CARE Director’s Opinion: The right-wing version of academic freedom and communicative inversions by Prof. Mohan Dutta

For the far-right, free speech is the discursive trope organised to silence speech. This communicative inversion, the turning of materiality on its head through discursive tropes, is a communicative tool deployed by the right to hold up and perpetuate a broader culture of hate that targets Indigenous, people of colour, gender diverse, women, and diversely abled academics.

When the Newsroom story, Academics divided on their own freedoms, made its way into my mailbox, I was looking forward to reading it. The story was behind a paywall, and I had to wait until noon to read it, when thankfully a colleague kindly forwarded the text of the story to me. The story reported from a survey commissioned by the Free Speech Union and carried out by Curia Market Research. Curia boasts many clients including Pfizer, Microsoft, and the National party. In its opening page, the company pitches itself as having run polling services for New Zealand Prime Ministers and opposition politicians.

The Free Speech Union was formed initially as the Free Speech Coalition in response to the cancelling of an event at an Auckland Council-owned venue to be held by the far-right white supremacists Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux. Although it claims support from both sides of the political and ideological spectrum, the positions expressed by the Free Speech Union since its formation in 2018 seem to be concerned with the safeguarding of a particular form of free speech- the freedom to speech of those occupying positions of privilege. This form of speech is organised to target and silence the speech, health and safety of those at the margins of societies.

In multiple instances where the Free Speech Union has run an organised campaign, the campaign seems to be driven to safeguard the expressions of white, patriarchal, colonial structures.

The podcasts on the website of the Free Speech Union seem to be predominantly concerned with what it terms “American style culture war” and “woke culture”.

It seems the “chilling effect” the Union is concerned about is the speech of those in hegemonic positions of power. The Union’s narrative constructing the fear of being cancelled is driven to safeguard those identity positions in power that have historically and in contemporary contexts perpetuated the silencing of the raced, gendered, colonial margins.

In December 2021, the Union created an academic freedom fund in support of two academics who were being investigated by the Royal Society for a letter they wrote to the New Zealand Listener disputing the scientific legitimacy of Mātauranga Māori. When I received the survey from the Free Speech Union, I ignored it because of the seeming parochial ideological investments of the Union. Speaking with and witnessing the social media accounts of other ethnic minority, Indigenous, and gender diverse colleagues, I observed similar responses.

It was the same reason I had earlier ignored the invitation from the Union to an interview on the film The Kashmir Files. The Union platformed Roy Kaunds, a Hindutva ideologue who has been called out by Indian diaspora activists for his Islamophobic speech. Mr Kaunds previously appeared on the far-right hate infrastructure, Counterspin MediaThe Kashmir Files has been critiqued for its role as a propaganda device in spreading Islamophobia, and Hindutva ideologues have deployed the film to produce and circulate Islamophobic hate speech, reflected in calls to carry out genocide of Muslims and organised rape of Muslim women.

It seemed that I was on the radar of the Union as an academic with a different viewpoint (in the words of the person who called me), and yet I hadn’t registered a word of solidarity from the Union over the six or seven months my academic freedom was being threatened by the supporters of Hindutva, a far-right nationalist political ideology, here in Aotearoa. Mr Kaunds, the Union’s proponent of Free Speech in the context of The Kashmir Files was part of the communicative infrastructure targeting my academic freedom in the context of Hindutva.

The Newsroom article did not tell us much about the sample of the reported survey, the sampling strategy, and the demographic and ideological characteristics of the sample. Moreover, my concerns about source credibility related to the survey are validated by the survey items that were reported in the article. For instance, the article suggests 21 per cent of respondents score 0-2.5 on a 10-point scale in indicating the freedom to “question and test received wisdom.” Without further elucidation of what the item means by received wisdom, the reader is left to guess what the item is pointing toward. In other words, the perception of academic freedom reflected by the item seems to depend on what the operationalisation of “received wisdom” is.

