This is a related post to my more elaborate post about the PragerU‘s 5-minutes video called If You Live in Freedom, Thank the British Empire. It is meant to be for quick reading.
I list here five things I found odd about this video and PragerU might take to heart when they ask for contributions.
1) Opinion articles are not credible sources(unless they are used as sources to say something about your opinions)
Using your opinion articles to support your own opinion is weird, especially if they do not have any sources themselves. It is basing your opinion on your opinion. What is the use beyond giving yourself a fake aura of credibility?
2) Using a source that says the opposite of what you are claiming is weird
Crocker uses Salutary Neglect to argue that the British Empire had a policy of benign neglect, mostly leaving their colonies to be autonomous. Yet, it is clear from the source that this was the exception rather than the rule. This policy was only aimed at the American colonies, lasted for four decades and it might not even have been a deliberate policy according to that same source.
He does that with other subjects as well, such as slavery, where anti-slavery was a policy after 1800, but before that was actively supported.
Arguing that something was the rule by pointing towards an exception of that rule invalidates your claim. Arguing that something was the rule at one time, and yet the opposite was true at another time makes your argument poor, unless you explain it.
Note that I am not arguing against Crocker, in each case the source itself contradicts or even calls into question.
3) A true Scotsman?
Crocker gives Stamford Raffles as an example of an upright representative of the British Empire; the man who established Singapore as a free trade port. From his biography in Wikipedia, he seems to be for individual freedom, trade and no taxation.
However, Raffles also appointed and then later removed the Scottish William Farquhar as First Resident and Commander of Singapore, because Farquhar tolerated opium trade and slavery. Was Farquhar also not a representative of that same British empire? But maybe Farquhar wasn’t a true Britisher?
4) You should argue the case
Crocker claims that the British Empire promoted limited government, (individual)freedom and the free market; that the British Empire was successful because of this and that no power did more than the British to abolish slavery and slave trade. Yet he does not show that there was some kind of promotion of these values, either direct or indirect. Or how this contributed to its success.
Salutary Neglect might have been a deliberate policy, but was this policy there to promote the values he mentioned? And was it deliberate? Or does he mean that this was a side-effect?
Was the abolishing of slavery and slave trade a policy that was born from those values, or was it, again, that which promoted these values. And did this effect anyone or anything directly? And was the British Empire foremost in this?
Crocker doesn’t argue his case or even clarify what he means.
5) ‘Facts’ are not arguments
Crocker provides several times ‘facts’ as if they by themselves support his claims. Two of his main points are actually based on facts: that the English were alone in 1940 and that the Magna Carta influenced the US constitution. Each of these is ‘supported’ by more facts.
However, in the case of England being alone, nothing but that fact is established. He doesn’t even point out, which is probably more important, that England liberated countries later in the war. In the case of the Magna Carta he does not provide any proof that without it the US constitution would not exist.
Facts can be used to support your arguments, but it means you have to do more than just show them.
The 5-Minute video made by Crocker is not much more than an opinion that is poorly supported by the supplied sources or are even contradicted by them. If PragerU’s mission is “to promote what is true, what is excellent, and what is noble through digital media“, then this video does that mission a disservice.