PragerU isn’t just fake news, it’s dangerous

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All it takes is the application of critical thinking to make the far-right unravel.

The plutocracy Trump panders to knows this well. One of those plutocrats decided to actively fight against the “liberal mainstream media,”  and that man was Dennis Prager.

Thus, “Prager University,” or PragerU was born.

Prager University is just fake news done well.

However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. If you scroll through your Facebook feed, you will probably see one of their videos.

They feature a pleasant blue background with a reasonable-looking, mild-voiced narrator. Their videos’ titles usually pose questions like, “Who are the racists? Conservatives or Liberals?” and then always fall far right of center with their answer.

The videos’ issues range from one professing their enthusiastic endorsement of fossil fuels to challenging the idea of rape culture on college campuses.

PragerU isn’t concerned with facts and often skirt around making any substantial claims, but they still put on academic airs to benefit the conservative platform.

To understand the videos, you must understand the man behind PragerU, and how, with enough money and slick graphics, any opinion can be made to seem reasonable.

It all started in 2011. Prager’s rise to prevalence in politics as a radio-host established him as an authority in discerning the moral character of political actors.

One certain billionaire with strange hair and a clementine-esque hue drew his attention: Donald Trump.

Believe it or not, he came out against Trump’s botched run in the 2012 election for president, releasing a column on the Jewish World Review on May 3, 2011 criticizing Trump’s speech, which was rife with profanity. In the piece Prager asserts, “the words render him unfit to be a presidential candidate, let alone president.”

However, five years later during the Republican primary when it was becoming increasingly apparent Trump would actually be the Republican nominee, Prager changed his tune.

Just before the general election, he took it upon himself to fund a social media campaign rivaling the Russian Facebook fake ad campaign, not in size, but in persuasiveness.

While Russia might have put out numerous ads bashing Clinton and leftist ideology, they were rather crude and overtly racist.

Most of the videos put out by PragerU were well done, using their panache to sell their views, which would have been considered radical had they portrayed them any differently.

In particular, their views on climate change are problematic.

Despite there being little to no scientific debate on whether or not climate change exists — spoiler: 90 to 100 percent of scientists believe it does according to a Dec. 14, 2016 article from Forbes — PragerU puts out videos insisting there is some matter of argument for the other side.

They say there are two groups of thought on the matter of manmade climate change, but neglect to say how small the group of scientists in dissent is.

Other videos, such as the aforementioned one on fossil fuels, present correlations as causations.

For instance, about a minute into the video on fossil fuels, the narrator presents an argument. Fossil fuel use has risen and so has access to clean water.

This must mean that the more we use fossil fuel, the cleaner our water gets.

The argument is wrong for a number of reasons.

While it is true fossil fuel use has risen, air and water quality in areas that have heightened their consumption of coal, natural gas and petroleum has gone down significantly.

The best case against this argument is China.

China has been modernizing their economy at an alarming rate and uses a lot of fossil fuels to power their cars and light up their homes, according to a Nov. 14 article from The Third Pole website.

As a consequence, their water quality has gone down significantly.

In fact, two-thirds of China’s rivers were deemed too toxic for even animals to drink, according to the South China Morning Post on Aug. 26.

However, the problem isn’t finding the data to disprove PragerU’s claims. Factual information is everywhere, and it isn’t hard to access.

Instead, it’s that those who watch and believe these videos don’t bother to check anywhere else.

Critical thinking has always been in short supply, but if people like those at PragerU get their way, the wrong information will make its way to media consumers before the facts do.

Nov. 29 — This article has been updated for accuracy.

Ben Hummel is the opinion editor at The Collegian and can be reached at bhummel@sdsucollegian.com.

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8 Comments

  1. God forbid someone with a differing views on topics could be allowed to share their opinions. We certainly don’t get it from the mainstream media.

  2. And now we know for certain that the leftist bubble includes the editors of SDSU’s Collegian.

    Per Master Hummel, Traditional American Judeo-Christian Values are “dangerous”. I wonder how much actual critical thinking went into that conclusion.

  3. Writer Ben Hummel presents zero facts in the entire article to back up the fake headline. Here is some advice for this writer and others in journalism. If you make a point, then you must provide evidence. Think of every point you make in an article as you would evidence in court. You must present credible evidence to the judge and jurors. If you don’t then you will lose your court case. It is quite obvious that Ben Hummel loses this court case.

  4. Ben Hummel needs to learn how quotation marks work. Dennis Prager did not write the words attributed to him in quotation marks. What an embarrassment for this paper, and how ironic given the author’s allegation that Prager is involved in distributing fake news.

    • Hummel has now changed the piece, with no note of correction as of 9:08pm eastern on 11/27. Now, instead of a false direct quote, Hummel misleadingly paraphrases Prager. Prager never asserted that Trump disqualified himself for the presidency, as Hummel claims. Rather, Prager said that Trump disqualified himself “as a serious candidate for president”. This is of course importantly different, since Prager has said from the very beginning of the primary season that he would support Trump for president if Trump were nominated. Clearly, Prager, like many of us, regarded Trump as “unserious”–a vulgar and ridiculous man who was unlikely to win. Hummel is aware of these facts, and so I am forced to conclude that Hummel has little regard for the truth. This is a perfect illustration of how the leftist media continues to discredit itself.

      • Oh looky, as of 11/29 at 9:29pm, they’ve again altered the piece. It now includes an actual direct quote from Prager! But it is a different quote from the one that was misquoted before and then incorrectly paraphrased. And the piece still fails to note specifically what was changed from the last two versions of the article. Transparency requires that both corrections be specifically described, and ideally the reason for both errors. In addition, contrary to what the piece states, Prager never changed his tune. His tune was always that Trump was unfit and his very last choice for the nomination, but that Trump was nevertheless still better than the alternative once he was nominated. Prager has been totally clear on these points from the outset.

  5. Go to Prager U and see for yourself;. The video the link between fossil fuel and cleaner water is simple: it takes a lot of energy to pump clean water through a sanitation system and to your home. Delivery of clean water takes a lot of energy, hence, more energy leads to reliable clean water supplies. It patently does NOT say that fossil fuel use makes rivers clean! Further, it is quite obvious that it is lax environmental controls, corrupt officials, and uncaring industrial owners causing China’s terrible pollution problem, NOT the electricity lighting their homes or the fuel in their cars…but don’t take my word for it. Watch a few Prager U videos and see for yourself.

    BTW, Prager only supported Trump after the nomination. Until them, he vigorously opposed him. But he thought Trump was better than Hilary because of the power of the Supreme Court.