The far right’s attack on justice-based scholarship is often legitimised through the language of freedom to test “received wisdom,” held up by the communicative construction of “woke culture” as a strategy to further marginalise voices at the margins. Indeed, the item may be interpreted to support the preconfigured agenda of the Union, that there is an “American culture war” problem in Aotearoa New Zealand. The items that follow, freedom to debate or discuss “gender and sex issues” and “treaty issues,” give away the ideological agenda of the Union. We learn that 50 per cent of the academics feel silenced about debating treaty issues (20 per cent scoring 0-2.5 and 20 per cent scoring 2.6-5.0 on a 10-point scale). We also learn that 47 per cent of the academics feel silenced debating about gender and sex issues (27 per cent scoring 0-2.5 and 20 per cent scoring 2.6-5.0 on a 10-point scale).

These items once again don’t really elucidate much. They remain vague about the aspects of these issues where academics seem to be experiencing chilling effects.

The focus on these two areas seems random, unless read from the ideological agenda of the far-right here in Aotearoa. For the far-right discursive infrastructures, “gender and sex issues” and “treaty issues” are key sites for perpetuating hate that is targeted at the margins. The freedom of speech here is deployed specifically to legitimise and circulate hate. The language of “cancel culture” is discursively deployed to erase and silence articulations from the raced, classed, gendered margins of the settler-colonial state, silencing the voices and academic freedom of those at the margins.

Who are the academics experiencing chilling effects in discussing “sex and gender” and “treaty issues?” Unless the academics responding to these items on the survey are experts in these areas, the concept of academic freedom in these areas doesn’t extend to them. A physicist’s academic freedom to make statements about “treaty issues” or “sex and gender” is as legitimate as my claim about academic freedom to make pronouncements about the muon G-2 experiment. We cannot tell from the news story whether the academics experiencing chilling effects in discussing these issues are area experts.

In the absence of details about the sample (including subject areas) and analysis of the findings disaggregated by area of scholarship, one might speculate given the context that the academics who responded to the survey are not experts in the areas of “sex and gender” and “treaty issues.” Lacking such detail, the survey could be read as a politically motivated campaign to deploy the tropes of “cancel culture” and “wokeism” to target the academic freedom of scholars at the intersectional “margins of the margins.”

In a political climate where the far-right has weaponised diverse forms of attacks on academic freedoms to uphold the hegemonic structures of whiteness, patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism, the Free Speech Union’s survey of academic freedom is an exemplar of communicative inversion, directed at perpetuating a chilling climate in the name of promoting academic freedom.

Professor Mohan Dutta is Dean’s Chair Professor of Communication. He is the Director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), developing culturally-centered, community-based projects of social change, advocacy, and activism that articulate health as a human right.

Article Source: https://www.massey.ac.nz/about/news/opinion-the-right-wing-version-of-academic-freedom-and-communicative-inversions/

#RightWing #AcademicFreedom #CommunicativeInversions #CAREMassey #CARECCA #MasseyUni #CAREOpEd

CARE News: CARE research project article “Experiences with COVID-19 Among Gig Workers” published in The Conversation

Voiceless and vulnerable, NZ’s gig workers faced more risk with fewer protections during the pandemic

GettyImages

Leon Salter, Massey University and Mohan Jyoti Dutta, Massey University

Published: April 6, 2022 1.31pm NZST

Largely overlooked in the recent easing of COVID restrictions has been the unequal impact on marginalised groups such as gig workers.

While for much of the past two years there was a sense of collective risk mitigation by the “team of five million”, the government has since shifted that burden more towards individuals and personal responsibility.

But this avoids the fact that not all individuals have to negotiate the same amount of risk. And research shows gig work is one of the riskiest types of employment during a pandemic.

Furthermore, gig workers lack a public voice with which to communicate these risks to the general public and decision makers. But as our recent report – Experiences with COVID-19 Among Gig Workers – shows, these workers have been at a high risk of both contracting and transmitting the COVID-19 virus.

No way to speak out

We interviewed 25 rideshare and delivery drivers about their experiences during the pandemic. We found the structural features of their employment not only exposed them to increased risk from the virus, but also offered minimal protection should they be too ill to work.

While conventional businesses have established infrastructures for voicing dissatisfaction with COVID policy – through organisations such as Hospitality NZ, for example – gig workers lack equivalent communication channels.

This inequality also extends to gig workers’ access to culturally appropriate preventive health information. Not unlike the inequities faced by Māori and migrant communities, this leaves gig workers (many of whom are also migrants who don’t speak English as their first language) more vulnerable to the negative health effects of COVID-19.

