How PragerU tries to appeal to liberals

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How PragerU tries to appeal to liberals

Post by Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz » Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:06 am

I'm sure most people here are familiar with the YouTube channel PragerU or "Prager University". For those of you who are not, PragerU is a channel that is headed by Dennis Prager, an American conservative. It is not an actual university, however, it presents itself as an alternative to American universities, which they perceive as indoctrinating American youth into progressivism, social justice and left-wing politics. Their videos, in contrast to most other right-wing YouTube channels (usually angry people ranting into a camera or using a cartoon avatar to do so), are professionally made, and typically feature high-ranking conservative figures speaking in a well-mannered civil tone and usually last around five minutes. However, despite being watchable, their videos are often heavily flawed and for those who want to see how they have often distorted the facts, I'd recommend you check out some of DemocraticSocialist01's videos on them, as well as many other rebuttals to their videos. This post's aim is not so much to be focused on whether PragerU is correct or incorrect in their beliefs, but to demonstrate a tactic which is used by them (appealing to liberals) and what an appropriate response to that tactic would be.

Now, before we go any further, I wish to expand upon what I mean when I say "liberal". This is because in the United States, the word "liberal" is often used synonymously with "left-wing". This is disproportionate with the rest of the world, where the word "liberal" is typically synonymous with "centrist", or in some cases (such as in Australia and Japan) it is associated with the right. The main similarity between a liberal and a leftist is that they both (in contrast to conservatives who want to conserve) want social change. In the United States, which is a heavily right-wing country, this leads to them being grouped in together. However, the main difference is in how much change they want. The left is socialist, and whether they wish to achieve this by reform (Bernsteinists) or by revolution (Marxists), they wish to accomplish the end goal of worker-ownership of the means of production. Liberals do not wish to accomplish this goal. Liberals wish to work within a capitalist framework in order to change the system and "humanise" capitalism.

This distinction between the leftist "radical change" and the liberal "moderate change" is not considered so important in a heavily right-wing country such as the United States. However, in a less right-wing country such as Britain, it puts these two groups into two different camps. The leftists are typically in the Labour Party, headed by democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn who has put forward a radical programme of sweeping nationalisation. The liberals also have made large inroads into this party, especially around the 1990s with the introduction of "New Labour" and the abolition of Clause IV which had references to the common ownership of the means of production. However, the left is now dominant in the Labour Party. The largest liberal Party in the UK is the Liberal Democrats, which is seen as centrist as it is between the left-wing Labour Party and the right-wing Conservative Party. The Lib Dems is nowadays most preoccupied with opposing Brexit and supporting a second referendum, however, before 2016, their mantra was basically "Change things but not too much". Their politics is ridiculed in John Crace's book I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, which imagined the Lib Dem manifesto as saying:
We want to see an end to party politics. There is too much hatred in the world. We want a system where everyone gets on with one another and loves each other. We want a fairer world where everyone has a really interesting job and never gets ill. We want a world where everyone pays a bit more tax, but only if they really want to. If they don't, then that's OK too. We want a greener, more sustainable world in which polar bears and cockapoos can get along together. We want more sunshine and less rain, though obviously not in a way that promotes global warming. We want to teach the world to sing...
This could just as easily have been put as the U.S. Democratic Party platform and the joke would still stand. Liberals have an idealistic vision of a brighter future where everyone is happy, but outside of their bland slogans, can't actually think of radical policies to achieve this. Any policies they do put forward are incredibly "moderate" and watered down, in an attempt to appeal to everyone, but really alienating everyone. However whilst liberals are objectively on the centre of the political spectrum, because of their desire for social change, in the United States, they are seen as on the left. They, along with those who actually are left-wing, are grouped into the broad category of "progressive" (wanting to change American society). In the United States, there are three tribes of progressives:

Tribe #1 - Leftists
Socialism is a fundamentally left-wing point of view. That being said, I would not consider socialism to be synonymous with leftism. The terms "left" and "right" first appeared during the French Revolution when in the National Assembly, those who supported the monarchy sat on the right, and those who opposed it sat on the left. I would draw from this to say that the left is those who wish to radically transform the way society functions. This includes not only socialists, but feminists, environmentalists, LGBT+ activists, etc.

