February 9, 2015
Michelle Malkin responds to two-and-a-half-year-old conservative meme with a book about “tinkerpreneurs”
by Mark Krotov
Do you remember the “you didn’t build that” meme? If you don’t, I apologize in advance for this depressing trip down memory lane.
The year was 2012; the month was July. Ice Age: Continental Drift had just opened in theaters, and you were probably hearing a lot of Adele at your local pharmacy, which was sort of fine because you liked Adele, but also, come to think of it, not that fine because you’d find yourself sobbing while buying toothpaste. Oh and there was also a presidential election coming up. President Obama was running against Baha Men enthusiast Mitt Romney, and the race seemed tight.
Four months before the election, on July 13, 2012, Obama made some wholly uncontroversial remarks in Virginia. Here is what he said:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
For noted National Socialist/Marxist/Fascist/Anarcho-Syndicalist Obama, these were pretty mild comments. After all, you’d have to be
a total fucking idiot wilfully misreading the remarks to think that Obama was actually telling business owners that they didn’t build their businesses, when clearly, all he was saying was that for the most part, even the most individualistic people tend to have some help on their way to capitalist success.
The rest was history—albeit really stupid history, the stupidity of which is well captured by this screenshot of a Google Image Search for “you didn’t build that”:
Anyway, now, via the Washington Post’s terrific nonfiction book editor Carlos Lozada, we learn that one of the most self-evidently, transparently, cynically dumb right-wing memes in modern memory has found its way into a book by conservative commentator Michelle Malkin. Which shouldn’t be surprising. After all, back in 2012, Malkin called Obama’s comments a turning point in the election, and she is, among other things, the author of books with titles like Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores and, perhaps most infamously, In Defense of Internment: The Case for Racial Profiling in World War II and the War on Terror. Great, meaty subtitles!
What is surprising, though—other than the fact that someone bothered to allude to two-and-a-half-year-old meme in a book title—is that the new book is, in Malkin’s words, “not a political book.” Another thing that’s surprising? That the book is about “tinkerpreneurs,” which are, of course, not a real thing.
Here’s what king-of-all-loony-media Glenn Beck said to Malkin about Who Built That: Awe-Inspiring Stories of American Tinkerpreneurs on his radio show, where he announced the book’s publication:
When I sat back with you, I listened to you start to talk about tinkerers, and I saw you light up unlike I’ve ever seen you light up before, and I had no idea of this deep, deep passion in you about tinkerers, and you and I sat there and talked about how if we don’t have a resurgence of this love and this passion in our country, we lose our uniqueness. We are unique, we are a different kind of people. And if we lose that uniqueness of somebody just going into their garage and going, “well, I can fix that,” or “I can make a better whatever,” then we lose.
You can watch the video for the full effect, but at this point in American history, your brain is probably capable of doing an imitation of Beck’s smarmy, wide-eyed, faux-preacher style that’s almost as good as the real thing.
That Beck announced the project was no accident, by the way. Unlike Malkin’s first four books, which were released by the conservative Regnery Publishing, Who Built That will be blessed with Beck’s imprimatur: it’ll be published through a co-publishing venture between Simon & Schuster and Mercury Ink, a division of Beck’s Mercury Radio Arts. (Beck’s own books are published by Simon & Schuster through the house’s conservative imprint, Threshold Editions.) Mercury Ink was announced in 2011 to considerable fanfare, but its output to date has been rather modest—a satire about the war on Christmas, a young adult series, a Glenn Beck coffee table book, and a handful of others. Perhaps Malkin’s book will revive the brand.
As for the book’s contents . . . tinkerpreneurs? I, for one, prefer unhinged craziness to quasi-inspirational, neo-capitalist inanity, but maybe the conservative book-buying audience and I don’t quite see eye to eye on this one. In any case, it’s better than another defense of internment camps, I guess. Better—but not by much.
Mark Krotov was a senior editor at Melville House.