Such risk is compounded by the structural features of gig work. Our report is grounded in the voices of workers themselves and argues that seven structural features influence their experiences: the work is piecemeal, precarious, individualised, gamified, dehumanised, automated and hyper-competitive.

Up against it: rideshare drivers in New York protested for fair pay in late March. GettyImages

Algorithm as manager

By its nature, the work is driven by immediate supply and demand – drivers are paid for each micro-transaction, rather than a wage, meaning time spent waiting for jobs goes unpaid:

Sometimes it’s really quiet. It’s not even worth … turning your car on for. Yeah, it’s basically just waiting until … you know there’s going to be demand.

This in turn means no job security. If demand decreases, so does income – exactly what happened to rideshare drivers in the pandemic, with some reporting their incomes had halved or worse.

Rideshare workers’ only communication with their “employer” (their status as contractors is being disputed globally) is through a phone app, meaning interactions take the form of a game, with both parties trying to extract the most money.

There is a built-in power asymmetry, however. For example, Uber withholds information about a passenger’s destination and the length of the proposed trip, which could help a driver gauge whether to accept a job.

With no human manager and effectively managed by an algorithm, many interviewees commented on the dehumanised nature of their interactions with Uber and their isolation from other drivers. Classified as independent contractors, they function as individual micro-businesses with no colleagues and no voice or influence in their organisation:

If you’re part of it, then you’re part of it. You know this is how things are going to be. So there’s no point questioning it because there is no human component to it, so there’s no one to question.

On the COVID front line

Because of their status as independent contractors, however, risk mitigation such as masks, sanitiser or plastic screens has been their own responsibility.

While Uber offered a $20 rebate for sanitiser in 2020, drivers reported a difficult application process, with many giving up. Drivers also felt they lacked preventive health education.

On top of increased precariousness and health risks, drivers also faced the consequences of COVID’s polarising effects. They reported picking up anti-mask, unvaccinated passengers, under pressure to accept the rides due to financial anxiety and the threat of poor ratings.

Especially at the beginning of the first COVID happening, a lot of customers didn’t really want to wear a mask … and I was wearing a mask obviously. But there’s some of them tried to reach for my mask and trying to make me take it off and being abusive and all this kind of thing.

If drivers become infected with COVID-19, they often lack the financial resources to cover their household expenses. Their need to keep working then puts the wider community at risk, too. The ‘Experiences with COVID-19 Among Gig Workers’ report was launched on March 24.

Risk but few rewards

There have been trade union efforts to organise rideshare and delivery drivers, including an ongoing Employment Court claim seeking employment rights. As contractors, however, drivers are legally barred from full union membership – again denying drivers the means to communicate their grievances.

All of these structural features mean rideshare and delivery workers have been isolated, voiceless and highly vulnerable during the pandemic. Without protections such as sick pay or annual leave, gig workers also cannot choose to work from home.

But, as some have argued, they are providing what can be regarded as an essential service, putting themselves at risk while delivering food and other goods to customers in isolation.

One of the many lessons of the pandemic is the urgent need for workers in the gig economy to have their voices heard. We all need to be more aware of the precarious and risky working conditions of the person who delivers our takeaways or takes us to a party. And we need to support worker-led collectivisation efforts.

Leon Salter, Postdoctoral Fellow, Massey University and Mohan Jyoti Dutta, Dean’s Chair Professor, Massey University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

Read the original article.

#TradeUnions #Uber #Aotearoa #NewZealand #stories #PrecariousWork #GigWorkers #COVID19 #CARECCA #CAREMassey #MasseyUni

CARE White Paper Launch – Hindutva, digital networks of hate, and implications for democracy: A critical analysis of responses to the Chief Censor’s Review of The Kashmir Files in Aotearoa

with Prof. Mohan Dutta and New Zzealand activist Anjum Rahman

Join us LIVE for the White Paper Launch with Prof. Mohan Dutta and NZ activist Anjum Rahman on Hindutva, digital networks of hate, and implications for democracy: A critical analysis of responses to the Chief Censor’s Review of The Kashmir Files in Aotearoa

