CARE Opinion: This is how we fight back: The academe’s resistance to the far-right’s culture war

By Professor Mohan Dutta

Wednesday 30 August 2023

This opinion piece is the fourth of a five-part series on the intertwined webs of the far-right mobilised to attack communication and media studies pedagogy. This piece is written in solidarity with other communication and media studies academics, researchers, and practitioners who have been targeted by the far-right.

The far-right’s reactionary culture war, cooked up by the Trump-Bannon-Infowars-Fox infrastructure, materialised by extremist groups such as Proud Boys, and legitimised by the right-wing political machinery, has been and will continue to be vigorously resisted by academia.

The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie testified to the role of Bannon who, “saw cultural warfare as a means to create enduring change in American politics,” in shaping the strategy of gathering and leveraging information about 87 million Facebook users to drive Trump’s hate-based political campaign. Critical to the campaign was the targeting of African-American communities promoting voter disengagement, and collaborating with Russian intelligence services.

In three earlier essays crafted for this series, I have discussed exactly how the United States-far-right’s culture war is mimicked here in Aotearoa by the right-wing ecosystem working incessantly to pump out fear as an organising tool, as a photocopy of Bannon’s political strategy of deploying hate as a marketing tool. The manufacturing of a culture war as a strategic issue generates leverage, and more specifically votes, for right-wing political parties while simultaneously working to disenfranchise communities at the margins.

I have also outlined how these attacks are directed at silencing academic voices, particularly those working on issues of social justicedisinformation, and hate. Although academics are often the direct targets, the ultimate goal of the far-right is to silence the voices of the marginalised communities we partner with. The force of the attacks is particularly violent when directed at those of us in academia who engage in public scholarship.

In this piece, I will turn to strategies for countering the far-right and outline some of the powerful ways in which academics are resisting these targeted hate campaigns across the globe. Because the far-right’s cancel culture originates from the hate ecosystem linked with Donald Trump in the US, I will also draw upon US-based examples of academic resistance as instructive lessons.

Holding institutional processes accountable

When brilliant Black journalism educator and former editor of the New York Times, Professor Kathleen McElroy, was appointed to lead the new journalism programme at Texas A&M University, the fringe far-right organised a campaign targeting her because of her history of promoting diversity. A conservative website seeded the campaign, building the “DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) hysteria” around the hiring of Professor McElroy.

The various pressures from these outside forces, mediated through the interference from the Regents, tampered with the university’s hiring process, resulting in Professor McElroy’s offer being altered, with multiple iterations walking back the tenured position initially offered.

The attacks were organised amidst the Republican Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, signing a bill attacking DEI offices at public colleges, one among similar such concerted policies introduced by Republican lawmakers across the US. Note here that these fringe policies are built around the “Woke culture” and “Critical Race Theory (CRT)” frenzy that has been concocted by the far-right as political fodder, as a direct offshoot of Bannon’s political strategy of mobilising culture war as a campaign tool. As I have noted earlier, this hysteria around CRT is networked, traveling from the Trumpian ecosystem to the far-right ecosystem in Europe to Australia to Aotearoa.

A message from Jay Graham, a member of the Board of Regents on the McElroy hiring, depicting the underlying far-right reactionary agenda (reference to then President Katherine Banks).

The targeted campaign, materialised through the interference by the Regents and a timid administration lacking leadership, led to several institutional processes being violated.

A story published in the Texas Tribune first revealed these process violations and the change in the job offer to Professor McElroy. The story was picked up nationally, covered by major news media.

Responding to the events, the A&M Faculty Senate Executive Committee called for the Chancellor to meet with the full Faculty Senate to discuss political influence in faculty matters. The Faculty Senate met with then-President Katherine Banks, asked questions about the botched hiring, and initiated an investigation. An internal report examining the hiring process outlined several violations that took place during the appointment process.

Leaders of the Black Former Student Network wrote to the University System Chancellor John Sharp, saying:

“How this University treated this respected, honored, qualified, experienced, successful, and tenured fellow Aggie is unacceptable and would have been unthinkable yet for her race and gender… The fact that this University outwardly promotes very laudable principles in the Aggie Core Values, yet you don’t have the character nor the courage to follow these Core Values as the leader of this University reveals the deep chasm between your words and your actions.”

The fiasco led to the president’s resignation. The university separately settled with Professor McElroy for US$1 million and she stayed in her position at the University of Texas, Austin. The Texas A&M leadership released a statement, apologising “for the way her employment application was handled.”

In the backdrop of the organised campaigns of the far-right, coupled with the large-scale neoliberal transformations of universities that have foisted an overarching professional-managerial-consultant ideology, it is vital that academics across institutions globally work to strengthen faculty governance and oversight over decision-making processes, attending closely to the threats to academic freedom externally and internally, anticipating them, and responding to them pro-actively. In the US, elected bodies such as faculty senates carry out this powerful role of holding university managers accountable.

It is also critical that academics work alongside university leadership in developing institutional pedagogies around the threats posed by the far-right, mapping the pathways and sites of attacks, and developing and institutionalising strategies for responding.

For instance, one of the core strategies of the far-right is to pose as aggrieved students and concerned community members to carry out attacks targeting academics, often operating through fake social media accounts, anonymous email addresses, fake websites, sock puppet accounts, automated bots, troll farms, and instant messaging apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp. Email campaigns and university complaint portals are co-opted as tools for carrying out such swarm attacks, with influencers manufacturing grievance to mobilise such campaigns and directing followers to lodge complaints, working alongside automated bots and troll farms.

Educating staff in front-facing roles in sifting through and identifying spurious complaints, in detecting far-right disinformation-based narratives in the complaints, in raising the appropriate security alarms, and adequately responding to these narratives, is critical. Similarly, given the deployment of Official Information Act (OIA) requests to feed far-right propaganda, responding proactively to the propaganda and debunking it is critical. Also crucial is building the capacity of university managers in detecting potential instances of foreign interference and raising these through appropriate channels within the university. Such pedagogy needs to be built preventively across institutions, given the message swarms that far-right campaigns build, often funded by powerful political and economic interests, including right-wing think tanks, lobbies, astroturfs, and foundations.

Moreover, relevant state structures and institutional processes ought to be able to support universities with addressing the concerns raised, given the threats to institutional processes and democracy, and critically in the context of foreign interference into academic freedom through organised campaigns.

Building legal infrastructures

In the case presented above, Texas A&M reached a $1 million settlement with Professor Kathleen McElroy. The report released by the University General Counsel demonstrated egregious process violations. During the hiring process, university officials initially pushed for a delay until after the state legislative session adjourned, anticipating potential backlash from conservative lawmakers. Following complaints about her hiring raised by university regents, officials changed the terms of her contract.

As the process unfolded, with the terms of her contract changing significantly, Professor McElroy responded to the university, asking it to communicate through her lawyers.

In a similar high-profile case, Black journalist, Pulitzer-prize-winning author for the New York Times, and founder of the New York Time’s 1619 Project, a long-form journalism endeavour that documents the intertwined histories of slavery and the founding of the United States and was earlier labelled by Trump as “ideological poison,” Nikole Hannah-Jones, was initially offered a tenure track position by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, that was then changed to a five-year contract.

Documenting the far-right backlash against her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project and targeting of critical race theory education, Hannah-Jones noted:

“Journalism schools reflect the same reality we see in the rest of the country…Why it’s especially troubling in journalism is that journalism is the firewall of our democracy. Journalism is what’s supposed to be exposing the way power is wielded. If that story is being filtered through an almost exclusively White lens, it’s not accurate. It’s not capable of helping us… understand the country we live in.”

