COLUMN: The Gravel Institute makes leftism accessible

Leftists concepts are often hard to understand, but short YouTube videos produced by the Gravel Institute help break down these ideas into key points.

Jamie Holcomb is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about campus life and social justice for The Maneater.

There has been an influx of YouTube ads from an organization called PragerU. Short for Prager University, the organization produces videos from a conservative perspective, aiming to break down big ideas into short videos with clear explanations. They reach is far, with close to three million YouTube subscribers and over a billion views combined on their videos. PragerU’s most popular videos are about five minutes long, with their top videos receiving over a million views.

A new leftist organization has been created to combat PragerU’s influence on Americans’ political views. According to their about page, the Gravel Institute is a nonprofit that advocates for leftist ideals to be implemented to create a more “just and equal society.” The organization, which launched in Sept. 2020, says it is a continuation of “the life’s work of Senator Mike Gravel”, a former Democratic senator from Alaska who briefly ran for president in the 2020 election.

According to a video produced by the Gravel Institute, of the one third of Americans who have seen Prager’s videos, 70% say that they changed their views and pushed them further right. The problem with PragerU’s influence is that it leads people to more extreme ideologies. When viewing a video from the organization, recommended videos direct viewers to other conservative pages, but also to right-wing conspiracy theorists. The Gravel Institute uses the same medium as PragerU to reach a similar audience and close this gateway into extremist content.

Leftists ideologies are meant to uplift regular people and the working class, instead of societal elites. There needs to be an understanding that the government in its current form is not working to the benefit of a majority of people. The Gravel Institute’s videos help people better understand the problems this country faces, and how left-leaning ideology can help solve them.

Leftists need to create platforms and spaces where their ideas are broken down into easily digestible terms and reach a large audience. That’s exactly what the Gravel Institute accomplishes. They also educate conservatives and let them approach political discussions with a better understanding of the opposing view.

The Gravel Institute and PragerU use political buzzwords in the title of their videos to expand their audience outreach. That way, when people are trying to educate themselves on certain topics, they’re able to get both sides of the issue with videos from the Gravel Institute and PragerU. This also helps the Gravel Institute in their goal of combatting right-wing propaganda with their own leftist views.

In their first YouTube video, the Gravel Institute tackles a common debate of big government versus small government between the left and the right. The Gravel Institute defines buzzwords so people can better understand their message and ultimately justify their case for big government in a video that’s under six minutes long. By simplifying their message and boiling down leftist ideology into a single example, it’s easy to absorb the information. This is important for spreading the message to a wide audience, especially younger people who may not know as much about politics.

The left has to be able to refute conservative arguments without resorting to discussing theory. Instead, they need to argue how leftist policies will solve current issues, such as creating a national healthcare system and achieving increased income equality. The Gravel Institute modernizes these ideologies to effectively get their message across. This allows people to envision what the U.S. would be like under a more socialist economic system and how their lives would improve because of it.

The Gravel Institute counteracts PragerU’s propaganda and offers counterpoints to their various arguments, but they still have a long way to go before leftist ideals enter the mainstream. They’re still a new institute, thus they don’t have the same reach as PragerU. For college students, their videos are easily understood and thoroughly explained. Keep an open mind and check out the Gravel Institute’s videos on YouTube.

The Maneater is encouraging readers to donate to the Party for Socialism and Liberation, who are currently fundraising for Denver activists who were arrested for demanding justice for Elijah McClain.

Edited by Sofi Zeman |

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