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Even in an age of GOP lies, this one’s a whopper!


Does social media engage in “systematic and discriminatory censorship of our conservative videos”?

Of course not. Twitter famously allows Trump to lie, slander his enemies and stir up resentment among his unstable followers. Facebook permits Breitbart—one the most infamous examples of extremism in America—to publish, including comments from readers that are shocking, defamatory and hateful. Google routinely puts Trump’s tweets at or near the top in “Trump” searches, while a “Trump” search at YouTube comes up with lots of Trump and Trump family videos.

Nobody can seriously say that social media is biased against Trump or the radical, white nationalist conservatism he advocates. But that hasn’t stopped the far-right fringe group, Prager University, from filing lawsuits against YouTube and parent company Google for “this censorship…of our conservative videos.”

What is “Prager University” (or PragerU, as they call it)? For starters, it’s not a university at all, but an online site featuring propaganda from some of the most scurrilous rabble-rousers in the English-speaking world. They publish screeds from the likes of Carl Benjamin, an “anti-feminist British YouTuber” and Brexiteer, who once taunted a female Member of Parliament by saying, “I wouldn’t even rape you,” which prompted comparisons to Trump’s calling women “dogs.”

PragerU also publishes videos from the arch-white supremacist Dennis Prager (PragerU’s founder) a Rush Limbaugh wannabe who is a leader of the anti-Muslim movement among Republicans. When Keith Ellison, a Muslim, was elected to Congress and wanted to use the Koran for his swearing-in, Prager lectured him that America is interested in only one book, the Bible.”

PragerU has offered no proof that YouTube or Google censor their ridiculous videos; in fact a “Dennis Prager” search of YouTube immediately results in scores of videos offered. Ditto for Google; search “Dennis Prager” and you get 5.4 million hits, led off by Prager’s own online “The Dennis Prager Show.” Clearly there is no censorship, no systematic effort to smother “our conservative videos.”

Why, then, does PragerU lie that there is? Aside from the fact that they have aligned themselves with the liar-in-chief, Donald Trump, the answer can only be that PragerU is hoping to raise money from credulous rightwingers. In this, they’re similar to those evangelical hucksters, like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell Jr., who extort money from their [mostly uneducated lower class] followers by scaring the bejesus out of them with threats of Communism and Islamic terrorism. PragerU just send out a blast email (of which I am one of the recipients) screaming that “The threat here is not just against PragerU. It’s against ALL of us,” and claiming that they are “taking a stand…for America and for the freedom of speech.”

Of course, the right wing wouldn’t be what it is without attacking liberals, and in PragerU’s case, the object of their enmity is the Southern Poverty Law Center. Now I will confess my own bias: the SPLC is one of the nation’s preeminent trackers of hate groups. They perform an invaluable job of keeping tabs on the neo-nazis, white supremacists, anarchists, anti-Semites and camo-wearing, paintball-playing trash who constitute Trump’s army. But to PragerU, the SPLC is the enemy—and why “your immediate gift today (i.e. money) will help save conservative free speech in America.”

Far be it from me to criticize anyone for trying to raise money. Democrats do it constantly (and I’m getting a little tired of some of their pitches). But let’s recognize this for what it is: first of all, there is NO censorship of PragerU or its videos. Secondly, there IS a case to be made that not all ‘free speech” is permissible. Blatant lies, racial attacks, anti-Semitism, homophobia—these are beyond the pale in terms of decency. This doesn’t mean that Google and YouTube are “censoring” hate speech. But it does mean that their employees who are tasked with enforcing their Terms of Use must frequently use their best judgment as to what to allow, and what not to.

It’s true that Facebook—another object of PragerU’s scorn—banned the notorious Alex Jones and other propagandists (like Milo Yiannopoulos), but just what this actually means is unclear; Jones still has his public Facebook page, while Yiannopoulos maintains a vigorous Facebook presence through several sites maintained by his fans.

The question of whether or not to allow all speech, regardless of how false or inflammatory it is, is a good one, worthy of conversation. We’ll all reach out own conclusions. Mine is that certain forms of hatred—on the right AND the left—ought not to be published; and it’s appropriate to bring pressure against publishers (like Google and Facebook) through the Court of Public Opinion. That’s what many of us have done; it’s what PragerU is trying to rally on the right. But I think there are more of us who want to limit hate speech and violent provocations, than there are those Trumpites who want to spew it (starting with Trump himself); and, of course, the Right has no problem censoring news they believe is injurious to Trump (which is why Fox isn’t even broadcasting Mueller’s testimony tomorrow!). Besides, the Right already has the most widely-viewed media presence in America: Fox “News.” How they can complain about censorship is ridiculous.

  1. Bob Rossi` says:

    “Breitbart—one the most infamous examples of extremism in America—to publish, including comments from readers that are shocking, defamatory and hateful. ”
    This struck a cord with me. Last year, someone made a comment on some site indicating that Breitbart wasn’t so bad and that those who are attacking it should actually read it. So I decided to do so. I was appalled. The articles were bad enough, but the few comments I read were truly horrifying. I don’t plan on returning.

  2. I make it a habit to read Breitbart (which I call BiteFart), including the comments. They are straight out of a lunatic asylum. There is no doubt in my mind — none — that many of them are fake humans: Russian trolls, bots, or others working clandestinely with the trump forces to stir up hatred and undermine our democracy. Why Facebook permits BiteFart to publish is a scandal of the highest order.

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