Thursday, July 25, 2019

America, Google and Me: My Senate Speech

Dennis Prager
Last week, at the invitation of Sen. Ted Cruz, I spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee about Google’s having placed more than 60 Prager University videos on its restricted list. Any family that filters out pornography and violence cannot see those particular videos on YouTube (which is owned by Google); nor can any school or library.

This statement is as much about what I and PragerU stand for as it is about Google. Those interested in viewing the presentation can do so here:

It is an honor to be invited to speak in the United States Senate. But I wish I were not so honored. Because the subject of this hearing — Google and YouTube’s (and for that matter, Twitter and Facebook’s) suppression of internet content on ideological grounds — threatens the future of America more than any external enemy.

In fact, never in American history has there been as strong a threat to freedom of speech as there is today.

Before addressing this, however, I think it important that you know a bit about me and the organization I co-founded, Prager University — PragerU, as it often referred to.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My late father, Max Prager, was a CPA and an Orthodox Jew who volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy at the start of World War II. My father’s senior class thesis at the City College of New York was on anti-Semitism in America. Yet, despite his keen awareness of the subject, he believed that Jews living in America were the luckiest Jews to have ever lived.

He was right. Having taught Jewish history at Brooklyn College, written a book on antisemitism and fought Jew-hatred my whole life, I thank God for living in America.

It breaks my heart that a vast number of young Americans have not only not been taught how lucky they are to be Americans but have been taught either how unlucky they are or how ashamed they should be.

It breaks my heart for them because contempt for one’s country leaves a terrible hole in one’s soul and because ungrateful people always become unhappy and angry people.

And it breaks my heart for America because no good country can survive when its people have contempt for it.

I have been communicating this appreciation of America for 35 years as a radio talk show host, the last 20 in national syndication with the Salem Radio Network — an organization that is a blessing in American life. One reason I started PragerU was to communicate America’s moral purpose and moral achievements, both to young Americans and to young people around the world. With a billion views a year, and with more than half of the viewers under age 35, PragerU has achieved some success.

My philosophy of life is easily summarized: God wants us to be good. Period. God without goodness is fanaticism and goodness without God will not long endure. Everything I and PragerU do emanates from belief in the importance of being a good person. That some label us extreme or “haters” only reflects on the character and the broken moral compass of those making such accusations. They are the haters and extremists.

PragerU releases a five-minute video every week. Our presenters include three former prime ministers, four Pulitzer Prize winners, liberals, conservatives, gays, blacks, Latinos, atheists, believers, Jews, Christians, Muslims and professors and scientists from MIT, Harvard, Stanford and a dozen other universities.

Do you think the secretary-general of NATO; or the former prime ministers of Norway, Canada or Spain; or the late Charles Krauthammer; or Philip Hamburger, distinguished professor of law at Columbia Law School, would make a video for an extreme or hate-filled site? The idea is not only preposterous; it is a smear.

Yet, Google, which owns YouTube, has restricted access to 56 of our 320 five-minute videos and to other videos we produce. “Restricted” means families that have a filter to avoid pornography and violence cannot see that video. It also means that no school or library can show that video.

Google has even restricted access to a video on the Ten Commandments … Yes, the Ten Commandments!

We have repeatedly asked Google why our videos are restricted. No explanation is ever given.

But of course, we know why: because they come from a conservative perspective.

Liberals and conservatives differ on many issues. But they have always agreed that free speech must be preserved. While the left has never supported free speech, liberals always have. I therefore appeal to liberals to join us in fighting on behalf of America’s crowning glory — free speech. Otherwise, I promise you, one day you will say, “First they came after conservatives, and I said nothing. And then they came after me. And there was no one left to speak up for me.”

Thank you.


An epidemic of literal-mindedness

Commentators seem to be so thick that they take jokes and figures of speech literally.

