It sounds like a very modern thriller: An online educational video site is turning millennials into conservatives, Mother Jones reports.
There are no degrees at PragerU (Prager University), but there are more than 300 bite-sized videos with chipper hosts and vivid graphics, ideal for watching on mobile or sharing to Facebook or bingeing on YouTube. The titles include "Do You Understand the Electoral College," a genial primer that racked up 50 million views right after the 2016 election. All spread core conservative doctrines, some more blatantly than others: "He Wants You" defends a man's right to ogle women. Others contend the police aren't racist and that Native Americans receive too much government aid.
Meet Dennis Prager, founder of PragerU
Overall, the philosophy of PragerU seems to be "kill their objections with kindness and graphic design." The founder is 69-year-old Dennis Prager, an essentially polite talk-radio host from Brooklyn who hosts a conservative program that's respected for being respectful to callers. He supports Donald Trump and even went to bat for Roy Moore. He doesn't rant like Alex Jones but believes that the left wing will bring about the abandonment of Judeo-Christian values, which will lead to the apocalypse.
"They are engineered to sway those in the mushy middle, especially young people trying to figure out what they stand for," says Mother Jones. "More than 60 percent of its viewers are younger than 35, according to YouTube analytics." Almost 100 million people have watched a Prager U video on Facebook, where Prager has 2.8 million followers. "By meeting young people on their own turf—social media, smartphones—and addressing them amiably, Prager manages to deliver conservative thought in a package even Never Trumpers are willing to open," Mother Jones says.
Where does PragerU get its funding?
Prager U's $6 million yearly budget (the organization is tax-exempt, because its product is educational) is supplied mostly by small donors who have conservative pet causes, such as a pair of fracking billionaires who want Christianity to be taught in public schools. Mother Jones notes that the most popular left-leaning attempt at a viral educational video series — "Trump and the Press," hosted by Robert Reich — is a comparative bomb with 10 million views. That's the same number a single Prager video hosted by former "Dirty Jobs" host Mike Rowe got. Libertarian comic Adam Carolla ("The Man Show," "Loveline") is another popular host.
What does Dennis Prager believe?
For his part, Prager says his politics "are exactly what they were when I was a liberal and a Democrat, but that’s now considered conservative." He says he's pro-choice but against gay marriage. His main criticism of Donald Trump is that he wishes he would talk in more dignified tones, like President Obama. He's mild-mannered in person but his driving principle is that those leftists will bring about the apocalypse.
"Dennis Prager is smarter than Sean Hannity," says Conor Friedersdorf, a writer for The Atlantic. "He is less insecure than Rush Limbaugh, and he is more civil than Mark Levin. In fact, his commitment to civility and reasoned discourse distinguishes him from other talk-radio hosts in tone and substance." So how does that square with his unswerving support of Donald Trump? Friedersdorf asks: "Does he really believe in those things, or is he ultimately just another partisan Republican or anti-leftist who will pull the lever next to ‘R’ and support the Republican president rhetorically for that reason?"