That being said, support for radical change in areas outside of economics was originally far more popular than socialism, and this is appearing to change with the rise of socialist movements in the United States such as the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

Despite many of these people being seen as "far-left", the actual far-left (communists, anarchists, etc.) is very small. In fact, the only major U.S. political figure who could still boast of her radical credentials in a country such as Britain, France or Germany would be Chelsea Manning who has a picture of anarchist Emma Goldman above her fireplace and has questioned the need for institutions such as the Presidency. Her ideas are very controversial and are unlikely to gain traction in the USA. However, although I disagree with her, she is somebody I admire very much and I'm sure I would be able to have a civilised debate with her about her ideas. She would certainly do a better job of defending them than certain other people who question the need for a President.

Tribe #2 - Establishment Liberals
This group would be epitomised by the Democratic Party establishment and figures such as Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. They are typically unwilling to support policies such as universal healthcare, and will rarely go further than supporting "moderate" positions such as affordable healthcare. There are some exceptions to this, such as Corey Booker, an establishment liberal who supports universal healthcare. However, he is still very much a moderate, with support for Clintonist economic policies.

Tribe #3 - Anti-establishment Liberals
This group would be epitomised by Democratic Party organisations such as the Justice Democrats. Anti-establishment liberals are similar to leftists in that they believe establishment liberals have abandoned the working class and wish to change American society to become more like social democratic countries such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

The difference between leftists and anti-establishment liberals is that leftists view Scandinavian-style policies as the means to an end (the end being the common ownership of the means of production). Anti-establishment liberals view Scandinavian-style policies as the end itself. They still wish to preserve the capitalist system.

Perplexingly enough, many anti-establishment liberals call themselves "socialists". This is likely because they do not understand what socialism is. However, there are also many anti-establishment liberals such as David Pakman who have rejected the term.

"Classical Liberals"
"Classical liberals" are the stepping stone between conventional liberal politics and PragerU-style politics. They have arisen from a growing undercurrent within the liberal movement of anti-identity politics (IdPol) and anti-SJW views. These people can come from the establishment liberal and anti-establishment liberal movement alike.

One main similarity between most liberals and leftists is a shared viewpoint of identity politics, a belief that society is biased against women, gay people, trans people (although there are unfortunate exceptions to this, such as TERFs), people of colour and other minorities, and it is necessary to fight for these people's rights. Those who call themselves "classical liberals" reject this viewpoint, claiming that the status of those groups of people is more or less equal with the status of those outside those groups. They claim that they are the legitimate heir to classical liberal thinkers such as John Locke who advocated for equality of opportunity, whilst progressives are fighting for equality of outcome.

Whilst "classical liberals" and mainstream liberals are often at eachother's throats, with the former regularly calling the latter "Marxists" and the latter regularly calling the former "fascists", when it comes to economic policy, they scarcely differ. Both groups want more government intervention in the economy than conservatives, but neither want socialism.

It should also be noted that there is an anti-SJW and anti-IdPol movement among socialists as well. For instance (although he is not an American), the Slovenian Marxist Slavoj Zizek. These groups typically see identity politics as distracting from class politics, the real issue in their eyes. I used to belong to this group but grew out of it as I learned more about the subject. The reason PragerU does not bother trying to appeal to this group is that their socialist views make them too dissimilar to try to sway to their position.

How PragerU appeals to run-of-the-mill liberals and converts them over to "classical liberalism"
PragerU, despite being a conservative YouTube channel, will frequently run videos featuring prominent "classical liberal" thinkers such as Dave Rubin's "Why I Left the Left". Because of the fact that Rubin mentions that he considers himself to be a liberal in the video, his ideas will resonate a lot more with a liberal than they would if they were put forward by a conservative. The same could be said of videos on the channel critical of feminism which are made by those who purport to be feminists. This can easily sway somebody from saying "I am a feminist" to saying "I am a feminist, but feminism is flawed".

