Last week, I had the unfortunate experience of falling down a PragerU rabbit hole. For those of you lucky enough to be ignorant of PragerU, it is a conservative media institution whose content ranges from talk radio to children’s cartoons. My spiral occurred after I saw an advertisement in the library for an upcoming campus event with a conservative influencer previously unknown to me, Will Witt. Several hours of doom scrolling followed.
Will Witt is a run-of-the-mill conservative influencer. Armed with a microphone and a camera crew, he preys on unsuspecting college students, aiming to humiliate them for an audience lusting for “social justice warrior gets wrecked” content. He himself is not worth much discussion. Like other similar influencers, Witt shifts the factual landscape when he can’t win and exemplifies the growing hypocrisy of the American right. He uses sound bites and buzzwords familiar to those of us who grew up in Fox News households to spark outrage. Nothing about him is new, nor is it honest.
Although PragerU’s swarm of online “activists” portray themselves as irreverent and fringe, they are anything but. PragerU itself operates under an annual budget of $23 million and receives the majority of its funding from such faithful supporters of the ultra-wealthy conservative establishment as the Koch Brothers and Farris Wilks. The irony of talking heads like Witt decrying the elitist hegemony of the left while functioning as a megaphone for some of the country’s wealthiest citizens is laughable. The hypocrisy in the underlying themes of this and related content is even more stark. Throughout Mr. Witt’s content, he decries the “victim mentality” of the American left. A quick glance at his PragerU biography, though, reveals that he dropped out of the University of Colorado-Boulder because of the “constant indoctrination” he experienced while there. These influencers paint everyone on the left as naïve and childlike while abhorring anything they disagree with as an attack on their personhood. They are so steeped in the propaganda machine they operate that they can not recognize their own inability to cope with criticism.
In the upcoming weeks, Witt will visit campuses like ours across America, no doubt hungry for students to indoctrinate. I’m sure he will engage in the same song and dance about the left’s restriction of free speech and hatred of America. His ideas and words will not be his own, though. They will be values and ideals that advance the agenda of a much older, wealthier generation of conservatives; those individuals smart enough to recognize that their message needed a new face to reach a new generation. Behind the tech-savvy and internet lingo-laden conservative influencers of today lie the same entrenched institutions they rail against. That is what is most terrifying about Will Witt: He is unaware of the master he serves. Though I may have a much smaller platform than Mr. Witt, I too have a message for my fellow students: don’t fall for it.
Katherine Broten is a sophomore majoring in economics and public policy leadership from Farmington, NM.