On a July 18, 2023 Patreon show, anthropologist Chris Kavanagh, co-host of the podcast Decoding the Gurus, defined guru as “someone who has special insight they provide to their followers through mastery of a particular technique.”
For Dennis Prager, his mastery of Torah is his primary technique for laying meaning over the world.
June 19, 2023, Prager’s Youtube cohost Julie Hartman said to him: “You and the Torah are such a winning combination. The Torah is so wise and you are so wise.”
Oct. 3, 2022, Dennis said to Julie: “Early on, I said to myself, wow, your instincts are identical to the Torah’s. And it blew my mind. My natural mode of thinking was the Torah’s mode of thinking. If you take those five books seriously, you will think clearly about everything.”
Julie: “And you will be so much happier.”
Dennis: “You can testify to that.”
Julie: “Society will run better. Your life will run better.”
Dennis: “I know it is the answer to everything. That’s why it is frustrating that it is not out there more. This is the answer to evil. To unhappiness.”
If Torah is the answer to everything, as Dennis claims, and Dennis Prager’s instincts are the Torah’s instincts, and God wrote the Torah, then Dennis Prager and God are on the same wave length. He has tapped into ultimate wisdom and we would be foolish not to recognize his greatness.
Dennis is not afraid to pat himself on the back. In May 2023, he spoke at Robert Malone’s Wine Country Conversations event. Reading from presumably Prager’s own approved introduction to himself, a woman named Alexis says about Dennis: “He is considered one of the most influential thinkers, writers and speakers in America… He is an expert on communism, the Middle East and the left.”
Who exactly considers Dennis Prager an influential thinker let alone an expert on communism, the Middle East and the left? A glance at Google Scholar reveals his work draws no academic attention. Experts who write books on communism, the Middle East and the left are not citing Dennis Prager.
In his book descriptions, Dennis does not suffer from false modesty. In his 2012 book, Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph, Dennis calls himself “one of America’s most original thinkers.”
His 1996 book, Think a Second Time, features this: “Dennis Prager, theologian and philosopher turned talk-show host, is one of the most brilliant and compelling voices in America today. His extraordinarily popular radio show with the signature sign-off, “Think a second time,” coupled with his own biweekly newsletter, has firmly established him as a fixture in intellectual communities nationwide.”
In which intellectual communities exactly has Dennis Prager been a fixture? I can’t think of any.
Returning to the July 18, 2023 Decoding the Gurus Patreon video. Chris Kavanagh says: “The through-line [for gurus] is the ability to deal with the unseen world… They ground their expertise not in the ability to manipulate esoteric forces or to commune with the ancient masters, but with their secular knowledge.”
Psychologist and co-host Matthew Browne adds: “How to lay meaning over the world and provide guidance for your life. We coined the term secular guru. They cloak themselves in a different garb. People still have the same urge to find meaning in the world. They want guidance for their dilemmas. For the gurus, the modern ones like the old fashioned ones, there are strong motivations to lean into this role — you get recognition, attention, respect and ultimately financial resources.
“In terms of the personal qualities to be a good guru, you need to be a performer. You need to be charismatic. You have to put on a good show, [have] preternatural levels of self-confidence and self-assurance, that ability to project authority and wisdom and send people the message that you have the capacity for unique insights. You’re connected to forces beyond their ken and they need to listen to you.”
That seems like a good description of Dennis Prager.
Browne: “They lean into woo. They’re into strange diets.”
In the 1980s, Dennis would preach that only fat makes you fat. In the 1990s, he embraced the Zone Diet. In the last few years, he’s followed Jordan Peterson in “>advocating meat as the healthiest of all foods.
Browne: “Like Jordan Peterson, they see the mystical influence of the word of God everywhere. The scientific grounding is a rationalization. The appeal to the heart is in the old fashioned sense of revealed truth, but they frame is as informed by logic, science, philosophy and these secular things.”
Kavanagh: “When you have institutionalized religions, you often do have a competition between…orthodox interpreters and these more dramatic practicioners. Within the tradition, you have this constant push and pull between figures who lean more towards idiosyncratic, charismatic interpretations and those who lean more towards orthodox textual dogma.”
Dennis Prager’s presentation of Torah and of Judaism and of political conservatism is not orthodox, but leans more toward the dramatic, idiosyncratic, and charismatic.
As philosopher Stephen Turner wrote in his 2022 memoir Mad Hazard: “[C]harismatic leaders also did something that involved risk: they presented through their bodies the promise of something that had previously been thought impossible or never thought of because it was too risky. Hitler, Martin Luther King, Jesus, Napoleon, all fit with this, and with the implication that this new thing could only be achieved through them. They all followed what Weber had hinted at and I called the charismatic cycle: they performed a miracle or had a victory that constituted proof of their special abilities to do things people didn’t think could be done, and the existence of followers enabled them to do even more, to then generate new followers, and repeat the cycle; until their luck ran out, or as Roberto Michels said, until the water reached their throat.”
Kavanagh: “You look at modern religion and you see charismatic individuals who perform guru roles and you have serious priests and theologians. Gurus inhabit all societies and all areas, including traditional religion, New Age religion, non-doctrinal religions, and secular societies. It is a recurrent social role.”
Browne: “The secular gurus we look at seem to operate in the shadow of the institutions, the mainstream media, the blue church of the academy, and they don’t draw their epistemic and moral authority from orthodox consensus literature but rather with reference not to their spiritual powers nor their connection with God, but with their polymathic powers, their unique intellectual capabilities.”
Kavanagh: “Public intellectual might seem a close fit [to guru] but public intellectuals profess specialist knowledge consistent with a broader academic scientific or technological field of knowledge. The secular gurus are polymathic and iconoclastic. They position their insights as unique, broad-ranging and controversial that go against traditional theories from established disciplines. Almost by definition, [gurus are] antagonistic to established institutions and academic fields that my have birthed them. And when they reference a particular expertise, it is used as a justification for spreading their ideas widely. They’re not constrained as most public intellectuals are who will say, ‘I don’t know enough to comment.'”
Browne: “They don’t stand on the shoulders of giants. They are the giants.”
According to Logicallyfallacious.com, the Galileo fallacy is: “The claim that because an idea is forbidden, prosecuted, detested, or otherwise mocked, it must be true, or should be given more credibility.”
Kavanagh: “People claiming to have revolutionary insights to transform a field dramatically outstrip the number of people who actually do that. When someone revolutionizes a field, they don’t have to tell you. History records it. If someone declares themselves a revolutionary figure but they haven’t had any impact on the field and their primary output is a podcast where they talk about culture wars, [they’re] likely to only be known in history as a conspiracy theorist.”
On a separate 2023 show, Browne noted two common problems with gurus: “One, professing to have this unique insight that everyone else is wrong, I am telling you how it really is on a wide variety of topics, becoming supposedly an expert overnight, or as someone like Brett Weinstein would claim, using his unique evolutionary biology perspective to solve every puzzle, and never admitting being wrong.”
July 17, 2023, Dennis said to Julie Hartman: “You know how much I respect Ben Shapiro.”
Unlike Ben Shapiro, Dennis Prager, for all of his faults, is a courteous radio host and a gentlemanly debater.
According to PragerU, “The Rubin Report [is] a talk show about big ideas and free speech. The show has been heralded for its politically incorrect and honest approach.”
I’ve never heard anyone I respect hail Dave Rubin for anything, let alone for “big ideas” and “honest approach.” Decoding the Gurus titled their Rubin episode: “A Pointless Partisan Pundit.” They added: “The riddle of Dave Rubin is not so much a deep rabbit hole as a minor depression in the ground.”
On his February 10, 2011 show, Dennis called Gladwell “an original thinker.”
Dennis recognizes in the huckster a kindred spirit. They met on the air Feb. 18, 2014, when Malcolm was promoting his new book — David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.
Dennis: “Your mind, I have a certain identification with it. You look at something and you find patterns. That’s the way my mind works.”
Malcolm: “I think that people in the position we’re in, doing the job we’re doing, that’s our value, right? Most people are information rich and theory poor. They don’t have the time or the inclination to make sense of [life], to put patterns together.”
Dennis: “But without patterns, you don’t understand life.”
Dennis: “It’s something you can train yourself to do, but it is also a gift. They asked Schubert, how did you come up with all these melodies? And he said, ‘They just come into my brain.'”
“Thanks to you, I got to love the [story of] David and Goliath even more. It gives tremendous substance to the story in the Bible. All these little details, you make sense of.”
“Just for that story alone, you have to read [his book] David and Goliath. It begins with a brilliant analysis of why the story is so telling in its details.”
Malcolm: “Why are we so constantly fooled by things that don’t matter?”
Dennis: “That’s why I resonate to this theme of yours. At a very early age, I came to a conclusion I have never wavered from — the staggering exaggerated importance given to brains and raw intelligence. I realized in high school that the ones with the finest brains were often the most confused, the least capable of dealing with life kids in the grade. I have learned from my listeners, who come from all walks of life, more than I learned from my professors at Columbia.”
Malcolm: “Yeah. That does not surprise me. You talk to people in the business world, I’m always curious about hiring, and the good ones, that’s all they talk about. They hire character.”
Dennis: “I’m getting the chills. I raised my kids with that theme. I told them, ‘I don’t care about your grades. I care about your character.’ And they got crappy grades. Character is king.”
“I feel like a kindred spirit with you.”
“Malcolm Gladwell teaches what isn’t taught. He has an original mind. It is a joy to read him.”
Philosopher John Gray wrote Nov. 21, 2013 in The New Republic about Gladwell's latest book:
There is nothing remotely challenging, for most of Gladwell’s readers, in this story; it is the sort of uplift in which they already believe. The dominant narrative for the last three centuries has been one in which the power of elites and rulers is progressively overcome by the moral force of the common man and woman who sticks up for what is right. Far from being a forbidden truth, this is what everyone thinks. Here we can glimpse one of the secrets of Gladwell’s success. Pretending to present daringly counterintuitive views to his readers, he actually strengthens the hold on them of a view of things that they have long taken for granted. This is, perhaps, the essence of the genre that Gladwell has pioneered: while reinforcing beliefs that everyone avows, he evokes in the reader a satisfying sensation of intellectual non-conformity…
Speaking to a time that prides itself on optimism and secretly suspects that nothing works, his books are analgesics for those who seek temporary relief from abiding anxiety. There is more of reality and wisdom in a Chinese fortune cookie than can be found anywhere in Gladwell’s pages. But then, it is not reality or wisdom that his readers are looking for.
This analysis also applies to Dennis Prager and his fans.
Political scientist James Joyner wrote Dec. 11, 2006:
Malcolm Gladwell highlights a long-running dispute…between himself and Steve Sailer over what it means that car dealers quote higher prices to black (and women) customers than to comparable white (and male) customers.
Gladwell believes it is obviously evidence of “unconscious racism” whereas Sailer argues that it is much more likely that car salesmen have learned over time that they can get more money on average out of blacks and women and therefore are discriminating against them as suckers, not out of bias.
While it’s not inconceivable that some combination of both explanations are true (or that one is true for some salesmen and the other true for other salesmen) the Sailer explanation strikes me as more plausible. He cites economist Robert Stonebraker, who notes:
Ayres and Siegelman [the authors of the study Gladwell relies on] conclude that statistical discrimination is the real culprit. Blatant bigotry is not the cause. Rather, dealers and salespeople use race and gender to make statistical inferences about the consumer’s sensitivity to price — what economists term price elasticity…
While dealers and/or salespeople may know little or nothing about a particular customer, they know quite a bit about statistical differences among races and genders. They know that women and African-Americans typically enter the showroom with less information and less proclivity to bargain. Although white males often salivate at the chance to lock horns with car dealers in a bargaining struggle, females and African-Americans may be unaware that bargaining is even possible. Ayres and Siegelman cite a Consumer Federation of America survey that discovered that many female respondents, and more than one-half of African-American respondents, believed that sticker prices were non-negotiable.
Richard Posner adds,
It would not occur to Gladwell, a good liberal, that an auto salesman’s discriminating on the basis of race or sex might be a rational form of the “rapid cognition” that he admires… [It] may be sensible to ascribe the group’s average characteristics to each member of the group, even though one knows that many members deviate from the average. An individual’s characteristics may be difficult to determine in a brief encounter, and a salesman cannot afford to waste his time in a protracted one, and so he may quote a high price to every black shopper even though he knows that some blacks are just as shrewd and experienced car shoppers as the average white, or more so. Economists use the term ‘statistical discrimination’ to describe this behavior.
At the larger level, Sailer contends,
Some of these guys have been selling cars for as long as you have been alive. And, believe it or not, they pay close attention not just to what makes the most money for themselves but to what works for other salesmen as well.
Further, if the salesman’s unconscious prejudice is costing the dealership money, his manager will make him highly conscious of it quickly, or the salesman will be out on the street.
One would think.
Aside from my agreement with Sailer about how markets work, I also find this bit of information from Stonebraker rather telling:
African-American buyers were charged the same price differentials by African-American dealers as they were by white dealers. Female customers were treated just as poorly by female salespeople as they were by male salespeople. Neither the race nor the gender of dealers and/or salespeople seemed to matter.
If black men are treating other black men worse than they are treating whites because of racial animus, it must be “unconscious,” indeed.
In 2022, a thread on the Decoding the Gurus Reddit decried Gladwell’s influence, and much of the analysis would also apply to gurus such as Prager:
[Gladwell’s] output is (sometimes) incredibly destructive.
It all plays into the same style of thinking as the Nudge / Freakonomics school of technocratic solutions. Oh, here’s this one simple trick that will solve this hugely multi-variate and chaotic societal problem! Oh, here’s how everything you thought you knew about this historical event is wrong! Oh, here’s one simple analogistic explanation that reduces complex human behaviour into a predictive rule!
It’s all so smug and self satisfied, and so convinced of the veracity and insightfulness of its own analysis. And I’m convinced it has led to (or rather is at least a background part of the zeitgeist of) overconfident mainstream policymaking of exactly the sort that failed to see things like Brexit and Trump coming, and which thereby helped to cause or worsen their effects. He’s everything that is wrong with the superior, overly abstract, overly detached, overly intellectualised New York Times / Guardian worldview, with none of the normal redeeming features.
I think he shares many of the stylistic problems that other gurus do: creating overly reductive models and then mistaking his models for the part of the world they are supposed to describe; falling for his own sophistry; definite in-group identification, etc. The level of hot takery is unparalleled.
Another post: "There is something SO compelling (edit: misleadingly so) about people who are good with analogies… As annoying as people like Weinstein E, Gladwell and Jordan Peterson are, they are very very good at reasoning by analogy."
Prager is fond of historical analogies. Like many pundits, he sees disparate events as akin to Munich 1938.
July 21, 2015, Dennis Prager wrote a column about Obama’s Iran deal titled, “1938 and 2015: Only the Names Are Different”.
In late 1990 edition of his journal Ultimate Issues, Dennis compared Saddam Hussein to pre-WWII Hitler.
Prager’s Youtube cohost Julie Hartman said to Dennis July 31, 2023: “You are really good at coming up with analogies.”
Dennis: “That’s the way I think. Immediately I hear an idea and I picture, I think a lot in pictures, an analogy.”
May 25, 2023, Dennis called Douglas Murray his “favorite English thinker.” I largely agree with Douglas Murray and Dennis Prager about politics, but only a naif would think of these guys as great thinkers. They’re compelling pundits overflowing with hot juicy takes that convey the appearance of deep truth, but will their long-form conversations from the Relief Factor Pain-Free studio save Western Civilization? Count me skeptical.
Polemicists of a feather flock together. Gurus respect the game of other gurus. Those who are working a solid angle respect their fellow anglers. On the other hand, scholars aren't hacks.
[A]cademia has what might be called the John Yoo line: the point at which nothing you write gets taken seriously, and so you might as well become a hack because you have no scholarly reputation remaining.
John Yoo, of course, became a hack because, I assume, he had nothing left to lose. In contrast, historian Niall Ferguson has reportedly been moved to hackery because he has so much to gain. At least that is the analysis of Stephen Marche…
Ferguson is looking for (as am I, in my scholarly domain) is influence. He wants to make a difference. And one thing about being paid $50K is that you can assume that whoever is paying you really wants to hear what you have to say.
The paradox, though, as Marche notes, is that Ferguson gets and keeps the big-money audience…by telling them not what he (Ferguson) wants to say—not by giving them his unique insights and understanding—but rather by telling his audience what they want to hear.
And so he slips under the John Yoo line.
Here is the nut graph for my essay: Dennis Prager engages in epistemic corruption by manipulating knowledge for his personal, professional and monetary gain, and by so doing, he pollutes discourse and damages lives.
I quote throughout this analysis from the Gurometer, which is “not a scientific instrument, not a psychometric scale, not a revolutionary theory.” Rather, it’s a fun analysis developed by psychologist Matt Browne and cognitive anthropologist Chris Kavanagh who started the podcast Decoding the Gurus in 2020.
By guru we refer to the standard definition of “an influential teacher or popular expert” but our specific focus tends to be the subset of gurus who make liberal use of ‘pseudo profound bullshit’ referring to speech that is persuasive and creates the appearance of profundity with little regard for truth or reference to relevant expertise. The recurring characteristics identified collectively trend towards negative traits, so a high score on the gurometer could be regarded as identifying ‘bad’, potentially exploitative gurus who produce ersatz wisdom: a corrupt epistemics that creates the appearance of useful knowledge, but has none of the substance.
1. Galaxy-brainness is an ironic descriptor of someone who presents ideas that appear to be too profound for an average mind to comprehend, but are in truth reasonably trivial if not nonsensical. Gurus often present themselves as fonts of wisdom, and it is an all-encompassing kind of knowledge that tends to span multiple disciplines and topics. Their arguments often link together disparate concepts, such as quantum mechanics, logic, and the nature of consciousness. A guru will often present themselves as a polymath, who can offer novel insights with reference to many different fields. They will often allude to their own accomplishments, and exaggerate them to a shameless degree. They will confidently offer hot takes on technical topics, and with a wave of their hand, dismiss the perspectives of genuine experts. This is, of course, a confidence trick that relies on the recipient being convinced of their unique intellectual powers. Various performative flourishes can assist in this deception, such as unnecessary references to high or specialist literature, the use of jargon and technical terms. On closer inspection, these references can often be recognised to be entirely superfluous and largely tangential to the argument being presented. However, the recipient is not expected to dig too deeply or to fully understand the references being made. Indeed, they are probably most effective when the recipient does not understand them at all; they are merely allusions intended to signal a deep level of knowledge…
Here are the features we came up with (to be rated 1-5 for a highest score of 50)
Galaxy Brain-ness (Breadth)
Polymath, experts at everything, hot takes, special wisdom
Performative unnecessary references to literature/complex theories/science
I’d rate Prager a 4 out of 5.
Matt Browne said in a Sep. 21, 2022 Patreon edition of the Gurometer about sensemakers Jordan Hall, Daniel Schmactenberger and Jamie Wheal: “Galaxy-brainness is almost the brand of sensemaking. This is the magic key. A meta epistemology that allows you figure everything out.”
Browne said July 18, 2023: “They present ideas that are too profound for the average mind to comprehend. This is different from Einstein talking about quantum mechanics and general relativity, this is stuff like Deepak Chopra linking quantum mechanics to special waves of consciousness. It is superficially intellectually rarefied but upon closer examination, it makes little sense. One indicator is when a figure is linking together these disparate concepts saying that all you really need to know to understand the differences between men and women is that men hunt and women gather, all you need to know is that men have two modes, a symbiotic mode and a parasitic mode. There is this linking of concepts that are appealing superficially but don’t have much to it underneath. Jordan Peterson linked the social behavior of lobsters to understand male behavior and their dominance hierarchies. Bret Weinstein used evolutionary theory to explain why the Nazis invaded Russia in Operation Barbarossa. There are heaps more stuff you can draw from the world of woo linking secret talismans and ancient civilizations to aliens to balancing your shakras. You don’t restrict yourself to providing information and insight on a certain topic. You’re stepping back and linking things from all over the shop to create this tapestry of meaning that covers everything.”
Kavanagh: “There tends to be a dismissal of restriction [of the guru’s] expertise. People suggesting you stay in your lane are doing so to chain you down. There’s an exaggeration of their own competence and an over-estimation of how many paradigms you can run at once.”
Browne: “Jordan Peterson claimed he was an expert on climate science. He had read all  the books… There are these easy claims to polymathic abilities but often it is little more than learning a few buzzwords and rattling them off in quick succession.”
“A lot of big advances do involve a linking together of disparate fields. [Gurus present] false versions of the real thing. The real thing is hard to come by and happens rarely and operates within an established paradigm and gets help from colleagues, most of whom recognize what they have achieved when they achieve it.”
Kavanagh: “There’s an output that is not just long-form podcasts.”
May 31, 2022, Browne said: “Why we cover secular gurus…rather than straight up religious cult leaders is that [religious gurus are] boring. Predictable. There’s nothing to talk about with Reverend Moon.”