Telling jokes on Twitter is a risky affair. Comedian Kevin Hart was pressured to withdraw from hosting the Oscars because of arguably homophobic gags he posted online many years ago. James Gunn, director of the Guardians of the Galaxy film series, has only recently been rehired by Disney after he was sacked for tweeting jokes about paedophilia. Justine Sacco, a PR executive, became the top trending story worldwide after tweeting to her 170 followers from Heathrow airport: ‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!’ By the time she landed in Cape Town, her career was over.

Anyone familiar with social media knows that at any given time there are armies of offence-seekers, poised over their laptops, perspiring with glee at the prospect of ‘calling out’ those who blaspheme against the Holy Church of Wokeness. The other day I posted a screenshot of an extremely improbable result from ‘The Political Compass’, a website that measures an individual’s political temperament against economic (left-right) and social (authoritarian-libertarian) axes. It wasn’t my result at all, but that of an extreme far-right tyrant. The image was captioned: ‘Turns out I’m more left-wing than I thought.’ Within two hours, my daft joke had been quoted back to me as evidence of my right-wing beliefs.

I suppose I should have known better. All comedians are accustomed to varying reactions to their material, whether that’s online or in the white heat of live stand-up. There’s no such thing as a universally successful joke because of the inherent subjectivity of humour. But for any routine to work, we have to assume that the audience is sufficiently comedy-literate to understand that gags are not literal expressions of the truth. Those who fail to appreciate the distinction tend to be those who also argue that comedians should take great care not to cause offence. Ricky Gervais has a joke about an audience member who thinks it’s all about him. ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’, he asks. ‘Well hey dude’, comes the furious reply, ‘my chicken died yesterday’.

I can’t be alone in observing that this kind of self-obsessed literal-mindedness is far more common now than ever before. I’ve written previously about an experience at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe where an outraged audience member interrupted my show because she had decided to take one of my jokes at face value. I can’t help but think that this sort of behaviour is connected to the low regard in which stand-up is held. How often do punters heckle during productions of Titus Andronicus because of Shakespeare’s problematic endorsement of rape, dismemberment and cannibalism? Should we be concerned that Angela Lansbury is so often in the vicinity when murders take place? Is it true that Shakira’s hips are incapable of deceit?

This is not just confined to Twitter users, either. Politicians and media commentators appear to exercise an almost wilful ignorance of the basic concepts of metaphor and hyperbole. This week Robert Rowland, a Brexit Party MEP, sent the following tweet: ‘We are behind all our fisherman [sic] and the restoration of sovereignty over our waters. 200 miles of exclusion zone with any foreign fishing vessel given the same treatment as the Belgrano!’ The Independent reported that Rowland had ‘called for the Royal Navy to sink EU fishing vessels’, assuming that his reference to the ill-fated Argentine cruiser was a direct endorsement of a policy that ‘would see EU boats as far away as France’s Bay of Biscay attacked by British warships’. The Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies claimed to feel ‘sick to the stomach’ after hearing that Rowland was ‘calling for fishermen from another nation to die in our waters’.

Are these people genuinely as stupid as they seem? Can it be possible to achieve a successful career in politics or the media without being able to understand the difference between hyperbole and open calls for violence? Perhaps Rowland is truly as ‘evil’ as his political rivals claim, although it’s far more likely that they are seeking to discredit him by intentionally misinterpreting his comment. In any case, it would be far more effective simply to criticise him for his undiplomatic language, rather than pretending that he yearns for the destruction of fishermen’s boats like some kind of demented latter-day Poseidon.

We have become so used to accepting the media’s literal-mindedness that we rarely question it, particularly when it confirms what we’d like to believe of our opponents. I myself have made jokes at the expense of Boris Johnson for his use of offensive language about black people without bothering to check the context. It’s only recently that I actually read the original article in which he describes ‘flag-waving piccaninnies’ and ‘tribal warriors’ with ‘watermelon smiles’. And although I’m no fan of Johnson, I have to concede that the article in question is quite plainly using colonial rhetoric in order to mock Tony Blair for his international saviour complex. Perhaps Johnson does harbour racist feelings, but this attempt at satire cannot, if we’re being honest with ourselves, be cited as incriminating evidence.

