Conservatives didn't start 'own the libs.' They reclaimed it from liberals.

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I was “owning the libs” before it was even cool, back when it was still called “playing” someone. Then I used to live in Austin, and, whenever I went to Whole Foods (which constitutes a Whole Block near downtown) to pick up some overpriced item, I would wear a shirt that kids these days might call “triggering,” but which I will readily admit was me just “being a jerk.” The shirt was bright red, with Ronald Reagan’s head, lined white and done in the classic style of Che Guevara — a pretty perfect parody of Shepard Fairey’s iconographic work.

I had a self-satisfied sense of joy and superiority when other patrons of this bastion of upper class white liberalism looked at my shirt with pleased recognition, before their faces dropped and these privileged hypocrites realized they’d just been “played.”

They’d scowl, I’d smile and then we’d part, both having self-important stories to tell after we’d finished purchasing exotic, overpriced organic things from a company that was once owned by an anti-union stalwart who criticized his employees and customers for being overweight, but has since sold out to a monopoly-building corporation that itself has been accused of cheating workers out of wages while having the audacity to give one of its newest pet purchases the slogan “Democracy Dies in Darkness.”

In a sense, I and the other Whole Foods customers got played. Or triggered. Or, according to the latest Fake News, “owned.”

I say “fake news” in a way that it’s never used: Genuinely. To get owned originally came from hacker culture but was reappropriated on Twitter entirely by liberals looking to slam-dunk on the conservatives, who themselves were trying to “trigger” the left with various reactionary (and often absurdist, sometimes self-sabotaging) performative pieces.

So, though now it’s meant in earnest on the right, “to own the libs” is an entirely left-created, and left-promoted phrase — a cheap punchline to a Twitter joke dismissing an attempt by someone on the right to “trigger” liberals.

Both phrases are so meta and dependent on specific context that neither is actually funny or really true.

Still, there’s lots of finger-wagging at people on the right who are suddenly making efforts at “owning” or “triggering,” as if any attempt to point out the self-seriousness, narrow-minded tribalism and general self-delusion of the other political side is an exclusively “conservative” thing. The mainstream left (specifically, the rich, white, coastal left) has been systematically trying to “trigger” and “own” conservatives for years, without ever owning up to their own owningness.

“To own the libs” is an entirely left-created, and left-promoted phrase — a cheap punchline to a Twitter joke dismissing an attempt by someone on the right to “trigger” liberals.

After all, what else is it but an in-joke, a signal that you’re better than someone else and more in-the-know, then to suggest that they settle on their political positions because “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations”? Or that fully 50 percent of your opponent’s supporters are “a basket of deplorables” and “irredeemable”?

Or take Hollywood (whose leaders are part of the same elite class evident in both ruling parties), where community spaces like houses of worship and sporting events are cast as twisted prisons for damaged souls or stupid horse-powered distractions in which cars go around in a circle, but nearly no mind is paid to the cult-like appeal of activities like CrossFit or SoulCycle, the classist virtue-signaling of expensive yoga regimes or the obsession with all things “organic.”

Whether it’s vilifying gun owners or portraying anyone not from a coastal city as a rube, it seems there’s not much a non-liberal can do that doesn’t immediately attract the derision and mockery of a mainstream (rich, white) left that screams for more diversity while collectively living in gentrified urban neighborhoods and pushing out the poor and minorities.

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