Friday 25th March 2022 @ 11.30 am NZDT

Livestream link: https://www.facebook.com/CAREMassey/videos/368615111797393

CARE Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1583656381990700/

#Hindutva #DigitalNetworks #hate #democracy #KashmirFiles #Aotearoa #NewZealand

CARE EVENT – THE ISLAMOPHOBIA IN AUSTRALIA REPORT: A DIALOGUE- *Rescheduled*

with Mariam Veiszadeh, Dr. Derya Iner & Prof. Mohan Dutta

CARE *EVENT UPDATE*

Unfortunately, tonight’s CARE Event: The Islamophobia in Australia Report: A dialogue with Mariam Veiszade, Dr Derya Iner & Prof. Mohan Dutta is rescheduled. We will be in touch with you soon with an updated date/time. Apologies for any inconvenience. Thank you

Join us for this dialogue and presentation on 23rd March 2022 @ 6PM NZDT LIVE via CARE ‘s Facebook & YouTube channel.

Livestream link: https://www.facebook.com/CAREMassey/videos/1218727431995434

Facebook : @CARE Massey

YouTube: @CAREMassey

About our speakers

Mariam Veiszadeh is an award-winning human rights advocate, lawyer, diversity and inclusion practitioner, contributing author and media commentator.  She is also the founder and President of the Islamophobia Register Australia and has been involved in the anti-racism space for over a decade.

Mariam was recently appointed as inaugural CEO of Media Diversity Australia and  has held multiple board positions including formerly as Co-Chair of Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights and Our Watch.

With many accolades to her name including the Fairfax Daily Life 2016 Woman of the year, the 2015 Westpac Woman of Influence and Welcoming Australia Life Member Award in 2021, Mariam is renowned for influencing positive change both in the workplace and in society more broadly.

Mariam was born in Afghanistan and came to Australia in 1990 with her family as a refugee and has long been a vocal champion of the rights of asylum seekers and refugees. When Kabul fell in August last year, Mariam was at the forefront of advocating for Australia to increase its humanitarian intake.

Derya Iner is Senior Lecturer and Research Coordinator at the Centre for Islamic Studies (CISAC), Charles Sturt University, teaching and researching subjects on contemporary issues related to Islam, Islamic cultures and Muslims. Iner is also the course coordinator of Contemporary Islamic Studies at CISAC.  Iner completed her PhD in Cultural Studies and Gender Studies in Wisconsin-Madison (USA). Her research focuses particularly on Islamophobia, especially women and children’s experience with Islamophobia, Western Muslim youth and their religious identity and Women in Islam and Islamic cultures.  Iner is the chief investigator and editor of the Islamophobia in Australia Report I (2017) and Islamophobia in Australia Report II (2019), which drew worldwide attention by reaching out to potential 730 million international audiences (according to CSU’s media metrics report). Iner’s recent publications include a co-edited volume with John Esposito Islamophobia and Radicalisation: Breeding Intolerance and Violence (Palgrave 2019). Derya is also an executive board member of the Islamophobia Register Australia and co-founder of International Islamophobia and Children Network. Iner currently focuses on the research Mosque Attacks in Australia, Children of Islamophobia and Islamophobia in Australia Report III.

For more details: https://arts-ed.csu.edu.au/centres/cisac/staff/profiles/academic-staff/derya-iner

Children of Islamophobia Project: The project started with the intention of exploring the direct and indirect (i.e. relational) effects of Islamophobia on children. The project was conducted in NSW, WA and VIC in collaboration with Prof Samina Yasmeen of University of Western Australia and Prof Linda Briskman of Western Sydney University.  The pilot study conducted in 2018 focused on interviewing with mothers and by doing so understanding the family dynamics, parental dynamics and state of being in terms of coping with Islamophobia. The research also aimed to inform the development of suitable methodologies to implement while conducting the research directly on children. As a result of the pilot, the scope of the study was further developed by proposing to investigate Muslim and non-Muslim children’ sense of oneself and the other under the climate of Islamophobia in Australia.

CARE White Paper Launch- Issue #14: A Culture-Centered Approach to Community-led Social Cohesion in Aotearoa

Join us on Thursday, 17 March 2022 at 7PM (NZDT) for the release of the CARE White Paper: “A Culture-Centered Approach to Community-led Social Cohesion in Aotearoa New Zealand”

The launch will be presented by Professor Mohan J Dutta, Dean’s Chair of Communication & Director of CARE.