Prager is not a boring predictable religious guru. His version of Judaism, like Jordan Peterson’s version of Christianity, is an exciting religion of one.
Here are some examples of Prager’s galaxy-brain claims:
* “I have been right on virtually every issue that I have differed with the majority on in my life.” (Dec. 12, 2022 show)
Is that true? Prager differed from the majority of experts with regard to Covid and he was consistently wrong.
Prager differs from the majority of experts in rejecting academic studies that do not comport with his common sense and I suspect he’s generally wrong here too.
According to the book, 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: “Contrary to Dennis Prager, psychological studies that overturn our common sense are sometimes right. Indeed, one of our primary goals in this book is to encourage you to mistrust your common sense when evaluating psychological claims. As a general rule, you should consult research evidence, not your intuitions, when deciding whether a scientific claim is correct. Research suggests that snap judgments are often helpful in sizing up people and in forecasting our likes and dislikes, but they can be wildly inaccurate when it comes to gauging the accuracy of psychological theories or assertions.”
* “I know from years of experience with home-schooled kids that overwhelmingly they turn out happier, finer, kinder and more intelligent…” (April 4, 2023)
Who needs studies when Prager knows!
* “If truth is allowed out, there is no left.” (Dec. 12, 2022 show)
The left is an evolutionary adaptation to selection pressure, and like the right, it is still around because it has proved useful at times for transmitting genes.
* “I wanted the answers. I wasn’t given them. What is the Jewish role in the world? In 14 years in yeshiva, I never learned the Jewish role in the world.” (2010)
I suspect he was given answers but he didn’t like them because they failed to give him the starring role. If Jewish schools were doing a solid job, what need would there be for mavericks like Prager? If rabbis were doing a good job, where would he get his importance? For a guru to develop a large following, he must successfully discredit the establishment.
* “The great lack in young Americans’ lives is religion. It is the direct cause, not only cause, of all the depression, lost sense of identity…” (April 5, 2023)
I suspect the Japanese and the Europeans don’t suffer from the amount of depression and loss of identity that American youth are said to suffer from, despite these other nations being much more secular than America.
* “I have come to entertain the possibility of a devil. It has been so diabolic what I have experienced the past three years. It is hard to explain on rational grounds the madness that has taken over.” (March 27, 2023)
* “[Climate change] is the single best way for [Biden] and the left to overthrow Western civilization as we know it and destroy the economies of the Western world.” (April 14, 2023)
* “When the government tells businesses what to do, that is one of the true sign posts of incipient fascism.” (April 14, 2023)
Thousands of non-fascist governments have told businesses what to do. It’s hardly a sign of fascism. People with power usually tell people with less power what to do. That’s less a sign of fascism than a sign of humanity. As Thucydides put it: “The strong take what they want and the weak endure what they must.”
* “The left has been working to destroy this country for a century.” (Dec. 19, 2022)
* “Big lies inevitably lead to violence and can even destroy civilizations.” (Dec. 6, 2022)
* “The news media in the West pose a far greater danger to Western civilization than Russia does.” (July 14, 2017)
* “I think meat is the healthiest food there is. I got that from Jordan Peterson.” (Jan. 30, 2023)
Why would anyone take health advice from Jordan Peterson?
* June 19, 2023, Dennis said: “The left crushes everything it touches.”
Almost every institution in America is dominated by the left and yet they keep functioning well enough that the United States remains the most powerful country on earth.
The left dominates public education, and for all its flaws, American public education produces solid results.
* June 19, 2023, Dennis said: “There is no answer to what does the left stand for. It only stands against… All they want to do is destroy. The conservative wishes to conserve.”
The idea that the left doesn’t stand for anything is absurd. The Wikipedia entry on the left-right political spectrum noted:
The left wing is characterized by… “equality, fraternity, rights, progress, reform and internationalism” while the right wing is characterized by…”authority, hierarchy, order, duty, tradition, reaction and nationalism”.
* Dennis decried affirmative action on his Youtube show June 19, 2023: “Society will suffer because merit will no longer be the reason for any position. It says to the ones who work hard, don’t bother working hard because we’re no longer choosing by merit. It says to the minority, there’s no reason to work hard, you’re going to get ahead just because of your gender or race.”
Selective affirmative action (and all affirmative action is selective) reduces but does not eliminate rewards for merit and hard work. There’s never been a society in history where merit was 100% determinative.
* Philosopher Paul Gottfried said about Dennis Jan. 28, 2020: “I think he’s an intellectual vulgarian of a kind I have rarely encountered in this world. He has said such ridiculous things about history, fascism, democracy and so forth that it is hard for me to bestow any respect on his intellectual accomplishments.”
Paul Gottfried wrote Dec. 17, 2017:
Right-wing Celebrities Play Fast and Loose With History
Forget Trump—Goldberg, Prager, and D’Souza muddle facts to sell books all the time.
Perhaps one of the most ludicrous examples of the conservative movement’s recent attempt at being sophisticated was an exchange of equally uninformed views by talk show host Dennis Prager and Dinesh D’Souza, on the subject of the fascist worldview. The question was whether one could prove that fascism was a leftist ideology by examining the thought of Mussolini’s court philosopher Giovanni Gentile (1875-1944). Gentile defined the “fascist idea” in his political writings while serving as minister of education in fascist Italy. He was also not incidentally one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century; and in works like General Theory of the Spirit as Pure Act, adapts the thought of Hegel to his own theory of evolving national identity. It would be hard to summarize Gentile’s thought in a few pithy sentences; and, not surprisingly, the Canadian historian of philosophy H.S. Harris devotes a book of many hundreds of pages trying to explain his complex philosophical speculation.
Hey, but that’s no big deal for such priests of the GOP church as Prager and D’Souza. They zoom to the heart of Gentile’s neo-Hegelian worldview in thirty seconds and state with absolute certainty that he was a “leftist.” We have to assume that Prager, D’Souza and the rest of their crowd know this intuitively, inasmuch they give no indication of having ever read a word of Gentile’s thought, perhaps outside of a few phrases that they extracted from his Doctrine of Fascism. Their judgment also clashes with that of almost all scholars of Gentile’s work, from across the political spectrum, who view him, as I do in my study of fascism, as the most distinguished intellectual of the revolutionary right.
According to our two stars in what has been laughably named “Prager University,” Gentile proves that “fascism bears a deep kinship to today’s Left.” After all, “Democrat progressives, in full agreement with Gentile, love and push for a centralized state, which manifests itself in stuff like recent state expansion into the private sector.” Among the questions that are left begging are these: “Do the modern Left and Gentile agree on the purpose and functions of the state?” “Would Gentile and Mussolini, who glorified Roman manliness, have rallied to the present Left in its support of feminism and gay marriage?” Did Gentile back in the 1920s favor the kind of “the stuff’ the administrative state is pushing right now?” The answer to all these questions, which of course wouldn’t be acceptable at Prager University, is an emphatic “no.” Control of the national economy by the Italian fascist state, down until its German-puppet version was established as the Italian Social Republic in September 1943, was about the equivalent of that of New Deal America.
First, the term is not anti-Muslim. One may object to the term on factual grounds, i.e., one may claim that there are no fascistic behaviors among people acting in the name of Islam — but such a claim is a denial of the obvious.
So once one acknowledges the obvious, that there is fascistic behavior among a core of Muslims — specifically, a cult of violence and the wanton use of physical force to impose an ideology on others — the term "Islamo-Fascism" is entirely appropriate.
Second, the question then arises as to whether that term is anti-Muslim in that it besmirches the name of Islam and attempts to describe all Muslims as fascist. This objection, too, has a clear response.
The term no more implies all Muslims or Islam is fascistic than the term "German fascism" implied all Germans were fascists or "Italian fascism" or "Japanese fascism" implied that all Italians or all Japanese were fascists. Indeed, even religious groups have been labeled as fascist. During World War II, for example, Croatian Catholic fascists were called Catholic Fascists, and no one argued that the term was invalid because it purportedly labeled all Catholics or Catholicism fascist. When the left uses the term "American imperialism," are they implying that all Americans are imperialists? Then why does Islamo-Fascism label all Muslims?
Third, given the horrors being perpetrated by some Muslims in the name of Islam — from the genocide currently being practiced by the Islamic Republic of Sudan, to the mass murders of innocents in Iraq, Israel, America, Britain, Bali, Thailand, the Philippines and elsewhere — what term is more accurate than "Islamo-Fascism"? "Islamic totalitarianism"? "Jihadists"? "Bad Muslims"?
The left's organized crusade against Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week was simply the latest shame in the long and shameful history of the left's inability to confront those engaged in great evil — like the left's ferocious opposition during the Cold War to labeling communism as "totalitarian" or "evil" and its nearly universal condemnation of President Ronald Reagan's description of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire."
That Muslim student groups and other Muslim organizations joined with the left in the ad hominem condemnation of Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week was most unfortunate. Many Muslims know well that there is indeed such a thing as Islamo-Fascism, and they should be the first to join in fighting it. It is not those who use the term "Islamo-Fascism" who are sullying the name of Islam; it is the Islamo-Fascists.
Although I admit to having given my vote last fall to Rick Santorum in his unsuccessful campaign to hold on to his U.S. Senate seat, I have been appalled by his recent harping on the menace of “Islamofascism.” Santorum has lent himself to a largely neoconservative-funded campaign, headed by journalist David Horowitz and Washington lobbyist Frank Gaffney, to make us aware, in Horowitz’s words, that “Islamofascism is the greatest danger America has ever faced.”
So pervasive is this danger that, according to Rick and his friends, they have had to organize on American college campuses a consciousness-raising-event, which started on Monday, called “Islamofascism Awareness Week.”
As a modern European historian, I am shocked by this silliness.
Fascism was a European movement of the interwar years, and one that came in a wide variety of forms. Almost all fascist movements were reactions to the spread of communism and to the threat that it posed to civil peace and existing property relations.
Most fascists took advantage of the weakness of liberal parliamentary institutions in their countries to draw support from a threatened middle class, and they sometimes (although not always) targeted as their enemies national minorities and particularly Jews.
Were it not for the Nazi variant of this once widespread central- and southern-European movement, no one would even recall the fascists, except as an historical footnote.
It was the viciousness and expansiveness of German Nazism, and Hitler’s particularly shocking brutality toward Jews, Poles and others whom he regarded as “subhuman, which has given the fascists a bad rap.
I doubt that Rick, David and New York celebrity Norman Podhoretz, who has just published an overwritten book on the subject, would be calling obnoxious Muslim fundamentalists a world “fascist” danger, were it not for the continued media and public preoccupation with Hitler’s crimes.
In today’s Europe, all self-important progressive forces call themselves “antifascist,” although it cannot be shown that what they oppose has anything to do with interwar European fascism.
If the public and the producers of the History Channel thought about the mass murders committed under communist tyrants as often as they do about Hitler’s killings, we would now be in the midst of “Islamocommunist Awareness Week.”
Needless to say, I would find such an event to be as ridiculous as what is now being scheduled in the name of American “antifascism.”
The problem with this misnaming of one’s enemies is that it creates inaccurate pictures of what is going on right now.
Bin Laden is not a stand-in for Benito Mussolini, or for Hitler. He is an international terrorist, who must be combated for the most part through coordinated police actions and the selective use of military forces…
More often than not, historical parallels, and particularly for people with obvious obsessions, are something we should not engage in.
When you read Prager and then read a scholar like Paul Gottfried on the same topic, you quickly regret the time you spent with the charming man.
* Dennis: “One of the deepest disappointments in my life has been Jews’ opposition to wars against evil. I had always assumed that, as the victims of so much evil throughout history, and as heirs to the great moral teachings of the Bible and Judaism, Jews, of all people, would support fighting on behalf of victims of the greatest evils.” (Oct. 14, 2014)
Most people, most of the time, are mostly interested in themselves.
* If America abandons Israel, “that is the end of America as we know it.” (May 27, 2023)
How many billions of dollars a year does the U.S. need to give Israel to sustain American as know it? The United States and Israel are nation-states that exist on planet earth. In some circumstances, the two countries have interests in common, and in other circumstances, they’re at odds.
What will determine the success of any particular nation-state? Events, my dear boy, events.
* July 26, 2022, Dennis wrote: "The average 12-year-old student at a yeshiva has more wisdom than almost any student at Harvard or most other universities."
The great thing about making wisdom claims is that they cannot be falsified. There's no objective test for wisdom.
* One man who worked with Dennis for years on the radio found himself going home every day thinking about what Dennis had said on his show. Then he began noticing that Dennis didn’t understand many of the articles he was reading on air. Dennis just used the news to unleash his Pragerisms. It was all a con. In the course of a few months, the man went from fascinated with Dennis to disgusted with Dennis.
Back to the Gurometer:
2. Cultishness: Being a guru is a social role: a guru is only a guru if there are people who regard them as such! How gurus interact with their followers and critics, their in-group and out-group, is often quite revealing. Gurus are not usually bonafide cult-leaders. However, the social groups they cultivate — often with themselves positioned as intellectual leaders — can have some elements reminiscent of cultish dynamics. A key characteristic of cults is the establishment of clear in-group and out-group identities, primarily between the cult-members/admirers and outsiders. However, there will often be internal discriminations made within the cult, such as between an inner-circle of favoured members, the broader normal members, and problematic or troublesome members (who may need to be reprimanded, temporarily excluded, or exorcised). In general, cultish behaviour is characterized by emotional manipulation and control.
We’ve noticed that gurus tend to act in a manipulative fashion with their followers and potential allies. This often takes the form of excessive flattery, such as intimations that their followers are more perceptive, more morally worthy, and more interested in the pursuit of truth than outsiders. A guru will often put some effort into signalling a close and personal relationship with their followers — essentially encouraging the development of parasocial ideation. Praise and regard for the guru is usually reciprocated, whilst disagreement or criticism is usually dismissed as coming from an unworthy person who does not truly understand the significance of the guru’s ideas.
A guru may often wish to avoid the appearance of being a controlling leader. It is, after all, inconsistent with the flattery of their followers and the oft-spoken idea of cultivating a community of like-minded and clear-sighted individuals. However, they also do not want their privileged position challenged. Thus, they may often wistfully talk of a desire to engage with ‘good faith’ critics who truly understand their ideas, and lament that they have been unable to receive the robust criticism they desire. Of course, this is a sham, as anything other than fawning praise, or at best the most superficial or minor disagreement, will typically be designated as being low-quality or badly-motivated.
An interesting example of a manipulative technique to prevent criticism and ensure agreement is what we have dubbed the ‘emperor’s new clothes manuevor’. The guru will prime a particularly special, highly elaborate, or controversial idea with various cautions such as ‘I know many of you won’t be able to understand this, but I think the more perceptive among you might’, or ‘I don’t think many of you are in a place where you are ready to accept this kind of idea, but here goes’. Naturally, few among their followers will want to admit that they lack the necessary qualities to appreciate the brilliance of the guru’s insight, and those that do, reveal themselves to be potentially among the set of ‘troublemakers’…
Cultishness: Unhealthy social dynamics In-group vs. Out-group
Flattery, some controlling, they’re special
Super charitable to friends and allies
In-group people like us, are the heterodox “non-ideological”, committed to reason (for IDW types – anti-vaxxers etc)
Personal rapport with followers
I’d rate Prager a 4 out of 5. He’s highly partisan. Conservatives are good guys saving Western civilization and lefties are bad guys who only know how to destroy.
* In a Sep. 21, 2022 Patreon edition of the Gurometer regarding sensemakers Jordan Hall, Daniel Schmactenberger and Jamie Wheal, Chris Kavanagh said: “They all give the impression [they] are talking to the elite who are able to see. The whole Game B thing is that everyone else is an idiot stuck in the old paradigm, but we see beyond it. They’re all doing it creating this in-group vs out-group binary.”
What is Game B? According to this Medium post:
“Game B” colloquially refers to a novel discourse and sense-making community framing a needed shift from default human history (“Game A”) to a new mode of behavior and social organization that does not reproduce any of the generator functions of existential risk (from over-consumption to nuclear bombs, etc.) of our past and current system; so we can make a collective move ‘from A to B’.
Browne: “The thing that cultishness encompasses is that intellectual flattery. That this is a special group. The Scientologists and the various strange new religions, they often have a similar change-the-world and create utopia on earth and they are the organization to bring that about. That sacred mission to save the world.”
If you hear someone who’s opposed to the establishment and talking about their in-group’s sacred mission to save the world, the odds are that you are listening to a guru.
July 18, 2023, Kavanagh said: “Parasocial relationships are unavoidable when consuming someone’s content, but there are people who cultivate and make use of those relationships. Gurus strongly cultivate them by using excessive flattery, often referencing how their followers are like close friends to them, and then presenting themselves as wounded and vulnerable and in need of protection. It’s an interesting paradox, because you have them as the all-conquering polymathic genius, but they’re in need of protection. Jordan Peterson used to be the master of it, but now I would point out Lex Fridman. He posted to Reddit: ‘I’ll have several difficult discussions this year and next. I’ll get attacked from all sides. I now understand that this is the way for anyone who seeks to empathize and understand in a divided world. I hope you know my heart and will still support me. I’ll need it.'”
July 15, 2023, Lex posts to Twitter: “I will speak with everyone, and I will get attacked, derided, and slandered for it. But I believe in the power of long-form, empathetic conversation to help discover our common humanity, including the good and the evil we are all capable of. I know I’m underqualified and underskilled for these conversations, so I’ll often fall short, as I do in all aspects of my life, but I’ll work hard to improve, and will never ever give in to cynicism.”
He includes a picture of himself with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
So on the one hand, Fridman presents himself as connected to power, but simultaneously he says he is in desperate need for your love.
Browne: “People often [say] Lex is all about love, but he also ruthlessly cuts off communication with anyone who is not expressing 100% love back at him.”
Kavanagh: “Unless they’re famous. Like Destiny. Then he’ll tolerate disagreement. If they’re a normal person on Reddit, they’re gone.”
“It’s that wounded bird pose. It sounds like Jesus. There’s no mention of accurate criticism. I’ll be legitimately critiqued.”
* Dennis Prager reminds some people of Jesus. Both came from non-prestigious communities (Nazareth and Brooklyn). Both had solid if unspectacular Jewish educations. Both started public speaking at a young age (Jesus in the temple at age 12, and Dennis in the temples at age 21). Both preached a simple version of Judaism that gave greater weight to ethics than ritual. Both preached with messianic fervor and moved thousands (Dennis autographs Bibles). Both were not known for their humility (Jesus claimed to be God’s son and Dennis said his contributions wouldn’t be recognized for a millennia). Both were largely rejected by the Jewish leaders of their day. Both had non-prestigious professions (carpenter and talk show host). Both had devoted followings among the common people while the intellectuals despised them.
* On his Jan. 30, 2023 show with Julie Hartman, Dennis Prager said: “When I read, and there are many people who hate my guts, and it has no effect on me, but it does tell me about them. If you hate me, it doesn’t tell me anything about me, it tells me everything about you. I know that I aim to do good and I do good. I know there are many people who have happier marriages because of my male-female hour. There are many happy people because of my happiness book, lectures and radio hour. There are many people who have reconciled with their parents because they heard me. How many leftists who hate my guts can say that? Zero. How many people are kinder because they were influenced by a leftist? Zero. It’s not possible to become woke and to become kind.”
If someone hates the polluting of public discourse, he’s going to hate Dennis Prager.
Most teachers, social workers, and psychology professionals are on the left. Do they not influence anyone to become kinder?
* As men age, they often feel an increasing need for admiration. In Salem’s hire of Julie Hartman, Dennis gets his admiration tank filled up daily. It reminds me of the story that CBS News had a VP whose primary task was to keep Dan Rather happy.
Dennis: “If you told me you have the Bronx phonebook, I’d be interested in your insight.”
Why would a 75-year-old man be interested in the insights of a 23-year-old?
Later in the show, Dennis assures Julie, “You are a very desirable woman.”
* Julie said to him July 3, 2023: “It is my life vocation to help save this country. Until the day I die, I want to fight for this country.”
Dennis: “You might be able to [save America]. That’s how highly I think of you.”
You can watch in real time Prager’s effect on his protege.
On their Nov. 7, 2022 Youtube show, Julie said: "I grew up thinking doctors, alongside teachers, were the most morally upstanding people… For a time, I didn't believe that doctors were wreaking that much havoc. I thought, maybe they truly believe the Covid vaccine is effective. Maybe they truly believe that lockdowns are effective. I look around now in our society and think who can I trust?"
Dennis: "My heart breaks for your generation. I trusted every institution when I was growing up."
Julie: "I don't trust any."
Dennis: "You're right not to…"
Julie: "What about the Department of Homeland Security working alongside Silicon Valley to suppress "misinformation"?
"What scares me is that so many of my friends totally trust these institutions and don't know how corrupt they are… When they take many doses of the Covid vaccine and something happens to their health, they're not going to be happy."
"One thing that amazes me is how little people know about what is truly going on in this country… They laugh at me."
Dennis: "It's one of my mottos – we know what they don't know."
