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PragerU

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PragerU
Prager University Logo.png
Formation2009
FoundersDennis Prager
Allen Estrin
Websitewww.prageru.com

PragerU, short for Prager University, is an American non-profit organization that creates videos on various political, economic and philosophical topics from a conservative or right-wing[1] perspective. The videos are posted on YouTube and usually feature a speaker who lectures for about five minutes.[2] PragerU is not an academic institution, does not hold classes, and does not grant certifications or diplomas.[3]

History

PragerU was founded in 2009 by conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager and radio producer and screenwriter Allen Estrin,[4] in order to present conservative views and to offset what he regards as the undermining of college education by the left.[2][5] PragerU is based in the San Fernando Valley and had more than 20 employees as of March 2018.[6]

Since a lawsuit over the use of a photograph in 2013, PragerU has used animation in its videos.[7] As of November 2018, its YouTube channel includes 482 videos.[8] The organization depends on donations. According to its CEO, Marissa Streit, a group of approximately 500 students, "PragerFORCE", promotes its videos.[5] PragerU reached a billion views in 2018.[6]

On October 23, 2017, PragerU filed a federal lawsuit against Google, claiming that 37 of its videos on YouTube were unfairly demonetized or flagged so that they could only be viewed with restricted mode disabled.[9] The restricted mode filter "limits views based on certain characteristics, including the age of the viewer".[9] On March 26, 2018, the case was dismissed by U.S. District Court 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.[10][11]

In August 2018, when asked to comment, PragerU criticized YouTube for adding fact-checks to YouTube videos which cover climate change.[12] Also in August 2018, Facebook removed two PragerU videos from its platform, later restoring the videos, saying that they "were mistakenly removed".[1][13]

Content

PragerU releases one video per week on various topics from a conservative viewpoint. It generally does not cover contemporary American politics or current events in the news. For example, as of March 2018, PragerU had no videos about Donald Trump or DACA. Each video costs between $25,000 and $30,000 to create.[6]

Videos on PragerU have defended capitalism, argued against a $15 minimum wage, argued that gun ownership is a constitutional right, and argued that the media cannot be trusted. In one video, a presenter argues that "racism, bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia" are "meaningless buzzwords". In a video on the alt-right, a PragerU presenter argues that it is similar to the American Left, saying "the alt-Right has nothing in common with conservatism, and is in fact much closer to leftism... Except of course, the left is much, much larger."[6] In 2018, PragerU published an anti-immigration video by Michelle Malkin, a conservative known for defending the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.[14]

Other PragerU videos defend the Electoral College, arguing that "pure democracies do not work" and that the Electoral College thwarts voter fraud. Still other videos argue against the scientific consensus on climate change, police discrimination toward African-Americans, and the existence of a gender pay gap.[4]

PragerU has developed two partnership programs to help cultivate relationships with educators.[15] PragerU's Educator Program supplies teachers with lesson plans and study guides that accompany their videos. Additionally, 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.[15]

Funding

Two of PragerU's largest donors are the hydraulic fracturing billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks.[6] Two members of the Wilks family are on PragerU's board.[6] The second-largest donor is the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.[4][16] Other donors include the Morgan Family Foundation, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, Donors Trust, and the Minnesota-based Sid and Carol Verdoorn Foundation, led by former C.H. Robinson CEO Sid Verdoorn.[16]

The organization has a $10 million annual budget, of which it spends more than 40% on marketing.[6]

Reception

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 Republican Party's strategy of purposely exploiting racial tensions in the late 1960s to appeal to racist white Southerners–was false revisionism. Kevin M. Kruse, a professor of history at Princeton University, said that the video presented a "distortion" of history, "cherry-picked" its evidence, and was an "exercise in attacking a straw man".[17]

Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute criticized an anti-immigration PragerU video by Michelle Malkin. Nowrasteh said that the video was "rife with errors and half-truths, leaves out a lot of relevant information, and comes to an anti-legal immigration conclusion that is unsupported by the evidence presented in the rest of the video."[14]

Regarding the PragerU video "The Suicide of Europe" by Douglas Murray, ADL fellow Mark Pitcavage has said that he doesn't consider it fascist or white nationalist, but that the video is prejudiced, and he says that it contains anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric that would certainly be agreeable to white supremacists.[16]

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."[18]

Sociologist Francesca Tripodi described the effect of PragerU's videos in a report for the Data & Society Research Institute.[19] According to Tripodi, "PragerU's choice of guests connects their audience to 'far-right' and 'alt-right' personalities" when these personalities also appear on the programs of PragerU's guests, and are promoted by YouTube's recommendation algorithm.[19][20] Tripodi wrote that "content creators like PragerU are not only exploiting the practices of scriptural inference, but also relying on search engine optimization and suggested content to elevate their messaging" and that PragerU's content "allows for those who identify as mainline conservatives to gain easy access to white supremacist logic."[20]

References

  1. ^ a b "Facebook apologises to right-wing site". BBC News. July 20, 2018. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Hiawatha Bray (October 14, 2016). "YouTube restricts access to Dershowitz video". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  3. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". PragerU. September 5, 2015. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Oppenheimer, Mark (March–April 2018). "Inside the right-wing YouTube empire that's quietly turning millennials into conservatives". Mother Jones. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Klug, Lisa (June 14, 2017). "Super-conservative PragerU aims to arm pro-Israel students for their campus 'wastelands'". The Times of Israel. Retrieved August 28, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Bernstein, Joseph (March 3, 2018). "How PragerU is winning the Right Wing culture war without Donald Trump". BuzzFeed. Retrieved March 12, 2018.
  7. ^ Donnelly, Madaline (November 4, 2015). "How Dennis Prager's conservative online university reaches millions". DailySignal.com. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  8. ^ "Uploads from PragerU". YouTube. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Mullin, Joe (October 25, 2017). "PragerU sues YouTube, says it censors conservative videos". Ars Technica. Retrieved November 13, 2017.
  10. ^ Neidig, Harper (27 March 2018). "Judge dismisses lawsuit alleging Google censorship of conservative YouTube videos". TheHill.
  11. ^ Stempel, Jonathan (March 27, 2018). "Google defeats lawsuit claiming YouTube censors conservatives". Reuters. The case is Prager University v Google LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 17-06064.
  12. ^ Hirji, Zahra (August 7, 2018). "YouTube Is Fighting Back Against Climate Misinformation". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  13. ^ Asher Hamilton, Isobel (August 21, 2018). "Facebook apologizes to right-wing group PragerU after being accused of censoring its videos". Business Insider. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  14. ^ a b Nowrasteh, Alex (September 26, 2018). "PragerU's "A nation of immigrants" video has serious problems". Cato Institute. Retrieved September 27, 2018.
  15. ^ a b Shea, Brie (April 30, 2015). "Fracking Titans Spend Millions Proselytizing School Children". Rewire.News. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  16. ^ a b c Kotch, Alex (December 27, 2018). "Who Funds PragerU's Anti-Muslim Content?". Sludge. Retrieved December 28, 2018.
  17. ^ Kelley, Brendan Joel (June 7, 2018). "PragerU's Influence". Hatewatch. Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  18. ^ Nguyen, Tina (December 9, 2018). ""Let Me Make You Famous": How Hollywood Invented Ben Shapiro". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  19. ^ a b Tripodi, Francesca (2018). "Searching for Alternative Facts: Analyzing Scriptural Inference in Conservative News Practices" (PDF). Date & Society Research Institute. Retrieved December 31, 2018.
  20. ^ a b Kelley, Brendan Joel (June 7, 2018). "PragerU's Influence". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved December 31, 2018.

External links