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 religiousright fuel fears of anexistential Islamic threat, spreading anti-Muslimrhetoric into mainstreampolitics. In Indonesia, Muslim absolutists urge suppressionof churches andminority sects, fostering a climate of rising intolerance. InIndia, NarendraModi's radical supporters instigate communal riots and academiccensorshipin pursuit of their Hindu nationalist vision. Outbreaks of religiousintoleranceare usually assumed to be visceral and spontaneous. But inHateSpin,Cherian George shows that they often involve sophisticated campaignsmanufacturedby political opportunists to mobilize supporters andmarginalize opponents. Right-wing networks orchestrate the giving of offenseandthetaking ofoffenseasinstruments of identity politics,exploiting democratic space to promote agendasthat undermine democraticvalues.
George calls this strategy hate spin -a double-sidedtechnique thatcombines hate speech (incitement through vilification) with manufacturedoffense-taking (the performing of righteous indignation). It is deployed insocieties as diverse as Buddhist Myanmar and Orthodox Christian Russia.
Georgelooks at the world's three largest democracies, where intolerantgroups within India'sHindu right, America's Christian right, and Indonesia'sMuslim right are allaccomplished users of hate spin. He also shows how theInternet and Google haveopened up new opportunities for cross-borderhate spin. George argues that governments must protectvulnerable communities byprohibiting calls to action that lead directly to discriminationand violence.
But laws that try to protect believers' feelings against all provocativeexpression invariably backfire. They arm hate spin agents' offense-takingcampaigns with legal ammunition. Anti-discrimination laws and acommitment toreligious equality will protect communities more meaningfullythan misguidedattempts to insulate them from insult.