Veteran Right-Wing Talk-Show Host Dennis Prager Starts a New University to Promote "Alternative Facts"
August 8th 2019
By Bill Berkowitz
It’s not a university that your kids are likely to apply to; it’s never been written up in any of the “Best Of…” colleges and universities handbooks that get published each year; it offers no diplomas or certifications; there’s no campus; no sports teams; I’m not sure whether it has a mascot or not; and, it’s a good bet that neither Felicity Huffman nor Lori Loughlin would have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their children enrolled. Nevertheless, there is such a thing as Prager University.
I know this because the other day I received an email from Dennis Prager, the founder of PragerU. Prager, a veteran right-wing talk-show host, columnist and commentator who attended the recent Trump Summit on social media, but I had no idea that he ran a University.
Upon further review, you immediately realize that PragerU is not really a university; it is, as The Center for Media and Democracy’s David Armiak and Ann Pearson, described it, Prager runs “a social media video project … [that] has been banned and/or restricted on YouTube, Facebook, Spotify, and Twitter for providing a platform for hate speech.”
In mid-July, Prager appeared on Fox News’ Fox & Friends and claimed “that Silicon Valley tech giants, but specifically Google, are gaming their algorithms against conservative content,” Newsweek’s Benjamin Fearnow reported. “He said dozens of PragerU's 5-minute videos on topics ranging from Abraham Lincoln to the founding of Israel have been banned by the search giant and YouTube parent company as ‘pornography.’ Prager claimed the group's 300-plus videos get more than one billion views annually, but that about 60 of the wide variety of right-wing, historical videos are on Google's ‘restricted’ list.”
Prager also testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, saying, “We have repeatedly asked Google why our videos are restricted. No explanation is ever given. But, of course, we know why. Because they come from a conservative perspective."
Prager’s email – addressed to “Fellow Conservatives” let me know that he is “suing video giant YouTube and its parent company, Google, for their systematic and discriminatory censorship of our conservative videos.”
And, Prager pointed out, that as soon as he filed suit “the radical Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) slapped us with their fake ‘haters’ label!”
According to Prager, PragerU is a very popular site, particularly amongst viewers under 34, which is why he maintains, became “too much for YouTube, so they CENSORED us and BLOCKED more than 100 of our educational videos to keep them from getting into the hands of young people.”
Prager then goes off on the SPLC: “by labeling PragerU as a ‘hate group,’ they lumped us in with the KKK and other extremists, which is absolutely ridiculous. When did it become ‘hate’ to publish short videos extolling our American values, free markets, and personal liberty?”
Prager assures us that his battle against these Internet giants isn’t solely about him or PragerU, it “is a fight to save conservative free speech in America.” Prager concludes by asking for a “generous financial gift today.”
As part of a study titled “Searching for Alternative Facts: Analyzing Scriptural Inferences in Conservative News Practices” the sociologist Francesca Tripodi wrote that Prager’s project creates “a dense network of extremist thinkers” that “allows for those who identify as mainline conservatives to gain easy access to white supremacist logic.”
Tripodi pointed out that “PragerU creates content specifically designed to satisfy and exploit the processes of scriptural inference I observed among conservatives. Even though PragerU content and videos do not directly feature Donald Trump or current controversies, they consistently amplify two central arguments that conservatives associate with Trump’s public statements: that the mainstream media are dishonest and driven by emotion rather than intellect, and that “the Left” has become increasingly ‘radical’ and is akin to hate groups like the ‘alt-right.’”
Reason’s Billy Binion examines Prager’s charges of censorship and found that Prager has a vigorously consistent presence on Twitter and that he doesn’t appear to understand how Google searches work. “I did a ‘PragerU’ search on my laptop using an incognito browser, which scrubbed my history for a clean search,” Binion pointed out. “The Google results I received were much more favorable to PragerU—a testament to the dynamic nature of the search function which changes based on what people are talking about. In other words, there is no Google conspiracy here.”
CMD’s David Armiak and Ann Pearson pointed out that Prager University “has received at least a million dollars since 2010 from the Bradley Foundation. Bradley internal documents examined by CMD show that Bradley funds Prager for its strong reach across social media platforms and because it ‘distills (conservative/Judeo-Christian) principles into content-rich, entertaining five-minute video ‘courses’ taught by public intellectuals, many of whom are Bradley Prize winners.’”