Julie: "They laugh at me like I was on QAnon… Some of my more peripheral friends have this false notion that I've been radicalized. They truly believe that the things that I just mentioned to you, which are 100% true and shouldn't even be deemed right-wing beliefs because they are facts, they believe those things are conspiracy theories. They believe I have gone on to QAnon, whatever that is. They think I go on these crazy right-wing sites and come up with these conspiracy theories. There are really bad things going on and they think it is just made up. I get the sense that a lot of them want to distance themselves from me because they think I'm nuts."
* June 26, 2023, Dennis said to Julie: “During the pandemic, I said I want my grandchildren that pappy fought the lockdowns, that pappy did not get vaccinated. I will be proud that they have that memory of me when I have left this world. I will be proud that they know I have called out the evil of the American medical establishment… Just as the people who fought slavery would be proud to have their grandchildren know that they had fought slavery.”
Here are some examples of Dennis Prager’s cultish tendencies:
* “We are obligated to fight like they did on Normandy Beach.” (Oct. 31, 2022)
Dennis talks here about fighting the Democrats. To the extent that anyone takes him seriously, they are going to feel less safe in the world, more anxious, more combative, and more apart from those who disagree with them.
* Sheldon Teitelbaum wrote for the Jewish Journal Mar. 14, 1986:
[Michael] Harris [Bardin’s assistant from 1961-71], however, argues that, “Dennis was simply there at a time when Shlomo was most vulnerable. He saw the end coming and he needed to pitch somebody.”
“Under Dennis’s directorship,” says Chotiner, “Brandeis was a swinging door. We were picking 200 members one year and losing 150 the next.” Chotiner is not alone in his contention that Prager lacked intellectual depth. His critics argue that he was basically a “three-speech man,” and the membership grew tired of hearing the same speeches time after time. Others grew weary of what they claim were repeated bouts of vindictive, almost paranoid behavior by Prager. But there are also those among Prager’s detractors who did not share this view. Says Dr. Goodhill, “Dennis was a brilliant man. He was also very courageous — there was never anything bashful about him. I think that’s what bothered the older people on the board was the strong and rather major dominance at the institute that Dennis wanted and did exercise. We accepted that in Shlomo because it took that kind of personality to get things going. And Dennis did have to be a one-man show!”
Unfortunately for the institute, strife and dissension within the board over Prager’s leadership resulted in a brief but traumatic conflict, between 1979 and 1981, over the actual decision-making process at Brandeis-Bardin, which some called “elitist” and “undemocratic.”
David Margolis wrote in the Jewish Journal in December 1992:
…The seven years of Prager’s tenure in Simi Valley, however, were filled with conflict between himself and the Brandeis board, whom he accuses of treating him “miserably.” At Brandeis, Prager says now, not without bitterness, “I learned that many Jews are uncomfortable with paying another Jew to do something Jewish.”
Even his critics acknowledge that Prager succeeded in exciting many young people about Jewish observance and bringing them into the Jewish community. But that enterprise had its down side as well. He developed “followers,” explains one BBI insider during those years, but he turned off many people by leaving no room for “intelligent disagreement. His bullying antagonized a lot of people.”
It is a complaint about Prager’s style that clings to him even today.
After Dennis left Brandeis-Bradin in 1983, I wonder if he was ever invited back to speak?
* Dennis spoke on the radio Jun. 28, 2011 about Brandeis-Bardin: “Individuals make and break the world… Do you know how many organizations I’ve seen that were great because its leader was great and then the leader died or retired and the place became nothing? It just shriveled up and died.
“I know of what I speak on a personal level where the leader leaves and the people thought that what was great about the institutions was its policies, its methodologies. Doesn’t matter who led it. Then when good leaders left, the methodologies were useless.”
On the other hand, Mar. 23, 2010, Dennis said: “Leaders don’t make America, Americans make America… I don’t want leaders to shape America.”
“God was entirely opposed to having a king. The Israelites asked for a king. Instead, He just wanted the prophets to tell people what is right and wrong and let them lead their own lives.”
“I don’t want leaders. I have a leader — God. We lead ourselves in America. The very notion that leaders will lead us is left-wing.”
So when is Dennis for leadership and when is Dennis against leadership? It’s hard to avoid thinking that Dennis loves leadership when it allows him and those like him to assert themselves above others and he doesn’t like leadership when it allows others to assert themselves above his group.
The notion that it is the left rather than the right who valorizes leaders might be the opposite of reality. In his 2015 book, Key Concepts in Politics and International Relations, Andrew Heywood wrote:
Its principal supporters have been on the political right, influenced by a general belief in natural inequality and a broadly pessimistic view of the masses. In its extreme form this was reflected in the fascist ‘leader principle’, which holds that there is a single, supreme leader who alone is capable of leading the masses to their destiny, a theory derived from Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844–1900) notion of the Übermensch (‘superman’). Among the supposed virtues of leadership are that it:
• Mobilizes and inspires people who would otherwise be inert and directionless
• Promotes unity and encourages members of a group to pull in the same direction
• Strengthens organizations by establishing a hierarchy of responsibilities and roles.
Liberals and socialists, on the other hand, have usually warned that leaders should not be trusted, and treated leadership as a basic threat to equality and justice.
Contrary to Prager’s claims about having no interest in achieving political power, at age 15, Dennis was talking to his best friend Joseph Telushkin about what he would do in the U.S. Senate one day, long before he had a plausible political platform. Contrary to his claim of having no desire for the spotlight, Dennis often flew across the country for two minutes on the Sean Hannity Show.
Why else would one suspect that Dennis lusted for power from a young age? Because that’s the way to get girls and Dennis from an early age was all about getting girls. An article entitled, “Ten Politically Incorrect Truths About Human Nature,” said in 2007: “Men strive to attain political power, consciously or unconsciously, in order to have reproductive access to a larger number of women. Reproductive access to women is the goal, political office but one means. To ask why the President of the United States would have a sexual encounter with a young woman is like asking why someone who worked very hard to earn a large sum of money would then spend it.”
By the mid 1970s, Dennis Prager was getting asked when he was going to run for political office.
Since the 1980s, Dennis has said that he would only run for president.
July 31, 2009, Dennis was asked why he didn’t run for president. He replied: “Number one, I have no personal desire to run for public office. I have however an idealistic desire because…I am certain that I can articulate conservative values better than almost anyone in the Republican party… It is very distressing to me that the finest values do not have the finest spokesmen. That is what draws me to the idea of running for any public office.”
Dec. 14, 2009, Dennis said: “When I see some of these people on TV, there’s no doubt in my mind, I’m sorry if this sounds self-serving, that I would have a more entertaining, let alone more intelligent TV show, than the vast majority of those who have them today, but I don’t come with the correct perspective.”
On Prager’s radio show, Dec. 21, 2009, a man calls. “I’m the one who always pulls you aside and tells you you should be president of the United States.”
Dennis: “I agree with you right now. It’s the first time. I don’t know what I’ve said in the past, but I agree with you, only because the Republicans don’t have somebody who can articulate American values well enough right now, or at least I don’t know who he is. It’s something I’ll talk to my listeners about. It’s been in my mind.”
In a 2010 appearance at Stephen S. Wise temple, Dennis said to interviewer David Woznica: “I have zero desire to have any power over anybody. You know this is a fact because even on the tiny tiny scale of my running Brandeis-Bardin, all I wanted was terrific other people and to share power. I just wanted to make sure that the values were what I thought the values should be.”
* Between 1990 to 1995, I shared Dennis Prager’s lecture tapes with everyone I could. At the time, I was Prager’s biggest customer (according to a woman in his office). In 1992, my new female friend, Michal, got a letter back from Dennis Prager. He wrote: “Anyone who is a friend of Luke Ford’s is a friend of mine.” I was desperate to be Prager’s number one fan.
* Striving to keep people in the dark is a culty move that Prager makes regularly on his radio show. Conservative rabbi Arthur Blecher wrote: “Some rabbis take pains to keep people in the dark about Jewish traditions of Heaven and Hell. For example, a popular guide to Jewish belief, Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, tells readers that the “notion of hell where sinners suffer eternally is foreign to Judaism and entered the Western world’s religious consciousness through the New Testament.” Its authors…have chosen their words carefully.”
* Dennis said he wished Charles Murray didn’t write The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. He thought it best that people not know such things.
* Only mere mortals have an age. According to Dennis: “I don’t have an age, so I don’t talk about it much because it is not relevant to any part of my life. I prefer that people just think of me as Dennis.” (May 1, 2023)
* At the May 2019 PragerU Summit, Dennis told Jordan Peterson: “When I hear you read your book, the passion comes from you just want to help people lead a better life. It’s overwhelming. Everybody knows you’re bright but I know you’re good.”
Imagine how many supplements and natural covid cures you could sell at a PragerU summit.
* May 7, 2021, Dennis told Jordan Peterson: “I can’t find a thing you have ever said that isn’t ennobling. I love your work. I wrote the introduction to your biography.”
Introducing Jordan Peterson in May of 2019, Dennis Prager said: “I never met Jordan Peterson in person, but I said to him when we met right before lunch something that is said to me by so many people when they meet me for the first time, ‘I feel like I know you.'”
Dennis encourages parasocial ideation aka delusion. He encourages his listeners to believe that they truly know him, that he is their friend, and that while they are victims of a corrupt system, he is fighting for them against the elites.
Parasocial interaction (PSI) refers to a kind of psychological relationship experienced by an audience in their mediated encounters with performers in the mass media, particularly on television and on online platforms. Viewers or listeners come to consider media personalities as friends, despite having no or limited interactions with them. PSI is described as an illusory experience, such that media audiences interact with personas (e.g., talk show hosts, celebrities, fictional characters, social media influencers) as if they are engaged in a reciprocal relationship with them. A parasocial interaction, an exposure that garners interest in a persona, becomes a parasocial relationship after repeated exposure to the media persona causes the media user to develop illusions of intimacy, friendship, and identification…
* On their Youtube show June 12, 2023, Julie said to Dennis: “This man thought of us as friends. And that is what we want to impart to viewers. We don’t want to be just talk show hosts. We want to be in people’s lives.”
Dennis: “We play the role of being their friends. It’s not playing, it is real.”
Dennis often talks about good guys vs. bad guys. A more sophisticated approach would be to notice the good and bad things that the same people and institutions do regularly. In general, the world isn’t divided into good guys and bad guys as much as it is divided into distinct situations confronting distinct people with distinct gifts.
* “I was voted president of my class from first grade to the end of high school,” said Dennis in a 2005 lecture on Deut. 30. “I have a presence.”
* Until I went to UCLA in 1988 and discovered Dennis Prager on KABC radio, I had high regard for my father. After discovering Dennis Prager, I didn’t. I came to view my dad as psychologically damaged and I dismissed his teachings. I wouldn’t listen to my dad any more and we drifted out of touch. My pursuit of Pragerism caused people around me great pain. And I didn’t care.
I preferred my virtual father to my real father.
Dennis tells people to maintain the best possible relations with family and friends that they can, but the net effect of his teachings is often to drive people apart.
When I was bedridden in my 20s with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I spent thousands of dollars, almost all of my savings, not on getting well, but on sending Prager tapes to my friends, many of whom didn’t listen to them. They laughed at me. They thought I had lost my mind.
They were right.
In 1989, I wrote to Prager to tell him what his teachings had done for me. He wrote back: “I receive many letters, but few have touched me as much as yours. Get better. You are needed in the fight for good values.”
From the perspective of 2023, I’m not sure I would have made it through this dark time if not for Dennis’s enrollment of me in the fight for good values. My life now had purpose.
As philosopher Rony Guldmann argued, a hero system is a biological necessity.
Friday, Jan. 28, 1994 in Tampa Bay, I met Dennis Prager for the first time. On Saturday afternoon, we spoke privately for ten minutes. Dennis said it gave him great comfort that if anything happened to him, I was there to carry on his battle for good values. I was overwhelmed. Years later, I realized it was a line he’d likely used with dozens, if not hundreds, of people.
May 15, 2010, I was walking around Loma Linda University with a friend and talking about Dennis Prager.
“I wish he ran for president,” I said. “I wish he ran America. I wish he ran the universe.”
My friend was taken aback. “The universe?”
I felt like an idiot.
How much of an idiot am I? In May of 1998, I was so distressed by my lack of a personal bond with Dennis Prager that, despite $20,000 in credit card debt, I dropped a $1,000 on a psychic to try to repair my imaginary friendship. Shockingly, it didn’t work.
* May 11, 2023, Dennis said: “Donald Trump announced that if he is elected president, he will pardon all or nearly all of the [January 6] political prisoners. They are political prisoners.”
So the January 6 rioters get to ransack Congress and pay no price?
* “Every leftist is a child.” (July 10, 2023)
Back to the Gurometer:
3. Anti-establishment(arianism): It is necessary that the orthodoxy, the establishment, the mainstream media, and the expert-consensus are always wrong, or at least blinkered and limited, and are generally incapable of grappling with the real issues. In the rare occasions when they are right, they are described by the gurus as being right for reasons other than they think. Kavanagh has coined the term ‘science-hipsterism’ which captures this tendency quite nicely. A guru can seldom agree with the establishment, because it is crucial to their appeal that they are offering unique insight – a fresh hot take that is not available elsewhere, and may be repressed or taboo. The guru’s popularity will obviously benefit, if this iconoclastic view happens to coincide with their prejudices or intuitions of their lay-followers. Thus, gurus are naturally drawn to topics where there is a split between the expert consensus and public opinion (e.g. climate change, GMOs, vaccinations, lockdowns). After all, if a guru is merely agreeing with an expert consensus on a topic such as COVID, then there is less reason to listen to the guru rather than the relevant experts. Thus, the guru is highly motivated to undertake epistemic sabotage; to disparage authoritative and institutional sources of knowledge. There is a tradeoff where the more the guru’s followers distrust standard sources of knowledge, such as that emanating from universities, the greater the perceived value that the guru provides. This tendency is at odds with the guru’s natural tendency towards self-aggrandisement, which may involve emphasising or inflating their (even limited) academic intellectual recognition, which results in some amusing contradictions. Gurus will also strategically utilise ambiguity and uncertainty within their criticisms, providing themselves with the means to walk back claims that prove wrong or attract criticism or to enable them to highlight disclaimers. This provides them both with plausible deniability and the superficial appearance of having nuance & humility. This dynamic of sabotaging other sources of wisdom is also evident in their fractious relationships with other gurus, with whom they may often have alliances of convenience, but are also strongly incentivised to compete with…
Outgroup is everyone else – the institutions and experts. The establishment are corrupted by incentives and so on
Cannot trust any authorities or mainstream media
Undermining all other sources of information
I’d rate Prager a 5 out of 5. He presents himself and his chosen ones as superior sources of information on many topics. A wise man would have more humility and would not make strong pronouncements about things he doesn’t know about.
Chris Kavanagh said July 18, 2023: “[Gurus set themselves up] as an alternative source of epistemic authority. You can see this explicitly in that they often set up alternative institutions, usually like ones orbit around them?”
Kavanagh: “Like Jordan Peterson creating the Jordan Peterson Academy. There’s the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship that Jordan Peterson and other figures are promoting as an alternative to the World Economic Forum and the UN.”
Browne: “They are up front in their contempt for corrupt, compromised institutions and they are also up front about the alternatives they are providing. They often speak explicitly about wanting to connect directly with young men…to educate them in the real science, in the real knowledge. It’s almost a logical necessity. If you want to be guru, you can’t just be a normal public intellectual, a normal philosopher, because you will be one of thousands and you will say things that are boring to most people. To be an influencer, to attract attention online, you need to take the contrarian stance.”
Dennis knew better than those who performed the autopsy.
* “If Lori Lightfoot is teaching at Harvard, Harvard is not particularly impressive.” (June 26, 2023)
Yes, if one mediocre person teaches at Harvard, the whole institution is discredited. By that standard, no institution can be impressive.
* Oct. 21, 2020, Prager posted to Facebook: “Voter fraud. It’s for real.”
* Mar. 28, 2012: “I am certain that my school would’ve asked to medicate me under the same rules we have today. And I don’t know that I’d be the same person I am today if I had been medicated.”
* Dennis felt out-of-step with authority everywhere he went. He was unhappy at home. He was unhappy at school. He was unhappy at university. At Brandeis-Bardin, he fought with his board. He was unhappy in two marriages that ended in divorce. At KABC, he struggled with management. He felt in no-man’s-land in Jewish life, not fitting into Orthodox, Conservative or Reform Judaism.
Feeling distinctive is a big part of being Dennis. Greatness is a burden. He was Harry Potter before there was Harry Potter.
* Historian Marc B. Shapiro tells me in 2012: “I don’t think he has any influence [in Orthodox Judaism].”
* In the Spring of 2020, Dennis had Covid minimalist Michael Fumento on his show five times saying that current concern about Covid was hysterical. Dennis agreed. Pragertopia.com noted for February 25: “Dennis talks to Michael Fumento, investigative reporter and science writer. What is going on with the coronavirus?… The Left fears everything…” Mar. 2: “Fumento sees no need to change his original prognosis: this is a media-generated panic…”
* In his column Mar. 17, 2020, Prager wrote: “If the government can order society to cease functioning, from restaurants and other businesses to schools, due to a possible health disaster, it is highly likely that a Democratic president and Congress will similarly declare emergency and assert authoritarian rule in order to prevent what they consider the even greater “existential threat” to human life posed by global warming.”
* In his Mar. 31, 2020 column, Prager wrote: “Virtually every opinion piece in The New York Times, The Washington Post and every other mainstream, i.e., left-wing, journal share two characteristics: a sense of foreboding (millions will die) and an unshakeable conviction that to prevent mass death, the world’s economy must be shut down.”
* April 28, 2020, Dennis wrote: “People will argue that a temporary police state has been justified because of the allegedly unique threat to life posed by the new coronavirus. I do not believe the data will bear that out. Regardless, let us at least agree that we are closer to a police state than ever in American history.”
* April 28, 2020, Dennis said: “The lockdown is the greatest mistake in the history of humanity.”
David Simon responded: “Never mind the burning of the library at Alexandria, European colonialism, the 1914 alliances that provoked the Great War, the Weimar left and center failing to unite against Hitler…”
Former U.S. Representative Joe Walsh: “I worked for the same conservative media co. @DennisPrager works for. Prager is no dummy. He can’t believe this. But this is what sucks about conservative media. You get rewarded for being outlandish, for enraging your audience. I did it at times too. It’s wrong. It’s dishonest.”
Frank Luntz: “Galaxy Brain stuff from the University of Prager.”
Jonah Goldberg: “Let’s assume it’s a mistake. The biggest in human history? The reparations on Germany after WWI? Sending Lenin back to Russia? Carve out for slavery in the US Constitution? The Fire of Alexandria? Canceling Firefly?”
Dennis wrote in his Genesis commentary: "It is often tempting…to use drama or exaggeration to make a point. It may work the first time and even on subsequent occasions. But once a person acquires a reputation for exaggeration or melodrama, his credibility is lost."
Prager's producer Allen Estrin said about Dennis: "Through his radio show, his writing, and now PragerU, he changes the way you live – for the better. He makes you a better a person – a better father, a better son, a better mother, a better daughter. Name another public figure who does that."
On Oct. 18, 2021, Dennis said on his show: "I'm broadcasting from my home because I'm not going into the station as I have COVID. I was tested positive last week and I have been steadily improving. At no point was I in danger of hospitalization. I have received monoclonal antibodies, that's Regeneron. I have, of course, for years — a year and a half, not years — been taking hydroxychloroquine from the beginning, with zinc. I've taken z-pack, azithromycin, as the Zelenko protocol would have it. I have taken ivermectin. I have done what a person should do if one is not going to get vaccinated.
"It is infinitely preferable to have natural immunity than vaccine immunity and that is what I have hoped for the entire time. Hence, so, I have engaged with strangers, constantly hugging them, taking photos with them knowing that I was making myself very susceptible to getting COVID, which is, indeed, as bizarre as it sounded, what I wanted, in the hope that I would achieve natural immunity and be taken care of by therapeutics. That is exactly what has happened. It should have happened to the great majority of Americans.
"The number of deaths in this country owing to COVID is a scandal which one day will be clear to Americans. The opposition of therapeutics on the part of the CDC is owing to the corruption of the belief in the value of vaccine and only vaccine. Whether it is because of all the money that goes into the CDC from the pharmaceutical companies or a simple unquestioning faith in vaccines, or both, only God knows. So, I have walked the walk on this matter and here I am."
According to the FDA on September 3, 2021: "The FDA has not authorized or approved ivermectin for use in preventing or treating COVID-19 in humans or animals. Ivermectin is approved for human use to treat infections caused by some parasitic worms and head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. Currently available data do not show ivermectin is effective against COVID-19."
…if these therapeutics [ivermectin and hydroxychlroquine] were acknowledged to work, the vaccinations would be rendered largely unnecessary and Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson would lose a great deal of money. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and state medical boards essentially work for Big Pharma.
Based on the rule that those who censor are almost always lying, we must come to the frightening conclusion that the American medical establishment has been lying to us…
In its suppression of scientific dissent, the American medical establishment mimics the medieval Church’s treatment of Galileo.