She was supported by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund in seeking justice through the legal framework. The university reportedly reached a settlement on the tenure dispute for less than $75,000.

The Hannah-Jones settlement is instructive because it includes several structural changes, proving the “correctness of critical race theory.” It outlines an inclusive search process for new employees in conjunction with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; mental health counselling placed within the Multicultural Health Programme, complemented by the hiring of an additional trauma-informed therapist; and a $5,000 annual funding to the Provost’s Office to coordinate meetings and events sponsored by the Carolina Black Caucus working alongside UNC-Chapel Hill Vice Provost.

The far-right often directs its attacks on academics identifying with diverse marginalised positions. For instance, as with the examples of the organised campaigns targeting Professor McElroy and Hannah-Jones, the far-right interferences into university processes are racist, violating the fundamental human rights of academics having a protected characteristic. Building legal infrastructures such as the NAACP is critical to resisting the interference of the far-right into university processes.

Seeing and materialising connections

The organising structure of far-right hate produces its effect through the creation and amplification of fear. The mobilisation of fear results in swarms that target and attack academics and universities. These swarm-based campaigns have chilling effects, threatening the livelihoods and lives of academics.

The effects of these campaigns are amplified by the individualising processes that often place the onus of securing safety on individual actions to be taken by those being targeted. Consider the targeting of the University of Auckland academics, Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles and Professor Shaun Hendy. The pair became the targets of attacks directed at their work explaining the science behind COVID-19. In a complaint to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), they noted the university had failed its duty of care to them.

Attacks such as these call for the allocation of institutional resources to support academic freedom for public scholarship.

However, amidst the ongoing cuts to university funding globally including here in Aotearoa, finding the resources and allocating them to security (including digital security), legal support, mental health support, and media support is a challenge for leaders. Making provisions for security on funding applications and allocating funding resources for security to universities are two policy responses that can offer meaningful safeguards. The inclusion of community and social impact in the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) ought to be combined with funding allocated to building safeguards around public-facing impactful scholarship. To advocate for such policy-based support, it is important that academics, unions, students, university leaders and policymakers work together.

Academic solidarities globally have been crucial to challenging the attacks by far-right campaigns. Letter writing campaigns and petitions have been vital in both responding to and developing preventive infrastructures for addressing the threats posed by far-right campaigns targeting individual academics, programmes of research, and academic departments.

Academic organising across institutions is a critical resource in mapping and responding to the interplays between institutional racism and far-right attacks. Disciplinary associations here can play central roles in responding to the organised attacks, developing both preventive measures as well as effective responses. Responding to the far-right attacks on communication education and scholarship, my disciplinary association, the National Communication Association (NCA), issued the following statement:

“As the preeminent scholarly society devoted to the study and teaching of Communication, NCA recognizes that professional educators, including Communication scholars and teachers, are best equipped to determine what is appropriate for their classrooms and curricula. Among other theories that plainly acknowledge the histories and impacts of race, Critical race theory (CRT) is foundational to effective communication teaching, learning, and practice. Simply stated: Educators cannot effectively teach communication without teaching about systemic racism and its impact on our institutions and policies, including teaching about CRT and its principles. Students cannot adequately learn about effective communication without exploring systemic racism in the history of the United States. To restrict freedoms to engage in the teaching of, and communication about, CRT and other theories which examine the historical and current impact of their principles is inconsistent with the principles of democracy. NCA opposes legislation that would censor content within the curriculum or classroom based on political disagreement or contrived controversy, particularly when such legislation curtails or prohibits teaching about the role of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination in the United States historically and today.”

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is an example of an organisational structure that is critical to safeguarding academic freedom in the US. Tracking the far-right campaign attacking Critical Race Theory in the form of bills passed across various states to Trump and the Make America Great Again (MAGA) campaign, noted the AAUP in its report:

“Language in these bills draws from Trump’s 2020 executive order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotypes and can be found in model legislation being pushed by MAGA lobbying arm Citizens for Renewing America. Both the executive order and model legislation are influenced by Russ Vought, Trump’s former budget director, who founded CRA. CRA is funded by the Conservative Partnership Institute, which is an effort by Trump allies to formalize extremist, far-right politics in the think tank sphere. Other organizations included under the CPI umbrella are the American Accountability Foundation, which attacks President Joe Biden’s Cabinet and judicial appointees, and America First Legal, which is run by former Trump speechwriter Stephen Miller and focuses on litigation that “oppose[s] the radical left’s anti-jobs, anti-freedom, anti-faith, anti-borders, anti-police, and anti-American crusade.” According to 2021 tax filings, CPI had an annual budget of $17.1 million, and revenues of $45.7 million.”

In the instance of the process lapses and racist institutional biases in the hiring of Hannah-Jones, the AAUP noted in the report titled, Governance, Academic Freedom, and Institutional Racism in the University of North Carolina System:

“In the case of retention of faculty members and administrative officers of color, while the individual motivations for their departures may be unclear, what is clear is that in one way or another a culture of exclusion, a lack of transparency and inclusion in decision-making, the chilling of academic freedom, discounting certain kinds of scholarship and teaching, and the constant threat of political interference have combined to fuel what some have called an “exodus” from the UNC system.”

Across global registers, it is critical to consider the possibilities for building academic associations committed to safeguarding scholarship. In Aotearoa for instance, such an organisation would among addressing other elements critical to academic freedom, track the funding flows of far-right hate and map potential foreign interference both discursively and materially, assess the risks to academia posed by disinformation campaigns, and respond robustly. Building partnerships with university leadership and relevant ministries are equally important in delineating the foreign interference at work (such as in the example of the “culture war” hysteria) and in developing preventive strategies to respond to it. Mobilising unions to address the threats to academic freedom is another potential avenue.

In addition, building solidarities with communities, civil society, and social movements is vital to resisting the forces of the far-right. The recognition that the attacks on universities are part of a broader pattern of attacks mobilised by the far-right ought to serve as the basis for crafting solidarities that witness and challenge the pernicious narratives and hate campaigns at societal levels. Connecting with activists and lending solidarity to those who are targeted by the far-right are critical to creating the broader infrastructure for resistance.

In the attacks I have experienced recently mobilised by the racist disinformation campaign launched by far-right networks here in Aotearoa, I have been humbled to be supported by collectives of activists, anchored in Māori leadership. When I discussed these targeted attacks with activists Tina Ngata and Sina Brown-Davis, they wrapped me up in a collective network of care. Within a few hours of our conversation, I had an email from The Manaaki Collective, offering a blanket of support, from security to legal assistance.

Te Tiriti and global leadership

The principles of Te Tiriti, foregrounding the values of participation, protection, and partnership offer powerful registers for resistance to white supremacy.

In Aotearoa, Māori have historically challenged racism and white supremacy in transformative ways, dismantling the hate politics of settler colonialism with the values of manaakitanga (caring about each other’s wellbeing, nurturing relationships, and engaging with one another) and whanaungatanga (forming, maintaining, and nurturing relationships and strengthening ties between kin and communities). Māori struggles for Te Tiriti justice have historically offered inspiration and hope to diverse struggles for social justice in Aotearoa and globally.

The Māori activists who have participated in the Activist-in-Residence programme at the Centre for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), Tame ItiTeanau TuionoDr Ihirangi HekeMarise Lant, and Tina Ngata each outline the transformative power of connection as the organising basis for approaching relationships among human beings, in and between communities, and with land and the ecosystem. This meta-theory of “connection as organising” lies at the frontiers for pushing back against white supremacist hate.

