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PragerU

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PragerU
PragerU logo.svg
PragerU logo
MottoKnowledge. Clarity.
Formation2009; 12 years ago (2009)
Founders
Type501(c)(3) non-profit organization
Area served
United States
Revenue (2018)
$18,599,542 [1]
Expenses (2018)$12,911,920[1]
Staff (2018)
44[1]
Websiteprageru.com
PragerU
Personal information
NationalityAmerican
YouTube information
Channel
Years active2009–present
Genre
  • Politics
  • current affairs
Subscribers2.8 million
Total views1.15 billion
YouTube Silver Play Button 2.svg 100,000 subscribers
YouTube Gold Play Button 2.svg 1,000,000 subscribers 2017

Updated: December 2020

PragerU, short for Prager University, is an American 501(c)(3) non-profit media company that creates videos on various political, economic, and philosophical topics from an American conservative perspective.[2] The organization was co-founded by Allen Estrin and talk show host and writer Dennis Prager in 2009.[2][3][4][5] The organization relies on tax-deductible donations, and much of its early funding came from fracking billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks.[2][5]

Despite the name, PragerU is not an academic institution and does not hold classes, grant certifications or diplomas, and is not accredited by any recognized body.[5][6]

History

PragerU was founded in 2011 by conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager and radio producer and screenwriter Allen Estrin,[7] in order to advocate for conservative views and to offset what Prager regards as the undermining of college education by the left.[4][8] The two originally considered making it a brick-and-mortar university, but the idea was revised into a digital product to save money.[5] PragerU is based in the San Fernando Valley,[2] and it had around 50 employees as of January 2020.[5]

Since a lawsuit over the use of a photograph in 2013, PragerU has used animation in its videos.[9] According to its CEO, Marissa Streit, a group of approximately 500 students called "PragerFORCE" promotes its videos.[8] PragerU reached a billion views in 2018.[2]

Dennis Prager, co-founder of PragerU

In July 2019, PragerU representative Allen Estrin attended then-United States President Donald Trump's Social Media Summit, along with other conservative organizations and people such as Charlie Kirk and James O'Keefe.[10][11]

Conflicts with YouTube and Facebook

In October 2016, PragerU published a petition which claimed that YouTube had unjustly put 21 of PragerU's videos in YouTube's "restricted mode" setting, which ensures content is age appropriate. The petition demanded that YouTube remove the videos from restricted mode.[12][13] YouTube responded, saying: "We aim to apply the same standards to everyone and we don’t censor anyone. Often it’s not the right approach to say that videos with the same topic should get the same rating. We’ll need to take into consideration what the intent of the video is, what the focus of the video is, what the surrounding metadata of the video explains."[4]

In October 2017, PragerU filed a federal lawsuit against Youtube's parent company, Google, claiming that 37 of its videos were unfairly demonetized or flagged so that they could only be viewed with "restricted mode filtering", which limits views based on certain characteristics, including the age of the viewer.[14] PragerU claimed that Google's actions violated the First Amendment by arguing that YouTube was a public forum. In March 2018, the case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, who ruled that because Google was a private company, PragerU had failed to show that it had infringed its free speech rights.[15][16][17] In February 2020, this ruling was upheld by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.[18][19]

In August 2018, PragerU criticized YouTube for adding fact-checks to its videos which present misinformation about climate change.[20][21]

In August 2018, Facebook removed two PragerU videos from its platform, later restoring the videos, saying that they "were mistakenly removed."[3][22] According to Francesca Tripodi, professor of sociology at James Madison University, there are plausible non-ideological explanations for Facebook's removal of several of the videos.[23] PragerU contended that Facebook had engaged in deliberate censorship.[3][22]

Finances

The organization depends on donations to produce its content.[24] Much of the early funding for PragerU came from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks.[2][5] Two members of the Wilks family are on PragerU's board.[2] The next-largest donor is the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.[7][25] Other donors include the Morgan Family Foundation, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, Donors Trust, the late Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson,[6] Lee Roy Mitchell,[6] and the Minnesota-based Sid and Carol Verdoorn Foundation, led by former C.H. Robinson CEO Sid Verdoorn.[25]