On November 9, 2021, Dennis wrote his weekly column on why natural immunity to Covid is better than vaccine immunity. "Nor does the study warn that getting the vaccine may also induce harmful consequences. To its everlasting shame, that is a taboo subject in America’s medical community despite the fact that the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists over 700,000 cases of suspected injury and more than 17,000 otherwise unexpected deaths temporally associated with COVID-19 vaccines."
Anyone can make a report that they had a negative reaction to the Covid vaccine. That's hardly a convincing argument about the dangers of vaccines. And we have no evidence that Covid vaccines have killed anyone. Reuters noted April 2, 2021:
Of the 145 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the United States from Dec. 14, 2020 through March 29, 2021, “VAERS received 2,509 reports of death (0.0017%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.” Having reviewed “available clinical information including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records,” the CDC found “no evidence that vaccination contributed to patient deaths”.
Why do smart people such as Prager promote bogus supplements and disdain evidence-based medicines such as vaccines? Medical doctor and author Jonathan Howard at ScienceBasedMedicine.org told the June 23, 2023 edition of Decoding the Gurus: “You have to be smart to come up with some conspiracy theories. A lot of it has to do with a psychological need to feel different. If everyone else says A, you have to say B… Nothing is more boring than saying you should vaccinate your children. No one patted me on the back and said, ‘Wow, you are such a brave independent thinker for doing that.’ I didn’t get spoken to by Gwyneth Paltrow. I didn’t become a mini celebrity. I don’t have an online store or an online course. It’s a satisfaction in thinking that you are smarter than everybody else. You can monetize that. And none of these people have any real world responsibility for the consequences of their words… People with no real world responsibility should be very careful about lecturing people with real world responsibility… We had to deal with the pandemic in real time. We had to make decisions on incomplete information… They feel comfortable commenting on every aspect of the pandemic — on masks, on vaccines, on lockdowns, on mandates, on steroids, on Remdesivir, on every aspect of the pandemic. Childhood speech development patterns due to masks, they’re experts on that now.”
With his love for Bible-based morality, Dennis Prager might have pointed out that social distancing is a tactic endorsed by the Torah. Notes Wikipedia:
Although the term “social distancing” was not introduced until the 21st century, social-distancing measures date back to at least the 5th century BC. The Bible contains one of the earliest known references to the practice in the Book of Leviticus 13:46: “And the leper in whom the plague is… he shall dwell alone; [outside] the camp shall his habitation be.”
So where do public health officials get the right to shut us down? Prager might have learned from Michael Lewis's superb 2021 book, The Premonition: A Pandemic Story: "If there is the faintest possibility of a catastrophic disease, you should treat it as being a lot more likely than it seems. If your differential diagnosis leads to a list of ten possibilities, for instance, and the tenth and least likely thing on the list is Ebola, you should treat the patient as if she has Ebola, because the consequences of not doing so can be calamitous."
The prestigious Nature magazine published February 18, 2021: "The average years of life lost per [Covid] death is 16 years."
What is the true Covid death toll? The Economist magazine, using academic estimates that the true Covid death toll is multiples of the official death toll, as of May 11, 2023, estimates the true worldwide death toll at between 17 and 29.9 million.
…that question — “What is the price?” — was avoided by virtually every political leader in the world as well as the vast majority of epidemiologists and physicians, journalists and editors, college presidents, deans, professors and K-12 teachers.
They never asked, “What is the price?” with regard to locking down businesses, schools and, in many cases, entire countries.
That is why so many political leaders, teachers, college presidents, doctors, epidemiologists and other scientists turned out to be fools.
The handful of scientists — and, of course, the even smaller number of academics or people in the mainstream media — who questioned the lockdowns were labeled purveyors of “misinformation” and “disinformation,” the terms used by the Left to describe all dissent….
Fools, led by universities — Harvard shut down in early March 2020, when there were 51 confirmed cases COVID-19 in the entire state of Massachusetts — and followed by virtually every teachers union, ruined countless young Americans’ lives.
This happened because teachers unions are led by fools and because virtually every public health authority is a fool. And because the overwhelming majority of American parents put their faith in fools — and thereby injured their own children.
On his December 12, 2022 show with Julie Hartman, Dennis said: "How do they [Julie's peers] decide what is true? By [expert] consensus. A consensus of scientists say that we have to stop all carbon emissions by X year. So they take a vote on what is true. The consensus was that masks had to go on two-year-olds [during Covid]. Now that is regarded as child abuse, which is how I regarded it during the time. I have been right on virtually every issue that I have differed with the majority on in my life."
Dennis: "And lockdowns. I said the greatest international mistake in history. All you need to do is think and read."
"All these revelations are coming out about Twitter suppressing conservatives. My favorite insight of  — how do I know who's telling the truth? Whoever is suppressing speech is lying. We [conservatives] don't suppress speech." Holocaust deniers are true evil but I am not for suppressing their free speech. If truth is allowed out, there is no left. And Twitter proved it."
Julie: "We've lost our ability to think clearly. I had a friend who was going to get vaccinated [against Covid] for the fourth or fifth time and I said to her please do not do this. There's all this evidence coming out that the vaccine causes harmful effects in young people… I sent her all these studies including Naomi Wolf on Substack that your wife Sue sent to me… My friend couldn't see what was really happening. She bought whatever excuse the Danish government is saying. A government isn't going to admit that we forced this vaccine on you citizens and now I feel bad about that it is harmful. "
Dennis: "Does your friend know about all the scientists who are now speaking about myocarditis in young people?"
April 24, 2023, Dennis said: "[The Covid] vaccine was never properly tested."
October 3, 2022, Dennis said: "The lockdowns only did harm. Will they acknowledge that the vaccines did a lot of harm?"
October 24, 2022, Dennis said that Covid vaccines for people under 50 do more harm than good.
Feb. 15, 2022, Dennis wrote: "In September 2021, for the 15th consecutive year (except for 2020), I led Jewish High Holiday Services for about 400 people — no masks required, and no vaccination necessary. Other synagogues could have done the same thing — but nearly all rabbis and synagogue boards were too scared and too obedient to do so. And of course, the same holds true for most churches, whether Catholic, Protestant or Mormon. Too scared. And too obedient to irrational dictates."
Conservatives got COVID extremely wrong. Where is the accountability? Where is the course correction? The answer is that they don’t exist, because the conservative movement is incapable of engaging in them…
Donald Trump threatened to fire Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a top CDC official, for telling reporters in February 2020 that the virus would likely spread to the United States. Trump insisted that month that China was “getting it under control more and more, that the United States had just 15 people [with COVID], and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” He repeated over and over: “Just stay calm. It will go away.” (March 10). “It’s going to go away, hopefully at the end of the month. And, if not, hopefully it will be soon after that.” (March 31). “It is going to go away. It is going away.” (April 3). “I always say, even without it [a vaccine], it goes away.” (June 16). And on and on…
But even highly respectable conservative intellectuals made utterly absurd claims about the pandemic’s likely death toll. Hoover Institute scholar Richard Epstein predicted COVID would kill just 500 Americans, before correcting a small computational error and revising the prediction to 5,000 (still a gross underestimate, as more than a million Americans have perished from COVID-19).
In March 2020, the Journal ran an op-ed arguing that the standard models of the projected COVID death toll were “too high by orders of magnitude,” proposing the actual death toll would be 20,000 or perhaps 40,000. The prominent voodoo economist Kevin Hassett created a model that persuaded White House staff that COVID deaths would drop to zero by mid-May 2020.
The wishful delusion that COVID posed barely any serious health risk produced other delusions. Hydroxychloroquine would cure it! The vaccines were unnecessary or even harmful! These errors were the product of ingrained mental pathologies on the right, which is why a figure like Hassett is now merrily assuring Republicans that defaulting on the national debt would be no big deal.
Far from examining the epistemic bubble that produced these bizarre beliefs, conservatives have coalesced around them. Trump is now running away from Operation Warp Speed, because it constitutes a political liability for him. Ron DeSantis, the Journal’s preferred candidate, has turned the anti-vaccine movement into a powerful wedge against Trump. DeSantis has appeared with and promoted anti-vaxxers and recruited an idiosyncratic vaccine skeptic, Joseph Ladapo, to run his state’s health department. Florida is “affirmatively against” providing the COVID-19 vaccine to children, making it the only state to adopt such a position. Ladapo recently altered a study to exaggerate the risks of the vaccine.
You're A Scientist? So What?
Then there was the American medical community’s opposition to therapeutics, dismissing hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin (both used with zinc) as frauds despite the testimony of numerous physicians that they saved COVID-19 patients’ lives when used appropriately. State medical boards around the country threatened to revoke the medical license of any physician who prescribed these drugs to treat COVID-19 — despite these drugs being among the safest prescription drugs available.
As early as July 2020, Harvey Risch, M.D., Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, wrote in Newsweek:
“I myself know of two doctors who have saved the lives of hundreds of patients with these medications, but are now fighting state medical boards to save their licenses and reputations. The cases against them are completely without scientific merit.”
As a result of the American medical community’s opposition to therapeutics, Risch wrote, “tens of thousands of patients with COVID-19 are dying unnecessarily.”
Doctors throughout America were essentially telling COVID-19 patients, “Go home, get rest, and wait to see if your COVID-19 gets worse. If you can’t breathe, come to the hospital where we can put you on a ventilator.” Ventilators, it quickly became clear, were a virtual death sentence for COVID-19 patients. And then they died alone.
Yale Doc Backing HCQ Cites Questionable Data — Negative results from randomized trials not even acknowledged
Risch points readers to his review — he is the only author — published in late May in the American Journal of Epidemiology that cites five studies in support of HCQ, particularly when used early in the course of COVID-19.
None are randomized controlled trials. One is the heavily publicized and now discredited French study by Didier Raoult, MD, and colleagues in March that sparked initial hopes for HCQ. Two have no corresponding data or publications.
Why Are Right-Wing Radio Hosts Still Being Such Jerks About COVID?
On Monday, Nov. 1, Dennis Prager began his popular radio show with a very strange boast. “I rarely say, ‘I did the following.’ It’s not my style,” the 73-year-old conservative host and YouTube culture war impresario said. “But I believe I am responsible for the CDC announcing the following: that if you have natural immunity you are less immune than if you have the vaccine.”
Prager was referring to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, released on Friday, Oct. 29, which found, basically, that the immunity conferred by full vaccination with an mRNA COVID vaccine is more effective than the “natural immunity” gained by having had and recovered from COVID-19. Good news, right? Ha! If you welcomed the CDC’s findings, you are almost certainly not in Dennis Prager’s target demographic.
The CDC’s conclusions are broadly in line with the scientific consensus on the efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. And they directly contradict Prager’s contention, voiced over and again on his long-running, nationally syndicated show, that natural immunity to COVID-19 is superior to vaccinated immunity. To Prager, the CDC’s latest findings did not mean that he, Prager, was wrong—they meant that the liberal, corrupt health agency had ginned up a bogus study in order to cloud the debate and specifically silence his voice.
“All I did was open up to you, my audience,” Prager said, referring to his advocacy for natural immunity. “I had no idea that I would shake up the nest to the extent that I did.” Assuring his audience that he had done “a lot of homework on COVID,” and highlighting an Israeli study from August (even though it has not yet been peer reviewed and had certain limitations that ought to make any prudent person think twice before citing it as definitive), Prager weaved a fantastical counternarrative as a way of underscoring his central point: that the CDC study in question was a dirty, rotten lie. “To some of you, it is stunning to say the CDC is lying,” said Prager. “To me, it is like saying the sun shines brightly when there are no clouds.”
Huh? Why would the CDC rush out a false study—co-authored by more than 50 people—just to neutralize a random right-wing radio host? Why would Prager presume calumny and conspiracy in the agency’s motives? These fair questions naturally beget another fair question: Why are so many right-wing talk show hosts still being such dicks about COVID measures?
…“I took ivermectin for the last year and a half as a prophylactic, believing, and I put my actions where my mouth was, believing that ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine and zinc, et cetera, over the course of time, that it would prevent COVID from being seriously injurious to me,” Prager said on that Nov. 1 show, railing against those fools in the media who dared to characterize ivermectin as a mere “horse dewormer.” As per the irrationalist imperative to willfully confuse correlation with causation, the host presented his victorious bout with COVID as clear evidence both of the merits of Dr. Prager’s Curative Elixirs and of the superfluity of the various vaccines. By ostensibly proving that his ivermectin use was what prevented him from dying from COVID, Prager hoped to demonstrate that he was once again privy to the “real truth” that the liberal establishment is determined to suppress.
For decades now, the most successful conservative broadcast media sources have sought to isolate their audiences by constantly sowing distrust of any news outlet or official entity that exists outside of the hard right. The unifying theme is the notion that there are no depths to which the deep state, liberal media, and elitist professoriate will not stoop in order to advance their godless, anti-American, and culturally transgressive agendas.
So for committed Pragerheads, it is perfectly rational to believe—even as 750,000 Americans have died due to COVID-19—that the media is still suppressing the real truth about ivermectin and that the CDC is basically SPECTRE, because right-wing media has literally spent decades convincing its audience that politics is as conspiratorial and simplistic as a James Bond movie. “It’s impossible, virtually impossible, to live in a right-wing bubble,” Prager said on his program on Wednesday, in a statement that is so un-self-aware as to be almost entirely self-aware. Prager surely understands how right-wing media works, even as he also surely understands that he can never, ever publicly admit it.
This cynical strategy, enervating enough in normal times, is especially frustrating in the midst of an ongoing public health crisis in which lots and lots of people are still dying in part thanks to the endemic misinformation being spread by dummies on the radio. Actually, dummies might not be the right word here. No matter what you might think of their politics, Prager and his nationally prominent peers are not stupid. You can tell this is true because they are so adept at dancing right up to the lies-and-lunacy line while almost never crossing it. The evening opinion hosts on Fox News, for example, rarely tell outright lies; instead, they draw false equivalencies, or cherry-pick outlying details and use them to inaccurately characterize the whole, or offer misleading narratives that can be explained away as matters of opinion.
Even Prager is not explicitly anti-vaccine. He does not say that the vaccines don’t work, or that they are actively harmful to those who take them. Instead, he disparages them via a boatload of logical fallacies that he presents as plain common sense. “I have never once told any of you or anyone not to take the vaccine; it is not my province to tell you what to do. But it is my province to tell you the truth, and the truth is that natural immunity is stronger,” said Prager on Nov. 1. “Alex Berenson wrote about this. He’s the guy who was with the New York Times until he started telling the truth.”
As always with right-wing anti–virtue signaling, deflection is the point here. Prager and his peers’ goal writ large is to get their audiences so hot and bothered about federal government overreach and the scurrilous rascals in the elitist media that those audiences do not stop to think critically about what these hosts are actually selling. When Prager threw his show to commercial break, his announcer reported that The Dennis Prager Show was broadcasting “live from the Relief Factor Pain-Free Studio.” The ad gave away the game.
As historian Rick Perlstein observed in his seminal Baffler essay “The Long Con,” and as anyone can observe by watching or listening to more than 20 minutes of conservative broadcast content, right-wing media is and has long been underwritten by billions of dollars of advertising for dubious curatives. While lots of reputable news sources also have some questionable advertisers, the practice is particularly pervasive on the right…
“The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place,” wrote Perlstein. “One weird trick”–style remedies, in a very real sense, pay the salaries of hosts such as Prager; these hosts are incentivized to tout them just as their audiences are conditioned to trust them. The vaccines threaten the framework of burnished shit that supports and sustains these sorts of programs…
On Monday, Prager led off his show by blasting the city of Los Angeles for a new ordinance that would require patrons to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test in order to dine inside a restaurant, get a haircut, or engage in certain other indoor activities. Prager warned of “the communist hell that all communists create, and will in the United States if allowed,” and bemoaned “the love of power and the hypochondriacal fear, the maniacal fear that pervades the left about [COVID] and global warming.” Then, he threw the show to a commercial for Relief Factor, in which he spoke glowingly about the supplement’s “100 percent drug free ingredients, each helping your body deal with inflammation.”
…the layout of HumanEvents.com on the day it featured an article headlined “Ideas Will Drive Conservatives’ Revival.” Two inches beneath that bold pronouncement, a box headed “Health News” included the headlines “Reverse Crippling Arthritis in 2 Days,” “Clear Clogged Arteries Safely & Easily—without drugs, without surgery, and without a radical diet,” and “High Blood Pressure Cured in 3 Minutes . . . Drop Measurement 60 Points.” It would be interesting, that is, to ask Coulter about the reflex of lying that’s now sutured into the modern conservative movement’s DNA—and to get her candid assessment of why conservative leaders treat their constituents like suckers.
When Prager came back, he was at it again about natural immunity and the CDC—“who I believe are professional liars,” he clarified. By sowing doubt over the vaccines and crying foul over mandates, Prager and his peers are running through the tribal script of right-wing infotainment, otherizing every idea and institution that could plausibly be considered “liberal.” But in a very real sense, they just don’t want the liberals’ miracle drugs, because they already have plenty of their own.
Back to the Gurometer:
4. Grievance-mongering: A cult will generally have more than a few bones to pick with supposedly nefarious forces in the outside world. Likewise, fascist organisations will derive much energy from narratives of grievance focused on specific out-groups. Feelings of frustration and oppression, being excluded and disregarded, and deprived of one’s manifest rights and recognitions, represent a potent set of negative emotions. Gurus too, will sometimes rely on narratives of grievance pertaining to themselves and their potential followers in order to drive engagement. After all, a worldview in which all is essentially fair and just is not one that will encourage people to search for alternative ways in which to view the world.
Gurus sometimes also engage in personal grievance narratives. These are especially convenient, in that they not only encourage emotional connection and sympathy for the guru, but they provide a convenient explanation for why someone of their unique talents has not been well-supported or given the recognition they deserve by the outside world. They also relate to conspiratorial ideation (discussed more below), in explaining why the special ideas and perspectives shared with followers have not been recognised and accepted by the outside world. It is because their ideas have been suppressed by malevolent and powerful actors for selfish reasons…
4. Grievance Mongering
Personal narratives of victimhood
Suppression of their ideas
Inculcating grievance in their followers
I’d rate Prager a 5 out of 5 on this trait.
July 18, 2023, Chris Kavanagh said: “Their critics are all operating in bad faith. You know all of a [guru’s] enemies because they constantly mention them. They regard the media, institutions, politicians to be targeted against them and to unfairly represent them. They see themselves as heroic figures fighting back against bad faith criticism who are trying to shut them down. This explains why they lack mainstream success. They have a ready-made narrative. It will never be enough success.”
Browne: “It’s striking how some of our gurus seem to be obsessed with the number of likes and retweets they are getting and they are absolutely certain that nefarious forces out there are throttling them, suppressing them, and preventing the word from getting out. On Twitter, they looked to Elon Musk for a long. ‘When Elon Musk gets in, I’ll be free of these suppressive forces.’ That psychological disorder doesn’t go away just when Elon Musk buys Twitter.”
“Cults have a sense of grievance with the broader society. Everyone is out to get them. It is us versus them, and that mentality fosters toxic in-group vs. out-group dynamics, and puts the guru in a heroic role standing up to all of these forces… [Conspiracy theories] are a way for them to feel special and to feel better about their own lives.”
Kavanagh: “Gurus often establish strong in-group and out-group categories. Their followers and supporters are the good moral wise people, and the out-group are malicious critics who just want to tear everyone down. This serves with a host of other behavioral patterns to emotionally manipulate followers to get them to protect the guru and to launch attacks at people who might criticize the guru.”
In 2019, Dennis and Adam Carolla released a documentary called No Safe Spaces which “follows Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager as they explore the challenges to the First Amendment and freedom of thought faced in America today.”
Michael Conklin, professor of Business Law, wrote in the 80th edition of the Pepperdine Law Review in 2019:
Unfortunately, the polarizing nature of the reviews largely fall along partisan political lines, with conservatives praising the film and liberals criticizing it. This partisan result could have likely been minimized if the film communicated a more bipartisan tone. To further complicate things, the film does not provide a clear thesis of what it is trying to promote. Rather, it seems to jump around from topic to topic, some of which are not even tangentially related to each other…
One major problem with the film is that it does not have a well-defined theme. Even the title illustrates this point. While much of the film could be summarized as “a warning of current free-speech suppression trends,” safe spaces are only tangentially related to free speech suppression. The creation of safe spaces on college campuses as a place for students to be protected from speech they perceive as offensive may be a bad idea, but it does not violate the First Amendment.
At one point in the film, Carolla lectures on the dangers of a welfare state. Elsewhere, there is an entire segment on how “white privilege” is not an accurate term. No attempt was made to relate these two issues with the other topics in the film…
The film does not contain in-depth discussions of nuanced First Amendment issues, which is to be expected by a popular-level documentary. But even some basic free-speech principles are presented in a highly misleading manner. At one point, free speech is described as people being able to say “whatever they want” without restrictions… Public and private censorship is conflated throughout the film…
There is even an anecdote provided where after a kid says something “stupid,” his friends tell him to “shut up,” to which the kid responds, “Hey, it’s a free country, man. There’s freedom of speech here.” Prager considers this anecdote and responds, “He’s right!” But this is incorrect. Freedom of speech does not protect someone from having his friends tell him to “shut up…
The film could have embodied a more bipartisan tone by presenting examples of people being censored for their liberal views, instead of focusing almost primarily on the censorship of conservative views.
