Spreading propaganda, 5 minutes at a time
September 20, 2019 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Parker Molloy spent a week watching PragerU videos to write an article about it that you’re invited to read and share "so my brain didn’t turn to mush for nothing": PragerU relies on a veneer of respectability to obscure its propagandist mission (MediaMatters).
posted by bitteschoen (13 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
They're targeting people among a generation who, while they're more willing to accept the legitimacy of YouTube as a source of information, are more likely to understand the difference between user generated content and what's essentially an infomercial for an ideology. The fact that the videos are ads and "force" views through auto play makes them inherently suspicious - seemingly the opposite of a veneer of respectability. Of course the program itself is going to argue for its own effectiveness, but are there outside numbers backing up the claim that people are responding positively to these videos?
posted by Selena777 at 7:54 AM on September 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Shaun: How PragerU Lies to You.
posted by Pendragon at 7:57 AM on September 20, 2019 [11 favorites]

Selena777, I think you've got a point in that media-literate kids (and young adults) don't often fall for it. I'm sure we're about to see a bunch of PragerU take-down videos and articles linked in this thread. But the real target is media-illiterate folks who none-the-less take in mountains of media. Putting a slick, almost-liberal-looking veneer on talk-radio nonsense. That has an audience.

When we look back at this period of time, I'd like to propose we call this genre "JPetersonian."
posted by es_de_bah at 8:04 AM on September 20, 2019 [11 favorites]

These stupid things get shared on Facebook a lot by people who seem to find them persuasive. (◔_◔)
posted by straight at 8:38 AM on September 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

This reminds me of this recent WaPo article: ‘Do you have white teenage sons? Listen up.’ How white supremacists are recruiting boys online.
At first, it wasn’t obvious that anything was amiss. Kids are naturally curious about the complicated world around them, so Joanna Schroeder wasn’t surprised when her 11- and 14-year-old boys recently started asking questions about timely topics such as cultural appropriation and transgender rights.

But she sensed something off about the way they framed their questions, she says — tinged with a bias that didn’t reflect their family’s progressive values. She heard one of her sons use the word “triggered” in a sarcastic, mocking tone. And there was the time Schroeder watched as her son scrolled through the “Explore” screen on his Instagram account and she caught a glimpse of a meme depicting Adolf Hitler.

Schroeder, a writer and editor in Southern California, started paying closer attention, talking to her boys about what they’d encountered online. Then, after her kids were in bed one night last month, she opened Twitter and began to type.

“Do you have white teenage sons?” she wrote. “Listen up.” In a series of tweets, Schroeder described the onslaught of racist, sexist and homophobic memes that had inundated her kids’ social media accounts unbidden, and the way those memes — packaged as irreverent, “edgy” humor — can indoctrinate children into the world of alt-right extremism and white supremacy.

She didn’t know whether anyone would pay attention to her warning. But by the time she awoke the next morning, her thread had gone viral; as of Sept. 16, it had been retweeted more than 81,000 times and liked more than 180,000 times. Over the following days, Schroeder’s inbox filled with messages from other parents who were deeply concerned about what their own kids were seeing and sharing online. [...]

As extremist groups have grown increasingly visible in the physical world, their influence over malleable young minds in the digital realm has become a particularly urgent concern for parents. A barrage of recent reports has revealed how online platforms popular with kids (YouTube, iFunny, Instagram, Reddit and multiplayer video games, among others) are used as tools for extremists looking to recruit. [...]

“This is a specific strategy of white nationalists and alt-right groups,” says Lindsay Schubiner, program director at the Western States Center, a nonprofit focused on social, economic, racial and environmental justice. Schubiner co-authored a tool kit published by the center this year that offers guidance to school officials and parents who are facing white-nationalist threats in their communities.

“White-nationalist and alt-right groups use jokes and memes as a way to normalize bigotry while still maintaining plausible deniability,” Schubiner says, “and it works very well as a recruitment strategy for young people.”
posted by katra at 8:39 AM on September 20, 2019 [27 favorites]

I wonder how much damage could be averted just by removing the "AutoPlay" option from YouTube (or at least having it default to being "off").
posted by Slothrup at 8:48 AM on September 20, 2019 [8 favorites]

I wonder how much damage could be averted just by removing the "AutoPlay" option from YouTube (or at least having it default to being "off").

Agreed, but I wonder how much of YouTube's numbers depend on autoplay, especially for inattentive audiences. I know that a great deal of the kids' content (at least up until all the creepy kids' things that they're supposedly clamping down on) was getting out of hand because YouTube counted on parents setting up kids with an iPad and letting videos autoplay from their first selection, not realizing it could go into that weird Spiderman/Elsa/Pregnancy/Joker thing that it devolved into.
posted by xingcat at 8:52 AM on September 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

This reminds me of the not so famous among normal people but extremely famous among interest groups Edward Bernays. He was the nephew of Sigmund Freud (the father of psychoanalysis) and known as the creator of modern propaganda. The difference is that on the time that he coined the word propaganda for what he was doing, it was not considered a bad thing as the quotation now a days makes it sound! I am not saying it is good or bad. What I am saying is it all depends on the contex. I am sharing with you a phrase from chapter one of his book that I believe goes well with the situation world wide. "THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."
posted by hsmith at 10:16 AM on September 20, 2019 [7 favorites]

hsmith: If you haven't seen it, check out Adam Curtis' The Century of the Self. It's all about Bernays.
posted by lkc at 1:35 PM on September 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

(Be vigilant with the Bernays stuff. There's a lot of Jewish conspiracy bullshit built around him.)
posted by klanawa at 2:10 PM on September 20, 2019 [8 favorites]

But the biggest reason I never believed the Russian collusion charge was that the charge emanated from the left. And the Left lies about everything. Truth is a liberal value, and truth is a conservative value, but it has never been a left-wing value. People on the left say whatever advances their immediate agenda. Power is their moral lodestar; therefore, truth is always subservient to it.

If you always doubt a leftist claim, you will almost always be closer to the truth. I employed that rule in concluding the collusion story was a fraud, and it served me well.

Jeez, that sounds so true, just something not quite right here... We are through the looking glass.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:33 AM on September 21, 2019

This reminds me of the not so famous among normal people but extremely famous among interest groups Edward Bernays.

There is an excellent two-part episode of Behind the Bastards about Bernays' life and the various reasons it made the world worse.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:32 AM on September 21, 2019 [5 favorites]

« Older Season 3, Episode 10   |   Soccer at the Edge of the World Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments