Monday, March 09, 2009

Dennis Prager: The Side Not Seen

Dennis Prager is a conservative thinker who has a nationally-syndicated radio program on the Salem Radio Network. His support lies with the Republican Party to which listeners can hear his criticisms of liberals, the Democratic Party, and secularism in general. I had listened to Prager's program extensively for a good 3-5 years during the beginning and middle of the decade. I found his program to be quite insightful and hold many fine moral principles. However, as time went by, I started to question his principles as well as the way his program was presented. In general it wasn't anything I could actually prove, but my sense was things were not quite what they seemed. So after doing a little digging, I've come up with the following on why Mr. Prager isn't all that he seems, especially to his loyal fan base.

There appears to be quite a difference between nationally-aired political programs and what one can find on their local programming. The latter ten to take call-ins without screening their callers. In the experiences that I've had, they just say "Please hold", or something to the effect. Prager claims to have "debated the best", but in order to believe that it begs the question of why his program screens callers. The question has been answered with things like filtering the rude, obnoxious, vulgar callers. However, I have to wonder why these shows already have the technology in place to edit vulgar language out since there is a delay in transmission from the time the call-in takes place to when the listener receives the signal. In effect, the main reason is either censorship, or Prager hasn't ever really debated libertarians.

He has been criticized for turning down the volume of callers' phone connections so that he can have the last word. [1]

Although Prager centers himself as a "conservative Republican," opposing modern liberalism and the Democratic Party, his underlying philosophy is quite different and often undetected. As noted below, Prager would best be described as a 'virtue socialist' since he supports government intevention in non-economic areas:

Another justification for socialism is the vague concept of "virtue." Under this kind of socialism, society is manipulated toward the goal of creating a society based on certain religious ideals. The individual is largely left alone in his economic activities, but his non-economic activities are regulated if not banned, even though those activities are conducted between consenting adults with a clear and honest agreement regarding their association.

This form of socialism is as destructive of individual liberty as the more recognized Marxist form of socialism. Bizarrely, the proponents of virtue socialism refuse to recognize their socialism, despite their constant invocation of terms like society, the greater good, and the majority, in the context of manipulating them using government fiat -- classic rhetoric of all socialists. [2]

Europe has given the world Marxism, Communism, Fascism, Nazism, racism, and socialism, all rotten ideas that have caused immeasurable human suffering. But for Europeans and their ideological twins on the American left and at universities, ideas are not judged by their ability to ameliorate human suffering or reduce evil, but by their complexity and apparent profundity. An idea is not good because it produces good – that’s unromantic American pragmatism – it is good because it sounds good. -D.P. [3]

Prager's political philosophy holds remnants of elitism and mysticism (a leader of doing 'God's work'), socialism, totalitarianism, and other examples of religious tryanny (since there is no end in sight to the control over human conduct they seek). He is also a hyprocrite since he claims the 'moral idiocy' of a generation but doesn't consider his own god-driven rule is lacking a visible endorsement from, namely, God. Prager refers to the Bible as the sole truth of his politico actions since human is fallible and cannot be trusted to live in freedom, for freedom is at the core of his disdain. In other words, for humanity to reach its highest heights, suppression needs to be enacted since Prager is citing a 'divine text'.

In his column Internet Anonymity Is As Destructive As Internet Porn, Prager believes that the way to a more civil discourse is through the depletion of free speech. This couldn't be further from the truth:


There are a number of huge flaws with this idea, though:
1. Incivility on the internet is a nuisance, but not a threat; if you are seriously offended and hurt by something said by an anonymous commenter or blogger, then you need to grow a thicker skin. Not to say you can't be seriously annoyed by this sort of thing- just that we're not usually talking about serious threats to someone's reputation or physical well-being. An ad hominem by an anonymous poster is hardly going to hurt someone's reputation, and it really shouldn't hurt their feelings. The primary effect of the ad hominem nuisance is often that it prevents the anonymous poster's legitimate arguments from ever getting a fair hearing from the "victim." [4]

I have come to realize that the great divide in values is not between those who believe in God and those who do not but between those who believe in a divine text and those who do not. -D.P.