In 2019, PragerU sued Youtube for speech suppression and lost.
On August 8, 2019, John Samples wrote for the libertarian Cato Institute:
Dennis Prager recently made a case for government management of social media in the Wall Street Journal. Prager is a conservative so it might seem odd to find him plumping for government control of private businesses. But he is a part of a new conservatism that rejects the older tradition of laissez‐faire that informed the right. What could justify Big Government regulation for tech companies? Prager argues that the companies have a legal obligation to moderate their platforms without political bias. He thinks they are biased and thus fail to meet their obligation. But the companies have no such obligation and to be charitable, it is far from clear that they are biased against conservative content…
The law also empowers the platforms to restrict content that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.” Prager notices the obscenity part, but somehow misses the words “otherwise objectionable.” If YouTube decided Prager’s videos were neither violent nor obscene but were “otherwise objectionable,” the company could restrict access to them. In other words, the law empowers YouTube to be biased against Prager if they wish. And Prager thinks they do have it in for him and other conservatives. As you might have guessed by now, there is lot less to this claim than meets the eye.
Consider what Prager himself tells us: YouTube now hosts 320 Prager University videos that get a billion views a year. Indeed, a new video goes up every week. Not exactly the Gulag is it? He complains that 56 of those 320 videos are on YouTube’s “restricted list” which means (according to Prager) “any home, institution or individual using a filter to block pornography and violence cannot see those videos. Nor can any school or library.” In other words, YouTube has “restricted access” to materials on its site its managers consider “otherwise objectionable.”
Was YouTube biased against Prager and other conservatives? Prager himself notes leftwing sites also ended up on the restricted list. But that’s different, he says, because their videos are violent or obscene while his are not. Prager fails to mention that videos from The History Channel are restricted at twice the rate of his films. Hardly a bastion of left‐wing vulgarity, The History Channel’s videos often discuss historical atrocities and totalitarian regimes. While these clips may be educational, Google seems to believe that the 1.5% of YouTube users who voluntarily opt‐in to restricted mode wish to avoid even educational discussions of atrocity. Dennis Prager’s video about the Ten Commandments is restricted for similar discussions of the Nazi’s Godless regime.
It is far from unreasonable to allow parents to decide how their children are taught about such horrors. A reasonable conservative might even applaud such support for the family. Who gets to decide whether left wing videos or historical documentaries are different than Prager’s videos? The law says YouTube gets to decide.
On February 26, 2020, Reuters reported:
Google persuaded a federal appeals court on Wednesday to reject claims that YouTube illegally censors conservative content.
In a 3-0 decision that could apply to platforms such as Facebook, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle found that YouTube was not a public forum subject to First Amendment scrutiny by judges.
It upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against Google and YouTube by Prager University, a conservative nonprofit run by radio talk show host Dennis Prager.
PragerU claimed that YouTube’s opposition to its political views led it to tag dozens of videos on such topics as abortion, gun rights, Islam and terrorism for its “Restricted Mode” setting, and block third parties from advertising on the videos.
Writing for the appeals court, however, Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown said YouTube was a private forum despite its “ubiquity” and public accessibility, and hosting videos did not make it a “state actor” for purposes of the First Amendment.
McKeown also dismissed PragerU’s false advertising claim, saying YouTube’s “braggadocio” about its commitment to free speech –such as “everyone deserves to have a voice, and [the] world is a better place when we listen, share and build community through our stories” — were merely opinions.
* “All the Left’s charges against me are lies.” (April 26, 2022)
* May 1, 2023, Prager's Youtube cohost Julie Hartman said: "There are some people on the Right who are government conspiracy theorists. They think there is an apparatus to create chaos and tear down the United States. I don't think those people are totally nuts because all of this seems too coordinated to be coincidence."
Dennis: "The desire is to bring down this country."
* Dennis: “For the first time in its history, freedom is under assault [in America]… The dismissal of humans based on the color of their skin. It is the opposite of liberalism to say that color matters. The Ku Klux Klan said color matters. The Nazis said color matters. And now the Left says color matters.” (Aug. 22, 2023)
Skin color didn’t matter much to the Nazis who murdered six million whites in the Holocaust as well as millions of white non-Jews while simultaneously allying with the Arabs and Japanese.
* “The only difference between the American Left and communist totalitarianism is opportunity. All leftists want to control speech and eventually thought.” (Jan. 31, 2023)
* “California is not the Soviet Union, but it is moving towards the Soviet Union… It’s quite possible that society as we know will end.” (May 25, 2023)
Instead of juicing up paranoia, hysteria and needless hatred, Dennis could instead use his talents to promote understanding. He could explain that left and right politics are evolutionary adaptations that enabled our ancestors to pass on their genes. In some circumstances, a left-wing approach of welcoming strangers was more adaptive. In other circumstances, a right-wing approach of fear of strangers was more adaptive. In some situations, a traditional hierarchical approach to organizing the community was more adaptive, while in other situations, a more democratic approach was more adaptive. At times, organizing life in a new way was more adaptive, and at other times, following the old ways worked best. Notes the 2013 book Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences: “[T]he political left has been associated with support for equality and tolerance of departures from tradition, while the right is more supportive of authority, hierarchy, and order… [T]he right has been associated with religious and social orthodoxy, the just, and the good, while the left has been associated with the opposite.”
* “Jewishly, it’s been a lonely journey.” (2010)
Why has it been a lonely journey for about the most booked speaker in Jewish life? Because Dennis chose that. It was the price he pays for feeling special.
How do you fit in when everyone else is wrong?
* “My brother frequently says to me, ‘You are a religious party of one.'” (2003)
Why is he a party of one? Because he developed a type of Judaism that is not recognized by almost anyone just as Jordan Peterson created his own type of Christianity. Both Prager and Peterson get bored out of their minds during a typical religious service because it does not wrestle with the big ideas that preoccupy these galaxy minds.
On a Patreon video called “The Confluence of the Gurosphere” released June 16, 2023, Chris Kavanagh said: “Jordan Peterson is fundamentally a deeply religious person but not in the sense he actually wants to attend mass. Nothing so mundane as that. It has to be more cosmic. He has to be grappling with the big ideas. Jonathan Pageau says he took Jordan to a [religious] service and Jordan was bored out of his mind and didn’t like it. I can imagine him bored at a priest because he understands the cosmic mysteries better. It’s not the mundane daily aspects of life [that interests him], although he will wax lyrical to other people about how they need to find religious communities and stop putting themselves first but he’s not about that. He’s about having big ideas.”
* In 1997, Dennis Prager wrote in his journal The Prager Perspective:
By the end of January , the Jewish Journal had published my one essay on homosexuality and rabbis, and then published an editor’s rebuttal, a statement on the low moral level of my ideas signed by 16 rabbis, seven letters attacking my decency, and one letter agreeing with me…
I had decided not to reply to any of the letters that maligned me (not one dealt with issues I actually raised), but when the 16 rabbis maligned me, I knew that a response was necessary…
As for “homophobic,” shame on these rabbis for emulating the McCarthy right by giving someone they disagree with a horrible label instead of responding to arguments. The rabbis did not quote me once. They wouldn’t, because if they did, it would be obvious that they engage only in ad hominem attacks, not intellectual or religious responses…
What depressed me about the letter was not the name-calling instead of dialogue. I experienced that when I debated the Jewish rightist, the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, and I experience it from the Jewish left. I am used to being attacked, since, unlike these rabbis who work and live among those who agree with them, I am used to debating my positions and being attacked every day, three hours a day.
What is most depressing is to see three respected Conservative signatories to the letter…
Most Jews, myself included, were appalled at the hate-filled descriptions of the late Yitzhak Rabin that emanated from parts of the Jewish right. In what way do the hate-filled descriptions of me by these rabbis and all the other nine letters you published against me differ?
I am disappointed by something else – the absence of public support from the many rabbis who I know agree with me. Hopefully, The Journal will now receive a letter signed by twice as many rabbis in support of what I wrote. But if the Los Angeles Jewish community and its rabbis do not find maintaining the Jewish male-female ideal worthy of their attention, I do not want to be a voice crying in the wilderness, while those arguing for acceptance of bisexual behavior among rabbis are considered mainstream.
April 26, 2010, Dennis said:
When Disney took over ABC, it decided that the only thing that mattered were ratings. And so they put in a general manager at the station who said, ‘None of this high-quality talk stuff. We’ve got to go down in the gutter.’
It was a very bad period. I thought I’d be let go because I wasn’t prepared to do everything this woman wanted me to talk about. It was a very tense time.
In his 2004 lecture on Deuteronomy 12, Dennis said:
What does God want me to do? I try that all the time. I don’t succeed all the time. I ask myself before every show, what does God want me to do?
I was torn. It was really an issue for a time. This is what God wants me to use the microphone for and this is what my employers’ want me to use the microphone for. Employers in the secular media want ratings.
I didn’t talk about the O.J. Simpson trial and I had an only-LA show one of the two prime stations in LA (KABC). I talked about the verdict.
I kept saying to myself, ‘Dennis, God didn’t give you the gift of speech to talk about Kato Kaelin.’
It was the end of my TV career because I wouldn’t do stuff they asked.
* Feb. 1, 2011, Dennis wrote: "Through the use of public opprobrium, laws, and lawsuits, Americans today are less free than at any time since the abolition of slavery…"
* Aug. 27, 2013, Dennis wrote: “[I]f there is a real fascist threat to America, it comes from the left, whose appetite for state power is essentially unlimited.”
* Dec. 5, 2006, Dennis wrote: “It is not I, but Keith Ellison, who has engaged in disuniting the country. He can still help reunite it by simply bringing both books to his ceremonial swearing-in. Had he originally announced that he would do that, I would have written a different column — filled with praise of him. And there would be a lot less cursing and anger in America.”
Back to the Gurometer:
5. Self-aggrandisement and narcissism:
It is almost impossible to be a guru without having a sense of grandiosity and inflated idea of one’s self-importance. The role of being a guru involves cultivating praise and attention, and demands a certain level of charisma and charm. Another trait of narcissists is a belief in one’s uniqueness, and that only special people can appreciate them. It is therefore not surprising that one tends to see other narcissistic traits in gurus, such as having a very thin skin when it comes to criticism, or expecting that the world should be recognising one’s talents far more than it does. Our tentative hypothesis is that narcissism is the key personality trait of gurus. People without at least some degree of over-confidence and attention-seeking will find the role of guru very uncomfortable and eschew it, even if it is thrust upon them. People who are not narcissistic, but with genuine expertise and insight in a given domain, may find the spotlight an unwelcome distraction. People ‘on the spectrum’ of narcissism, however, will find any attention and regard highly satisfying, and this is the motivating factor for engaging in going beyond whatever talents they may have, to engage in the pseudo-profound bullshitting techniques described here. The lack of self-awareness common among narcissists also seems to explain why gurus seem to ‘believe their own bullshit’. Just as a narcissist loves themselves, they are in love with their own ideas, and may be incapable of seeing the degree to which they are bullshit…
5. Narcissism-ish / Self Aggrandising
We think thats the real motivation of many of them
Attention economy, clicks and likes
I’d rate Prager a 5 out of 5.
Chris Kavanagh said July 18, 2023: “They prefer positive attention but any attention will do. One indicator of this is that you will see gurus with massive audiences and best-selling books but they are often stating how many people watch their talks, how many downloads things get, that suggests a pathological attention to that detail. It reflects that they are enamored with their ideas, bad at assessing them objectively, believing that they were gifted with special insight from an early age which was often misdiagnosed as learning disabilities. They have a special way of viewing the world and they are special people.”
Browne: “You almost have to have an overblown sense of self-confidence to inhabit this role, to put on a toga and stand up on top of a mountain and broadcast to everyone that you have heard the word of God requires a self-belief that most people don’t have.”
In 2009, Dennis Prager created Prager University (it was his producer Allen Estrin's idea), a website offering five minute videos making the conservative argument on dozens of issues ranging from happiness to the war in Vietnam.
Dennis often talks on his radio show about how many views his Youtube videos get (frequently when fundraising for Prager University), but when you look at the statistics for individual videos, you see that for weeks they get very few views and then for a couple of days they get hundreds of thousands of views and then just as suddenly, the views stop coming. This indicates that most of those views were bought, such as through advertising that auto-plays the video in people’s Facebook and Twitter feed.
Dennis said Aug. 25, 2014: "We teach what isn't taught. I'm asking you to help us help America. I feel like a doctor or scientist who has discovered a cure for major cancers and the only the only issue is lack of funds to market it. We can cure so much of what is wrong by changing minds five minutes at a time. I don't know anything that is doing this as effectively… Ten million hits just this year. I don't know anyone [doing this to change minds in the conservative direction]."
Aug. 26, 2014, Dennis said: "It is not unreasonable to assume that 30 million people have seen our videos just this year."
Aug. 29, 2014, Dennis said: "This is the last day of fundraising for Prager University. At every level, it means a lot to us making these videos. We have become the biggest disseminator of non-left-wing video in the world. It means a lot to have your backing, psychologically."
I wonder how donors to Prager University feel about their money going to buying fake views and subverting Youtube's terms of service
PragerUniversity.com offers many opportunities to donate including this: "Marketing Sponsorship: $5,000".
Marketing = buying views.
Prager and Prager University's pundit Julie Hartman condemn this sort of thing for other people. In an April 3, 2023 video with Dennis Prager, she said: "Certainly among people my age, people buy likes and followers on Instagram. It's obvious. They have thousands of followers but only three comments on their post. They know that it is obvious to the rest of the world that they buy followers, but they still do it because they are showing that they are playing the game."
Dennis: "So the issue is winning. It doesn't matter at what and it doesn't matter how you got there."
On the March 27, 2023 show, Dennis said: "I have a dignity problem [with asking people to like and subscribe]."
Here are some other examples of Prager’s self-aggrandizement:
I’m skeptical that Dennis, who autographs Bibles, has the ability to save the Bible from oblivion.
Julie Hartman: “It has revolutionized my life.”
Dennis: “If all I did was affect you, it was worth writing.”
Dennis has used that line on thousands of people.
Julie: “When I was done reading it, I went from seeing the world in a secular way to seeing the world in a religious way. When I walk down the street and look around me, I feel more connected to life. I appreciate the every day more.”
* May 9, 2023, Dennis wrote: “I believe that I have brought more people to belief in God, to taking the Bible seriously, to Jews embracing Judaism, and to others embracing Christianity than perhaps any other living Jew or Christian.”
Given the poor epistemic quality of Prager’s reasoning, I wonder about the quality of these conversions. It reminds me of the Christian evangelists around my father who’d boast about the hundreds of people they had baptized. Everyone they saw was just fodder for Christ.
* “I have never been hurt by a friend… I have built-in antennae for who to trust. I have perfect pitch.” (Sept. 26, 2013)
Anyone who says they’ve never been hurt by a friend is clearly wrong. If Prager believes what he is saying, he is deluded.
* February 13, 2023, Dennis said: "I've never had a female friend."
Friendship with the opposite sex is for mere mortals. For a self-described highly sexed man like Dennis Prager, it is not on.
* “I have never been envious of another human being in my life.” (Jan. 16, 2023)
Only mere mortals experience envy.
* Aug. 2, 2022, Dennis said: “I didn’t think they [parents] loved me when I was a kid… I didn’t fly once with my parents. I didn’t want to do much with my family. What I did was develop antibodies. I was vaccinated against emotional problems.”
Unlike mere mortals, Dennis Prager was vaccinated against emotional problems.
Aug. 29, 2012: “That’s the reason I became something, because my parents said at an early age, ‘You’re on your own. Have a great life.’ And I’ve had a great life. And it wasn’t easy.”
Prager’s charm, epistemic sabotage and river of pseudo-profound nonsense also helped him become something. I suspect he’s overstating when he claims his parents said to him, literally or figuratively, “You’re on your own. Have a great life.”
* “I would say that the Jewish identity of Jews… is overwhelmingly ethnic. They were born and raised in a Jewish world and they are Jewish only for this reason. Few have gone through the soul searching of asking “Why am I a Jew?” If I am Jewish, I said, I want to be Jewish because I chose to, not because I was raised in it. That’s why I studied all these other religions. I wanted to come to Judaism on my own.” (Spring/Summer 1986 edition of Ultimate Issues)
Dennis couldn’t be just another Jew in Judaism. He had to do it his way.
My friend I’ll make it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more
I did it, I did it my way
That [the Holocaust] was my first encounter with massive evil, and I was never again to be the same person. I became obsessed with good and evil — specifically why people engage in evil, and how to fight them. That obsession has never left me. The only change that occurred did so later, in high school, when I broadened my preoccupation to include why people do good and how to make good people.
Prager’s obsession with good and evil only goes as far as his starring role in this cosmic drama. Answers about why people commit evil and why people do good that don’t play to his vision of himself as the moral leader don’t rate with Dennis. For example, people with below-average IQs have a below-average capacity for empathy and hence a below-average capacity for decency, but Dennis has no interest in this obvious explanation for much of good and evil.
* “I am the last person in the world who walks around with a victim mentality.” (April 15, 2011)
Only mere mortals feel like victims.
On the other hand, when it comes to the Brandeis-Bardin Institute, Prager has not stinted in explaining how often he was victimized by a cruel and unfeeling board of directors.
In a 2010 interview at Stephen S. Wise temple, Dennis said: “I don’t care about Jewish culture. That’s why the board at Brandeis[-Bardin Institute] got angry at me. They were very into Jewish culture. I was very into Judaism.”
In September of 1983, Prager abruptly left the Brandeis Bardin Institute. He wrote: “While the membership and I loved each other, the heads of the board of directors and I did not. Indeed, I left BBI largely because the president/chairman of the board [William Chotiner] made life miserable for me. I occasionally reflect on where my life would be today had he and others of the lay leadership treated me differently.” (1998 Prager CD)
* June 21, 2022, Dennis said to his Youtube cohost Julie Hartman: “At a very early age, aside from wanting to do good and to influence people to do good, I wanted to understand life. I had this ambition that I would live a long life and would understand at least as well as anybody whoever lived. One of the reasons I thought I had a chance, I have no prejudices. There was no dogma I had to meet. I confronted life straight on. I didn’t have to prove anything because I am an American, a Jew, a male, a white. Nothing mattered except what is true. I never read anything with an agenda other than is it true and will it make a good world. I wasn’t burdened by [psychological] problems in my thought such as anger at men or anger at women… There was no Dennis for Dennis.”
* Sept. 28, 2012, Dennis said: “I have the training of a rabbi but I never sought ordination.”
* Sept. 15, 2010, Dennis said: “The last time I felt physically unsafe, I was in my early 30s in the Soviet Union trying to escape on a train at midnight to Romania and with me were documents that the Soviets would not have been happy that I took out.”
Only mere mortals feel unsafe.
* April 20, 2011: “It took until the Reagan administration to realize that if I didn’t fight, I was going to lose this country.”
Wow. If Prager didn’t fight, America was going to be lost.
The day the O.J. Simpson verdict was announced, I said to my then-teenage son, “David, please forgive me. I am handing over to you a worse America than my father handed over to me.”
With the important exception of racial discrimination — which was already dying a natural death when I was young — it is difficult to come up with an important area in which America is significantly better than when I was a boy. But I can think of many in which its quality of life has deteriorated.
What kind of man apologizes for not being able to change the direction of a country of 300 million people?
* June 2, 2022: “Reagan changed me with one sentence. ‘Government is not the solution, it’s the problem.’ That is what made me a Republican. Everything resides on small government. In the 20th Century, 100 million civilians were murdered. Who murdered them? In every case but Rwanda, big government.”
In the Mishna, Rabbi Chanina, the deputy High Priest, said: "Pray for the welfare of the government (lit., monarchy), for if not for its fear, a person would swallow his fellow live." Big government sometimes kills people but just as often saves people. In the absence of big government, we return to the state of nature where life tends to be "nasty, brutish and short."
For problems such as crime, pollution, and roads, most countries have found that government is the best solution. What countries that don't have government provided police, parks and passports should America emulate?
* David Margolis wrote in the Jewish Journal in December 1992:
Perhaps somewhat uncomfortable with his lack of academic credentials, Prager notes that he co-wrote (with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin) Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism as a kind of substitute Master’s thesis. With a touch of the salesman, Prager calls the book, which has been translated into Russian, Spanish, Persian and Japanese, the “most widely used introduction to Judaism in the world.”
…Over the next few years, he lectured “hundreds of times” to American audiences about Soviet Jewry. But that wasn’t the only subject on which he claimed some expertise. Accepting minimal fees in return for exposure, he leapt onto the Jewish lecture circuit with talks on why Jewish youth was alienated from Jewish life. “It was part chutzpah,” he admits, and part inspired experimentation.