As of 2018, the organization reportedly had a $10 million annual budget, of which it spent more than 40% on marketing.[2] In 2019, PragerU raised $22 million and expects to receive $25 million in 2020.[5][26] PragerU consistently spends more on Facebook advertising than major political campaigns and national advocacy groups.[27] It ranks among the 10 biggest political spenders on the platform.[27]

Content

PragerU releases one video per week on various topics from a conservative viewpoint that according to its site "advances Judeo-Christian values". Its videos, although topical, largely avoid mentioning former U.S. President Donald Trump.[5][24][28] As of May 2020, its YouTube channel included 968 videos.[29] Each video costs between $25,000 and $30,000 to create.[2]

The videos support and argue for capitalism, against a $15 minimum wage, and that gun ownership is a constitutional right. Dave Rubin states in a video: "racism, bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia" are "meaningless buzzwords". In a video about the alt-right, Michael Knowles argues that it has nothing in common with conservatism and instead is close to "leftism", except the left is much larger.[2]

The videos promote the Electoral College, arguing that it thwarts voter fraud and that "pure democracies do not work".[7] Over a dozen videos promote fossil fuels and dispute the scientific consensus on climate change.[30]

By 2015, PragerU developed two partnership programs to help cultivate relationships with educators. PragerU's Educator Program supplies teachers with lesson plans and study guides that accompany their videos. Secondary school teachers and college professors can register their classes through PragerU's Academic Partnership program, which lets students sign up and allows teachers to monitor their students' progress.[31]

Reception

According to a 2019 report in the Los Angeles Times, PragerU videos have been watched more than 2 billion times and were becoming a staple on college campuses.[27] In its 2019 annual report, PragerU stated that its videos have received over 2.5 billion lifetime views.[26] PragerU has ranked highly in influence compared to other free-market advocacy organizations, such as Reason and National Review.[32]

Vanity Fair said PragerU "packages right-wing social concepts into slick videos" and that PragerU was "one of the most effective conversion tools for young conservatives."[33]

Sociologist Francesca Tripodi has studied PragerU's marketing and messaging for the nonprofit Data & Society.[34] She found that PragerU relies on search engine optimization and "suggested content" to market its videos.[35][34] She noted that PragerU was popular among the respondents in her study and that they all either liked or shared PragerU videos on Facebook. Tripodi argued that PragerU allows viewers to dabble in content that "makes connections to" the alt-right's talking points.[2] In this way, viewers identifying as mainline conservatives gain "easy access to white supremacist logic".[35] She also demonstrated an algorithmic connection on YouTube between PragerU, FoxNews, and alt-right personalities.[34][35]

A Buzzfeed News article published in 2018 attributed PragerU's success to the quality of its production values compared to similar outlets and to its use of popular presenters with established audiences. The article also noted that it had received comparatively little attention from news and media analysts due to PragerU's lack of coverage of topical issues, such as Donald Trump.[2]

In an August 2019 article written by Drew Anderson of GLAAD, an LGBT media monitoring organization, Anderson noted PragerU's ties to white supremacy and white supremacists, and also noted their "Horrific Anti-LGBTQ Record".[36]

Reason has criticized PragerU's claims of being censored by big tech companies for being false, as the company's content had not been removed from any social media platforms, and that they indicate a misunderstanding of the First Amendment as protecting a party from any type of censorship, when that law merely protects content from censorship by the government.[37]

According to Mother Jones, some PragerU videos argue there is no police discrimination toward African-Americans and that the gender pay gap does not exist.[7]

According to Joseph McCarthy of The Weather Channel, in one of the organization's videos, fossil fuel proponent Alex Epstein promotes misinformation about climate change, including false and misleading claims.[30]

Critiques of videos

In a video entitled "Why Did the Democratic South Become Republican?", host Carol M. Swain, a professor at Vanderbilt University, argued that the Southern strategy, the political strategy which saw the Republican Party exploit racial tensions to appeal to white Southerners, was false revisionism. History professor Kevin M. Kruse said that the video presented a "distortion" of history, "cherry-picked" its evidence, and was an "exercise in attacking a straw man".[35]

