Five reasons PragerU might be more critical towards their contributors

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 EmpireIt 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.

Final words

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.

See also:Looking at: If you live in freedom, thank the British Empire by H.W. Crocker III

Movie review: Best of Enemies

While Best of Enemies is a documentary it could have easily been turned into a movie as it views like a dramatic story that works towards a climax at the end of the ten head on collisions between the progressive liberal Gore Vidal and the (neo) conservative William F. Buckley. The exchanges are cloaked as debates with the intent to comment on the national conventions of both parties in 1968 prior to the elections, but are more like verbal brawls. They remind me of the Nixon vs Frost interview in the way it exposes the participants in full view of the television audience. But these are not interviews, commentaries , debates or exchange of ideas. These are dirty below the belt catfights of the most shameful kind.

The summit is reached when Vidal entices Buckley to fall into a trap and has him commit the worst of acts that ends all debates: to turn to threats of physical violence. It is the word cryptonazi that does the trick, foreshadowing the famous Reduction ad Hitlerum fallacy in a way: any debate ends when Hitler or Nazis become an argument in the discussion. When Buckley recoils from his own rage Gore gives him a supreme smile so thick with glee that it even shames his supporters: he has gotten what he wanted, that is: to expose the ‘real’ Buckley that lurks under the charming veneer: a lout, a ruffian and a brute.

But at what price?

After Gore carried away the flag in triumph, his initial victory turns into Pyrrhic one and overtime becomes a sound defeat for the nation, so the documentary has it. For these representatives of two opposing political worlds are not without influence, Vidal being a famed writer, essayist and commentator and Buckley  an important publicist and more or less one of the founders of the neo-conservative movement.

And their fight does not end with the last of the debates. Instead in extends up to the death of the two well into the 21st century. The distaste and hatred between the two men, is mirrored in the isolation of influential groups and do nothing to make that country more stable. It would go a bit too far to state that this debate is the root of all evil , but it shows for the public eye something that was already in the make: the rising antagonism between (neo)conservatives and progressives that hijacks a nation. As the documentary has it: coming into being are two worlds that hardly communicate(and hate each other).

It is hard to judge if the documentary is biased, but it states, and this is impression I got, that Vidal went into the debates with the sole intent to tear down Buckley and what he stands for. Buckley seems to have had less of a purpose, but he quickly geared up. Yet I got the impression that Buckley was the more honest person and more personally affected by the personal attack, than Vidal was. The latter struck me as a cold calculating bastard to be honest. But maybe this is because Buckley felt far more charming than Vidal was.
It is sad to know that one man can hate another so much, or hate what the other stands for so much, as to show that in the public eye.

And it is sad that to see how people lap this up.

And this is probably the weakest part of the documentary. It doesn’t tell us much about the fanning of the hatreds. It never tells us that nobody had the decency to tell them to stop or that ABC gloated of this abject drama because of the soaring numbers of viewers. The documentary basically forgets about those large masses who were drooling over this live soap, showing the downfall of television as a serious means to inform and educate a nation. For when ABC got the most viewers with their entertainment, the other networks, with their boring serious distant coverage of the conventions lost theirs. And they saw what was happening and adapted: everything would become entertainment.

The documentary is one of the best I have seen and therefore quite unsettling. It not only concentrates on the debates themselves but glances at what happened before and how Vidal and Buckley fared after and gives us an impression of the participants. I would certainly recommend it, even if it is not a pretty sight.,_Jr.