Once this is done, a liberal can easily be swayed by Dennis Prager's video "Left or Liberal?", which is supposed to show how liberals have much more in common with conservatives than with leftists. In this video, pro-idpol liberals are grouped in with leftists, and liberalism is seen as synonymous with "classical liberalism". The video also falsely asserts that leftism is a dominant ideology in the United States. For instance, Dennis Prager calls the mainstream media "left-wing", even though MSNBC and CNN are in the pocket of the centrist Democratic Party establishment, whilst Fox News is in the pocket of the right-wing Republican Party establishment. To conclude with, Dennis turns to the viewer (presumably a liberal) and states that "the right is not your enemy; the left is".

How "classical liberalism" is used by PragerU as a stepping stone from liberalism to conservatism
There is a reason why "classical liberal" thinkers are given a platform on PragerU's channel, despite PragerU itself obviously disagreeing with them. That is because they can be used as a bridge between liberalism and conservatism.

For instance, in the video "Feminism 2.0", Tammy Bruce, a self-styled feminist, argues that feminism has became corrupted and that it is time for a "new feminism for the 21st century". However, in the video "Who Needs Feminism?", Andrew Klavan argues that feminism itself is objectionable. There is a reason why both of these videos exist on the channel despite obviously contradicting eachother. It is because the former acts as a gateway to the latter. If one considers oneself a feminist due to supporting equal rights for women, they would feel sympathetic to the viewpoint of somebody else who considers themselves a feminist, such as Bruce. Once they accept her viewpoint that feminism is flawed, Klavan's message that feminism should be done away with, coupled with his (false) assertion that feminism does not mean advocating for equal rights for women, resonates a lot more.

One could make the argument that they are both on the channel because the channel isn't meant to push a conservative agenda, but to oppose a progressive one. This is not true.

For example, in PragerU's video "Was the Civil War About Slavery?", Colonel Ty Seidule argues that it was. If PragerU's sole purpose is to oppose a progressive agenda, they could also have invited a pro-Confederate speaker to argue that it was not. They did not do this because they genuinely have disdain for Confederate sympathisers and there is no way Seidule's video can act as a stepping stone to a pro-Confederate viewpoint.

One could argue that inviting a pro-Confederate speaker onto their channel would be giving a fringe viewpoint a platform. Aside from contradicting PragerU's own position that turning American college campuses into safe spaces is wrong because all viewpoints should be given a platform, this viewpoint is still false.

For instance, in PragerU's video "Should Government Bail Out Big Banks?", Nicole Gelinas argues that they should not. This is promoting a free-market view, but there are many conservatives who support bank bailouts. If PragerU's sole purpose is to oppose a progressive agenda, they could also have invited a conservative to explain why they think bailouts are a good thing. They did not do this because they oppose bank bailouts and there is no way Gelinas's video can act as a stepping stone to a pro-bailout viewpoint.

Furthermore, in PragerU's video "Should America be the World's Policeman?", Bret Stephens argues that it should. However, he recognises that he is in opposition to a libertarian viewpoint that what other countries do their neighbours is no concern of America's. If PragerU's sole purpose is to oppose a progressive agenda, they could also have invited a libertarian to explain why they think America should not be the world's policeman. They did not do this because they support U.S. military intervention and there is no way Stephens's video can act as a stepping stone to a libertarian non-interventionist viewpoint.

It is clear then that PragerU's goal is to attain the hearts and minds of liberals.

Are they successful in doing this?
The answer I would have to give to that question is "I don't know". I can't find any quantitative data to suggest either way. My guess would be "yes", but my reasons why are dependent on anecdotal evidence which I consider to be faulty.

Dennis Prager makes an impassioned plea towards liberals and states that "The right is not your enemy; the left is". Other than anti-establishment liberals who are under the illusion that they are left-wing, there don't seem to be any people attempting to rebut this message. Most actual leftists are affirming it, and I have done so as well. I will confess, I have been guilty of posting memes of Kim Il-sung with glowing red eyes and the caption "Shut the fuck up liberal". The fact that PragerU is acting friendly towards liberals, whilst leftists act hostile to them I believe will push liberals further right.

