The deconstruction of a Toronto Star hit piece on Dennis Prager

Written By Dave Gordon, Posted on March 4, 2020

Attendees of the forthcoming annual Manning Networking Conference in Ottawa are in for a treat –a hateful man has been invited to come speak.  

At least that’s according to Amira Elghawaby’s Feb. 25 Toronto Star article, “Conservatives should be wary of the company they keep”. That man is Dennis Prager – a conservative talk show host of thirty five years, lecturer, and bestselling author of ten books on Judaism and Judeo-Christian values. 

The conference brings in the who’s who of conservative (and Conservative) movers and shakers, and hundreds of attendees. Elghawaby asks: will the Manning Centre, “unequivocally distance itself from those (ie Prager) peddling in hatred and division?” (Her article also leads the reader to connect-the-dots in a way that suggests Canadian conservative leaders are haters, too.) 

How, precisely, is Prager “peddling in hatred and division”? She provides four ways.

1. An out-of-context sentence about the N-word. In brief, Prager asked a caller on his show why it was OK to say “kike,” but not OK to say the N-word, in an academic or scholarly context. He immediately noted that calling someone the N-word was wrong. 

The problem? She failed to note he believes the word is disgusting as an insult, leaving her readers to deduce that he wanted to say the N-word capriciously. That’s a critical missing point, because she wanted readers to believe he was a hater.

What was linked in her story for proof was a Newsweek article. At my questioning, she refused to answer via Twitter whether she actually listened to the radio segment in question, and whether she bothered to read the column Dennis wrote on the topic, where he defends his position. 

2. What she says of PragerU, and by implication, Prager: ‘One video, viewed 17 million times, features an internet talk show host claiming that “racism, bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia” are “meaningless buzzwords.’”

And that for her, apparently, is not only self-evidently abhorrent, but somehow justifies how Prager is hate-filled.

There are two fallacies: guilt by association (meant to taint Prager) and selective proof.

Dave Rubin didn’t merely say eight words. He spoke for five minutes on the topic of Why I Left the Left. The video, incidentally, was about the intolerant left being unable to accept differences of opinion.  

But there was lack of context provided as to what Rubin actually said, what he meant, and the topic. Unsurprisingly, that Rubin video itself wasn’t linked in her article; what was linked was a critical editorial from Buzzfeed, where her summation was cribbed nearly word for word. (We don’t actually want you to see the video, heaven forefend.) 

What was the entire Rubin quote?

“Today’s progressivism has become a faux moral movement, hurling charges of racism, bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, and a slew of other meaningless buzzwords, at anyone they disagree with. The battle of ideas has been replaced with the battle for feelings, and outrage has replaced honesty. Diversity has reigned supreme, so long as it’s not diversity of thought… ” 

An accurate representation of what he said might be:

In the video, Rubin decried what he believes are progressivism’s abuse of the terms racism, bigotry, xenophobia, homophobia, and Islamophobia, dubbing them “meaningless buzzwords.” He further noted it was because he believed they were being used capriciously, and untruthfully.   

Anytime someone has to ask “and what did he mean by that?” you are lacking in context.

(As an aside, the video as of Feb. 28, 2020, has been viewed more than 12 million times on YouTube, and another 26 million times through the PragerU site. Not 17 million times, as she notes.)

3. That Prager believes, in a 2017 tweet, “The news media in the West pose a far greater danger to Western civilization than Russia does.”

And what, precisely, does that mean? She just leaves it out there, as though it’s self-evidently hateful. 

There are tens of thousands of leftist journalists, like her, with the collective reach of hundreds of millions of people, molding opinions on a daily basis. Does Russia have that kind of influence, or interference, over Western civilization? They probably wish they did.

4. Dennis believes – as she paraphrases – “free speech should apply to hate speech.”

The one-minute video about free speech, indeed linked in the article, has him saying: 

“Millennials don’t believe in free speech for hate speech, which means they don’t believe in hate speech… it means ‘I believe in free speech for what I agree with!’ Every Communist regime believed in free speech for what they believed in, too!” 

When Prager said “I believe in free speech except for hate speech” in the video, he was mockingly paraphrasing Millennials. 

Hers is a de facto rejection of the proposition that there may be good reasons to include so-called “hate speech” within the sphere of “free speech.” In the US, this is a First Amendment debate – apparently one she isn’t familiar with.

So many of my generation used to quote Voltaire’s “I might not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” My bet is, that she has never heard this before. 

From her photo on the website, it looks like she’s a religious Muslim, and from her editorial, it appears she’s adamantly against so-called “hate speech” (whatever that means to her). I’d be keen to know if she unequivocally condemns the truckloads of anti-Semitic hate speech coming out of the Arab world? And wonder if she struggles with the notion that free speech doesn’t exist in the Muslim world?

Later in the article, offered as more proof of her thesis, she quotes the Southern Poverty Law Center’s vile opinion of PragerU. A fair journalist would be obligated to note that SPLC is a “liberal-leaning organization” – and not an objective arbiter. 

PragerU videos, in her words, are “hosted by a coterie of rightwing commentators.” 

Note the word “coterie”, meant to imply how ugly it is. That “coterie,” however, includes liberal lawyer and lifelong Democrat Alan Dershowitz, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin talking about evil speech (what irony), classic liberal Dave Rubin, comedian Yaakov Smirnoff talking about happiness, environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg, and co-founder of Greenpeace Patrick Moore, etc. 

A more accurate descriptor would have been: “mostly rightwing commentators.”

We’re supposed to be presenting truth.

When challenged, the deflective hokum she dished on our Twitter exchange can be summed up thus: “Let the readers decide; let the Conservative party decide” whether Prager is hateful, and “you’ve made up your opinion, let the readers make up theirs.” You don’t peddle selective half-truths and then tell everyone “now it’s up to the rest of you to figure it out.” This is sneaky, deceptive, and has no journalistic integrity.

Imagine this: I offer you a lick from a sample spoon of Baskin Robbins’ vanilla chocolate chip, and then say, “so, don’t you think Baskin Robbins ice cream is garbage?” 

Just how disgusting is Prager, to her mind? Enough that Conservatives should treat him like a pariah, ostensibly because his mere presence at their convention would bring the taint of hate-filled ideology to the entire movement. 

Here’s her words, again, impugning Prager’s character:

“Considering the party’s various efforts to insist it supports diversity, do Scheer and the candidates vying to succeed him as leader have any qualms about associating themselves with Prager? If so, let’s hear from them.” The implication here is that Prager is anti-diversity –a roundabout way to call him racist.

(Moreover, in attempt to smear Andrew Scheer as a racist, Ms Elghawaby noted that he appeared “last year at a Yellow Vest rally, which included Faith Goldy, a figure with ties to white supremacists.” That’s a quarter-truth. They happened to be in the same place at the same time but never crossed paths. If a blogger from the Taleban showed up to hear Jagmeet Singh, does that make Singh a terrorist?)

This isn’t the first time – and it won’t be the last time – someone on the Left has gone to great lengths to paint someone as a hater, facts be damned. Perhaps that’s why Dave Rubin thought all those labels were “meaningless buzzwords” … because name-calling is a default, when there’s no rational basis for an accusation. 

Dave Gordon

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