The White Paper is co-authored with Pooja Jayan, Md Mahbub Rahman, Christine Elers, and Francine Whittfield, CARE: Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation

Facebook Event Link : https://www.facebook.com/events/2196384167179941/

Facebook Premiere Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/311510504299109


CARE Rebroadcast: In Conversation with the activist Anjum Rahman

CARE: Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation Rebroadcast: In Conversation with the activist Anjum Rahman on the ongoing and necessary work to address Islamophobia in Aotearoa New Zealand with Prof. Mohan Dutta

Link: https://www.facebook.com/CAREMassey/videos/212170776541806/

#EndTheHate#Aotearoa#NewZealand#CAREMassey#MasseyUni

CARE Op-Ed: Dialogue isn’t always the best option by Prof. Mohan Dutta

by Prof. Mohan Dutta
Kelvyn Alp, broadcasting on Counterspin, a key source of disinformation and conspiracy theories for “freedom” protesters. (Screenshot); Source: https://e-tangata.co.nz/

Superficial attempts at listening and dialogue can have the effect of normalising the far right, giving it credibility and the opportunity to grow, writes Professor Mohan Dutta.

One of the mainstream liberal responses to the angry anti-mandate, anti-vax, anti-everything protests that we’ve been seeing around the country are calls for dialogue

These calls, coming from a wide array of mainstream sources, including the Human Rights Commissioner, suggest that dialogue promotes social cohesion. Dialogue, so the theory goes, creates a middle ground through listening to all communities, thereby preventing polarisation. 

Implicit in this approach is the “both sides” logic, with dialogue serving as a resource for developing mutual understanding between the two differing constituencies. 

But what exactly is the middle ground when democracies are faced with viral disinformation campaigns organised by powerful political and economic interests?

What exactly are the characteristics of dialogue when dealing with a protest that is propelled and co-opted by disinformation and hate, that is deeply rooted in the ideological apparatus of white supremacy, and that is seeking to seed chaos and capture power by undermining democratic institutions? 

What message does the performance of dialogue with campaigns fed by white supremacy send out to Māori, Pacific and ethnic communities who are the targets of the hate perpetuated by the far right? 

In the backdrop of the Christchurch terror attack, what message does dialogue with a protest fuelled by white supremacy send to Muslims in Aotearoa New Zealand, who continue to grapple with the trauma of that violence?

Instead of building social cohesion, superficial attempts at listening and dialogue can have the effect of normalising the far right, giving it credibility and the opportunity to grow. 

There is profound irony in the fact that the reference to “listening to communities — all communities”, in calls for dialogue covering the statements by the Human Rights Commissioner, relates to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch attack targeting Muslims and migrants. 

Consider this irony in the context of the voices of Muslims in Aotearoa New Zealand, who continue to highlight the erasure of their voices and the unresponsiveness of the Crown structures to Muslim voices documenting and raising concerns about Islamophobic hate. 

In an Official Information Act response to Christchurch youth advocate Josiah Tualamali’i, Crown Law (the organisation responsible for drafting the terms of the Royal Commission inquiry), stated that “in drafting the terms of reference, Crown Law did not consult with Muslim community leaders and/or victims of the attacks.” 

Whiteness and dialogue

The uncritical and celebratory view of dialogue as a human right reflects the whiteness of the mainstream approaches to dialogue, which upholds as universal the values of the dominant white culture. 

Instead of building a framework for justice that pays attention to the inequality inherent in many white spaces, the upholding of dialogue as a panacea reproduces and magnifies the disinformation and hate perpetuated by white supremacists.

The protests we’ve seen in Wellington and around the country have been shaped by disinformation and hate, seeded and circulated by right-wing white supremacist hate infrastructures, connected to and imported from Trump-aligned fascist groups in the United States. 

You’d have to be blind not to see the convergence in strategies between the recent protests at parliament and the Capitol riots which called for citizen-led arrests of policymakers, jailing them, and even carrying out their executions.

