Still the Best Hope
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Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph (ISBN 0061985139) is a 2012 book by wingnut radio host Dennis Prager. It is a regurgitation of old neoconservative talking points (with a heavy dose of the religious right as well), but in a smug pseudo-intellectual tone, and leans further to the right than a man who's just had his right leg blown off.
Prager begins by saying that the future will be dominated by either fundamentalist Islam, "Leftism" (an unbelievably broad word), or
neoconservatism "American values". The first one is incredibly unlikely for obvious reasons, so Prager spends most of his time arguing in favor of American Exceptionalism while blasting "The Left" for holding positions most of today's liberals don't have. He doesn't count China because their system doesn't make for dramatic writing is more pragmatic than ideological.
The book itself is the ultimate act of pandering to a paranoid wingnut audience, with conspiracy theories that include universities being leftist recruiting tools and global warming being a lie. He quite hilariously gets angry at "the Left" for making people feel persecuted and then goes on to tell his audience that the media, Hollywood, and education system are all out to ridicule conservatives and destroy American Values.
List of things Prager doesn't like or doesn't approve of in the section that's on "leftism".
- ACLU — wouldn't be a wingnut screed without this bugbear.
- American Library Association — "Leftist", apparently. For those of us in reality it's actually civil libertarian, politically speaking.
- Barack Obama
- Big government, unless it's for stuff he likes
- Billie Joe Armstrong (of the punk band Green Day) — for cursing on Real Time with Bill Maher.
- Bill Maher — Curses on TV and is a liberal
- Bumper stickers that read "Buck Fush" - Proves the left is mean. Thankfully right-wingers would never do that.
- California — Didn't mention its projected budget surplus, of course
- CBS News — Liberal media
- Centrism — Most centrists are treated like "leftists" in disguise, because when your only tool is leftist bashing, all your opponents start to look like leftists
- Chris Rock — For cursing on Real Time
- Communism, however he defines it
- DDT bans — because who needs birds, anyway?
- Fascism — Luckily it's not right-wing, right? In fairness, he doesn't try to pass it off as left-wing either, but still…
- Gay marriage
- George Clooney — For cursing on Real Time
- Global warming — "Leftist hysteria"
- John Lennon's "Imagine" for promoting liberal utopianism
- Joe Biden
- Jon Stewart — For cursing on Real Time
- Labor unions
- "Leftism" (Duh)
- Majority of the world's news media — Controlled by leftists
- National Council of Churches — Leftist
- National Organization for Women — Claims their members would deny being center-left
- Nazism — Calls it a "secular doctrine" and says it wasn't truly right-wing. He should let the majority of scholars in on that who have labeled it a right-wing extremist movement.
- Noam Chomsky — Did you think he'd be on the good list?
- Novelist William Gibson — For cursing on, you guessed it, Real Time.
- Otto Von Bismarck — Founded the welfare state
- Pacifism — Even just admiring pacifism is bad
- Presbyterian Church U.S.A. — Leftist
- Public education system — Dominated by "leftists"
- Reform Judaism — Mostly "leftist"
- "Secular religions" — What he calls "Leftism", environmentalism, etc.
- Secular leftism — Claims it began with Karl Marx
- Silicone breast implant panic — A 1992 panic that silicone breast implants were linked to cancer, though they weren't. This is still promoted by some far-right tabloids. Prager blames feminists for the former but doesn't mention the latter.
- The Cee Lo Green song "Fuck you" for promoting cursing
- The Grammys for celebrating the Cee Lo Green song "Fuck you"
- The idea people are basically good — Promoted by "leftists"
- The idea humans are "just another animal" with a larger brain — Promoted by leftists
- The welfare state — Becomes a "Ponzi scheme". Citation needed, Dennis!
- The War on Christmas (Good, we don't like this manufactroversy either; can we all just shut up about it now?)
- Thomas Friedman — For not being pro-Israel enough. He is also called a "leftist" despite being a centrist.