The sustained resistance to white supremacy offered by Māori activists and communities position Aotearoa as a leader for global progressive struggles against white supremacy, and for interconnected struggles for climate justice, racial justice, Indigenous rights and migrant rights. Amidst the disenfranchising effects of white supremacy that seek to silence activist and academic voices, the inspiring work of The Manaaki Collective offers a global model for Indigenous leadership in securing safe spaces for organising “for racial, social, environmental, and Te Tiriti justice.”

As a university aspiring to be Te Tiriti-led, Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University has articulated the commitment to sustaining “a reputation for caring, inclusion and equity, and commitment to our people, our environment, and our places,” a commitment that speaks directly to the principles of Te Tiriti. I am proud of our university which puts forth a justice-based framework for academic freedom, in dialogue with the commitments of Te Tiriti, leading globally with a model that can sustain universities in safeguarding against disinformation campaigns by the far-right.

In conclusion

I wrap up this opinion piece by directly addressing the propaganda infrastructures of the far-right. Our message to the far-right reactionaries, in politics, in the media, on digital platforms, and in various hate formations, is loud and clear.

Backed by powerful economic forces, often hiding behind astroturfs, sock puppets, instant messaging apps, automated bots and fake websites, the far-right have launched propaganda campaigns that deliberately distort scholarship to suit the white supremacist agenda, confident that the targeted attacks can ban the teaching of critical concepts of social justice, and thus erase the powerful waves of voices emergent from the margins mobilising for transformational change.

And in spite of the economic power and political influence, replete with a digital infrastructure fuelling the dissemination of disinformation and hate, exponentially magnified by the globally linked hate networks, the far-right will continue to fail in securing hegemony.

The hate and divisive narratives that seed and propagate fear will fail because, as articulated forcefully by Martin Luther King, Jr, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The far-right threats to stalk us, get us fired, get us and our families deported, incarcerate us, rape us, dox our families on social hate platforms, and kill us will not silence the conviction of our scholarship, and the public impact this scholarship creates. We will continue to, along with the communities we partner with, carry out our research, generate empirical evidence that empowers communities in their struggles for justice, and transform the status quo.

Our public scholarship will continue to build registers for hope. Communities at the margins will continue to rise up, raise their voices and challenge the marginalising processes that seek to silence them.

In not cowering to the fear-based campaigns of the far-right, we will continue to be inspired by the words of Indigenous activists. In the words of activist Sina Brown-Davis, “Be unafraid, be powerful, we have everything to fight for and nothing to lose.”

Link to Massey News page:

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. He is a member of the board of the International Communication Association.

CARE Opinion: The far-right’s cancel culture and communication studies

By Professor Mohan Dutta

This opinion piece is the third of a five-part series on the intertwined webs of the far-right mobilised to attack communication and media studies pedagogy. This piece is written in solidarity with other communication and media studies academics, researchers, and practitioners who have been targeted by the far-right.

The far-right want to cancel communication and media studies. The entire discipline!

A platform titled The Centrist published the article, “Abolish communications and media studies (Karl du Fresne)”, stating “Writer Karl du Fresne says abolishing the department of communications and media studies at every university will vastly ease the financial crisis of those unis while neutralising a key source of division in the culture wars.”

The irrational rant would be comical if not for the violence the rhetoric promotes, the direct effects of which are experienced by academics in the public sphere. Increasingly, the far-right has launched attacks targeting academics and universities, both in digital and public spaces, resulting in violence on campus. For obvious reasons, its obsession with academics and journalists studying and covering misinformation and hate, have made carrying out research and sharing it publicly unsafe. Attend here to The Platform’s targeting of AUT journalism academic, Dr Greg Treadwell for his public writing on harmful disinformation, and similarly du Fresne’s targeting of The Disinformation Project’s Dr Sanjana Hattotuwa and Kate Hannah, and Radio New Zealand’s Susie Ferguson.

personally have witnessed pile-on hate from far-right groups, including receiving death threats and rape threats. Academics across institutions in Aotearoa who have written to me in response to this series have shared the intimidation, threats and harassment they have experienced, resulting from similar attacks targeting them, documenting the chilling effects.

Du Fresne’s article holds the entire discipline of communication and media studies responsible for the divisiveness in New Zealand society, accusing the discipline of stoking “culture wars.”

The conspiracy theory debunked earlier is recycled:

“There seems to be no purpose to those studies other than to promote neo-Marxist theories about oppressive power structures, racism, misogyny, white supremacy, social and climate justice and decolonisation. The faculties are infested with zealots and activists with ideas inimical to values such as free speech. Not to mention, they’re useless studies in their own right. Cutting them will help shed weight.”

Theories that challenge oppression, misogyny, and white supremacy, and seek to promote social justice, climate justice, and decolonisation are conspiracies. A racist version of this propaganda concocts Māori elite conspiracy to attack Kaupapa Māori theory and research practice. Topics that critically interrogate white supremacist power and control are conspiracies in this ideological universe, fuelled globally by the Trumpian attack on Critical Race Theory and the far-right’s reactionary attack on tertiary education.

Far-right attacks on academic freedom

The call to dismantle the discipline of communication and media studies tars academics in the discipline as “zealots and activists with ideas inimical to values such as free speech.”

So, what is the far-right’s free speech? It is on one hand the unfettered right of white supremacists to spout hate targeting Indigenous communitiesethnic and religious minorities (including migrants, and especially Muslim migrants), and gender-diverse communities (particularly transphobia). On the other hand, communicative practices that empower those at the margins to resist white supremacy are portrayed as dangerous. Academics researching and studying practices of empowering the marginalised are radical elites conspiring to disrupt New Zealand society.

Elsewhere, du Fresne whimpers about the right of Christian lobbying organisation Family First to place its advertisements on mainstream media infrastructures, blaming these media organisations for colluding to suppress and participating in a conspiracy to silence speech.

What du Fresne seems to have a problem with are critical studies of entrenched white supremacist, settler colonial, patriarchal power and resistance to this power. Elsewhere, he laments the New Zealand he once knew is rapidly changing, almost becoming unrecognisable to him!

Critiques of “oppressive power structures, racism, misogyny, white supremacy,” and ideas espousing “social and climate justice and decolonisation” are “ideas inimical to values such as free speech.” Du Fresne’s problem is that entrenched forms of white supremacy are being challenged, brought about by the increasing participation of marginalised communities in naming oppressive practices, witnessing them, and resisting them. For white supremacists, free speech as a value is specifically organised to safeguard their right to spout hate while brazenly silencing the voices of marginalised communities who are the targets of hate.

Consider here the recycling of the neoliberal trope of utility to define academic freedom, suggesting that academic disciplines can have academic freedom to the extent they have utility. The framing of communication and media studies as useless, without any semblance of empirical evidence, shows his ignorance about what the discipline actually is. Contrast this vacuous claim with the empirical evidence pointing to the diverse career pathways offered by communication studies and the global demand for jobs with communication skills and training in communication (more on this in the last piece in this series).

Far-right and “cancel culture”

One of the key advocates for academic freedom put forth by The Free Speech Union wants to cancel a discipline and dismiss entire departments of academics while preaching about academic freedom.

The far-right has had a long history of targeting speech that threatens the status quo.

Consider the organising of the far-right in the United States to ban books such as Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr; The Best Short Stories of Negro Writers, edited by Langston Hughes; Go Ask Alice by an anonymous author; Black Boy by Richard Wright; and Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver, mobilised since the 1970s. The National Coalition against Censorship in the US observes, “Books by Black authors are among the most frequently banned.”

In the last seven years, with the global rise of white supremacy, rallied by Trump and his hate ecosystem, the far-right cancel culture is turbo-charged, mobilised through online networks.

This takes the form of organised attacks on libraries, curricula, and public programmes that are anti-racist and that seek to promote spaces for diverse voices at the margins.

