Okay, you’ve heard me bitch a great deal about negative and destructive propaganda outlets, but maybe you haven’t heard me take time to praise positive and constructive “propaganda” outlets. For one thing, there just aren’t as many of them; and also, that’s not really the focus of this blog. I would like to take this opportunity, however, to tell you about one such outlet that has cropped up recently: The Gravel Institute. It’s especially noteworthy, because it was designed specifically to be an antidote to one specific very prominent and very harmful negative propaganda organ.
The Gravel Institute is the creation of Mike Gravel (pronounced Gra-VELL), former Democratic senator from Alaska. (He later switched to Libertarian, then back to Democrat.) He launched the Gravel Institute in September, announcing that it was specifically designed to be an antidote to PragerU. To that end, Gravel follows the same format as Prager — i.e., videos of approximately 5 minutes in length, with a mini-lecture by a recognized speaker, and even using similar style graphics to PU.
At this writing, Gravel has produced only a handful of videos: e.g., “The Truth About the Electoral College”, “The Truth About the Civil War”, “Capitalism vs. Freedom”, and “Is Big Government Really the Problem?”. And by golly, it looks like they are indeed attacking the very myths that Prager has been building up. They haven’t done so in a particularly engaging fashion, but then neither does Prager.
Having a background in the entertainment industry, and being well aware how the public these days has an ever-shortening attention span as well as an ever-rising threshold of engagement, I tend to think that the only way– or at least the best way — to really get through to people is to make them laugh. (My wife has been getting much of her news from Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers during the past 4 years, because she says otherwise it’s just too grim to stomach.)
So maybe Gravel could take a lesson or two from Juice Media, which I’ve also just discovered recently. Juice Media actually has been around for several years, but it flew under my radar because it’s based in Australia, and handles mostly the batshittery in that country (yes, they have batshittery everywhere — Americans don’t have a monopoly on it, though we seem to own the lion’s share of the market). But Juice also has put out some very watchable videos about American lunacy. The particular one that brought them to my attention deals with the administration’s blatant tampering with the Postal Service in an effort to throw the election. It’s informative, engaging, and rib-crackingly funny. I also recommend the one on QAnon.
Anyway, while Gravel may not win any Oscars for outstanding performances, it’s doing what it set out to do: providing a solid factual counterpoint to right-wing mythology, and particularly to the right-wing mythology peddled by PragerU. The latter, by the way, has taken note, and made comments to the effect of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery. But Gravel isn’t just imitating; it is indeed beating Prager at its own game. While it took PragerU several years to amass 100,000 followers, Gravel Institute hit that milestone in a matter of weeks. There is a clearly a real hunger out there for what it has to offer.
So here’s looking forward to many productive years for Gravel Institute. (And we hope its longevity is not dependent on that of Gravel himself, who’s already north of 90.) Glad you’re here, guys.
I’m so excited about the sites you review in this article! I have come to the conclusion years ago as my study on politics and propaganda, in part begun as a response to your “Propaganda Props” articles, that people typically cannot process facts. Only propaganda appeals to most people, so the way to reach them with facts is create a “chocolate pill” surrounding each fact nugget with irrational comparisons and psychological manipulation.
Although it sounds cruel to take advantage of people who are naturally confused, the alternative is leaving them to virtual wolves (forgive the pun). My social media persona has changed from being an educated guide on environmental issues and politics to a shepherd in wolf’s clothing, because giving people alternatives to lying propaganda in the form of attractive facts is a necessary step in combatting the current social media infodemic.
These websites will be helpful tools for my mission in surreptitious social media education.
Thanks for notifying your readers. I think I saw something from Gravel institute on FB or Twitter but didn’t have time to watch or read what was posted.
Just because one consider PagerU to suck does not yet mean group presenting exact opposition of their views is not actually participating in spreading lies. Remember Gravel is a politician with his own agendas and business behind him. As European I see Americans as people divided into two highly deluded on many topics groups unable to see points in what their opposite group claim. Thankfully we do not have that in Europe. Yet.
Of course Gravel Institute is capable of lying. But I haven’t seen any evidence yet that they’ve been doing it. And even if one assumes that they do sneak in a lie here and there, the thing is, that’s not their reason for existence. But it essentially IS PragerU’s reason for existence — or at the very least, it’s to promote an extremist ideology without regard to whether the talking points are true and accurate or not. What you are doing here is echoing “bothsidesim”, which has become very, very common in American public discourse: the notion that just because “both sides” have their faults and make their mistakes, then those faults and mistakes must be of equal number and magnitude. Which isn’t even remotely true. For more on this, see my previous posts: “Propaganda Prop # 8: False Equivalence”; “More On False Equivalence: Both Sides Do It”; “Redefining Incivility”; “Ann Slanders: A Classic Case Study”; “Propaganda Prop #9: Deflection”. And others.