I’m reminded of a tweet by the comedian Andrew Lawrence: ‘Given that about 80 per cent of suicides in the UK last year were committed by men, if feminists truly wanted equality, they’d kill themselves.’ This resulted in an online petition which urged the BBC to ban him from any future shows on the grounds that he was willing ‘to incite others to take their own lives’. Again, if we accept that those who signed the petition are being honest, we must also accept that they lack the basic capacity to understand a joke. I would have far more respect for those who admit that they simply want jokes they find offensive to be banned, in spite of my contempt for such authoritarian instincts.

It’s so much easier to think we’ve won an argument if we ignore context, nuance and the figurative nature of language. But if we are serious about the battle of ideas, we should insist that we fight each other on a level playing field. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that political disputes are best resolved through hand-to-hand combat on horizontal terrain typically reserved for competitive sporting events.

Although given the intellectual stupor of so much of the commentariat, perhaps that’s not such a bad idea.


Attacks on Conservative Speech Take Many Forms
Looking over the frenzied political landscape in America today, one marred by constant clashes between right and left, a single issue rises above the rest. In many areas of public life, conservatives, their words, their views, and values, are under assault. Conservative speech is under direct attack by ultra-left, radical activists who are methodically expunging conservative speech and conservative ideas from public discourse.

This threat to the First Amendment and to the sharing of viewpoints held by roughly half of all Americans is taking many forms but is often paired with harsh threats and actual acts of violence directed at conservatives. Brutal physical assaults on conservative men and women are waged by an increasingly radical subsection of our society that is growing in power and bravado.

Andy Ngo, a reporter for Quillette, was viciously attacked by masked Antifa thugs while exercising his First Amendment right to free press. The video of his attack was seen by millions, and his subsequent article in The Wall Street Journal prompted a response from Capitol Hill. However, while most on the conservative side condemned the attack on a member of the press, most progressives — those who supposedly carry the torch of free speech — were conspicuously silent on the issue.

Meeting speech with violence is completely unacceptable and directly opposite of the American model of the free exchange of ideas in pluralistic society. But leftist activists often get away with labeling anything they disagree with as “hate speech,” and they work hard to silence the messenger. The violence committed against Mr. Ngo placed him in the hospital and was justified by street thugs simply because Ngo is a “conservative” who “unmasked Antifa.”

Fortunately, some organizations are working to stem this violent, hateful tide.  A new legal defense group, Publius Lex, founded by Harmeet Dhillon, works to preserve justice in a system that seems all too hesitant to investigate and prosecute violent Antifa activists. It has taken Mr. Ngo on as their first legal case.

A more systematic problem of bias against conservative free speech exists on many college campuses around the country. Thoroughly reported by Campus Reform and The College Fix, progressive students enabled by agenda-driven professors and college administrators regularly harass conservative students. Some incidents of suppression manifest in the destruction of property. More subtle cases have been documented such as professors marking down the grades of conservative students for no reason other than those students’ traditional values.

Many universities are also limiting conservative speech via unaccountable administrative tribunals (bias response teams) that make conservative students appear before panels of school officials to answer for comments made in a classroom or elsewhere on campus. Complaints lodged against conservative students are usually anonymous, and these accused students often have no legal representation or due process. In addition, many college campuses foster environments where conservative students are shouted down and discriminated against for their views or values. Many students are now afraid to share their ideas of views that challenge prevailing liberal doctrine.

A new organization is meeting head-on these threats to the First Amendment on college campuses. Speech First is dedicated to protecting students’ speech rights on campus through advocacy, litigation, and other means. Speech First has filed federal lawsuits against the University of Michigan, University of Texas-Austin, and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign seeking to restore freedom of speech on campuses and ensure that college students attend classes and participate in activities that promote open discourse. 