Across Aotearoa, Rainbow Storytime events have been targeted by the far-right, framing the events as propaganda tools for brainwashing children and youth. Worse, the events are depicted by the far-right as grooming sessions, a narrative that perpetuates fear and violence directed at transgender women. In the current cycle of far-right hate, the targeting of transgender communities forms the rallying infrastructure for growing the hate movement.

Note here the far-right’s targeting of the transgender activist Shaneel Lal, and the actual acts of violence that have been directed at Shaneel. Also consider simultaneously the elaborate defense that du Fresne launches for the free speech rights of activist Posie Parker, aka Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, and the escalation of anti-transgender hate that was mobilised by Parker’s recent visit to Aotearoa.

Observe the convergence with Trump’s mobilisation of the term “cancel culture” in his July 2020 Independence Day speech, with the term being deployed to depict the resistance to white supremacy offered by marginalised communities as dangerous. As he accepted his party’s nomination during the Republican National Convention, Trump declared, “The goal of cancel culture is to make decent Americans live in fear of being fired, expelled, shamed, humiliated and driven from society as we know it.”

This is a classic example of communicative inversion deployed by the far-right, turning the status quo into a victim of resistance from the historically oppressed margins.

This narrative flow is well reflected in how du Fresne’s targeted attacks are picked up by the far-right network, weaving in conspiracies with hate.

See all 14 photos

What these far-right mobilisations around cancel culture have in common is their organising to silence voices from the margins who are targeted by white supremacist hate, communicatively inverted as “free speech.” On a variety of platforms, the far-right’s hate infrastructures attack Māori, Pacific, migrant (including refugees), transgender, and Muslim activists, labelling these activists as dangerous and mobilising violence directed at them.

When the margins speak, the status quo (white, settler colonial, cisnormative, patriarchal) is threatened, and it is this status quo that the far-right seeks to hold intact. Mobilising around this status quo offers rich electoral dividends for right-wing political parties and the funders that uphold the political economy of hate.

Critical literacy is a core resource in empowering communities to identify misinformation, to challenge it, and in that process, counter the discourses that produce fear, a key organising tool of the far-right.

The rhetoric of fear that du Fresne circulates to target communication and media studies departments exists alongside his free speech advocacy for hate groups such as Family First and far-right white supremacist extremists such as Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux. In this vision, hate speech is unchecked while the infrastructures to cultivate capacities for critical literacies to critique and challenge the hate speech are dismantled. An ideal ground for white supremacists to flourish.

Facts too much, Mr du Fresne?

The attack on communication and media studies is based on a caricature:

“It was no accident that the emergence of these courses coincided with the long march through the institutions by which radical academics, hostile to democratic capitalism, have sought for several decades to subvert the established social and economic order. Communications and media studies provided an ideal incubator for their agenda because no empirical foundation was necessary. Academicians were free to make it up as they went along because what they taught was based almost entirely on theory.”

The tried and tested red scare is recycled, reducing communication and media studies to a monolith, without empirical evidence to back up this claim.

Du Fresne is wrong. Much of the ongoing scholarship and pedagogy are shaped by the ideology of democratic capitalism, although there are paradigmatic challenges to this dominant framework and the discipline continues to witness robust inter-paradigmatic debates. Communication and media studies is a dynamic discipline, one where ideas are seriously contested and debated upon. For a journalist-turned-blogger who laments the loss of journalistic objectivity, I say, “Do your research.”

His historic account of the discipline is equally incorrect because the disciplinary origins and growth in the Cold War decades are directly shaped by the project of liberal capitalism.

He then offers the absurd description that communication and media studies academics “freely make it up” as they go, wrongly assuming what is taught in the discipline is based “almost entirely on theory.” For a large portion of the discipline, theory building is shaped by empiricism, and there are diverse paradigmatic approaches to the question of the relationship between data and theory.

The rant ends with nostalgia for journalism practice, free from the diktats of the university:

“One ruinous consequence is that the training of journalists has been subjected to academic capture. Not all journalism courses are taught by universities, but the threshold for entry to the profession has been progressively raised to the point where a degree, if not mandatory, is at least highly desirable. That brings budding journalists into the orbit of lecturers who are, in many cases, proselytisers for the neo-Marxist far Left.”

This paragraph gives away the source of du Fresne’s angst, wanting to hold on to a past that’s long gone. Before I turn to journalism education, let’s note that preparing students to be journalists is a small part of what the discipline does. Communication degrees prepare students for a wide range of jobs that include communication design, advertising copywriting, media planning, production management, digital strategy, brand management, human resource management, risk and crisis management, and policy analyst, to name a few.

Why journalism schools are important?

Since my first piece appeared, a number of communication and media studies colleagues have reached out and shared their stories of being targeted by du Fresne and the far-right ecosystem (including The Platform that carried the original opinion that I critiqued) with similar targeted campaigns.

When he launched a similar uninformed attack on my Massey colleagues Dr Craig Prichard and Dr Sean Phelan, Dr Phelan, in his eloquent analysis, schooled du Fresne, writing:

“Now, I’m not sure what the rest of you make of this [i.e. du Fresne’s suggestion that most people would find Sean’s ideas “obnoxious” and “peculiar”], and, unlike du Fresne, I won’t claim to speak for you. But I’m pretty confident that most newspaper readers would be open-minded enough to realise that we may as well close down our universities now if they had to comply with the repressive dictates of people like du Fresne. His reaction is essentially that of a scared child, who lashes out at anything that is different from their perception of ‘normal’.

“The irony here is that du Fresne’s denunciation of me was in response to my suggestion that there is an intellectually repressive element in the New Zealand journalism culture. There’s hardly any need to make a counter-argument, therefore, since he himself does such a superb job of re-illustrating my argument.”

In a peer-reviewed article, Dr Phelan offered a theoretical lens (that dirty word again!) to analyse the fiasco.

He has similarly targeted Victoria University colleague Dr Michael Daubs for his public presentation of his work on misinformation. Dr Daubs was harassed during this public event. Du Fresne frames that harassment with a both-sides trope:

“I thought his talk was both laughable and contemptible. It’s hard to imagine a more vivid example of the leftist elite’s contempt for any opinions other than its own and its determination to demonise the expression of legitimate dissent.”

Note how casually du Fresne discards the evidence-based argument about misinformation as “elite’s contempt for any opinions other than its own” and “its determination to demonise the expression of legitimate dissent.”

He then goes on:

“He talked about “the truth” and “false stories”. He used these terms as if their meaning is settled. But who defines what’s true and what’s false? Why, people like Daubs, of course. Under the pretense of protecting us, he and others of his ilk want to control what we can say, and by extension what we think. The purpose is to extinguish all and any opinion that stands in the way of their radical, transformational agenda.”

Note here the deliberate production of doubt, a classic strategy for spreading misinformation, communicatively inverting empirically-based research on misinformation as extinguishing opinion (ironic for a journalist who accuses woke journalism education of being devoid of empiricism). Attend to the conspiracy web that frames misinformation researchers as conspiracists. The attack on Dr Daubs and the Disinformation Project peaks with the following statement:

“It made me wonder just who the real conspiracy theorists are. Is it the far-right, or are the real conspiracy theorists people like Daubs and the shadowy Disinformation Project, which feverishly promotes moral panic over phantasms of its own creation?”

In this warped universe of communicative inversions, disinformation researchers become conspiracists with a shadowy agenda of subverting democracy. Contrary to the propaganda spun by du Fresne, the scientific evidence on strategies for countering conspiracy theories points to the importance of critical education and analysis, with a focus on prevention. One of the recommendations made by an international team of scientists I had an opportunity to collaborate with on managing the COVID-19 transition documented the critical role of anticipating and managing misinformation.