- Social Democracy
- Swearing in public — If that's not clear enough by now, even though most of the examples come from Real time with Bill Maher, an adult show.
- Western Europe
- World Health Organization — How dare they give America such a low rating on healthcare?! They're obviously LEFTIST SCUM!
- United Nations
- Universities — Brainwashing students to be secular leftists
The cheese (stuff he actually does like)
Or approves of.
- Anti-environmentalism — The book is basically a checklist for all the anti-enviromentalist tropes (saying DDT bans killed millions, that global warming is a lie, implying that environmentalists are a bunch of sociopaths who are willing to sacrifice humans to save the planet, etc.).
- American exceptionalism
- Anti-intellectualism — He's never outright opposed to education but he doesn't care for intellectuals or those who put studies before "common sense", and he obviously promotes wacky conspiracy theories around places of upper education. He also goes out of his way to claim that the educated were more likely to support fascism and communism.
- Bullshit — Global warming denialism and DDT bans are the most obvious examples, but also saying that leftists don't get much credit for the civil rights movement (which essentially ignores LBJ and MLK) and constantly conflating leftists with liberals, among other things. Most of the book isn't totally outright bullshit so much as it is exaggerations and irrelevant information (See BK "controversy", bumper stickers, and the Green Party).
- Common sense — He has little actual evidence to back his assertions, so he just makes "common sense" type arguments. Like an Ann Coulter book, he has many footnotes, but his actual interpretations of his sources are so wacky it makes little difference.
- Conspiracy theories — He denies being a conspiracy theorist… and then proceeds to push conspiracy theories around universities and the "leftist" media.
- Europhobia — Oh boy… Europeans do not get it good in this book.
- False equivalence — A few feminists opposing breast implants is compared to the Republican Party trying to ban abortion
- Gish Gallop — Most of the book is a ton of shallow hit-and-run talking points against liberals. To debunk them all would take too long, so it appears to have succeeded. Certain short sections (such as on how the Dixiecrats weren't conservative) could take an entire book to debunk.
- God — Argues this is a God-centered country
- Jonah Goldberg — Invokes Liberal Fascism as evidence fascism isn't TRULY right-wing. Yes, it's as stupid as it sounds.
- Martin Luther King Jr. — Conveniently Forgets to mention King was a "leftist"
- MRA- Yep, he's this as well. Says that if either gender is oppressed more, it's males. Though "anti-feminist crank" would be a more accurate label, since he doesn't actively campaign for "men's rights".
- Nationalism — Not in the ethnic sense (he's not a racist), but he espouses the superiority of American values. He actually devotes a section of his book to praising nationalism, so at least he doesn't deny it.
- Not as bad as — When comparing far-right and far-left governments, though he tends to exclude far-right governments he doesn't consider right-wing.
- No True Scotsman — He writes that neither fascism nor Nazism were truly right-wing. Apparently, the Dixiecrats weren't conservative or right-wing either, despite George Wallace later running on a far-right paleoconservative ticket.
- Non sequitur — The entire "Conservatives are happier than liberals section" has little to do with who's right on the actual issues.
- Poe's law — Much of the content, especially on liberals and on how other nations (even Western European ones) must embrace American values, comes off as a Stephen Colbert-like parody of conservative thought. Sadly, though, it is quite genuine.
- Psychological projection — "The left is so dogmatic in their thinking it's unbelievable, and they even try to recruit others into their weird secular religon. Oh, by the way, WE MUST ALL EMBRACE
RIGHT-WINGAMERICAN VALUES OR WE'RE DOOMED!!!"
- "The Left sure are hysterical, aren't they? (P.S. UNIVERSITIES ARE RECRUITING LEFTISTS AND GLOBAL WARMING ISN'T REAL! THEY CONTROL THE MEDIA AS WELL! THEY'RE EVERYWHERE!)"
- Snarl words — Most of the hard-right's favorite snarl words are present, including "secularist", "warmist", and, of course, "leftist". Even "intellectual" is treated as a snarl word.