Counterspin Media, a platform that’s been covering the protests and feeding  protesters with disinformation, has been a key media resource in the mobilisation of the protests. 

As observed by digital activist Byron Clark, who has co-written a white paper on resisting digital hate, Counterspin is streamed on the Steve Bannon-led GTV network and is a key player in organising and circulating disinformation and hate here in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

In spite of multiple early warning signs about the presence of this hate infrastructure, the Crown has largely been unresponsive, and digital platforms have continued to profit from the virality of hate content. This is particularly disappointing given the rhetoric of the Christchurch Call.

The host of Counterspin, Kelvyn Alp, has actively promoted disinformation and hate propaganda, calling on protesters to storm parliament and arrest members of parliament, and making multiple references to killing them. On March 2, the day police finally ended the 23-day occupation, Alp opined that things would have gone differently if protesters had been armed: 

“Can you imagine if a few boys brought out of their boot a few AK-47s? Those muppets would have run for the hills. That’s the problem. You disarm a population under a false flag so they can then come and eviscerate you.”

Alp is joined by other white supremacists: Brett Power, Philip Arps, Damien De Ment and the white nationalist group Action Zealandia.

Counterspin has also circulated the Christchurch conspiracy video during the Wellington protest, claiming the falsehood that the Christchurch terrorist attack was a false flag.

White supremacists systematically target Indigenous and other minority communities with disinformation and hate propaganda. White supremacist propaganda targeted at Black, Indigenous, people of colour (BIPOC) communities seeds chaos and amplifies and multiplies disinformation and hate. We saw examples of that in the US, where white supremacists co-opted Black Lives Matter protests and organised violence.

These propaganda infrastructures operate largely on digital platforms such as Telegram, Facebook and Twitter. Simultaneously, they create and craft spectacles — the protests — that draw mainstream media attention, further perpetuating the disinformation. The production of the spectacle is a key strategy in placing disinformation and hate into the mainstream media. 

Inequalities and dialogues at the margins

Communication is deeply infected by colonial, race, class, and gender inequalities. 

Calls for dialogue that overlook or erase these inequalities uphold the power and control of the coloniser. A framework of dialogue rooted in justice recognises these inequalities and seeks to build spaces for the voices of the margins.

Just dialogues need to begin with developing culture-centred methods and practices for communities at the margins, created and led by communities at the margins, that challenge disinformation and hate. 

Across digital platforms, I’ve witnessed a number of anti-racist Māori activists and leaders such as Tame Iti, Marise Lant and Matthew Tukaki, who have taken the leadership in countering the disinformation fuelling the protests. They’ve been engaging communities in critical conversations, and have simultaneously been exposing the underlying ideology of white supremacist hate driving the protests.

Respecting the commitments of te Tiriti would put Māori leadership at the heart of any strategy of dialogue and social cohesion.

Respecting the voices of Muslims in Aotearoa New Zealand who have in recent years borne disproportionately the burden of violence emerging from white supremacy would centre the voices of Muslims in building solutions for social cohesion.

In creating opportunities and safe spaces to listen to the voices of those on the margins, we would also attend to the ways in which the whiteness of the Crown’s Covid-19 response has produced forms of marginalisation — including among some of those who took part in the #Convoy22NZ protest — and help to build solutions that address the economic disenfranchisement resulting from government policies. 

Partnering with, and supporting, the leadership of communities at the margins as the drivers of solutions is going to be vital to countering the Trumpian web of disinformation and hate that has planted its roots in Aotearoa New Zealand.  

Professor Mohan Dutta (Photo supplied)

Professor Mohan Dutta is Dean’s Chair Professor of Communication at Massey University. He is the director of the Centre for Culture-Centred Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), developing culturally-centred, community-based projects of social change, advocacy and activism that articulate health as a human right. 

© E-Tangata, 2022

© 2021, Center for Culture-Centered Approach for Research & Evaluation (CARE). All rights reserved.


News: Massey research paper on Hindutva leads to trolling, persecution and threats via NZ Herald

Massey research paper on Hindutva leads to trolling, persecution and threats via NZ Herald

CARE: Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation stands in solidarity with its research team members Richa Sharma, Balamohan Shingade, and others (Indigenous women and women of colour) not mentioned in this report for their courage in documenting extremist #Hindutva nationalism and in building culture-centered preventive interventions rooted in dialogue, peace, and voice.