This seemingly innocuous statement of his personal belief is far more dangerous in its sweeping world view that anyone who does not follow a fundamentalist literalist interpretation of the Bible is politically wrong. I have no doubt that Prager would happily endorse violent enforcement of Biblical literalism if he had the power to achieve it. That is what characterizes Christian Reconstructionism, more about it here and here. I find such statements and his advocacy of culture war, and his entrenched position on the air in radio far more disturbing and dangerous than his ludicrous column on married male female sex relations. [5] -Daily Kos

While not convinced Prager would resort to violence to enforce his values, he nonetheless is a supporter of mandating religion upon society. He has elements of Christian Reconstructionism since he believes "that every area dominated by sin must be 'reconstructed' in terms of the Bible." [6] Prager fails to grasp that only those who benefit from socialist law are the ones on top of the food chain: meaning him. His forcible measure will do little to actually convert society to his thinking since about the only thing humans have ever had in common with one another is that we are human. Prager is making the same mistake history has seen when religion tries to interfere with liberty. It will produce reaction, not conversion. And since biblical adherrents are also often socialists (for they don't believe in the "individual" to begin with), they tend to place the responsibility back on the bible, not themselves. (They believe in their individual rights but not anyone else who differs from their morality.)

In Blasphemy: How the Religious Right Is Hijacking Our Declaration of Independence, Alan Dershowitz highlights some of Prager's faulty reasoning behind Congress-elected Keith Ellingson's decision to use a book other than the Bible on the swearing-in on the oath:

As if to demonstrate that intolerance once practiced against Jews can also be practiced by some Jews against other minorities, a Jewish right-wing talk show host named Dennis Prager led a campaign to disallow the first Muslim elected to congress (in November 2006) to take an oath of office on the Koran. Prager insisted that congressman Keith Ellingson should not be allowed to do so—not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization. Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don’t serve in Congress.

Prager’s bigotry was immediately condemned by Jewish organizations across the ideological spectrum. This is what the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith said:

Prager is flat-out wrong when he asserts that Representative Ellingson’s use of a Koran would be “damaging to the fabric of American civilization.” To the contrary, the U.S. Constitution guarantees that “no religious test shall ever be required” to hold public office in America. Members of Congress, like all Americans, should be free to observe their own religious practices without government interference or coercion.

Prager’s patriotic prattling in misinformed on the facts, too. No Member of Congress is officially sworn in with a Bible. Under House rules, the official swearing-in ceremony is done in the House chambers, with the Speaker of the House administering the oath of office en masse. No Bibles or other holy books are used at all. Members may, if they choose, also have a private ceremony with family and friends. At these unofficial ceremonies, Members frequently solemnize the event by taking on oath while holding a personal family Bible.

Prager ridiculously asserts that permitting Rep. Ellingson to take the oath of office would “be doing more damage to the unity of America and to the value system that has formed this country than the terrorists of 9-11.” What he fails to understand is that what truly unifies all Americans is a value system built on religious freedom and pluralism, not dogmatism and coercion.

Prager presents intolerant, ugly views. His comparison of Ellison’s desire to “choose his favorite book” to that of the right of racist elected to public office to use Hitler’s Mein Kampf is outrageous.


In other words, the Constitution—according to the absurd reasoning of Chancellor Kent and Justice Brewer—would allow discrimination against Muslims and Buddhists, because they are religious “impostors,” but not against Christians, because that is the true religion. That, of course, is precisely what Dennis Prager is proposing, though he would probably describe our true religion as ‘Judeo-Christian.’ This is a poor provenance on which on which to base a claim that we are, as a matter of constitutional law, a Christian nation.

A few hypocritical examples:

Prager writes a column on Socialism Kills but doesn't see how his own religious rule over society is consider socialist.

His column on Why the Democrats Use 12-year-olds is contradictory since several years back he had his young son on his program and asked if he 'agreed' on one of his political positions. Well of course he's going to agree. He's your son.

Other contradictory examples:

His topic on nature, he states, "We are indeed to be responsible stewards of nature, but for our sake, not its." If Prager were reading the literal truth, the bible quite clearly states we are to caretake nature and its inhabitants not just for our sake, but its.