Here’s du Fresne’s prescription for journalism education:

“There is little about the theory and principles of journalism that can’t be taught in a six-month Polytechnic course. The rest comes with experience. Generations learned it by doing, and served their readers (sorry, “consumers of content”) well.”

He sees the practice of journalism as hampered by theoretical preparation for critical thought and analysis. This is elucidated well in another post that appears on the platform of the New Zealand Center for Political Research in 2021:

“Objectivity in journalism is fashionably denounced as a myth, thereby giving reporters license to decide what their readers should know and what should be kept from them. The worthy idea that journalists could hold strong personal opinions about political and economic issues but show no trace of them in their work, which used to be fundamental, has been jettisoned.”

So what precisely is the challenge to objectivity in journalism as he sees it? Attacking the guidelines for the application to the Public Interest Journalism Fund, du Fresne makes it clear:

“All applicants must show a “clear and obvious” commitment to the Treaty and te reo; no exceptions.”

“Another of the guidelines (drawn up by New Zealand on Air, which is administering the fund) requires that applicants must “seek to inform and engage the public about issues that affect a person’s right to flourish within our society and impact on society’s ability to fully support its citizens”. Insofar as this gibberish can be interpreted as meaning anything at all, it suggests a leaning towards activist journalism that seeks to improve the status of disadvantaged groups. Identity politics, in other words. This interpretation seems to be supported by a further suggestion – no, let’s call it a very unsubtle hint – that applicants are likely to be regarded favourably if their journalism proposals “meet the definition of Maori and iwi journalism” or “report from perspectives including Pacific, pan-Asian, women, youth, children, persons with disabilities [and] other ethnic communities.”

This warped interpretation of the tenets of journalism committed to equity and inclusion frames journalism that seeks to improve the conditions of historically marginalised groups as activist, and therefore, not objective. What du Fresne takes issue with is the attention to Te Tiriti and inclusion of Māori journalism. Note here the empirical evidence in the scholarly literature that documents anti-Māori themes in New Zealand journalism (and you wonder why the far-right has problems with social science!).

He writes elsewhere:

“Unfortunately such people are now outnumbered by university-educated social justice activists posing as journalists who consider it their mission to correct the thinking of their ignorant, bigoted or misguided readers. This would be marginally more tolerable if they could write, but many of them can’t.”

The archaic notion of journalism as the pursuit of objectivity (as if objectivity is defined outside of values and politics) is placed at odds with journalism in the pursuit of justice. For du Fresne, university education prepares students to ask questions of social justice and bring these questions into their journalistic practice, and this is a danger to journalism. This gives away his idea of objectivity in journalism, one that upholds and perpetuates the status quo, and doesn’t interrogate the power and control that perpetuate it.

As Dr Phelan notes, du Fresne does an excellent job of (unintentionally) illustrating the value of robust journalism education. Fortunately, global trends in journalism have long moved far beyond the silly binaries du Fresne spins. Journalism education is here to stay and grow! Academic research is going to continue documenting the biases and erasures in journalism practice, and drawing on that to educate students toward inclusive and decolonising journalism practice.

How a communication and media studies education prepares you!

After graduating with a Bachelor of Technology (Honours) in Agricultural Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur (the IITs has produced leading tech entrepreneurs and top leaders in global tech including Sundar Pichai at Google and Arvind Krishna at IBM), I pursued a degree in communication studies because I saw the value communication offered to building effective engineering solutions to address the needs of communities.

I am not alone in making such a career switch. You will see in communication many such career transitions, including engineers going on to study communication, with a desire to solving societal challenges.

I am proud of my PhD from the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota. The University of Minnesota has educated excellent journalists such as Michelle Norris, host of All Things Considered, National Public Radio’s longest-running news service programme in the US. Norris has been nominated four times for the Pulitzer Prize and has received numerous awards for her work, including the 1989 Livingston Award, an Emmy, and Peabody Award for her contribution to ABC’s coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Another J-School alum was Eric Sevareid, who worked with Edward R. Murrow on CBS radio, and went on to become a commentator on the CBS Evening News for thirteen years, being recognised with Emmy and Peabody Awards.

Other significant journalists with journalism degrees include the pioneer of investigative journalism, Carl Bernstein, University of Maryland (think Watergate); Emmy and Peabody-winning journalist Connie Chung: University of Maryland; famed sportscaster Bob Costas: Syracuse University, and Pulitzer-winning, former Editor-in-Chief of the Wall Street Journal Matt Murray: Northwestern University, to name a few. This is a tiny fraction of journalism graduates who have gone on to become award-winning journalists.

In Aotearoa, the widely respected journalist Kim Hill has a degree in French and German from Massey and Otago Universities and then studied journalism at the University of Canterbury‘s Postgraduate School of Journalism.

Globally, as journalism responds to a rapidly transforming digital context, journalism schools are the go-to places for the education of the next generation of journalists. Fortunately, Aotearoa has rapidly caught up with this global trend.

I am humbled to teach in a School with a strong journalism programme at Massey University accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) and located within a programme that is consistently ranked first in Aotearoa New Zealand. ACEJMC is the main global accreditation body of journalism education, and this speaks volumes for our excellent programme. Ours is New Zealand’s longest-running journalism qualification. Our graduates are highly sought after, with 85 per cent securing employment within six months of graduation.

Journalism education, and more broadly, communication and media studies education are here to thrive. Communication research and teaching are the best antidotes to the far-right’s fringe cancel culture and its attempts to seed disorder by co-creating voices infrastructures in partnership with marginalised communities. Our research partnerships and students will continue to build justice-based communication solutions for sustainable futures, tackling the sustainable development challenges of zero poverty; no hunger; good health; good education; gender equality; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; climate action; and peace and justice etcetera.

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. He is a member of the board of the International Communication Association.

Article Source:

CARE Opinion: The Far-Right, Misinformation, and Academic Freedom

Community fairs as spaces for disseminating health health information – Indiana Heart Health, 2012.

Opinion: The Far-Right, Misinformation, and Academic Freedom

By Professor Mohan Dutta | Tuesday 1 August 2023

This opinion piece is the second of a five-part series on the organised attack of the far right on communication and media studies pedagogy. This ecosystem has picked me as a sample case for all that is wrong with the discipline as a propaganda instrument of what it terms the “Left Woke Agenda.”

The far-right thrives on hate.

Hate is both a political and an economic tool. It drives profits, both for the producers of hate and the platforms carrying the hate.

Hate delivers an ever-expanding global market of readers/viewers/listeners.

Moreover, it delivers a political market. That’s why hate proliferates in election cycles, building up to elections. Whether it is Modi’s Hindutva, Bolsonaro’s Brazilian Christo-fascism, or Trump’s white supremacist Christian nationalism, far-right authoritarian strategies depend on hate to take over democratic processes and spaces. One of the cornerstones in the political mobilisation of the far-right across these movements is the attack on education and learning, seeking to replace critical education with propaganda upholding the majoritarian ideology (consider here the convergence in the attacks on history curricula), activated around drummed-up fears of what the youth are being fed in schools. Moreover, the ideology seeks to redo learning as a vocation and technique, framing critical pedagogy as propaganda that doesn’t belong in the classroom.

At its core, the mobilisation of hate to attack pedagogy seeks to retain power in the hands of the elite.

Hate lies at the core of the neoliberal attack on public resources. Conservative political parties, think tanks, and media work hand-in-hand to mobilise hate as a strategy for organising systemic attacks on public services, public education, and public pensions etcetera. Consider the mobilisation of attacks on critical race theory as part of this broader agenda of attacking public schools, catalysing the privatisation of education, an agenda aggressively pursued by right-wing think tanks in the United States, and globally, with key ideas originating from the US right-wing infrastructure.