Historian Paul Gottfried, who has written extensively on the subject of fascism, harshly criticized a PragerU video hosted by Dinesh D'Souza which stated that fascism was a leftist ideology. D'Souza maintained that Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile, who influenced Italian fascism, was a leftist, to which Gottfried noted that this contradicted the research by almost all scholars of Gentile's work who view him as a distinguished intellectual of the revolutionary right.[38]

Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute criticized a 2018 PragerU video by Michelle Malkin as being anti-immigration. Nowrasteh wrote that the video was full of errors and half-truths and omitted relevant information.[39]

In 2018, the PragerU video "The Suicide of Europe" by Douglas Murray argued that Europe is "committing suicide" by allowing mass immigration. The Southern Poverty Law Center described the video as a "dog whistle to the extreme right" and Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League that is was "filled with anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric".[25][40]

Snopes criticized the video "How To End White Privilege", which argued that white privilege is a myth because a black police officer's race did not provide a barrier to his success. According to Snopes, recent history and statistics indicate that white privilege still exists.[41]

References

  1. ^ a b c "Prager University Foundation - Sherman Oaks, CA". Cause IQ. June 19, 2019. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Bernstein, Joseph (March 3, 2018). "How PragerU is winning the Right Wing culture war without Donald Trump". BuzzFeed News. Archived from the original on February 14, 2019. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Facebook apologises to right-wing site". BBC News. July 20, 2018. Archived from the original on August 23, 2018. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Bray, Hiawatha (October 14, 2016). "YouTube restricts access to Dershowitz video". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on November 13, 2016. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Bowles, Nellie (January 4, 2020). "Right-Wing Views for Generation Z, Five Minutes at a Time". The New York Times. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved January 6, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c "How a Los Angeles-based conservative became one of the internet's biggest sensations". Los Angeles Times. August 23, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d Oppenheimer, Mark (March–April 2018). "Inside the right-wing YouTube empire that's quietly turning millennials into conservatives". Mother Jones. Archived from the original on May 25, 2018. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Klug, Lisa (June 14, 2017). "Super-conservative PragerU aims to arm pro-Israel students for their campus 'wastelands'". The Times of Israel. Archived from the original on June 15, 2017. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  9. ^ Donnelly, Madaline (November 4, 2015). "How Dennis Prager's conservative online university reaches millions". The Daily Signal. Archived from the original on April 30, 2016. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  10. ^ Overly, Steven (July 11, 2019). "Social media gadflies gather for airing of grievances with Trump". Politico. Archived from the original on July 19, 2019. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  11. ^ Gilbert, Ben (July 11, 2019). "The White House social-media summit doesn't have Facebook or Twitter, but it does have conservative conspiracy theorists — here's who was reportedly invited". Business Insider. Archived from the original on April 30, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  12. ^ "Stop YouTube From Blocking PragerU Videos!". PragerU. Archived from the original on October 13, 2016. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  13. ^ Payton, Bre (October 12, 2016). "Why Is YouTube Censoring 21 Educational Videos From PragerU?". The Federalist. Archived from the original on November 13, 2016. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  14. ^ Mullin, Joe (October 25, 2017). "PragerU sues YouTube, says it censors conservative videos". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on June 13, 2018. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  15. ^ Neidig, Harper (March 27, 2018). "Judge dismisses lawsuit alleging Google censorship of conservative YouTube videos". The Hill. Archived from the original on July 20, 2018.
  16. ^ Stempel, Jonathan (March 27, 2018). Choy, Marguerita (ed.). "Google defeats lawsuit claiming YouTube censors conservatives". Reuters. Archived from the original on April 24, 2018.
