Hate Spin - The Manufacture of Religious Offense and Its Threat to Democracy

Author(s): Cherian George

Politics | No Category

How right-wing political entrepreneurs around the world use religious offense--both given and taken--to mobilize supporters and marginalize opponents.


In the United States, elements of the religious right fuel fears of an existential Islamic threat, spreading anti-Muslim rhetoric into mainstream politics. In Indonesia, Muslim absolutists urge suppression of churches and minority sects, fostering a climate of rising intolerance. In India, Narendra Modi's radical supporters instigate communal riots and academic censorship in pursuit of their Hindu nationalist vision. Outbreaks of religious intolerance are usually assumed to be visceral and spontaneous. But in Hate Spin, Cherian George shows that they often involve sophisticated campaigns manufactured by political opportunists to mobilize supporters and marginalize opponents. Right-wing networks orchestrate the giving of offense and the taking of offense as instruments of identity politics, exploiting democratic space to promote agendas that undermine democratic values.


 


George calls this strategy "hate spin"--a double-sided technique that combines hate speech (incitement through vilification) with manufactured offense-taking (the performing of righteous indignation). It is deployed in societies as diverse as Buddhist Myanmar and Orthodox Christian Russia. George looks at the world's three largest democracies, where intolerant groups within India's Hindu right, America's Christian right, and Indonesia's Muslim right are all accomplished users of hate spin. He also shows how the Internet and Google have opened up new opportunities for cross-border hate spin.


George argues that governments must protect vulnerable communities by prohibiting calls to action that lead directly to discrimination and violence. But laws that try to protect believers' feelings against all provocative expression invariably backfire. They arm hate spin agents' offense-taking campaigns with legal ammunition. Anti-discrimination laws and a commitment to religious equality will protect communities more meaningfully than misguided attempts to insulate them from insult.

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“Rhetorically, we live in a schizophrenic age. Legislative debates about online hate speech are drowned out by inflammatory rhetoric on the US President’s Twitter feed. Women and children are threatened with death for manufactured claims of blasphemy, even as sectarian hatred is spewed from pulpits and online portals. Journalists are butchered by the same governments that demand ‘responsible’ reporting. 

Much of George’s book is focused on hate spin against religious groups, whether Muslims in the United States, non-Hindus in India, or Ahmadis and Christians in Indonesia, but hate spin is at heart about the politics of identity. ‘People who fear the changes wrought by globalization often crave simple ideas that offer a reassuring sense of stability. Hate spin converts rational, defensive anxieties into a paranoid attack mode, which could involve hate speech against a minority group, manufactured indignation over some injustice symbol, or both’ (p. 22). Witness the election of Donald Trump, the rise of anti-immigration forces in Europe, or the election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

…Hate Spin is a must-read for any scholar interested in the intersection of media and ideology in our increasingly polarized world. ”. 

Lawrence Pintak – The MIT Press   (JC BookGrocer)

General Fields

  • : 9780262534406
  • : MIT Press
  • : MIT Press
  • : September 2017
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Cherian George
  • : Paperback
  • : 328