* Wikipedia says: “Despite the name, PragerU is not an academic institution and does not hold classes, does not grant certifications or diplomas, and is not accredited by any recognized body.”
According to https://www.prageru.com/pragerforce: “Are you tired of the woke mob infiltrating our schools and workplaces? Join our community of free-thinking high school, college students, and young professionals! Together, we use digital media to change minds, promote American values, and build meaningful connections with thousands of other patriots around the world!”
PragerFORCE! Catch the wave!
Back to the Gurometer:
6. Cassandra complex: Gurus like to claim prescience among their many talents. Their heightened insight gives them a superior ability to predict the future, and they will enjoy dwelling on those instances in which they made a purportedly correct prediction (obviously not mentioning or acknowledging the times when they got it wrong). We’ve already described how a narrative of grievance plays a role in being a guru. A heightened sense of how the world is not right, and ought to be fixed, and that they are the persons to do it, is a common feature. Unfortunately, the broader public fails to recognise their genius and heed their advice, and thus the world lurches from calamity to calamity. Combining these features, we will often see that a guru positions themselves as something of a Cassandra – seeing the future and warning of possible calamities, that could be avoided if only they were heeded. The followers also gain a positive role for themselves, in supporting, defending, and promoting the guru, they can help make the world a better place…
6. Cassandra Complex
Warning of danger that others can’t see
Making predictions and saying they’re prior predictions are always right
I’d rate Prager a 5 out of 5.
July 18, 2023, Kavanagh said: “They have a ready-made narrative for why their success is less than it could have been.”
Browne: “It’s striking how some of our gurus are obsessed with the number of likes and retweets they are getting. They are absolutely certain that some nefarious forces out there are throttling them and suppressing them, and preventing their word from getting out. On Twitter, they looked to Elon Musk for a long time. When Elon Musk gets in, I’ll be free of these suppressive forces. Of course the psychological disorder doesn’t go away when Elon Musk buys Twitter.”
“Cassandra complex is not a good sign. Cults often have a doomsday scenario. The world is going to end shortly. You have to join the cult to be one of the saved. Conspiracy theories have a similar property. This is the emotional hook for getting the guru game on… That the mainstream institutions are blundering on towards certain doom. Listen to me. I’ve got my finger on the pulse. This is what is broken. Catastrophe is upon us unless we do X.”
Kavanagh: “Join their Patreon.”
“Believing that they have a superior ability to detect where a corrupt society is heading and making claims that they correctly predicted things and have a long history of accurate predictions.”
Dennis Prager’s track record in making predictions is average. For example, circa 1990, he predicted Bob Dole would never be the Republican nominee because of critical remarks he made about Israel. May 3, 2011, he wrote a column about Donald Trump’s F-bombs and how they disqualified him from the presidency. In the Spring of 2020, he repeatedly stated that concern about Covid was overblown and that it wouldn’t kill many people.
Kavanagh: “Conspiracy mongering. It forms a tight connection with the narcissism and the grievance mongering. Everything can be explained through your conspiracy framework… There’s a hyper-active pattern recognition and a circular, self-sealing logic. If the mainstream gives evidence that lends even a little bit of credence to your idea, that vindicates you. If they deny it, that shows it, because they’re repressing the truth. If there is evidence missing, or contradictory evidence, that just shows how good the conspiracy is at concealing the truth.”
Browne: “The conspiracism is the crazy glue that holds the whole mad box of spiders together.”
Sep. 21, 2022, Matt Browne said: “Even when it is not the individuals ranting and raving about the coming apocalypse, the whole philosophy of the sensemaking movement is based on the presumption that we are going to blow ourselves up unless we listen to them and do the Game B thing as quickly as possible… It’s not being a Cassandra to say that global warming is serious and we need to do some things. It’s not being a Cassandra to say that the risk of nuclear weapons is small but real and over a long enough period of time, they’re probably going to go off and so we should be concerned. The Cassandra complex comes in when they say it is imminent and you have to do the thing they say you should do to avoid catastrophe when their thing is some bespoke thing they’ve just invented and not renewable energy.”
In other words, it is not a Cassandra complex when you side with the warnings of experts.
Here are some examples of Prager’s Cassandra complex:
* June 6, 2017, Prager wrote:
One would think that Jonah Goldberg, of all people, would understand this. He is the author of what I consider to be a modern classic, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Change.
His book leads to one conclusion: We are fighting fascism. How is that not a civil war? When you fight fascism, you are not merely fighting a “culture war.”
That Dennis Prager considers the book Liberal Fascism a modern classic reveals his willingness to believe any nonsense if it fits with his agenda.
What is missing from Jonah’s book…is the specific historical context from which fascism was born: the First World War. Fascism was created in the trenches of that war, it was a war ideology from beginning to end, and the central core of fascism was composed of two basic concepts. First, the conviction that the only people worthy of political power were those who had been tested and proven in combat (for the most part, the brownshirts were veterans, and the socialists they attacked had been pacifists or neutralists). And second, that Western civilization was under siege from the left, that is, from communists and socialists.
Jonah, instead, says (pg. 80) “Fascism, at its core, is the view that every nook and cranny of society should work together in spiritual union toward the same goals overseen by the state.” Certainly Mussolini and his cohorts believed that (how did it go? “Everything in the State; Nothing outside the State”…), but that is not the central core of fascism; it’s not Mussolini or his imitators, and certainly not Hitler, whose vision was global, not just national. The issue is “the same goals,” not just the methods of rule.
The weakest part of the book has to do with the Nazis. All of us who have worked on fascism have had to try to figure out to what extent Hitler belongs inside the category. As Jonah says, Hitler worshiped Mussolini (a love that was not reciprocated), but the Fuhrer was driven by racism and antisemitism, not by the sort of nationalism the Italians embraced. It is very hard to find a political box big enough to accommodate the two, and, like the rest of us, Jonah huffs and puffs trying to make one. Predictably, he has to downplay Hitler’s ideology. He calls Hitler a “pragmatist,” and then adds “saying that Hitler had a pragmatic view of ideology is not to say that he didn’t use ideology. Hitler had many ideologies. Indeed he was an ideology peddler.”
So much for the view–the fact–that Hitler was driven, from an early age, by an antisemitism so virulent that he would not rest until he had set in motion the Holocaust. Indeed, in one of Liberal Fascism’s most unfortunate phrases, Jonah trivializes Nazi racism, equating it with some American political rhetoric:
“What distinguished Nazism from other brands of socialism and communism was not so much that it included more aspects from the political right (though there were some). What distinguished Nazism was that it forthrightly included a worldview we now associate almost completely with the political left: identity politics.”
And in case you thought he was kidding, he repeats it a few pages later: “What mattered to (Hitler) was German identity politics.”
Paul Gottfried wrote in his 2016 book Fascism: The Career of a Concept:
Goldberg goes after Democratic politicians who, according to him, are pursuing economic and social policies similar to those of Mussolini and Hitler. Programs aimed at American youth are compared to Mussolini’s Balilla and the Hitlerjugend, and American public works proposals are seen as derivative of or closely related to fascist and Nazi plans of the 1930s.17 After hundreds of pages of these often strained comparisons between fascist and Democratic orators, it is hard to miss the point: if Democratic partisans in Hollywood have gone after Republicans as fascists, then
the other party should be allowed to play the same game.
Goldberg’s partisan attack is far from convincing. The early American critics who made the comparisons in question were looking at the way political actors defined themselves: American New Dealers and their social democratic allies were praising the Italian fascist model while establishing an American welfare state. One cannot recall the last time the Obama administration extolled either Mussolini or Hitler when trying to bail out
the Obama administration’s supporters. Goldberg’s application of the fascist branding iron has its origin in intermural politics. It is part of a game in which the advocates of one party cast aspersions on those of the other.
Modern industrial democracies have huge welfare states that the major parliamentary blocs (there are usually two) accept as a given. If we wish to condemn one of the two institutionalized parties as “fascist” for building
and sustaining a large administrative state, then why not make the same judgment about the other? Nowhere does Goldberg suggest that he would rescind the “fascist” handiwork that he attributes to the Democrats before the election of Obama. And for a good reason! By now that handiwork belongs as much to his party as it does to the opposition.
Paul Gottfried wrote in his 2021 book Antifascism: The Course of a Crusade:
* Antifascist polemics have played a critical role in conservative discourse by typically recycling the other side’s arguments to make them !t the needs of establishment conservatives and the Republican Party. According to this account, the Democratic Party swarms with fascists, while the Republican Party is fighting for equality and human rights. Widely acclaimed conservative antifascists include journalist Jonah Goldberg, radio talk show host and author Dennis Prager, and author, filmmaker, and commentator Dinesh D’Souza. Although none of these celebrities has more than a nodding acquaintance with their subject, they do provide their base with a steady supply of sound bites.
Exemplifying media conservative antifascism is Jonah Goldberg’s 2007 best-seller Liberal Fascism, which claims that the other national party has been historically linked to fascism. Goldberg, a nationally syndicated Republican columnist, focuses on the putative parallels between the rhetoric of Mussolini and Hitler and the proposals of 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. Because Hillary Clinton favored extensive social programs that resembled those advocated by interwar fascists, her platform supposedly revealed a connection between fascism and the Democratic Party.
Hillary’s references to a new “village” under government auspices was really just a throwback to Hitler’s Volksgemeinschaft, and the Democratic Party’s endorsement of af!rmative action programs for minorities and women is supposedly the modern equivalent of Hitler’s exclusion of Jews from German public life under the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.1 The reproduction at the end of his book of the 1920 Nazi Party Platform in translation is intended to point out that the Democratic Party, even before Barack Obama arrived on the national scene, was on its way to replicating the politics of the Third Reich.
Goldberg offers this antifascist principle that government should follow: “The role of the state should be limited, and its meddling should be seen as an exception.”2 Although there is nothing wrong with this maxim in theory, the devil, of course, is in the details. How exactly do we decide what is meddling and what is a proper form of state intervention? In Goldberg’s case this question is a no-brainer. Every social and anti-discriminatory program passed before 2007 (when his book was published) was !ne, providing both parties signed off on it. Accordingly, Goldberg disapproved of presidential candidate Rand Paul questioning the existence of a Department of Education or the public accommodations provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Yet Goldberg also has a problem with far more moderate steps undertaken by Democrats Woodrow Wilson and FDR to erect a modern welfare state.3 Goldberg’s work seems to have served as a blueprint for other Republicans
who make it their business to address the fascist problem. Republican talk show host Dennis Prager has produced commentaries on the fascist peril for his Prager University, which his website describes as “the world’s
leading conservative nonprofit that is focused on changing minds through the creative use of digital media.” Based on his sketch of the thinking of the neo-Hegelian Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile (1875–1944), Prager’s frequent guest Dinesh D’Souza opines that “fascists are socialists with a national identity.” He notes, “The Left has vastly expanded state control over the private sector,” and concludes that “fascism bears a deep kinship to the ideology of today’s Left.”4 The logic is that any thinker, regime, or movement that has advocated an expansion of the state exemplifies both fascism and “today’s Left.”
* An equally questionable attribution of fascism to one’s enemies on the Left can be found in Dennis Prager’s blanket statement: “if there is a real fascist threat to America, it comes from the left whose appetite for state power is essentially unlimited.”10 Were fascists the only past political actors who craved “state power”? If this were the case, all political leaders who displayed an appetite for unlimited power throughout history would have to be classified as fascists.
Equally questionable is the notion that governments become fascist when they reach a certain tipping point in their acquisition of power or in their appropriation of GNP from the private sector. Although we may agree that
giving the state unlimited power is detrimental to freedom, this is not the same as saying that to do so is to become fascist. The postwar Labour government in England nationalized industries on a scale that went beyond anything that was tried in fascist Italy between 1922 and 1943. Between 1945 and 1951 the Labour government of Clement Attlee nationalized one-fifth of the British economy, yet this did not mean that England by 1951 had become more of a fascist state than Italy was in 1930.11 In England, the growth of state power proceeded from leftist, egalitarian, and at least implicitly internationalist premises; in Fascist Italy, the state appealed to hierarchy and revolutionary nationalist principles as it claimed to speak for all Italians.
* “Joe Biden and the Democrats… Why do these people want to destroy the economy?” (May 15, 2023)
In school, Prager’s classmates were amused by his big mouth, but it never occurred to them that he was a good source for truth or morality. In the more than 50 years since his high school graduation, none of them, to the best of my knowledge, have changed their minds on this score.
* “The greatest of all freedoms, that of speech, is disappearing.” (April 4, 2023)
“Our justice department, about half of our judges and our security agencies are well on their way to becoming what the Soviet ministry of justice, Soviet security agencies and Soviet judges were: tools of the ruling party.” (April 4, 2023)
* April 4, 2023, Dennis Prager published a column titled, “Could It Happen Here? It Is Happening Here.”
A nationally syndicated radio host telling his listeners they lived in a country increasingly like Nazi Germany is not a good way of creating an appropriate level of safety in listeners. Around 1997, I realized that listening to Prager consistently filled me with rage even though I largely agreed with him and even though he was ostensibly all about promoting happiness and goodness. The man pours poison into the American soul. Enraging people is a great way of getting listeners but it makes them less happy and less effective in life. Outside of a few murder zones, life in the United States for Prager listeners is safe and free (compared to other countries on this earth). Inculcating gratitude might be a wiser path for a man intent on doing good. There are situations in life where rage is more adaptive than gratitude, such as when you are fighting for your life in a dark alley, but they are few and far between.
By claiming he sees American on the road to Nazi Germany, Dennis Prager places himself at the very center of things. He feels confident that “there is nothing more pressing to consider” than his ideas.
* “Rampant evil is what the Left has engaged in…” (April 3, 2023)
* “The USA Today is a rag sheet on the level of Pravda.” (April 3, 2023)
It’s not just a flawed publication with some mistaken op-eds, it is Pravda!
* “If you support the [March 2023 Trump] indictment, you are not on the side of truth or of concern for America.” (April 3, 2023)
Prager must have learned early in life how to use the power of drama to command attention. I wonder who he emulated?
* “We are becoming like the Soviet Union.” (April 4, 2023)
* “We sold our soul in the early 20th Century when we said the government should educate our children.” (April 4, 2023)
* Jan. 31, 2023, he wrote: “LGBTQ+ ‘Pride’ Is Totalitarian”
Gay pride parades are another Auschwitz!
* April 14, 2023, Dennis Prager said: “Did you see the Irish prime minister’s dog start barking at [Joe Biden]? Remarkable. I’m not using this as proof that the dog knows what I know — that this is the scummiest human being to be president of the United States in our history, but dogs are sensitive to human meanness.”
* Jan. 3, 2023, Dennis wrote: “America Has Become the Greatest Exporter of Destructive Ideas”
* Nov. 3, 2022, Dennis wrote: “Young Americans Voted to Ruin Their Lives”
* July 26, 2022, he wrote: “Why My Friends and I Had More Wisdom When We Were 12 Than College Students and Faculty Have Today”
* Feb. 22, 2022, Dennis wrote: “Is Canada Becoming North America’s Cuba?”
* Feb. 15, 2022, Dennis wrote: “COVID-19 and the Failure of America’s Major Religions”
* Nov. 30, 2021, Dennis wrote: “A Brief Guide to Leftist Destruction”
* Oct. 19, 2021, Dennis wrote: “The Left is Evil — and Liberals Keep Voting for Them”
Back to the Gurometer:
7. Revolutionary theories: If galaxy-brainedness refers to a breadth of knowledge, an ability to forge connections between disparate topics, then their professed development of revolutionary theories displays the depth of their knowledge. Connected with their narcissism and worthiness of being a guru, they are greatly attracted to claiming that they have developed game-changing and paradigm-shifting intellectual products. This is, in a sense, the credentials and the resume of a guru. Just as the public were keen to seek out Albert Einstein’s opinions on all matter of topics unconnected with physics, they also find it quite natural that one who has accomplished something great in one area, should be qualified to offer advice on all matter of topics. Of course, genuinely revolutionary theories such as general relativity are few and far between, and therefore the guru is compelled to manufacture their revolutionary theories.
7. Revolutionary Theories (Content)
Have a revolutionary theory: Nobel worthy
Able to revolutionize disciplines
I’d rate Prager a 4 out of 5.
* Around 1995 at Stephen S. Wise temple, I remember telling Dennis Prager that I wished his Jewish teachings had more influence on Jewish life. He replied that his thought wouldn’t be recognized for a millennia.
* Nov. 7, 2022, Dennis said: “I got a question from a young person on my Fireside Chat — how do I know what to trust? How do I know what’s true? I said, those who wish to censor others are usually lying. If you are telling the truth, you are OK with other people speaking their minds.”
That sounds great, but is there strong evidence for this? Many people on the left want to censor “misinformation” about vaccines. Where is the evidence that they are lying? If you are a scientist who has devoted his life to virology and you believe you are telling the truth about the efficacy Covid vaccines, why would you be unbothered by people without expertise denigrating vaccines to millions of people? Many on the left want to censor Nazi and ISIS propaganda because they claim it is dangerous. Many on the left want to censor racial slurs because they believe it leads to bad actions. Where is the evidence that they are lying? Prager’s point sounds profound, but it falls apart upon examination.
* On his Nov. 14, 2022 Youtube show with Julie Hartman, Dennis said: "I'm not looking for great lines to make a better living and get a bigger audience. I'm looking for important points to touch people's lives."
Like Deepok Chopra, Dave Rubin, and Gwyneth Paltrow, Prager undoubtedly touches lives. He says many things that sound profound. In the final analysis, though, many of his crowd-pleasing points are epistemic sabotage.
Back to the Gurometer:
8. Pseudo-profound bullshit: At the outset we described a guru who engages in pseudo-profound bullshit (PPB). This is their core business, their stock-in-trade. They are most comfortable in the role of armchair opinionator, the wise man (or woman, but usually man) graciously offering their advice to eager seekers of wisdom. Most of the other techniques and maneuvers discussed here function primarily to support and justify this most-favoured activity. Whilst the ‘revolutionary theories’ and ‘galaxy brainness’ describe the content of their discourse, PPB describes the form of their discourse. It is typified by language that is cognitively easy to process, superficially appears to be something profound, but upon analysis turns out to be trite, meaningless, contradictory, or tautological.
The ‘classic’ examples of PPB are best exemplified by Deepak Chopra, who said things such as
“There are no extra pieces in the universe. Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit itself into the big jigsaw puzzle.”
“To think is to practice brain chemistry.”
“It is the nature of babies to be in bliss.”
All of which are easily detected by most people to be cases of PPB, partly due to their strong resemblance to ‘inspirational quote’ memes, in being blandly positive messages of saccharine self-affirmation. However, it is the logical and semantic structure, not the content, that is the core property of PPB. Modern secular gurus do not necessarily provide self-help (although some, like Jordan Peterson certainly do), and their PPB, liberally peppered with abstract and abstruse references (see galaxy-brainedness above) can be on any literally any secular (scientific, health, political, social, etc) topic…
8. Pseudo-profound Bullshit (Form – Verbal agility)
Able to wax lyrical using metaphorical language
Unnecessary references to literature/complex theories/science
Strategic Ambiguity, Irony & obfuscation
July 18, 2023, Browne said: “Pseudo-profound bullshit is about the language, the syntactic structure, the buzz words, the jargon, stringing together words and sentences that give the appearance of saying something meaningful.”
Kavanagh: “Jordan Peterson was talking to Bret Weinstein about the possibility that hospitals harm more people than they heal because of super bugs and medical mistreatments. Jordan says, now that’s just a guess, it could easily be wrong, but it could also not be wrong. Bret took a pause and said, the fact that it is even plausible is a stunning fact. That is taking the language of recognizing profundity but what you’ve just issued is uninformed bullshit.”
“Gurus have high levels of verbal fluency. They’re able to speak in a stream of consciousness often without the usual verbal tics that inhabit normal human speech. It is often their use of metaphorical language that marks them. They replace argument with a metaphor. They just say, it’s like and they give a metaphor. They haven’t demonstrated that the argument is valid.”
Browne: “A facility with language. They are well-educated people, loquacious, and like all of us, use the form of language as an indicator.”
Kavanagh: “It’s not just functional.”
Browne: “It’s performative. If you are using technical…academic language, this is taken as signifiers that something meaningful is said… Saying something that is straight forward in a complicated way that encourages people to think that this is profound.”
I’d rate Prager a 3 out of 5. On the positive side, he rarely uses pretentious language. He avoids jargon. He doesn’t try to sound like an academic. He doesn’t invoke complicated formulae. He doesn’t make needless references to literature or science or complicated theories. When he seeks to convey profundity, he does it in clear simple terms.
Here are some examples of Prager getting ahead of his skis:
* “Nothing in the history of the human race has caused more evil than the belief in the importance of blood.” (Think a Second Time, 1996)
* “Children do not assuage our existential loneliness, a spouse does.” (Feb. 5, 2014)
* American values have “universal applicability” and are “eminently exportable.” (Nov. 1, 2005)
An evolutionist such as myself would see American values or Japanese values or Russian values as the product of particular people surviving in a particular environment.