I have been on the receiving end of this in the past, and here is where the anecdotal evidence comes to play. I am a member of the Labour Party, which is also split between three factions. The Bennite faction, represented by Momentum, are socialists who support Corbyn's leadership. The Blairite faction, represented by Progress, are liberals who oppose Corbyn's leadership. However, there is a third, more unnoticed faction represented by Open Labour, which is between these two. When I first joined the Labour Party, I was in the third faction. I did not fully support Corbyn at the time, but I was sympathetic towards him. When I spoke of my sympathies to Blairites, they became hostile, often accusing me of antisemitism, terrorist sympathies and Trotskyism. Corbyn's supporters, by contrast, did not turn hostile when I told them I was not fully on board with Corbyn's policies. They were far more civil. Because of the fact that they were more willing to have dialogue and explain Corbyn's policies to me more clearly, this began my leftward shift.

Conclusion
If more and more liberals are turning towards the right due to the left's hostile attitude, then this is evidence for something which I have been considering for a while and am now fully on board with, which is that leftists, anti-establishment liberals and establishment liberals ought to put aside their differences in order to form a united front to oppose the Trump regime.

I have been very critical of liberals in this post and in the past, and I will continue to be. However, I think that it is necessary to work with them for pragmatic purposes. The fact is that the Trump administration is rolling over women's rights, LGBT+ rights and worker's rights. In World War Two, Winston Churchill, the leader of the Conservative Party, and Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour Party, were able to put aside their differences in order to form the wartime coalition to defeat the fascists. Now, the time has come for liberals and leftists to do the same in order to defeat the poison of right-wing populism.

This contradicts many statements I have made in the past. For instance, in 2016, I endorsed Jill Stein as President of the United States. I now think that to have been unwise. I now think that in most occasions, the right decision would have been to vote for Hillary Clinton in order to stop Trump. There are some exceptions to this, for instance, if I was an American and lived in an electoral district guaranteed to turn blue, I would vote Stein in the hopes of getting her up to 5% of the vote so that she could participate in the presidential debates. Her voice is a necessary one in the current political climate and it would be good to see her hold the Democrats and Republicans to account on issues such as economics, healthcare, education and foreign policy. Indeed, it would also be good to see them hold her to account on her more objectionable positions on issues such as GMOs and nuclear power.

However, in most occasions, a vote for a third party will not achieve much. I want the common ownership of the means of production in the United States, and I want that achieved by democratic reform. To do this, leftists have to work within the system and work within the Democratic Party as that seems the only hope of pushing through any form of progressive legislation given the current political climate. Only once the Republicans have been crushed would it be wise to think of forming a left-wing alternative to the Democrats.

I'll put this question then to the rest of the forum - What do you think? Are PragerU successful in appealing to liberals? Should leftists unite with liberals? Do you agree or disagree with my points and conclusions? Let me know and I'll make sure to respond!
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger." - Friedrich Nietzsche

carnap
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Post by carnap » Sun Dec 02, 2018 1:18 pm

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz wrote:
Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:06 am
Now, the time has come for liberals and leftists to do the same in order to defeat the poison of right-wing populism.
The poison is of their own creation, you cannot defeat right-wing populism until you address why it exists in the first place. Over the last few decades liberal politicians have only pretended to be concerned for the average Joe, in reality their policies have destroyed communities throughout the American heart land and transferred large amounts of wealth to coastal cities filled with paper pushers.
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz wrote:
Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:06 am
I want the common ownership of the means of production in the United States, and I want that achieved by democratic reform.
I'd never support that and nor would the majority of Americans.

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Post by Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz » Sun Dec 02, 2018 2:28 pm

carnap wrote:
Sun Dec 02, 2018 1:18 pm
The poison is of their own creation, you cannot defeat right-wing populism until you address why it exists in the first place. Over the last few decades liberal politicians have only pretended to be concerned for the average Joe, in reality their policies have destroyed communities throughout the American heart land and transferred large amounts of wealth to coastal cities filled with paper pushers.
That's a fair point. Far-right groups have appealed to those people in European countries by pushing for extensive welfare states, and have achieved success when those opposed to them support neoliberal economic policies. This is a very good article on this issue: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/mon ... eed73405e3
I'd never support that and nor would the majority of Americans.
That's exactly why I'm saying the left needs to push for more popular policies before pushing for more controversial policies such as that. In all fairness, this is what they are doing in the United States. They have also worked well with liberal politicians. However, they need to be careful not to alienate liberal voters.
"That which does not kill us makes us stronger." - Friedrich Nietzsche

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