- Style over substance
- The Bible — or at least the parts of it he doesn't prefer to ignore
- The Founding Fathers (or his conception of them, anyway).
- The spotlight fallacy — Abused too many times to count. A single Green Party Candidate is presented as representative of "the Left's" pacifism. The incredibly rare instances where feces have been used in art is a sign all modern art is terrible. When mental health activists were upset with a Burger King commercial that showed the King in a straitjacket it was a sign the Left is totalitarian even though he admits that he isn't even sure if the activists were Leftist: he just assumed they were because they're called activists.
- The theory of false consciousness — He obviously never says the words "false consciousness" but he basically promotes it. Most Americans who vote left-wing aren't really left-wing, they've just been fooled by the liberal media, Hollywood, and universities. If they knew better they would embrace "Americanism". Irony meter goes through the roof since this is basically a neoconservative spin on a Marxist theory.
- Strawman — The book. The entire book. Especially when he says that Leftists have no issues with abortion, regardless of circumstance.
- Stereotypes — Western Europeans are presented as lazy, narcissistic welfare queens.
- War — A necessary evil. This point is actually arguable but he presents himself as a little too eager to blow shit up. Oh my, we just promoted swearing.
The God in society
Though Prager says he doesn't want an official state religion, he still wants a God-based society, basically meaning he wants Judeo-Christianity to be the de facto law of the land, instead of the de jure law of the land. He throws out some old talking points to defeat those damn
atheists leftists who want a secular society! These talking points are so outdated and common many of them have already been addressed on this very wiki, so we'll just link to those instead of spending more time on them. Note: These are paraphrased.
Another problem with Prager's stance on this is that he actually is willing to let "Judeo-Christian values" be set into law if he feels it's necessary. If he wanted a secular government he shouldn't have any problem with gay marriage, since it would give them equal rights in terms of the law; he would only be opposed to the idea that they could have ceremonies in churches that hold Judeo-Christian beliefs. He also wouldn't say that Keith Ellison shouldn't have been allowed to be sworn in to office on the Koran. Basically, he wants a secular government until something happens that (he feels) threatens (his particular idea of) Judeo-Christian values.
The global warming "hysteria"
Prager, being Prager, takes the anti-science side of the global warming debate, seemingly just because it's promoted by "leftists". His arguments are all PRATTs, so we'll just link to the responses to them. (Note: Paraphrased)
Perhaps what truly makes Prager a partisan hack is the fact that in order to present a very black-and-white version of the world where he's on the good side, he must simply ignore any history that inconveniences his message. By simply ignoring these issues instead of outright denying them he leaves himself room to weasel out of accusations that he's being dishonest, since he's not denying it outright so he's being fair, right?
For instance, he is more than happy to point out that some members of the New Left admired communism but he's not so willing to acknowledge some New Right leaders, such as William F. Buckley, F. R. Buckley, and James Burnham, admired fascist leaders such as Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet, or that German, Italian, and Spanish conservatives formed a temporary alliance with Fascist parties. Likewise, he will get quite excited to tell you about how a panic over breast implants in the 1990s proves that "the Left" is illogical, but he'd rather not point out the even longer list of recent Right-wing hysterias such as Birtherism, thinking Barack Obama is trying to destroy America, the Satanic Panic, the homosexual agenda and homosexual recruitment, the lesbian gang epidemic, global warming denialism, the militia movement, universities brainwashing students to become liberal feminist bisexuals, a certain someone saying that Keith Ellison swearing on the Koran would hurt American values more than 9/11, etc.
He quite hilariously states at one point that there have been very few non-leftist totalitarian dictatorships, because fascism (he doesn't even mention monarchies as being right-wing in that section) was just authoritarian, and thus doesn't count (he doesn't mention, of course, that "totalitarianism" was coined by Mussolini himself to describe his own government). His evidence was his trip to Spain and the Soviet Union where he noticed Franco's regime was more lax with what he did, never mind that can be partly explained by the fact that Franco was an American ally while America was having a Cold War with the Soviet Union, so it makes sense the Soviets were more paranoid with Americans.