In a speech delivered at the National Archives Museum in 2020, Trump attacked critical race theory by stating that it encourages “deceptions, falsehoods and lies” by the “left-wing cultural revolution”.

Suggesting that students in US universities are inundated with what he terms “critical race theory propaganda,” Trump said, “This is a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed. Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools, it’s being imposed into workplace trainings, and it’s being deployed to rip apart friends, neighbours, and families.”

The Trump ban on critical race theory, formally known as Executive Order 13950, catalysed systemic attacks on the teaching of critical race theory across institutions by far-right politicians in all but one US states, threatening schools with the loss of funds. Higher education institutions are at the core of the targeted attack by the far-right because research and teaching around critical thought and analysis, reasoned argumentation, and informed public discourse are seen as originating from these institutions. This organised attack on Critical Race Theory, funded by dark money, forms a core infrastructure of the far-right, mainstreamed into right-wing policies targeting Critical Race Theory globally (see examples of the attacks in the UKAustralia, and in Aotearoa New Zealand). Here, the agenda is pushed by various far-right groups, including the group Family First, finding its way into mainstream political rhetoric.

The global mobilisation of right-wing attacks on critical race theory is reflective of the influential role of the US in disseminating the far-right ideology, offering the discursive infrastructure for potential US interference in democratic processes across spaces. Atlas Network, a US-based global network of right-wing policy infrastructures, actively pushes policies promoting privatisation, interfering with political processes and inserting right-wing neoliberal frames into electoral systems. Atlas Network receives funding from a range of actors including the US State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the infamous Koch Foundation. Consider here the role of the Atlas Network in shaping Latin American politics, and in shaping the wholesale privatisation of the public sectors.

Professor Mohan Dutta
Professor Mohan Dutta

Why communication studies threatens misinformation

The infrastructure of hate is built on misinformation.

As I have documented in my scholarship, a core strategy for crafting misinformation is communicative inversion, the mobilisation of symbols to turn materiality on its head.

For example, in the hideous communicative infrastructure of the far-right, the beauty of organising in communities that have been historically marginalised by settler colonial structures to secure better health outcomes, growing food gardens, advocating for safe play areas, and participating in preventive activities is turned on its head, projected as part of a nefarious radical agenda.

For the far-right, historically marginalised communities having a say in policy-making, undoing the erasures that have been carefully scripted into settler colonial structures, is part of a global conspiracy for radical takeover. The conspiracy web of the Alt-Right sees Neo-Marxist agenda in spaces where racially marginalised communities are empowered to participate in health decision-making processes to transform the unconscionable health inequities that white settler colonies are plagued by.

Some of the profound contributions made by the discipline of communication studies include the examination of the underlying processes that drive misinformation, strategies for countering misinformation through digital literacy and community-grounded approaches, and communication solutions for building social cohesion. Communication scholars are the frontiers of developing practical solutions that address global inequalities, poverty, hunger, and climate change, among many other grand challenges. During my tenure serving as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Applied Communication Research, I came away awed by the quality of scholarship in the discipline, across paradigms and theoretical orientations, across sub-disciplinary spaces, contributing to solving practical problems.

In our team of researchers spread across seven countries, I am impressed by the power of communication in solving problems experienced by the marginalised. When those who have been systematically erased hold the power to tell their stories, dominant forms of disenfranchisement are challenged and transformed, creating spaces for solutions that are sustainable.

It is this transformative power of communication (especially research that maps and responds to misinformation) that threatens entrenched power structures that produce misinformation and profit from it.

Alt-right’s attack on diversity, equity and inclusion

The organised white supremacist attack on social science research on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) reflects the ways in which entrenched power is threatened by impactful scholarship. Empirically-based community-engaged scholarship, built on painstaking social science research embedded in communities, is communicatively inverted, portrayed as an elaborate conspiracy hatched by an elite cabal threatening white civilisation.

Through layers of communicative inversions, scholarship on and pedagogy of DEI is labelled as racist and anti-white by white supremacists, finding a core audience base of voters organised around hate.

Academics researching and writing about inequities have been targeted with the “racist” label.

Now turning to the hit piece targeting communication and media studies I analysed earlier, I demonstrated that journalist and blogger Karl du Fresne seems to have very little understanding of the scholarly process. His construction of a global elite promoting a radical agenda is a communicative inversion of the propaganda such attacks on social justice scholarship perpetuate to protect the interests of political and economic elites. I also note here the communicative inversions that have been performed by du Fresne in attacking experts studying disinformation and hate in Aotearoa (I’m purposefully not linking those pieces here to avoid feeding the disinformation flow). Pay attention here to the online misogyny and violence, including death threats, that have been directed at the Director of the Disinformation Project, Kate Hannah.

Representing the people?

Referring to my research programme, du Fresne writes:

“The poor working schmucks whose taxes fund these institutions have no knowledge of, and even less control over, the radical agendas they enable. Unfortunately the same is true of New Zealand taxpayers who involuntarily fund activist academics and their tireless promotion of a world view that’s at odds with that of the majority of New Zealanders.”

This strategy of “speaking for the people” is often mobilised by the far-right in organising attacks on academics. In fact, across the globe, emanating largely from the US, the organised far-right attacks on academic freedom are shaped by populist rhetoric. Propagandists draw on majoritarian appeal to mobilise outside attacks on expertise, in the process seeking to destroy internal processes of institutional checks and balances within democracies. Paradoxically then, the language of accountability to taxpayers is mobilised as a critical tool by the far right in the systemic attack on institutions.

Far-right media and politicians assign themselves the role of speaking for taxpayers, concerned community members, and concerned parents (these are the three key stakeholders that the far-right assigns itself as representing) as they have taken over boards of educational institutions and passed laws directly threatening academic freedom.

Simultaneously, the far-right represents the agendas of the political and economic elite, and actively seeks to silence the voices of communities at the margins organising for change. Note the communicative inversion that erases the agency of everyday people as the discourse sets itself up to speak for the people.

Consider the condescension with which du Fresne approaches everyday citizens, whom he labels as “poor working schmucks.” This is the irony of populist far-right rhetoric that seeks to mobilise popular sentiments by fundamentally undermining the public’s capacity to know. Note also the target of the attack on institutions of democracy, specifically universities in this instance.

Far-right propagandists assign themselves the role of safeguarding ignorant publics from a sinister plot by elites seeking to take over power while actually silencing the voices of communities at the margins and safeguarding elite power and control. Note the convergence with the Trump propaganda machine that actively works to project Trump as a representative of the people in opposition to elite power, inverting the large-scale economic power held by him and his network.

The far right’s attack on education, specifically humanities and social science education, is shaped by a broader strategy that sees critical questioning as threatening to entrenched power structures. The organised attacks specifically on critical humanities and social science knowledge in the US, emergent from the Infowars-Trump-Bannon-Fox ecosystem seek to protect and perpetuate the entrenched power structures, performed as a grievance.

Moreover, du Fresne’s paragraph assumes that the “majority of New Zealanders” are at odds with a justice-based worldview (assuming that’s what he is referring to). Du Fresne doesn’t back this fairly large claim with evidence. It is worth interrogating which is the majority du Fresne is referring to.

Xenophobic hate speech in response to du Fresne’s blog.

Two worlds of credentials and academic freedoms

The article then goes on to undermine my credentials – whatever du Fresne can gather up from his google search! Including:

“Dutta also appears to be good at bigging up his CV with awards and appointments – obligingly conferred, no doubt, by people who share an interest in pushing the same agendas. Demonstrations of mutual admiration are an essential part of the academic career path.”

