PRAGER: The Anti-Speech Pandemic

Woman with her mouth covered
Laurent Hamels via Getty Images

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic is not the only epidemic spreading through our country. There’s been another one spreading over the last several years with consequences that threaten Americans’ fundamental ideals of free speech and open inquiry as much as the coronavirus threatens Americans’ lives.

This attack on free speech and suppression of ideas has become so commonplace that, along with the brilliant comedian Adam Carolla, I have made a film, No Safe Spaces, documenting this alarming trend.

To continue the analogy, the college campus has become our Wuhan — the epicenter of idea-suppression. Once a marketplace of ideas, American colleges and universities have become infected with the idea that ‘If I don’t like what you say, you do not have the right to say it.’

This attitude has “gone viral,” spreading as rapidly and as widely as the coronavirus — to the arts, entertainment, news media, and tech industries, all of which have become carriers of the disease. Throughout America, people are silenced, punished, or “cancelled” if they say something that is deemed objectionable to the left — not to liberals, it should be stressed. Liberals have a long history of protecting free speech, but they are now so intimidated by the left, they have abandoned their historic commitment to free speech.

I’ve personally experienced this with my Prager University videos, as we continue to fight a legal battle with Google-owned YouTube over its suppression of our video content online. YouTube has placed about a hundred of our videos on its Restricted List, a parent/school/public library-activated option to filter what videos their child can access, as if they feature violence or pornography. Among those who present PragerU videos are four Pulitzer Prize-winners, three former prime ministers, members of European parliaments, professors from MIT, Harvard, and Princeton, and some of the most eminent thinkers of our time.

No Safe Spaces explores the state of free speech in America, featuring prominent figures on the on the left as well as on the right — progressives such as Van Jones, Cornel West, Barack Obama, and Bret Weinstein. After its successful theatrical run, as we prepared for the home entertainment release, a funny thing happened on the way to the living rooms of America: Mainstream Hollywood decided it didn’t want Americans to see the film.

When I agreed to be in the film, the producers assured me there would be no resistance to the film from distributors — because distributors’ only concern is whether the film was a success. And it was. No Safe Spaces was the #1 political documentary of 2019 at the box office, and it earned the highest audience score at Rotten Tomatoes.com of any film released in 2019 — 99%.

Distributors, of course, have the right to decide what content to place on their platforms — that’s free market capitalism. But when a movie is as successful as No Safe Spaces — in addition to being the number one political documentary of the year, it grossed $1.3 million at the box office — under normal circumstances, distributors would jump at the opportunity to offer such a film to the public. But they didn’t. This is an important thing for Americans to understand: Hollywood’s bottom line no longer drives their decisions; ideological purity is more important to them than money.

Take Netflix, for example. The streaming giant passed on No Safe Spaces months after it paid ten million dollars to acquire Knock Down This House, another political documentary which had not done any business at all at the box office. But that documentary features Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.

So, then, a movie with no track record was given piles of cash because it is acceptable to the left while a movie that reaches the top was passed over because it appeals to conservatives and liberals, but not to the left.

In most cases, distributors passed on No Safe Spaces without giving any reason for doing so. But one did. I won’t name them because I appreciate their honesty, but here’s an excerpt from their email to the film’s producers:

“If the film is as provocative in the marketplace as it was in our sales projection meeting, you’ve got a hit on your hands. That said, in the course of our discussions we discovered a line the majority of the team won’t cross and that is supporting anything that puts a spotlight on Dennis Prager. The essential message of the film, protecting free speech, is embraced here, but supporting free speech only compels us to permit it, not to spend our time and money promoting a film whose ‘hero’ is someone with some very troubling ideas.”

Not one of my “troubling ideas” was cited. I suspect they could not find any. I am as mainstream a conservative as there is. If I am “troubling,” what conservative isn’t? So the game is rigged, and it’s important for Americans to know this. The content studios and streaming services offer to viewers has been pre-vetted by people who disdain the most fundamental of American values — people who claim to support free speech while rejecting a film about free speech!

We have therefore looked elsewhere. Salem Media (which owns my radio program) has agreed to make No Safe Spaces available to home viewers on their streaming platform at www.NoSafeSpaces.com. We are also working with another distributor that does value free speech to release No Safe Spaces on other home entertainment platforms later this summer.

Beyond (and predating) our current crisis caused by the coronavirus, we’re in the midst of an epic battle to preserve what is good and unique about America. On that front, good people are divided into three groups: those who fight, those who support the fighters, and those who do nothing. Unfortunately, the largest number of good people fall into the third category. However, those who support the fighters are just as important as the fighters themselves. That’s what conservatives (and liberals true to the liberal commitment to free speech) need to do: support the fighters by seeing No Safe Spaces. It’s as simple as that.

As you sit home during these difficult times, visit NoSafeSpaces.com, download and watch the movie. Buy downloads for all the young people in your life and share it with them. Aside from its critically important message, it is a powerful and entertaining film.

The coronavirus pandemic will pass. But the anti-speech epidemic will remain. No Safe Spaces is an effective vaccine.

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