* “Mr. Obama is by far the most left-wing person to ever hold the office of the American presidency…” (May 10, 2012)
* “Every child is a blank slate.” (Mar. 25, 2014)
Dennis Prager advocates the "proposition nation" (a country united by shared beliefs) as well as the "proposition family" (parents and children united by shared beliefs). He wrote: "As a father, my purpose is not to pass on my seed, but to pass on my values."
Prager doesn't believe the family is a big deal when compared to the importance of the individual. In a 2005 lecture on Deut. 24:5, Dennis said: “Traditional life in Europe became you are defined by your family but that’s not the way it ought to be. You are defined by you, not by your family. People think family is a big deal. It’s not. It’s a big deal, who are you?”
Prager's view that we are primarily individuals rather than members of families is a modern liberal perspective. In his 2018 book, The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities, John J. Mearsheimer wrote:
My view is that we are profoundly social beings from the start to the finish of our lives and that individualism is of secondary importance… Liberalism downplays the social nature of human beings to the point of almost ignoring it, instead treating people largely as atomistic actors… Political liberalism… is an ideology that is individualistic at its core and assigns great importance to the concept of inalienable rights. This concern for rights is the basis of its universalism—everyone on the planet has the same inherent set of rights—and this is what motivates liberal states to pursue ambitious foreign policies. The public and scholarly discourse about liberalism since World War II has placed enormous emphasis on what are commonly called human rights. This is true all around the world, not just in the West. “Human rights,” Samuel Moyn notes, “have come to define the most elevated aspirations of both social movements and political entities—state and interstate. They evoke hope and provoke action.”
[Humans] do not operate as lone wolves but are born into social groups or societies that shape their identities well before they can assert their individualism. Moreover, individuals usually develop strong attachments to their group and are sometimes willing to make great sacrifices for their fellow members. Humans are often said to be tribal at their core. The main reason for our social nature is that the best way for a person to survive is to be embedded in a society and to cooperate with fellow members rather than act alone… Despite its elevated ranking, reason is the least important of the three ways we determine our preferences. It certainly is less important than socialization. The main reason socialization matters so much is that humans have a long childhood in which they are protected and nurtured by their families and the surrounding society, and meanwhile exposed to intense socialization. At the same time, they are only beginning to develop their critical faculties, so they are not equipped to think for themselves. By the time an individual reaches the point where his reasoning skills are well developed, his family and society have already imposed an enormous value infusion on him. Moreover, that individual is born with innate sentiments that also strongly influence how he thinks about the world around him. All of this means that people have limited choice in formulating a moral code, because so much of their thinking about right and wrong comes from inborn attitudes and socialization.
If Mearsheimer is right, and I believe he is, then Dennis Prager is just another guru spouting pseudo-profound nonsense.
James Kirkpatrick argued: "Nor can any real family hold together on the ground of ideology. We love our parents and our children because they are ours—not because we agree with their view of the Constitution."
So what best predicts a child's education attainment (and with it future income and family stability)? Blood or home? As the Times of London reported: "NATURE not nurture is the main determinant of how well children perform at school and university…"
* “I was living in the very country [United States] that had best figured out how to make a better world.” (April 18, 2012)
* “I hate bullies. Always did. That’s why I hate big government — it’s the ultimate bully.” (Mar. 18, 2011)
* July 6, 2022, Dennis said: “I don’t know what I have learned morally that I didn’t know in fifth grade. I can’t think of a single moral insight.”
* In a 1995 lecture on Exodus 5, Dennis Prager said: “The word for servant and the word for slave is the same [in the Torah], which is probably why to this day that Jews don’t like to be servants because they think it is slavery. Did you ever meet a Jewish waiter? Jews don’t wait. That and the Chosen People notion are the reasons why Jews don’t want to serve anybody.”
* “The reason to be Jewish is to take Torah to the world.” (2010)
* “I have always identified Judaism with goodness, the thing that I most value in this world. I don’t remember meeting cruel religious Jews.” (2003)
* “Modern Muslims have a unique dilemma because the Islamic world today is a net moral deficit.” (December of 2016)
* “The American Protestant produced the greatest society ever produced by any religious group.” (Jan. 16, 2014)
* “It is our task to figure out what is eternal [in Torah] without just choosing what we are comfortable with.” (Lecture on Leviticus 14)
* “I believe the oral law [Mishna] developed the most humane way of killing an animal devised in history.” (Oct. 28, 2010)
* “The serious Jew meets four criteria:
1. This Jew is committed to each of Judaism’s three components: God, Torah, and Israel.
2. This Jew attempts to implement the higher ideals of each of these components.
3. Whatever Jewish laws this Jew does or does not observe is the product of struggle.
4. This Jew is constantly growing in each of these areas.” (Summer 1988 edition of Prager’s journal Ultimate Issues)
* Mar. 17, 2014: “Tribalism is racism. Tribalism is a curse for modernity.”
* Jan. 2, 2014: “I don’t like any ethnic neighborhood. I don’t think it’s the American ideal.”
* Feb. 13, 2014: “If you see another person, you should see another one of God’s children [first]. You shouldn’t see a white or a black.”
“This notion about we want to preserve the culture. That’s a very dangerous idea that race and culture are identical. Race is race and culture is culture. Either we believe we are all God’s children and character matters infinitely more than skin color or we don’t.”
* “Racism — the belief that people of a certain skin color are inherently different (and inferior or superior) — is not only evil; it is moronic.” (Mar. 11, 2014)
* “To divide people by pigmentation, genitals and money is wrong. We should divide people only by good and bad.” (Vol. 9, No. 2 of Ultimate Issues in 1993)
* “Graduate school was a tough time for me. Everything I believed to be true and good overturned. I had only pessimism for my country.” (Mar. 2, 2006)
* “After visits to about a dozen African countries, I came to realize that the spread of Christianity holds the best hope for that sad continent.” (Feb. 8, 2011)
Back to the Gurometer:
9. Conspiracy mongering: To gain real insights, real special knowledge that nobody else can see – that’s hard work. For normal people, even a lifetime of study and research only provides scant few original intellectual contributions. That is not nearly enough for a guru, who needs a steady supply of fresh, original content to supply to their followers and justify their status. To be a guru, they must set themselves up, not only as uniquely insightful, but above and apart from orthodoxies, including established political or ideological groups. Thus, they are encouraged to go beyond standard heterodoxy, contrarianism and scepticism, into the realm of conspiratorial ideation. This is because the expert consensus – though naturally not infallible – but definition, tends to supply the most reasonable and evidence-based view, based on current information. The guru is in the position of needing to provide a strongly contrasting perspective, and then to supply the argumentation that backs up their bold claims in a compelling way. This leads them inexorably down the path of bespoke conspiracy mongering, with an alternative view of events that authoritative sources either can’t or won’t tell you about. Conspiracy theories require a ‘suppressive network’ to explain away the lack of evidential support, and why almost nobody else is willing or able to accept their theories. Gurus are subject to the same dilemma, and will often need recourse to some conspiracy-like As with conspiracy theories, their reasoning will be intricate but subject to massive reaches, and they will disregard simpler or more conventional alternative explanations.
9. Conspiracy Mongering
Use of Disclaimers
Elaborate theories to explain mundane events
Secret coordination of powerful & malevolent groups and institutions
Promotion of conspiracy theorists with valuable insights that are dismissed unfairly
The world is targeting them and their friends
I’d rate Prager a 5 out of 5.
Here are some examples of Prager’s conspiracy-mongering:
* On the June 19, 2023 Dennis and Julie Youtube show, Dennis said: “For the first time in my life, I strongly entertain doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald was the only shooter of John F. Kennedy. Now I’m not sure there was one shooter and I’m not sure it was [Lee Harvey Oswald]. It’s a bad sign if a guy like me is starting to contest it, but the amount of information that the Warren Commission did not allow to be public and the government still doesn’t, why would you hide any information about the Kennedy assassination?”
So what revelations have appeared recently that substantiate his new views? None.
Julie Hartman (born circa 1999): “Let me tell you one eerie thing that I remember. The Zapruder film is the only film of the assassination.”
No, it is not the only film of the assassination. According to Wikipedia: “Zapruder was one of at least 32 people in Dealey Plaza known to have made film or still photographs at or around the time of the shooting… Although it is not the only film of the shooting…”
Vincent Bugliosi wrote in his 2007 book, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy:
Contrary to popular belief, Zapruder was not the only one to capture the assassination on film. Three other amateur films (by Marie Muchmore, Orville Nix, and Charles Bronson) did, but they are not nearly as valuable as the Zapruder film. All three were taken on the opposite side of the street from where Zapruder saw the right side of the president’s head open up, and whereas Zapruder was only 75 or so feet away from the president at the time of the fatal head shot, Bronson was around 240 feet away, Nix around 215 feet, and Muchmore around 140 feet. 7 Moreover, the frame of the Bronson film that corresponds to the shot to the head is so unclear that nothing taking place can be identified, and the Muchmore frames corresponding to the head shot are partially obstructed by Dealey Plaza spectators. Only the Nix frames capture the fatal shot and snap of the head to the rear, though not with the clarity of the Zapruder film. Also, Nix did not shoot any film around the time of the first two shots.
Julie: “There’s a first shot and President Kennedy leans forward and clutches his neck.”
Julie: “The second shot, which supposedly came from behind, which was supposedly shot by Lee Harvey Oswald from the sixth floor of the Book Depository, in the Zapruder film, he [JFK] lunges backwards, not forwards. If he were shot in the head from behind, he would have fallen forwards.”
The second shot did not hit JFK in the head. It went through his back and came out his throat. The third shot was the deadly head shot.
I blogged about the movement of Kennedy after the third shot July 9, 2011:
On page 315 of his 1993 book Case Closed, author Gerald Posner writes: “But if the President was struck in the head by a bullet fired from the rear, then why does he jerk so violently backward on the Zapruder film, which recorded the assassination? To most lay people, the rapid backward movement at the moment of the head shot means the President was struck from the front.”
When Itek Optical Systems did a computer enhancement of the Zapruder film for a CBS documentary, it discovered that when the bullet (the final of the three fired by Lee Harvey Oswald) hit JFK, he first jerked forward 2.3 inches and then began his movement backward.
So why did the president jerk backwards when hit in the back of the head by a bullet fired from behind him? The bullet destroyed the President’s cortex. That caused a neuromuscular spasm. That sent neurologic impulses from the brain down the spine to every muscle in the body. “The body then stiffens,” said Dr. John Latimer, “With the strongest muscles predominating. These are the muscles of the back and neck.”
Dennis: “The Warren Commission never saw the autopsy pictures.”
That’s true. The Warren Commission was composed of human beings and they made some bad decisions, such as that one.
[Warren Commission attorney] David Belin… cited… the lack of direct access to parts of the record he and other assistant counsels considered vital, particularly the autopsy photographs and X-rays of President Kennedy’s body. Nevertheless, Belin, who in the days following the assassination felt it probable that there was a conspiracy, came to believe, in the course of his work, that Oswald alone killed both the president and Officer Tippit, and that there was no conspiracy.
Is Dennis Prager Conservative Media’s Biggest Covid Jackass?
It's a lofty title, but his recent argument that the unvaccinated are the biggest American pariahs since slavery puts him in the running.
…Prager claimed last year that the disease is “not a killer” while continually drawing and erasing and re-drawing the line for when the U.S. should take real action to combat it. He even called the lockdown “the greatest mistake in the history of humanity.” He’s since touted a number of unproven therapeutics, including the “Zelenko Protocol,” a treatment plan developed by conspiracy theorist doctor and Jan. 6 rally attendee Vladimir Zelenko.
Prager is unvaccinated, of course, and during a recent even for Awaken Church felt compelled to play a game of Who’s the Biggest Pariah between the unvaccinated and “the gays … during the AIDS crisis.” It isn’t hard to guess who Prager thinks is more oppressed. “Were people with AIDS banned from travel? Were they banned from restaurants? Were they fired from their jobs? Were they deprived of a way of feeding their family?” he asked, neglecting to mention that anyone who is unvaccinated could have retained these things if they’d elected to take a live-saving shot, whereas people with AIDS were shamed and left to die in huge numbers by people who didn’t care about the disease because they didn’t care about the population it was killing.
Why stop with AIDS, though? Prager is well-versed in the history of humanity, remember?
“The unvaccinated are the most hated group since slavery,” he added.
It’s worth noting here that Prager comparing his oppression to that of the slaves was in service of his point about how the left “has a monopoly on victimhood.”
…Some of Prager’s conservative radio brethren learned this the hard way. Five such hosts, at least who bashed the vaccine have died from complications stemming from Covid. Nashville radio host Phil Valentine posted a statement in July saying that he “regrets not being more vehemently ‘Pro-Vaccine'” before dying less than a month later…
“I have engaged with strangers, constantly hugging them, taking photos with them knowing that I was making myself very susceptible to getting covid,” the 73-year-old said on his radio show. “Which is — indeed, as bizarre as it sounded — what I wanted, in the hope I would achieve natural immunity and be taken care of by therapeutics.”
…Who isn’t lying to you? Prager, of course. He knows what he’s talking about because he’s done “a lot of homework” on Covid — unlike the scientific and medical communities, which want to kill you … or something … for some reason.
Oct. 5, 2020, Dennis said: "I take zinc every day and I take hydroxychloroquine every week. The fact that the people feel intimidated is only because we have communists running medicine, just like we have running everything else. I never used this term before. I can't — You prefer leftists? I'll use leftists. They shut you up. Free speech has never existed in anything that the left controls. Never. Whether it's the Soviet Union, China, Eastern Europe under communism, or the universities today in America."
Aug. 24, 2021, Dennis said: "Why should doctors be any better than lawyers, or professors, or any other group that has disgraced itself in American life? There's no reason. Doctors have the same degree of wisdom as gender studies professors. The issue isn't medical knowledge. The issue is wisdom and courage. There are plenty of doctors who have it. Read about The Great Barrington Declaration….Your doctor knows nothing about COVID, nothing. All they know is how the virus works, that's all they know. It is an amazing thing that listening to this show, of a non-doctor, you have learned more about COVID — more about masks — than your doctor probably knows. Not only is it not a boast, it is totally meant to be an attack on the medical profession. I should not know 10 times more than your doctor about all of the issues with therapeutics. And if your doctor thinks ivermectin is dangerous, change your doctor. And I mean it. Might be a nice guy — go golfing with him, or her — but check out another doctor."
Sep. 29, 2021, Dennis said: "Many doctors have killed patients because of their ignorance, obstinance, and arrogance. It is not odd that the Talmud — the second holiest work in Judaism — stated 2,000 years ago that the best doctors go to hell. Doctors, even when they could do nothing 2,000 years ago, were known for their arrogance. There are some wonderful doctors in America — some, just for the record. Never said this in my life, my eyes have been opened in the darkness of the last two years. And they have been dark. Why haven't all Americans' eyes been opened? Like to teachers, and teachers unions, and colleges. Every student going back to college has to have a vaccine? Despite the fact that their age group is virtually untouched by this — untouched, I mean no fatalities. In fact, the more young people that get COVID the better it is for them and society, they have natural immunity. But your college doesn't accept natural immunity."
Jan. 10, 2022, Dennis said: "Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whom I had on the show with the publication of his book on Dr. Fauci, has gone from being regarded as a kook to being regarded as a very serious, very courageous man. That's very big. In a sense, the left has lost. They've lost half this country that believed them on these matters just two years ago. "
Back to the Gurometer:
10. Profiteering: Gurus perhaps desire respect and admiration above all else, but they also tend to feel that more worldly and tangible recognition of their talents is appropriate. Accordingly, gurus may be surprisingly willing to undertake activities such as shilling health supplements, that would otherwise be a little surprising in an intellectual of their calibre. Note that it is natural and reasonable for any intellectual worker or content creator to be compensated for their effort. Thus, book royalties, YouTube advertising royalties, or the insertion of standard advertising in a podcast does not usually or necessarily indicate grifting. However, gurus tend to go somewhat further in an effort to monetise their following, while avoiding the appearance of such – which would detract from their guru status. A recent example was the actions of London Real, a venue for gurus such as JP Sears or David Icke, who constructed an elaborate censorship justification for gathering over 1 million dollars from followers, to move their content from YouTube to a dedicated platform, from which they could then further monetize their content at a much higher rate.
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Kavanagh said July 18, 2023: “A willingness to sell products and services that would otherwise be surprising for public intellectuals. You see them willing to lend their name to products. Franchising.”
Browne: “Steven Pinker minting an NFT of his ideas… Or some of these anti-vaxxers selling extraordinarily expensive bespoke treatment that don’t work.”
Kavanagh: “Franchising is a cause for concern… If your thing is that you are this moral-minded public intellectual and yet you’ll just lend your name to business school courses and offer some random input on the course but it is sold in your name…”
Browne: “It is the mismatch. If you run a fast food joint, then franchising is not a red flag, but if you’re nominally a public intellectual who’s interested in philosophy, then doing those things is a mismatch. That’s a theme of the Gurometer in general. These are people who present themselves as special public intellectuals with the best of motives who want nothing but to help society… The Gurometer presents evidence that they are not doing that.”
I’d rate Prager a 2 out of 5 on profiteering. With regard to shilling supplements, Prager is a 5 out of 5, but that may be due to the nature of right-wing talk radio.
* On his Youtube show with Julie Hartman Nov. 21, 2022: Dennis said: "I am so committed to always telling the truth to the best of my human ability, when I receive scripts from sponsors, if there is something in there that isn't true, and there almost always is, I omit it."
Six minutes later, he read this ad: "Focus & Recall is not a pill. It is a patent-pending gell with ultra-absorption of science-backed ingredients to help you immediately sharpen focus, concentrate longer and strengthen recall. Super charge your brain and see the difference. Go to healthycell.com. Use the limited time code Prager for 20% off your first order, risk free."
Eighteen minutes later, Julie read an ad for Lear Capital, a major sponsor of the Dennis Prager show. “We’ve all got to find a way to protect our finances in retirement. One way to do this is to invest in gold. You should consider adding Lear Capital to your retirement as we are all looking for stable investments. Did you know that you can add real gold and silver into your 401K and IRA? …What I love most about Lear Capital is that they are an American-owned company proud to do business with Americans that share our conservative values.”
July 25, 2023, the Washington Post reported:
How right-wing news powers the ‘gold IRA’ industry
Ads for gold coins have become a mainstay on Fox News, Newsmax and other conservative outlets, even as regulators have accused some companies of defrauding elderly clients.
Dedicated viewers of Fox News are likely familiar with Lear Capital, a Los Angeles company that sells gold and silver coins. In recent years, the company’s ads have been a constant presence on Fox airwaves, warning viewers to protect their retirement savings from a looming “pension crisis” and “dollar collapse.”
One such ad caught the attention of Terry White, a disabled retiree from New York. In 2018, White invested $174,000 in the coins, according to a lawsuit by the New York attorney general — only to later learn that Lear charged a 33 percent commission.
Over several transactions, White, 70, lost nearly $80,000, putting an “enormous strain” on his finances, said his wife, Jeanne, who blames Fox for their predicament: “They’re negligent,” she said. A regretful White said he thought Fox “wouldn’t take a commercial like that unless it was legitimate.”
While the legitimacy of the gold retirement investment industry is the subject of numerous lawsuits — including allegations of fraud by federal and state regulators against Lear and other companies — its advertising has become a mainstay of right-wing media. The industry spends millions of dollars a year to reach viewers of Fox, Newsmax and other conservative outlets, according to a Washington Post analysis of ad data and financial records, as well as interviews with industry insiders. Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani have promoted the coins, while ads for Lear’s competitors have appeared on a podcast hosted by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Newsmax broadcasts of former president Donald Trump’s political rallies.
An analysis by The Post of political newsletters, social media, podcasts and a national database of television ads collected by the company AdImpact found that pitches to invest in gold coins are a daily presence in media that caters to a right-wing audience and often echo conservative talking points about looming economic and societal collapse. The Post found no similar ads for gold retirement investments in mainstream or left-wing media sources in the databases…
Fox is a logical place for Lear to advertise because “purchasing physical assets appeals to persons who have concerns regarding … topics often discussed on that platform,” Williams said. She added: “U. S. monetary policy is inseparable from U.S. political dynamics and themes.”
For years, gold IRA industry advertising has echoed accusations against Democratic politicians commonly found in news segments on conservative outlets. The ads tout the coins as a safe haven from economic uncertainty and social upheaval…
With the exclusive coins, Millman said, “They’re simply torching money.”
“No one in their right mind would pay the premiums that these guys are charging,” added Ken Lewis, CEO of online coin dealer Apmex, who reviewed several customer invoices at The Post’s request.
The ads explain none of that. Instead, they focus on news events, such as a spate of recent bank failures and “everything that’s happening in the economy right now … with all the talk of inflation,” Rotunda said.