Many social-media platforms are blatantly discriminating against conservatives with Silicon Valley executives openly expressing their disdain for conservative ideas. The de-platforming and banning of prominent center-right voices and conservative thought leaders has touched off accusations of bias and targeting. Twitter now has a policy saying anyone using an incorrect gender pronoun or wrong first name of someone else could be banned. Twitter has effectively shut down hotly contested debates on subjects such as gender identity, with these bans almost always going against conservative thought. 

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, recently rolled out a new “feature.” It will utilize artificial intelligence to read every single comment or post, and if the algorithm deems the content of the post to be offensive in any way, Instagram will ask you to confirm your post. It’s not difficult to imagine how this algorithm could be manipulated to flag and suppress conservative speech.

The Media Research Center is now monitoring online bias against conservatives. TechWatch documents conservative bias and fights against online censorship of conservatives on various social-media platforms. Its online blogs document the onslaught of offensive Silicon Valley has committed against conservatives, as well as how conservatives feel about Big Tech.

Preserving free speech in America and maintaining respect for one another — no matter what political opinions or religious beliefs we may have — is essential to the survival of our nation. What’s more, our First Amendment rights are not labeled Republican or Democrat. Public streets, campus classrooms, and online forums should be centers of robust, mutually respected debate.

Sadly, that is no longer the case. Those who are engaging in the fight to preserve conservative values and the unfettered expression of conservative speech deserve our respect and our full support.


Australia: Devastated junior football team has all their competition points stripped because they are TOO GOOD

This absurdity springs from the Leftist obsession with  equality.  But people are not equal and never will be.  It's grossly unjust that people are arbitrarily denied the fairly won fruits of their efforts. Australia is not the Soviet Union yet

It would be different if the competition was unfair.  That does happen. St. Joseph's college at Nudgee in Brisbane in 2010 tried to pull a fast one on those lines.  They recruited a substantial number of Polynesian students using scholarships.  Polynesians tend to be rather large.  They then fielded a Rugby football team that was mainly comprised of Polynesians, who were markedly larger than the Caucasian players from other schools. 

Such matches were swiftly stopped for the safety of the players in the other teams. Some teams refused to field with them at all. Another prominent Catholic college threatened to ban their students from playing Rugby altogether. So Nudgee's attempt to gain an unfair advantage just disrupted the fixtures and earned them scorn for bad sportmanship.

A junior football team has been stripped of its shot at a premiership because its players are too good.

The West Australian Football Commission has stripped South Coogee Junior Football Club's Year 10 A division team of all of its premiership points and given them a $500 good behaviour bond.

This was reportedly in reaction to five of the six A team players refused to move to a B division team, which has been struggling to win its league matches.

The means any team playing against the South Coogee A team in the remaining six games is automatically awarded a win - with a victory margin pre-set at 60 points.

The WAFC's attempt to even the competition has left players and parents devastated.

'It is just a shame because these are just young boys who want to play footy yet they are forced to face the politics that goes on behind the scenes, at such a young age,' a club source told WAtoday.

'And the WAFC and other officials wonder why so many are turning their back on footy to play other sports like soccer.

'The reality is, both teams will probably leave and not play next year because of all of this.'

The football team was split after South Fremantle junior competition director Mark Brookes moved a proposal to WAFC in February this year.

The permission was granted on the condition that both teams need to be competitive.

South Coogee's A division team was selected with those who wanted to advance to a higher level and the B division team had players 'who just wanted to play the game with their mates.'

Initially, the teams were supposed to play in A and C divisions, but South Coogee had to field its 'second' team in division B after another football club Willeton withdrew from division C.

The C division team was forced to play in the B division.

WAFC and officials from South Coogee Junior Football have been contacted for their comments.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


1 comment:

Karl said...

"Ricky Gervais has a joke about an audience member who thinks it’s all about him. ‘Why did the chicken cross the road?’, he asks. ‘Well hey dude’, comes the furious reply, ‘my chicken died yesterday’."

So the chicken is on the "other side". WoooooOOOOOoooooo