Massey University researcher Richa Sharma. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Full article:

Richa Sharma was doing research on religious extremism in Aotearoa when she got a call from her mother. Her aunties and uncles, close family friends who have known her since she was born, were convinced she was a terrorist.

For a few months last year, Richa Sharma did not go out after dark, always making sure she had safe ways to get around for work and meetings.

The 18-year-old was interning at Care, a Massey University research centre that was copping online abuse for publishing a white paper about the far-right nationalist ideology known as Hindutva and its creeping presence in Aotearoa.

There were calls for centre director Professor Mohan Dutta to be sacked, even burned alive. Police said the trolls were overseas, but an Auckland-based Indian news site published a piece calling Dutta a “left-leaning bigot under the garb of an academician”, and part of “a gang of some smelly rats”.

The Hindu Council and Hindu Youth New Zealand chimed in with nearly identical statements, condemning the paper for “accusatory and unsubstantiated assertions” that made the Hindu community look bad. Hindu Youth said it was “outright Hindu hatred”.

Most of the vitriol was directed at Dutta but his team, some of them South Asian and female, were not spared. Their profiles were public on the Care website and social media pages.

“We had to watch our steps carefully,” said Sharma, now 19. “I really didn’t feel safe. We had a police file open.”

Shortly after, an auntie and uncle reached out to Sharma’s mother back home in Palmerston North. They were not related by blood but it was custom in the community to address close family friends as auntie and uncle.

Over tea, Sharma’s mother was told her daughter worked for an anti-Hindu outfit and was urged to intervene. Auntie and uncle were convinced Sharma was a “left-wing, radical terrorist”.

Another auntie sent text messages condemning the white paper, including a petition against Massey University to take it down.


Source: NZ Herald

#CAREMasseyNZ #MasseyUni #CARECCA #CultureCenteredApproach #Solidarity #Hindutva #Nationalism #Aotearoa #NewZealand

CARE WHITE PAPER: Experiences of Muslims in India on digital platforms with anti-Muslim hate

by Prof. Mohan J. Dutta, CARE Massey University

The proliferation and penetration of digital media across the globe over the past two decades has witnessed the accelerated growth of hate content online[i]. Hate content threatens social cohesion and democratic processes[ii], and at the same time, adversely impacts the overall sense of security of those that are targeted with hate[iii]. Hate erodes trust, and thus, depletes democracies. When uncontrolled, hate leads to growing violence directed at minority communities and genocide. Moreover, hate directly impacts the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities that are targeted. The effects of hate are multiplied manifold when minorities are the subjects of these targeted attacks, exacerbating the sense of insecurity.

 In India, the largest global democracy, the propaganda infrastructures of Hindutva[iv], the political ideology that has shaped the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are driven by hate, seeded, circulated, and reproduced through digital platforms[v]. Since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 and subsequent electoral victory in 2019, the hate on digital platforms in India and in the Indian diaspora has proliferated exponentially. The content of digital hate driven by Hindutva has been directed at India’s religious minorities, Muslims and Christians, as well as oppressed caste communities (dalits)[vi]. Of particular significance are the extreme forms of hate that have been directed at Muslims, including calls for genocide issued by Hindutva ideologues.

A number of published studies and reports by civil society document the scope and volume of the hate content on digital platforms. However, the literature so far has not really explored the experiences of the exposure to the anti-Muslim digital hate among Muslims in India. In this white paper, drawing on a survey conducted with n = 1056 Muslims in India, I examine the exposure to digital hate among Muslims. The findings offer a descriptive framework for understanding the experiences of digital hate among Muslims in India, exploring the implications of the exposure to digital hate, and suggesting strategies for countering the hate.

CARE White Paper Launch Event:

CARE White Paper Launch online event held on Wednesday, 26th January 2022 @ 8 pm NZDT

Release of CARE white paper on anti-Muslim hate in India

Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/CAREMassey/videos/547809686874118
and on CARE YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF760E7rBst3U5GmJ5FhDDw

#CAREWhitePaper  #DigitalHate #CAREMassey #CAREMasseyNZ #MasseyUni