That he doesn’t really understand how the academic community works is evidenced once again. The silly caricature of the academic community demonstrates that du Fresne has no empirical understanding of the ways in which academic awards are organised, the peer review processes that constitute academic impact, the metrics used for evaluating academics, and the nature of the evaluative processes. Once again, to actually learn about academic evaluation processes would require doing research, having an open mind, and being willing to learn.

In du Fresne’s conspiracy web, the awards I have received (not sure which ones he is referring to) have been “obligingly conferred” without a doubt “by people who share an interest in pushing the same agendas” (i.e. radical “left woke” agendas). Note how with one broad stroke he fits the entire discipline of communication (having erased sub-disciplinary areas, differences in paradigmatic approaches, etcetera.) and its major associations (mostly the National Communication Association and the International Communication Association, the two key international associations of communication academics that have conferred awards upon me) within this conspiracy web that is seemingly pushing a global agenda.

The global associations of communication studies and the standards of recognition of scholarly impact within the discipline become part of du Fresne’s conspiracy web. Note then the blanket statement about mutual admiration that apparently drives academic career paths.

I can’t help but note the hypocrisy in the framing being used here and contrast it to an earlier article I came across on his blog where du Fresne is advocating for academic freedom.

On July 29, 2021, he penned a support letter titled “dismal setback for academic freedom” defending the Listener Seven, the academics who had penned the letter stating mātauranga Māori is not science and had then received pushback from academics across the globe for the racist tropes reflected in the letter. In that defence, de Fresne depicted the Listener Seven letter writers as “respected academics.”

Within the same piece, he launched a vitriolic attack on the esteemed Māori sociologist Professor Joanna Kidman, referring derisively to the fact that she is a sociologist. Du Fresne has carried out this obsessive attack on Professor Kidman on diverse platforms. He seems to be concerned about the reputation of New Zealand (among global academics) which apparently has taken a hit because of the critiques of the Listener Seven letter, largely led by tangata whenua academics.

So who among us academics in du Fresne’s world is worthy of earning the label “respected?”

Take as one example Associate Professor of Education Dr Elizabeth Rata, one of the Listener Seven letter writers. By measures of academic impact, Dr Rata’s google scholar citation states that she has an h-index of 25 and total citation of 2347. Note also that her publications are largely in the social sciences. Communication and sociology as disciplines don’t belong in du Fresne’s vision of the academe in Aotearoa, but apparently education does!

For du Fresne, Dr Rata is counted among heretics for her uninformed critique of mātauranga Māori (in the world du Fresne inhabits, academics critiquing its position in science are performing their role as “critics and conscience”), earning her the title “respected,” while the rest of us are lumped into a radical cabal, as part of a conspiratorial elite. The same global community that is apparently losing respect for Aotearoa because of a counter letter written by academics critiquing the Listener Seven is part of a radical cabal when it comes to social justice scholarship.

Paradoxically, I note here that none of the Listener Seven academics being defended by du Fresne are qualified mātauranga Māori scholars – here’s an excellent analysis of Dr Rata’s attack on Kaupapa Māori by Dr Leonie Pihama.

It is not surprising at all that du Fresne, with his bald-faced hypocrisy, is the face of advocacy for academic freedom on the website of the Free Speech Union. Here’s his defence of the Listener Seven on the union’s website:

“In the latest outbreak of the speech wars, the action has shifted to a new and worrying arena. Seven respected university academics found themselves effectively blacklisted in July after they wrote a letter to The Listener challenging the notion that matauranga Maori – which can be defined as the traditional body of Maori knowledge – should be accorded the same status as science, as proposed by an NCEA working group preparing a new school curriculum.

“In an unprecedented pile-on, more than 2000 fellow academics, urged on by Professors Shaun Hendy and Siouxsie Wiles, signed a letter denouncing the Listener Seven and implying they condoned “scientific racism”. The response went well beyond legitimate disagreement. The sheer weight and vehemence of the denunciation sent an unmistakable message to the academic community: express dissent at your peril.”

By du Fresne’s standards, unsubstantiated claims by academics unqualified in a subject area is academic freedom and academics challenging those unsubstantiated claims are silencing dissent. Note here also the communicative inversion of power – the hegemonic ideology of colonial whiteness that continues to erase and denigrate Indigenous knowledge is turned into a dissenting view at the margins.

What this makes amply clear is that the version of academic freedom subscribed to by the Free Speech Union is one that doesn’t really understand the concept of academic freedom, and instead promotes a far-right agenda. His mobilisation for academic freedom is thoroughly uninformed, selective, and dangerously aligned with the global Alt-right’s strategic deployment of free speech to attack social justice scholarship in universities, destabilise universities and other democratic institutions, and promote conspiracy theories that mobilise majoritarian hate to uphold hegemonic power.

The foreign import scare

Du Fresne’s article then wraps up with this:

“Fourth, and perhaps most important, we can reasonably deduce that Dutta is yet another import who has embedded himself in the tertiary education system and uses his privileged position to white-ant the society that provides his living. Explicit in his profile is a commitment to radical change; whether New Zealanders want it or approve of it is immaterial.”

His deduction here is that I am an import of the wrong kind (of course, ignoring his status as manuhiri in Aotearoa). Observe closely the language that constructs me, an ethnic migrant, as embedding myself in the tertiary education system with the supposed agenda of corroding New Zealand society from within.

The anti-immigrant hate reflective of white supremacy is exaggerated and amplified by the racist audience of the blogpost.

Note here the anti-immigrant hate that is shared, replete with the dehumanising construction of foreigners as “monsters prowling and devouring our culture.” Also note the ways in which this narrative exists in continuity with the mainstreaming of anti-immigrant hate in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The scare-mongering foreign import narrative targets social justice scholarship (erasing the actual history of organising for social justice in Aotearoa) while obfuscating the US-led far-right agenda. Note here the influence of the US government as well as organisations such as Koch Foundation that deploys hate to mobilise large-scale privatisation of economies globally. It creates a seductive trope for recruiting members organised around the fear of foreign ideologies contaminating the minds of children and youth.

That this hate percolates into the mainstream of New Zealand media and politics is of grave concern to democracy here.

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. He is a member of the board of the International Communication Association.

Link to Article:

CARE Opinion: The far-right’s attack on communication and media studies

Tuesday 25 July 2023 | By Professor Mohan Dutta

This opinion piece is part of a five-part series on the organised attack of the far right on communication and media studies pedagogy. This ecosystem has picked me as a sample case for all that is wrong with the discipline as a propaganda instrument of what it terms the “Left Woke Agenda.”

I had not heard the name Karl du Fresne. Apparently he’s a New Zealand journalist and blogger writing opinion pieces for The Platform – an outlet that has in the past circulated misinformation, hosted conspiracy theories, and participated in practices that might be considered unethical by journalistic standards.

Karl du Fresne, a key propagandist in this attack
(Image source: Robert Kitchin/stuff; website)

Earlier this month, a journalist reached out to me on Twitter, sharing that du Fresne had written a hit piece for The Platform targeting me. They commiserated with me, sharing how they were also the target of an attack carried out by du Fresne earlier, directed at their employer and attacking their livelihood.

Fairly certain what the attack might look like, given the organised campaign by the far-right infrastructure targeting the academic freedom of scholars writing on issues of social justice (particularly racial and gender justice) and challenges around the Sustainable Development Goals (specifically gender equality, reduced inequality and climate change) across the globe (largely imported from the US-Infowars-Bannon-Trump-DeSantis-Tucker-Carlson hate machinery), I was curious to explore what a New Zealand take on this ecosystem would look like.