For example, an email ad for Augusta, sent to a Newsmax mailing list last July, warned that “The Biden administration’s economic policies are ‘declaring war’ on retirement savers.” In December, American Hartford Gold Group sent an email ad with the subject line: “Bill O’Reilly Warns: Retirement Funds at Risk From a Biden Recession.”
Another ad for Hartford sent to the Newsmax mailing list in March warned of “Biden and Yellen’s Secret Plan to Steal your Hard-Earned Money and Bail Out Their Wall Street Buddies.”
…Two media dealmakers who have been involved in negotiations between conservative media figures and the gold IRA industry said revenue from the companies can amount to as much as 10 percent of total earnings for some personalities.
…Lear recently exited bankruptcy reorganization after resolving investigations from dozens of states.
So what type of people follow gurus such as Dennis Prager and Jordan Peterson? Anthropologist Chris Kavanagh from the podcast Decoding the Gurus said on his May 15, 2023 Patreon Hangout: “The type of things that would make anyone vulnerable to joining any kind of group would be people dealing with something difficult in their own lives, people who feel that something is missing. Those are risk factors. The message that guru types give you is that they are helping you see something special about the world that other people can’t and that you have these unique characteristics that make you willing to listen to the message and to look deeper. Having low self-esteem, dealing with traumas, it makes you more susceptible. I was watching this Matthew McConaughey stuff. It was Tony Robbins type self-help. You see them preying on people’s insecurities and giving them this false allure of community. Gurus are doing that for people who think they’re intellectual. It’s a risk factor if you wanted to go to university or you think you aren’t recognized, holding a grudge against the elites looking down at people seems to be common. If you are successful but you feel a sense of dissatisfaction, like the people in Fight Club, and you want something more… People like Jordan Peterson are telling people here’s the way to lead your life, I can make you feel better. It’s the same risk factors that would make you likely to fall prey to self-help cults or multi-level marketing with perhaps a more intellectual or political bent.”
Matthew Browne said April 3, 2023 on the Decoding patreon: “You can’t really judge the moral worth or goodness of a person. In extreme cases, maybe, but a lot of the time, people are doing really stupid and harmful things, but according to their lights, it’s good. Opran Winfrey, by having episodes on the Satanic panic, contributed to a cultural moment in the United States that was very bad, contributing to conspiratorial, pseudo-religious paranoia.”
“Joe Rogan is fundamentally not good at figuring out what is true. Oprah, the same thing.”
Kavanagh: “There are few examples where [a public figure] was conspiratorial or promoting pseudo-science and developed better epistemics. The rare examples just go to another extreme.”
Browne: “It’s a one-way street. You see people becoming conspiracists but you don’t see them coming back.”
Given his lousy epistemics and ridiculous proclamations, where does Dennis Prager get his confidence from? And to whom might he be compared?
[E]gomania provides confidence and confidence is essential to charisma… Indeed, much of what we are taught as the high intellectual history of the human race is based more on the magnetism and impenetrable self-assurance of thinkers than on minor issues like whether they were right or not. Freud is a perfect example, a charlatan who befuddled two generations via his implacable self-esteem. Marx was similar, and Ayn Rand was cut from the same cloth…
Over the last 150 years, secular Jewish intellectuals have repeatedly reproduced the traditional brilliant rabbi-student relationship in launching powerful cults. Among the more recent examples have been Ayn Rand (see Murray N. Rothbard’s hilarious 1972 article “The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult”), Susan Sontag (see Terry Castle’s hilarious 2005 article “Desperately Seeking Susan”), and Leo Strauss (see the unintentionally hilarious 2003 article “What Leo Strauss Was Up To” by two true believers, William Kristol and Steven Lenzer).
Which Guru Does Dennis Prager Most Resemble?
I'm thinking of the filmmaker Adam Curtis. The website LittleWhiteLies.com published Oct. 27, 2016:
Curtis is a big-picture filmmaker, driven by grand ambition. He embraces obscure intellectual concepts over banal storytelling. He likes to name the unnamable. He searches for patterns rather than conventional revelations.
He offers the impression that he is reporting from the other side of the looking glass, a privileged position where the eccentric shifts of global power can be viewed with chilling clarity. Yet the way he presents his arguments suggests that he trades on the ignorance of his audience. He knows that as long as he frames himself in a position of authority, he can say anything he likes and we’ll swallow it whole.
But how does he do this? It’s a question of tone. Curtis believes that declaiming something with conviction imbues it with the essence of truth. His work is the cinematic embodiment of the Milgram experiment, in which subjects continue to electrocute unseen victims at the behest of a lab-coated authority figure. His wall-to-wall voiceover narration is rife with sweeping statements which act as the teetering tentpoles of his thesis.
He seldom resorts to qualification – for him (or, perhaps, for the purpose of his films), history is a finite continuum where events either happened or they didn’t. There is no dual perspective. Plus, it would be dramatically counterproductive to introduce qualification. He often talks about “the people” and “everyone” and “politicians” and “bankers”.
The Paranoid Style in Adam Curtis
Curtis reduces the viewer to a kind of flustered traffic cop, constantly yelling, “Wait!” His narration constantly leaps from a minor detail to a wide claim that sweeps everything off the table. The effect is a bit like being buttonholed by a child who begs to skip homework by presenting an impromptu lecture…
Flat-fee conspiracists like Curtis are obsessed with elites and politicians and “the system,” like kids under the covers overhearing grown folks talking, reducing complex relations to Star Wars set pieces…
For Curtis, all human behavior becomes a monochromatic cloud of intention that can be tracked like a flight. Distinct forces play against distinct forces without the complications of chance or the constraint of specific details. One scientific blunder becomes the failure of science itself. One overeager journalist becomes the field itself. Eras and cohorts and ideas are smooth circles, rounded off by the totalizing buff of power’s sneaky omnipotence.
On September 9th, 2015, shortly after he arrived at Ora.TV, he published a video in which he committed himself to 10 ethical ground rules that would inform the spirit of open debate and inquiry that he hoped to encourage…
Revisiting it in 2022 is strange. I close the tab and switch to Rubin’s Twitter feed. His most recent tweet describes California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, as a “genuine psychopath” and a “soulless evil cartoon villain.” Scrolling down, I discover that Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell is “a complete fucking idiot,” that Noam Chomsky is “a truly disgusting human being,” and that Anthony Fauci is “evil incarnate.” In a reply to an anti-Zionist tweet from Mia Khalifa, the former porn star he defended from “haters” in 2015, Rubin remarks: “you’ve had too many loads blown on your face.”
…we find Rubin announcing that “vaccines work” is a lie circulated by “the Dems and media.” On his show, meanwhile, Rubin has taken to declaring that the war in Ukraine is “part of The Great Reset,” that Dinesh D’Souza’s dismal election conspiracy film 2000 Mules is “very compelling,” and that “It is not a giant leap, after two years of demonizing certain people who want a medical choice [not to get the COVID vaccine], … to compare them to the Jews before the Holocaust.”
A historical personality similar to Prager in some ways would be the five star U.S. Admiral William Halsey. Roland Smoot called him “a complete and utter clown… but if he said, ‘Let’s go to hell together,’ you’d go to hell with him.”
All gurus are charismatic. According to the Oxford dictionary, charisma means “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.”
I’d rate Prager a 5 out of 5.
Regarding Robin DeAngelo, Chris Kavanagh said: “Not for us, she didn’t, but she did for the audience. I find her dislikable. I find Scott Adams dislikable but I give him a charisma score. Donald Trump is charismatic.”
Browne: “She knows how to handle a crowd.”
Another characteristic of gurus in which Prager would rank 5 out of 5 is neologisms, meaning “a newly coined word or expression.”
Another characteristic of gurus is strategic disclaimers. I’d rate Prager 5 out of 5.
With regard to rebranding other people’s theories as his own, I’d rate Prager a 1 out of 5.
With regard to admitting error, I’d rate Prager a 2 out of 5 (the higher the score, the less likely the guru is to admit error).
On a Patreon video called “The Confluence of the Gurosphere” released June 16, 2023, Chris Kavanagh said to Matt Browne: “I wanted to discuss with you… the…energies that cause the gurus to swirl together in ever-tightening cosmic spiral of shitness.”
Matt: “They become intertwined. They find each other and a network is formed. When we covered all of the gurus, we covered them as isolated gems interesting in their own right. They weren’t necessarily connected with each other. But then after covering them, and having identified them as fitting our Gurometer, they then inevitably seemed to find each other even with gurus with no apparent connection.”
Matt: “Two people perfectly suited to understand AI. I saw that Jordan Peterson and Jonathan Pageau also talked about AI and not surprisingly, discussed artificial intelligence in Biblical terms. What it means to create a god, agency, the genie, Elon Musk, virtue and technical knowledge.”
“This is the audience: ‘Great conversation. Really enjoyed the conversation from the angels and demons perspective. AI seems to be possibly connected to the anti-Christ. Praying for wisdom.'”
Chris: “Jonathan Pageau hints at his next thing — necromancers. What connects them is the narcissism, the belief that they have all these revolutionary insights. Jordan Hall enjoys that he can switch paradigms. He can run 70 to 90 paradigms at one time. He’ll say, if you want to talk about it in that kind of language, I can talk about it in terms of resurrections and grave yards, but also I can equally do… Your religious paradigms are just ten of his seventy.”
Matt: “Jordan Peterson tells James Lindsay that you can’t have science without the Logos. That it’s all based on Christianity.”
Chris: “One of [Jordan’s] big ideas is that science is fundamentally Christian. It relies on Christianity because Christianity has at its heart that there is a Truth in the universe and if you have that orientation, that allows you to investigate the natural world. And if you don’t have that, science can’t develop. Richard Dawkins and all of them don’t realize that at heart they are deeply religious people.”
“For James Lindsay, the feminist glaciology paper is central to his whole thing. It should be just a footnote, just an example that he sometimes returns to, but he now presents that as a turning point in his life. After reading it, he curled up in a ball unable to leave his room for three days because of the shock to the system that such a paper could be published in a prestigious scientific outlet. It’s a random geography journal, Progress in Human Geography. It’s got an impact factor of seven, which is good. I don’t even think that experience is true. I don’t know with people like him and Jordan. They create this mythos around things that happen to them. I think they genuinely do experience weird manic moments, but the way that they retell it, it becomes part of this hero’s journey. It’s not — I heard a Jordan Peterson talk and it annoyed me. It’s — I heard a Jordan Peterson talk and it awakened a fire in me that I needed to reveal the charlatan world. I don’t think the authors of the feminist glaciology paper are still talking about it as much as James has. He endlessly talks about how he knows all these literatures but he constantly focuses on this single paper.”
Matt: “If he has such a comprehensive understanding of all of that literature, why doesn’t he cite some other examples? There are millions of papers out there. He should be citing hundreds of them.”
Chris: “It’s their susceptibility to narratives that are going to give them attention and make them feel that they are looking at things in a deeper way than normal people. That little hook – they are so easily led around by it.”
Matt: “In the last 20 years, we’ve seen the rise of the political dimension you could call anti-institutional. You have lefty-stuff like Occupy Wall Street and Russell Brand.”
Chris: “Tim Pool.”
Matt: “Just being against the current thing. You can frame it as globalism and international capitalism. Or you could frame it was the New World Order and the WEF (World Economic Forum). There’s a right-wing version or a left-wing one.”
Chris: “And sometimes they cross over. Gavin McInnes started out as one of the founders of Vice and then became the reactionary leader of the Proud Boys. That seems like a helluva journey, but not really. It’s about the institutions are shit, we’re part of the edgy counter-culture. It’s not inevitable that people who aren’t part of the establishment get sucked to the extremes, but there is a greater vulnerability for people who like to style themselves that way. Focusing on the corruption of establishments can make people susceptible to swallowing conspiracism.”
Matt: “I know several people in real life who are fans of Jordan Peterson. Fans of Trump. [Kinda] fans of Putin. They’re not right-wing Christians. They are lost boys. That’s the common denominator.”
Lost boys are a big part of the guru (Jordan Peterson, Andrew Tate, Dennis Prager) fan base.
Matt: “Alex Jones is all about the angels and the demons and the battle between good and evil that is happening under the surface. Jordan Peterson and Jonathan Pageau — they seem very different. They are more gentle in the way they express things, but not hugely different.”
Chris: “On most of their narratives, they agree.”
Matt: “All of these progressive ideas are all poison injected into the body of Judeo-Christian civilization.”
Chris: “Vaccines are about authoritarianism.”
“There is money sloshing around in the right-wing for promoting certain views. Peter Thiel hired Eric [Weinstein]. Provided money to [Eliezer] Yudkowsky [the guy who claims AI will kill us]. He also gave up on Eric eventually… The reason that Peter Thiel and Eric came together was that their worldviews aligned. Peter Thiel doesn’t care so long as someone is a wrecking force for institutions. These are narcissistic people who are led by praise and reward.”
Matt: “It’s easy for them to align with their personal interest. They’re labile. It’s like Trump. He’d say anything for a round of applause and a million dollars. They do have a reactionary, anti-institutional worldview. And they’re self-interested narcissists.”
Chris: “That grouping of people who come together for long-form podcasts to share anti-establishment positions and back pat each other and really focus on improving the left and on what the progressive left is doing to destroy society. That grouping re-emerges and reformulates and you’ll see Douglas Murray cropping up across all of them.”
Matt: “Why do they all accept the UFO story at face value straight away? Just a coincidence or is there something wrong with their brains?”
Chris: “Their epistemics are broken. The smarter ones tap danced on the edge. They wanted to say look at the official narratives collapsing but they were quick to say, it could all be just because they know it could all blow up. I heard Sam Harris taking victory laps — look at all those credulous fools for talking about UFOs. You were talking for a couple of months at least. You believed that someone had contacted you to release sacred information about UFOs.”
“Jordan Peterson praises James Lindsay constantly and occasionally James reciprocates. It’s this constant feeding of the ego. So you were studying maths? Why did you choose the difficult area? They both talk about how they are so principled and that is why they needed to leave academia. They could have been extremely successful if academia had retained its principles and recognized genius, but the fact that they are so successful outside of academia, doesn’t that prove they were right and they are better than all those irrelevant academics. Use your brains guys. It just means that you are selling something that can get you attention. Don’t you know there are lots of people in the world selling rank partisan conspiracy content who aren’t deep thinkers but can make a lot of money?”
“Jordan thinks that because lots of people watch his content, that’s an indication that it is good and fundamentally correct. He gave the game away when he said that something had seven million views and seven million people agree with me. He counted views as indicating agreement.”
Matt: “Truth is not a popularity contest. Making a lot of money selling something that is attractive doesn’t make you a more virtuous person. Their egos are hungry and they’ll take it as evidence.”
Matt: “The orthodox position is tedious. It’s a hard sell. Like public health. Even I realize it is boring. It’s not emotive stuff. It’s not going to grab you. If you are an online commentator, you’re going to feel an inexorable pull to stuff that will get the juices flowing.”
Chris: “We’ll lose the attention ecosphere by saying stuff that people will agree with. It isn’t interesting to say that UFOs aren’t real. You have to add the hook to make it more appealing. We get feedback that if we want to add more listeners, we should touch on this topic. That way lies hell. That mindset of always getting bigger audiences and always jumping on the new thing, that makes you susceptible to takeitis.”
Matt: “The vast majority of people who produce any content are susceptible because they’re obsessed with growing their audiences.”
Chris: “Rebecca Lewis did a report [in 2018] saying there is an alternative influencer network [Alternative Influence: Broadcasting the Reactionary Right on YouTube]. It drove them all mad…that Sam Harris was on the same map with Stefan Molyneux and Gavin McInnes. But she was right. There are network effects. You can hear Sam Harris talk about them and wrestle with it when he says, it is hard to criticize people I go to dinner with. You hear Konstantin [Kisin] say to Matt Goodwin, you and I are at all the same parties.”
Here are some examples of Prager’s interactions with other gurus.
The Vaccine Scientist Spreading Vaccine Misinformation – Robert Malone claims to have invented mRNA technology. Why is he trying so hard to undermine its use?
Robert Malone—a medical doctor and an infectious-disease researcher—recently suggested that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines might actually make COVID-19 infections worse. He chuckled as he imagined Anthony Fauci announcing that the vaccination campaign was all a big mistake (“Oh darn, I was wrong!”) and would need to be abandoned. When he floated that nightmare scenario during a recent podcast interview with Steve Bannon, both men seemed almost delighted at the prospect of public-health officials and pharmaceutical companies getting their comeuppance. “This is a catastrophe,” Bannon declared, beaming at his guest. “You’re hearing it from an individual who invented the mRNA [vaccine] and has dedicated his life to vaccines. He’s the opposite of an anti-vaxxer.”
…Malone was riffing on a botched sentence in a USA Today article, one that was later deleted but not before being screenshotted and widely shared. That kind of overheated, spottily sourced conversation is par for the course on shows like Bannon’s, which traffic in a set of claims that sound depressingly familiar: The vaccines cause more harm than experts are letting on; Fauci is a liar and possibly a fascist; and the mainstream news media is either shamelessly complicit or too stupid to figure out what’s really going on.
In that alternate media universe, Robert Malone’s star is ascendant. He started popping up on podcasts and cable news shows a few months ago, presented as a scientific expert, arguing that the approval process for the vaccines had been unwisely rushed. He told Tucker Carlson that the public doesn’t have enough information to decide whether to get vaccinated. He told Glenn Beck that offering incentives for taking vaccines is unethical. He told Del Bigtree, an anti-vaccine activist who opposes common childhood inoculations, that there hadn’t been sufficient research on how the vaccines might affect women’s reproductive systems. On show after show, Malone, who has quickly amassed more than 200,000 Twitter followers, casts doubt on the safety of the vaccines while decrying what he sees as attempts to censor dissent.
Nov. 13, 2019, Dennis interviewed Scott Adams about his new book Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America.
In a video uploaded Oct. 11, 2021, Dennis Prager interviewed Gad Saad about his book The Parasitic Mind.
Saad was the topic of the August 20, 2021 episode of Decoding the Gurus:
Gad is worried about parasitic brain worms that are influencing people’s politics, though this affliction seems to correlate pretty strongly with all the liberal political views that Gad dislikes. Indeed, you won’t find any discussion of MAGA or QAnon in his extensive bestiary of the pernicious brain-worms that can parasitise your mind. Rather it is ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ that has Gad fretting.
But it isn’t all partisan politics, we also get to see Gad draws on his knowledge of evolutionary psychology and unparalleled ‘surgical’ satirical skills to ‘castrate’ his opponents. Get ready for a string of anecdotes in which Gad destroys postmodern ideologues with facts and logic, embarrasses pigeon brained academics, and teaches his soccer coach the true meaning of freedom…
October 2, 2021, PragerU posted: “Watch our new short documentary with JP Sears and others at PragerU.com/restricted.”
Oct. 23, 2020, Decoding the Gurus released an episode on J.P. Sears:
JP Sears: Get Ultra Spiritual, Resist the Government, and Promote Coronavirus Conspiracies
JP Sears is quite the contradictory figure. He’s well known for his YouTube videos mocking alternative health and spirituality, but he also sells natural supplements, and is a life coach / spiritual mentor. He’s all about positive thinking and natural supplements, but he’s spending most of his time now railing against the mainstream media, the Deep State, and COVID restrictions.
As Chris and Matt dig deeper, it becomes clear that JP occupies an interesting place, at the nexus of trenchant libertarianism and spiritual self-actualisation. Think Californian surfer dude meets hardcore tech-bro with a healthy dose of conspiracies. Yes, it’s confusing. But just take a listen to this episode, and the doors of perception will open for you too!
April 21, 2023, Jordan Peter released a video called “The Rise of US Totalitarianism.” From the video description: “In part 1 out of 4 of this compilation series, we look at…how issues around free speech have affected Bret Weinstein, Heather Heying, Yeon Mi Park, Arif Ahmed, Dennis Prager…”
April 3, 2008, Dennis said: “Joseph [Telushkin]’s mother’s reaction to me when we first met, she said to him [privately], ‘He’s very charming but is he deep?’ I am Mr. Enthusiast and conquer the world.”
She was right to be skeptical.
Sometimes we see people who enjoy worldly success, are widely esteemed, or who have a public veneer of assurance and yet are deeply dissatisfied, anxious, or depressed. They may project the appearance of self-efficacy and self-respect—they may have the persona of self-esteem—but do not possess the reality…
Nothing is more common than to pursue self-esteem by means that will not and cannot work. Instead of seeking self-esteem through consciousness, responsibility, and integrity, we may seek it through popularity, material acquisitions, or sexual exploits. Instead of valuing personal authenticity, we may value belonging to the right clubs, or the right church, or the right political party. Instead of practicing appropriate self-assertion, we may practice uncritical compliance to our particular group. Instead of seeking self-respect through honesty, we may seek it through philanthropy—I must be a good person, I do “good works.” Instead of striving for the power of competence (the ability to achieve genuine values), we may pursue the “power” of manipulating or controlling other people. The possibilities for self-deception are almost endless—all the blind alleys down which we can lose ourselves, not realizing that what we desire cannot be purchased with counterfeit currency.