Why Prager University ... Isn't
What are they, then? Find out in this blatantly clickbait-y article!
PragerU seems to be all over my social media feed. You've probably seen them, too: Sponsored Ads for conservative-leaning videos, usually only about five minutes long. Sometimes they'll even throw in a call to action like "don't let free speech be censored!" ... so you think "I love free speech, it's my favorite kind!" and you click on it.
And then they have you, at least for that click.
The Prager University Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that has existed since 2009. Originally planned to be a university, founders Dennis Prager and Allen Estrin switched to a slightly different format: informative Youtube videos.
PragerU gets a lot of heat for posting controversial videos that contain misleading information or outright falsehoods. Instead of issuing retractions or corrections on these, though, they use the controversy in their marketing campaigns to drum up donations. "Help PragerU fight online censorship (donate here)," their ads say, referring to a failed lawsuit against Youtube restricting and demonetizing their videos, "Don't let Google silence us! (donate here)" "Protect conservative free speech! (please donate)"
PragerU holds an interesting place online because it is meant to be a cornerstone of conservative thought, but their arguments are often presented weakly and typically without source. I'll admit, in my research I haven't watched all of their videos. There's over a thousand of them! That's a lot of videos! That's approximately 84 hours of content, or if I do my math right, three facts!
Sorry. The above statement is wrong. There's more than three facts across all of PragerU's video collection. There may even be more than five. There's a reason why I take those cheap shots at their videos, however:
While watching their series on climate change, I was struck by some of the inaccuracies present that then served as main points for their speaker's arguments. Points like how the ice in Antarcita is gaining in size (it isn't), man isn't making global warming worse (we are), the speed at which the earth was heating up (it both isn't slow, and it certainly hasn't stopped). These and more were both present and wrong. There are numerous scientific papers that either disprove all of these points or cast enough doubt that turns the facts into no more than hypothesis. Many of their other videos follow this same format: passionate arguments and sound logic based on weak foundations. I have friends on Facebook who present more sound conservative arguments, and as far as I know they aren't pulling in $17 million/year in revenue from it.
Another interesting thing I notice is who PragerU casts as villians in many of their videos. Of course liberals are the bad guy, it's a conservative video series. That's a given. It's even fun to see some speakers paint the left with a wiiide brush. Pointing out the silliness of PragerU calling anyone with a liberal lean as a hard-left, communist-sympathizing, gender-transcendent, America-hating Social Justice Warrior is easy. The interesting thing is when they bring up the villain of ... the MEDIA.
PragerU decries "the media" in various forms as headline-mongering, click-baiting, capitalist, money-grubbing sharks not looking for the truth but actually that next view, click or donation. That's fair, a ton of news corporations fall into every single one of those descriptors. The thing to remember is: Prager University isn't a University. It makes videos that mix facts with opinion, with tantalizing, often-inquisitory headlines designed not to inform or sort, but instead made to generate more clicks. They near-exhaustively both claim to be victims and call for donations, you see it in every page of their site and every sponsored ad. To look at it a certain way, you could even call them a headline-mongering, click-baiting, capita-- oh you get the idea.
PragerU isn't an atruistic bastion of conservative thought. It's another facet of the media, out to get your money. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be beating you over the head with pleas for your support for their already-failed causes. On a completely unrelated note: help small, unregulated blogs gain their voice by supporting DivvyO today.