Can you change a mind in five minutes? PragerU says “yes!” and BuzzFeed reluctantly agrees.
Here at LI, we love PragerU and often share their excellent videos with our readers. So it was with great interest that I read an article at BuzzFeed about “How PragerU Is Winning The Right-Wing Culture War Without Donald Trump.” They don’t quite get it because they can’t quite wrap their minds around PragerU’s focus on ideas rather than on politicians or parties.
The BuzzFeed article begins by relating the experience of a 15-year-old high school sophomore who was intrigued by PragerU videos.
The video that hooked him was this one on Iran and the Bomb:
From there, BuzzFeed reports, this student began watching other PragerU videos, and the student said that it took about two months “to clear out my beliefs and reform them.” He is now a 19-year-old conservative.
BuzzFeed is appalled that such a thing can happen right under their noses. After citing some pretty impressive PragerU viewership numbers (about a billion), BuzzFeed muses that “it all adds up to an audience at a scale that makes PragerU unique among conservative media organizations. In fact, it’s much closer in size to the major digital-first players in news video: Vice, AJ+, BuzzFeed, and Huffington Post.”
And yet PragerU is a whisper in an online conservative din dominated by the Trump-worshipping Breitbart brigade.
PragerU’s low national profile comes partly from the fact that it doesn’t really do the news cycle; you can search the PragerU video landing page for “DACA” or “Kushner” and come back with bupkis. Nor does it do speed: The site only releases one video a week. And its politics, or at least the cumulative politics of its presenters, can be hard to pin down: a grab bag of Federalist-style moralizing, Commentary-approved Zionism, “alt-lite”-issue broadsides against campus outrage culture, defenses of free markets that would be at home in Reason, and, er, George Will explaining why baseball is America’s true national pastime.
The site may also have grown so large so quietly because it doesn’t fit neatly into any of the sexier narratives about the viral right that have obsessed the mainstream left: that it is a stalking horse for white nationalism, a clearinghouse for racist 4chan memes, or a move in a twelve-dimensional chess match played by Grandmaster Putin. Indeed, this is a rapidly advancing homegrown front in the culture war being led by people who wouldn’t dream of saying “cuck.”
Being what they are, BuzzFeed can’t see anything on the right without first donning its Trump Derangement goggles. There’s no Trump at PragerU, they wail; there’s no “conspiracy theory, xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism whose rise accompanied Trump’s.”
PragerU is making a play for a potentially bigger and longer-lasting audience than just Trump supporters. The exact shape of this audience is still coming into focus — as is much of the political landscape after the Big Bang of 2016 — but squint and you can see it: Millions of young people, many of whom didn’t vote for Donald Trump, looking to stretch their conservative intuitions about our new culture war into a coherent worldview. It’s an audience more alienated by a perceived liberal cultural orthodoxy than it is attracted to the president.
Part of the explanation consists of simple history and mission, PragerU was founded by Dennis Prager in 2009, long before Trump appeared on the political landscape in any meaningful way. They didn’t do any “I hate Obama, he’s the Devil” videos throughout the Obama presidency, either, so why would they do pro- or anti-Trump videos now?
In fact, PragerU didn’t get involved in any of the elections since its 2009 founding, and that’s been no accident. They don’t “do” politics, at least not, per se. What they do is share “Short videos. Big ideas” in an effort to “to explain and spread ‘Americanism.”
In some ways, then, it’s unsurprising that BuzzFeed is so puzzled. The left is all politics, all the time, and the more personal, anti-American, and vile, the better.
Furthermore, the last thing the left ever wants to do is defend (or even explain) their ideas. A leftist outlet like PragerU is impossible because it would be the same thing as the mainstream media; a lot of screeching about hate and impeachment and attacking individual politicians, the “white supremacist” GOP, and the “deplorable” Americans who decided against a Hillary presidency.
No wonder BuzzFeed struggles to understand PragerU’s appeal to so many “normal” young people.
In fact, they ramble on for over 20 paragraphs just trying to figure out what’s up with PragerU before launching into another 15 or so paragraphs trying to get a handle on Dennis Prager, PragerU’s founder. Click over if you want to read it; it is of some interest to see how completely confused the left is by the popularity of a video “university” that doesn’t attack, attack, attack while spewing vomitous bile and dripping condescension from its morally-superior perch of self-righteousness.
Ultimately, BuzzFeed does have an answer for PragerU’s popularity, particularly among young people. The videos are so polished and so professional that they’re just like . . . BuzzFeed!
The most obvious reason PragerU has attracted so many young viewers is the quality of its videos. It’s clear after watching just a few seconds of any of the segments that they have a higher level of polish and professionalism than the other popular conservative digital media outlets.
“Conservative organizations have absolutely failed in coming up with a product that is digestible and shareable, which young people want to consume,” Strazzeri told BuzzFeed News. He and Streit see PragerU’s competitors in video not as other conservative media outlets, but BuzzFeed, Vice, and AJ+, whose content they admire.
You can’t make this stuff up.
Here is a sampling of some great PragerU videos:
Ultimately, BuzzFeed inadvertently reminds us that the culture war is not lost. Knowledge is power, and PragerU provides a great groundwork for explaining and defending our ideas without sinking into ad hominem and other rhetorically lazy strategies that not only shut down conversation but close minds.
Instead, clear, informational, and short videos focused on ideas is the key to winning the culture war.
Share their videos far and wide, including those restricted by YouTube; you never know when one might land on the device of a high school or college student who is still trying to figure out their worldview or who hasn’t been exposed to the big ideas that make America great.DONATE
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