I hate having to hate Ben Stein. Like much of my generation, I was wooed by his sublime 15-minutes-of-fame role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and from that moment on his tweedy charisma made him a welcome cameo in any teleplay. He had an unquantifiable cool, probably best expressed through his semi-ironic ads for Clear Eyes eye drops, in which his lethean demeanor and spaced-out “wow” could be read as code that stoners finally had a friend in the establishment willing to help them fool their dayshift managers.

However, Stein lost me with Expelled, his charmless infomercial for the Intelligent Design movement in which he basically laid the Holocaust at Charles Darwin’s feet (I am unaware of Hitler ever even mentioning Darwin by name, although Mein Kampf is filled with praise for God). In Expelled I was introduced to Radical Ben, as opposed to Hollywood Ben, and soon discovered that he had a penchant for toeing the line of right wing and evangelical fruitcakes, a fact of his Republican pedigree that I had not recognized until then.

But if it is a disappointment to realize that Stein is basically just another white snob, that his blase, Thurston Howell voice is actually the accent of his class, not that of the neighborhood he was raised in, it is even sadder to find out that he is also something of a prick.

This was my takeaway, at least, after reading Stein’s post-Trayvon commentary on The American Spectator website (please don’t ask me what I am doing reading the dispatches of bored, ivy league conservatives. The Internet is shameful in all its dimensions).

Stein, whose “diary” features a cartoon representing himself as some sort of world weary, jet-setting bon vivant, predictably takes Zimmerman’s side, and musters a diluvial quantity of gall by calling what befell the Sheriff of Sanford a “lynching”. From there, of course, Ben’s analysis is what you would expect from a privileged celebrity who likes to stand sighing by his pool in Beverly Hills (or is it Malibu, or Sandpoint, Idaho?), watching the jacaranda petals swirling on the water’s surface as he recalls how his life of ease was bought with so much precious American G.I. blood. I’m sure those soldiers are smiling down on Ben from heaven, happy to have bequeathed to him such an idyll.

Ben Stein:
Clear-eyed on Trayvon’s blame

But onto the Black Question.

“The least of the problems that black people face in the USA right now is attacks by heavy set volunteer watchmen in gated communities,” writes Stein, in one of several columns in which, between helpings of tuna tartare, he addresses the touchy matters that the case has arroused. “That’s not even on the radar screen as a serious problem.”

Well no shit. Of course roving mobs of gordos wasn’t the nub of the issue.  The fact is that, rightly or wrongly, the community Trayvon’s family lived in (the actual community, not the “black community” Stein refers to when he means negrodom) believed they were not receiving justice for the unwarranted death of one of their own. Denuded of the barnacles that accrued as this case worked its way through the public mind and the political machinery, that was always the central point: that George Zimmerman’s misdeeds might never even reach a grand jury, much less trial.

This is the germ of the Martin/Zimmerman odyssey  which seems to have been gotten lost in the wash. The suggestion of abject racism on the part of Zimmerman was always a canard, and Stein is correct to suggest that the prosecution overreached in building a case on that foundation. However, that justice under the law is still a dodgier proposition for blacks than it is for whites, and that this racism persists today despite our current president’s complexion, is still a live issue. George Zimmerman absolutely deserved to be tried for his actions, and if the jury found that he did not commit the crime for which he was charged, so be it. That is justice, like it or not.

For Ben Stein, however, the fact that Trayvon’s family didn’t roll over when the law shrugged is cause for hysterics.

“For the President and Eric Holder and the liberal media and the ‘black leaders’ to turn up the heat under a new evil cauldron of racism is terrifying,” says Ben. In another entry he writes,” It terrifies me that we are pretending that the likes of George Zimmerman are a problem when we have real problems. It terrifies me that a man with the power of Eric Holder can use an explicitly racist, anti-white approach to a complex case that is itself a sideshow.”

Except for acknowledging the plain facts of historical racism in this country, I cannot imagine two more solicitous black politicians than Barack Obama and Eric Holder. Obama went so far as to once proclaim that Trayvon Martin was no more a brute than his own son might have been, but then ended the conversation there. Eric Holder, for his part, has resolutely tamped down expectations of his bringing civil rights charges against Zimmerman. What more these politicians could do to ward off Ben’s night sweats, except bleach their skins, escapes me.

But perhaps it is fellow Spectator writer Christopher Orlet who better illustrates the conflict raging in the the wealthy white mind. Writing about the need for an urban black middle class, he brings the subject around to Trayvon and states “…I am convinced that the only way to help young men like Trayvon Martin is to counteract the negative reinforcement of the ghetto.”

This is a perfect example of self-fulfilling propaganda. Where, in the entire saga of Trayvon Martin’s killing, did the idea emerge that some aspect of the boy’s character or lifestyle or upbringing or musical choices was a contributing factors in his death? He was shot for walking down the street by an armed man who approached him with the intent of pushing him around. If Trayvon had been carrying a brick of heroin it still would have had nothing to do with George Zimmerman’s motivations, which were entirely prejudicial.

Ben Stein and his ilk are so goddamn insulated in lives of comfort that the mere hint of racism’s continued existence is like a whisper of Voldemort’s return. It is not simply that they think Zimmerman was railroaded by the press; they see themselves in George Zimmerman: a man just trying to keep his gated world safe. And why the hell should that safety rest in the hands of officers of the law? 

Stein goes so far as to call Zimmerman “a fool”, but beyond that, any fool can see the kid had it coming. To prove this, Ben Stein indicts Trayvon with all the particulars of his nature as a teenage boy: he’d smoked pot, he was well-built, he had bragged online about being a tough guy. From this, and the fact that Trayvon did not stop to have a “conversation” with George Zimmerman over a glass of burgandy, the message is clear: Ben would have shot Trayvon Martin too.

And after he had, and so long as the liberal media was not provoked by parents who weren’t satisfied to simply drop their son in a hole, it would be back to the lifestyle that Ben Stein and his audience at the American Spectator have strived so hard to rise to. Sleeping until noon, huckleberry sundaes with the missus, Safeway bagels “as good as any bagels in Beverly Hills”,  swimming pools cum zen gardens… ah to be rich. And safe. And so very white.

Update: Ben just keeps on giving! His latest blog  recounts sparkling conversation he had with N-word loving pal Mark “Bloody Glove” Fuhrman. To verify the tin ear for irony Ben established with his “lynching” comment (above), Ben states that poor Mark was “basically murdered by the media”.