Perhaps the most disgusting example of him ignoring what he doesn't like is when he is willing to invoke Martin Luther King Jr. to prove that Christianity is a force for good but completely ignores the fact that MLK was one of the very leftists he disapproves of so much.
However, one of the most important factors Prager ignores is that many liberals, especially Keynesians (a group he rarely, if ever, mentions), have adapted their political positions on a purely practical basis because they believe their policies will reduce the chance of communist revolutions and other radical movements. Prager at least acknowledges that there are left-wingers who opposed Stalinism but he seems convinced that there are few, if any, liberals who hold their beliefs on a purely practical basis, as opposed to a moral one. However ignoring Keynesians is essential for Prager to promote the idea that "leftists" took over the term liberal, despite the fact that liberals and the Democratic Party rejected the New Left and its anti-capitalist tendencies, and the fact that many Keynesians/liberals ARE for relatively low tax taxes during certain periods.
- Blaming "the Left" for worldwide DDT bans that killed millions. (Note: This never actually happened)
- Just making things up in his head. He gets upset with Joe Biden for advising people not to travel during the swine flu panic, then says that it is "inconceivable" Dick Cheney would've have done the same thing because… well, just because. (Perhaps it's just that he can't conceive of it.)
- Says that the Norway shooter, Anders Breivik, will be released by age fifty-three because Norway's maximum sentence is twenty-one years, proving how illogical "leftism" is. Actually you basically come up for parole after twenty-one years and if you're thought to be too dangerous the sentence can be drawn out for life, in five-year intervals, which is most likely the case for Breivik. (Note: this is basically what happened to Charles Manson, who was denied parole until he finally died in prison.)
- As an example of the Left's madness he uses Steven Spielberg's admiration of Fidel Castro. No, really.
- One of his arguments that women have it better than men is that if women committed suicide as often as men, then there would be an uproar. This is a misleading argument since though men are more likely to kill themselves, women attempt suicide three times more often than men do.
- His amazing "evidence" the media is liberal could just as easily be attributed to laziness, sensationalism, or conservative bias. For instance, he claims that even though white women were the second least likely group to get AIDS the media paid more attention to white women who got AIDS than homosexuals who got AIDS because the media wanted to scare the public into funding AIDS research in order to save homosexuals. This could much more easily be explained away as the media caring more about white women who get AIDS because that's who they think their audience cares more about. Even if this were the case (which it wasn't) he's not making the "liberal media" look evil if they saved lives.
- "If you are an American who believes that America has a poor health care system, it is probably not because you have experienced inferior health care, but because the Left and the Left-wing media have repeatedly told you America has inferior health care." Yes, he wrote that.
Prager has a great section labeled "Addendum" near the end that uses a chart to compare liberal beliefs with conservative beliefs. Just two really good comparisons.
- Says the primary concern of conservatives is liberty while the primary concern of liberals is marriage equality.
- Says that conservatives want to make a good society by developing each citizen's character, while liberals want to "abolish inequality".
- Fritzsche, Peter. Germans into Nazis, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998; Eatwell, Roger, Fascism, A History, Viking-Penguin, 1996. pp. xvii-xxiv, 21, 26–31, 114–140, 352. Griffin, Roger, "Revolution from the Right: Fascism," in David Parker, ed., Revolutions and the Revolutionary Tradition in the West 1560-1991, London: Routledge, 2000
- Of course it's the Daily Mail
- He is also working with pre-Obama data. Post Obama liberals are happier than conservatives so the section is moot, you're happier if your guy is in office
- See the Wikipedia article on Body fluids in art.
- The feminist center-left country of Sweden would like a word with you
- 182.^ a b Roger Griffin. The nature of fascism. Digital Printing, 2003. Pp. 49.