  17. ^ Prager University v. Google LLC, Order Granting Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (N.D. Cal. March 28, 2018).
  18. ^ Brodkin, Jon (February 26, 2020). "First Amendment doesn't apply on YouTube; judges reject PragerU lawsuit". Ars Technica. Archived from the original on February 28, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  19. ^ Dinezo, Maria (February 26, 2020). "Ninth Circuit Tosses PragerU's Free Speech Claims Against YouTube". Courthouse News Service. Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  20. ^ Hirji, Zahra (August 7, 2018). "YouTube Is Fighting Back Against Climate Misinformation". BuzzFeed News. Archived from the original on September 11, 2019. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  21. ^ Noor, Dharna (16 January 2020). "How YouTube Profits From Climate Denial And Misinformation". Gizmodo Australia. Retrieved 2 March 2021.
  22. ^ a b Asher Hamilton, Isobel (August 21, 2018). "Facebook apologizes to right-wing group PragerU after being accused of censoring its videos". Business Insider. Archived from the original on October 27, 2018. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  23. ^ Schwartz, Oscar (December 4, 2018). "Are Google and Facebook really suppressing conservative politics?". The Guardian. Archived from the original on May 16, 2019. Retrieved November 24, 2019.
  24. ^ a b "Frequently Asked Questions". PragerU. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  25. ^ a b c Kotch, Alex (December 27, 2018). "Who Funds PragerU's Anti-Muslim Content?". Sludge. Archived from the original on May 18, 2019. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  26. ^ a b 2019 Annual Report (PDF) (Report). PragerU. 2019. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 14, 2020.
  27. ^ a b c Halper, Evan (August 23, 2019). "How a Los Angeles-based conservative became one of the internet's biggest sensations". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 23, 2019. Retrieved November 20, 2019.
  28. ^ "Maumee High School history class given conservative media PragerU videos for extra credit". WTOL11. October 20, 2020. Archived from the original on November 3, 2020. Retrieved December 28, 2020.
  29. ^ "Uploads from PragerU". Retrieved November 14, 2018 – via YouTube.
  30. ^ a b McCarthy, Joseph (December 18, 2018). "A Course in Climate Misinformation: How Prager U. Is Propagating Climate Misinformation". The Weather Channel. Archived from the original on December 27, 2018.
  31. ^ Shea, Brie (April 30, 2015). "Fracking Titans Spend Millions Proselytizing School Children". Rewire.News. Archived from the original on August 30, 2017. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  32. ^ Chafuen, Alejandro (March 27, 2020). "The 2020 Ranking Of Free-Market Think Tanks Measured By Social Media Impact". Forbes. Archived from the original on March 30, 2020. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
  33. ^ Nguyen, Tina (December 9, 2018). "'Let Me Make You Famous': How Hollywood Invented Ben Shapiro". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on July 15, 2019. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  34. ^ a b c Tripodi, Francesca (May 2018). Searching for Alternative Facts: Analyzing Scriptural Inference in Conservative News Practices (PDF) (Report). Date & Society Research Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 28, 2018. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  35. ^ a b c d Kelley, Brendan Joel (June 7, 2018). "PragerU's Influence". Hatewatch. Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived from the original on April 30, 2020. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  36. ^ Anderson, Drew (2019-08-06). "BACKGROUNDER: PragerU's Ties to White Supremacy, Horrific Anti-LGBTQ Record". GLAAD. Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  37. ^ Binion, Bill (July 30, 2019). "PragerU Does Not Understand Censorship". Reason. Archived from the original on April 30, 2020. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  38. ^ Gottfried, Paul (December 27, 2017). "Right-wing Celebrities Play Fast and Loose With History". The American Conservative. Archived from the original on June 15, 2018. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
  39. ^ Nowrasteh, Alex (September 26, 2018). "PragerU's "A nation of immigrants" video has serious problems". Cato at Liberty. Cato Institute. Archived from the original on January 15, 2020.
  40. ^ Brendan, Brendan Joel (7 June 2018). "PragerU's Influence". SPLC Southern Poverty Law Center. Archived from the original on 12 December 2020. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  41. ^ "Ex-Cop Brandon Tatum's Success Doesn't Disprove White Privilege". Snopes.com. Retrieved 2020-06-28.


External links