The romanticizing of nature, let alone the ascribing of divinity to it, involves ignoring what really happens in nature. I doubt that those American schoolchildren who conducted a campaign on behalf of freeing a killer whale (the whale in the film "Free Willy") ever saw films of actual killer whale behavior. There are National Geographic videos that show, among other things, killer whales tossing a terrified baby seal back and forth before finally killing it. Perhaps American schoolchildren should see those films and then petition killer whales not to treat baby seals sadistically.

If you care about good and evil, you cannot worship nature. And since that is what God most cares about, nature worship is antithetical to Judeo-Christian values. -D.P. [7]

Here Prager uses a very weak and straw man argument on the basis that since children don't see the "wild" portion of nature, we as humanity shouldn't apparently value nature. He doesn't even begin to address that adults value nature despite knowing 'the survival of the fittest'. Prager's underlying motivation for writing this is because the left control the environmental topic. That has bothered Republicans going back to the '70s and the environmental movement. And they continue to have little voice on the matter due to their own failure. You would think that since God and God's creation, Nature, go hand-in-hand, that Prager would have an appreciation for it. I actually agree with some of his points on green extremism, but it's quite odd to me that Prager isn't very sympathetic to his creator's creation.

In Thank God For Moral Violence, Prager makes some relatively decent points on the use of moral violence vs. immoral violence. However, the title of his column is disturbing because he attributes a moral campaign to fight immorality, with God. Prager once said that there have been far more secular wars than religious wars. Well the point he misses is that there ARE religious wars. And if religion is such a great thing, wouldn't there be like zero wars in history? Because the entire point is a matter of tolerating other view points. Like religion, Prager is a socialist, and since socialism is a "collective" vision, he is continually seeking to push his morality above others. Prager presumably sees no end in sight to the wars America can wage on immoral foreign soils, even if those pocket wars pose no security risk to our country. There is little hindsight to the thought of letting humanity decide their own fate provided it doesn't interfere with the survival of others. I am not trying to attribute Prager to the likes of Hitler or Stalin. I'm simply saying there is no end in sight to the intervention he seeks over other immorals since he ascribes his mission to what he believes God wants, which is stomping out all immorality. While American troops dying for the betterment of other nations is a noble one, it does bring into question why those nations are dependent upon America to do the dying for them.

As a graduate student in international affairs at Columbia University, I specialized in the study of totalitarianism, especially, though not only, the communist variety. I found the subject fascinating, but I never for a moment imagined that any expertise gained in this field would prove relevant to American life.

Sad to say, it has turned out to be the most valuable subject I could have studied. The totalitarian temptation is not confined to Nazis and communists; it can rear its head in any society and gradually destroy it. And as the Soviet dissident joke notes, one quick way to identify totalitarian threats to liberty is to identify those who falsify the historical record on behalf of their cause. [8]

A person who actively seeks to control who are who cannot marry on a wide scale such as a national level, is a nationalist. Since Prager is bothered by how "other" countries handle this topic too, that makes him a totalitarian for he seeks to control the globe. For such an "expert" on totalitarianism, it is amazing how he doesn't view himself as such. I can be thankful he doesn't have the power to achieve his aims.

Dennis Prager's Inconsistent Arguments


During the week of 10-5 to 10-9-09, Prager claimed that one can be against same sex marriage while basically not holding prejudisms against said. No, that would be an impossibility. One cannot claim divinity through the use of government coercion (heterosexual mandation). See, his issue is morality (of which many things I agree with), but his actions are just as immoral for he seeks to use government and the socialist method of legislation. Marriage is defined by the individual, and there is no such thing as Prager claims to the sanctity of heterosexual marriage. The only way for heterosexual marriage to be destroyed is if heterosexuals be not able to marry. And since that is not exactly under any serious threat -- guess what? It's a clever engineering to justify to himself that not only is he not a homophobic, but that his goal is of divine origin through biblical terms. One simply cannot say they don't mean any ill will towards another group by preventing certain activities. And there certainly is no ownership over marriage. The only reason a singular definition has allowed to exist this long is through legislation, albeit still tyranny. Mr. Prager certainly has no extraordinary rights over anyone else. It doesn't matter how good it sounds in moralistic terms in the Prager camp. If one has to commit another form of force to maintain the status quo, they're committing a different yet similar immoral.