish — not because he is a leftist. I can guarantee you that Daniel could give a flying fig what Soros’ ethnic identity is. He is criticizing Soros for the left-wing causes he has used his wealth to underwrite.

This is vintage Shapira. He doesn’t explicitly state that Daniel is anti-Semitic. Instead, he selects facts and creates a context that invite the reader to infer that he is anti-Semitic. Nicely lawyered, Mr. Shapira, nicely lawyered. You’ve managed to smear Daniel while protecting yourself against a libel suit.

Still, all things considered Shapira’s story was less odious and one-sided than usual, so he deserves an attaboy. Good job, Mr. Shapira. You have elevated your standards.