Unfortunately, what I found when I dug up the article was a shabby hit piece, replete with its uninspiring tediousness, parroting the far-right conspiracy themes from the Infowars-Trump-Bannon universe, and demonstrative of the organised attack on critical literacy directed at silencing the questioning of entrenched forms of power in society.

The article begins with the title “A blank canvas for stokers of the culture wars.” The framing of the title, portraying Aotearoa as a blank canvas, juxtaposed against the “stokers of culture wars” phrase gives away the racist ideology that drives the article.

To frame Aotearoa as a blank canvas for supposedly imported conspiracists like me (more on this later), du Fresne has to erase tangata whenua and the history of Māori activism against colonisation, racism, and white supremacy. The suggestion that stokers of culture wars are bringing in our “outsider” and therefore, impure ideologies of social justice in Aotearoa is racist, both in erasing long-held Māori leadership in struggles for justice here and globally, and in marking me, an ethnic migrant, as the wrong kind of migrant bringing in dangerous ideas that are corrupting Aotearoa by “stoking culture wars.”

Du Fresne also strategically obfuscates his own familial history as Tangata Tiriti, as manuhiri (visitor or guest) to this land.

As the article rolls on with its rhetorical fallacies, it seems obvious that what du Fresne seems to have an issue with is the fact that I teach and research at a University in Aotearoa. As a way to set up his attack, he targets the language that describes my programme of research on the Massey University website, suggesting the language used on the website is part of a radical conspiracy. He copies and pastes extensively from the website, stating that the description is “written in a dialect that most people would find almost incomprehensible.”

In democracies, it is the work of journalists to do the critical work of translating scholarship for the public. Of course, for bloggers such as du Fresne speaking to a right-wing conspiracy web while posing as a journalist, that would be too much work. Such work would entail doing research and learning, calling on critical pedagogy that is cultivated through rigorous journalism education, grounded in communication and media theory, participating in critical analyses of power (especially when reporting on social science and humanities scholarship), and drawing on critical engagement with questions of ethics in reporting.

Suggesting that making the language incomprehensible is purposeful and part of a larger conspiracy, du Fresne then goes on to write:

“Elite groups have always used their own coded jargon to project (and protect) their power, to enhance their aura of exclusivity and to impress the impressionable. The object is not to explain, as most language strives to do, but to obscure, presumably in the hope that no one will detect its phony portentousness. No one does this stuff better than neo-Marxist academics.”

Note here the slippery slope du Fresne embarks on, placing me as part of an elite group and implying that this group is part of a global conspiracy web to uphold and perpetuate power. This elite group does so through propaganda. In the conspiracy web that du Fresne cooks up, this elite group seeks to establish a Marxist global order, and it does so through the use of “coded jargon.”

His conspiracy draws directly from the misinformation-based discursive frames weaved by the Alt-Right. In this conspiracy web woven together by white supremacists, a global Communist conspiracy is being ushered in by Marxists, working alongside and/or being funded by the Chinese Communist Party, and intertwined with the agendas of the World Economic Forum, United Nations etcetera to secretly rule the world.

Critical to the propaganda woven by the far-right is mobilisation against knowledge and the university, and by extension, academics. Also worth noting is the specific targeting of social justice scholarship within the academe as an exemplar of the Neo-Marxist conspiracy.

For the far right, the framing of the teaching of theories of social justice in the academe as Marxist conspiracy works as a strategy for silencing the voices of Indigenous, Black, and migrants of colour communities. The white supremacist hegemony of the far-right sees the organising for justice from the margins as threatening to the status quo. Its conspiracy web therefore communicatively inverts materiality, inverting historic processes of racist marginalisation on their head to portray voices advocating for social justice as the elites occupying power.

Another communicative inversion performed here by du Fresne is the framing of social justice scholarship as an imported idea, all along inverting the direct replication of American far-right talking points in the article. The actual “culture wars” that are imported into Aotearoa are the far-right mobilisation of white supremacist cultural nationalism to attack academic freedom, in direct violation of the Education Act 1989, section 268 of the Education and Training Act 2020, and in continuity with the racist settler colonial infrastructure of Aotearoa.

Du Fresne then goes on – “The university system is awash with this gibberish – a fact that would be comical if we weren’t paying for it.”

Accountability to the taxpayer is one of the key resources in the mobilisation of the far-right. Designating themselves as gatekeepers, as representatives and advocates of the voices of the tax payer, far-right individuals and organisations launch their attacks on academic freedom by claiming that the research and teaching on questions of social justice are a waste of taxpayer money.

In portraying an entire body of scholarship (in this case, my research programme exploring the structural determinants of health inequalities and the communicative strategies for addressing these inequities) as gibberish, du Fresne demonstrates his lack of credibility as a journalist. He doesn’t really understand the scholarly process, much like other demagogues in this category who seek to find relevance through organised attacks based on heuristics.

The process of academic peer review, albeit with its multiple limitations, based on the participation in a rigorous peer review process by a community of scholars, establishes the credibility of knowledge. Within the academic community of experts, knowledge is contested, theories are offered and tested, and concepts subjected to empirical examination in an ongoing process of scholarly engagement. Any journalist writing about academic research programmes is expected to do the homework to understand how scholarly knowledge is produced, be ready to study the research programme, and equip oneself then to report on it. This process of engagement calls for deep reading, based on rigour. Of course, for bloggers such as du Fresne, this sort of painstaking and rigorous work is not conducive to generating superficial memes that speak to the conspiracy web.

Du Fresne cherry picks some examples from my research programme:

“The second conclusion we can reach on the basis of his profile is that Dutta is adept, like many of his ilk, at tapping into public funds – in this case from the AHRQ, which is part of the US Department of Health, and the National University of Singapore (NUS). The poor working schmucks whose taxes fund these institutions have no knowledge of, and even less control over, the radical agendas they enable.”

Once again, to comment upon specific research projects would call for actually educating oneself on the nuts and bolts of the research (not just google a webpage!). The US$1.5 million grant, funded by the Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality that he refers to, built on my research programme on the culture-centered approach, a framework I have developed over two decades of community engaged-health communication research that is recognised as a significant programme of research that has shaped the discipline, was designed to co-create a framework for disseminating the evidence-based comparative effectiveness research on heart health medications among the underserved African American communities in Lake and Marion Counties of the US. African American communities in the US experience disproportionate burdens of heart disease.

In this backdrop, the community-led culture-centered intervention, co-created through partnership with a range of African American organisations, and evaluated through a quasi-experimental community-based design, was effective in building community knowledge of heart health prevention and treatment. This intervention is an example of the sort of social impact generated by theory-driven scholarship. It is therefore both ironic and absolutely reflective of the disenfranchising agenda of white supremacy that du Fresne would target the AHRQ funded programme, framing it as being driven by a radical agenda (more on this in a follow-up piece).

You might ask, ‘Why does du Fresne pick on the AHRQ-funded intervention?’ For propagandists in the Alt-Right ecosystem, community health initiatives led by racially marginalised and historically oppressed communities is radical agenda. For these propagandists, reducing inequities in health outcomes is radical agenda. For the propaganda infrastructure of hate, historically marginalised communities having a voice in decision-making is radical agenda. Because the social order they so miss and would like to continue perpetuating is one where white supremacy rules, uncontested and unchallenged.

As I noted earlier, such propaganda in Aotearoa also has to erase the history of organising against health inequalities by Māori and the extensive body of Kaupapa Māori-based literature challenging these health inequalities to somehow make up the propaganda narrative that such ideas of health justice are imported ideas from the US, all the while parroting the US-based white supremacist agenda.

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. He is a member of the board of the International Communication Association.

Original article: source: by Prof. Mohan Dutta

Article source:


by Prof. Mohan Duttaon March 18, 2023

The Christchurch terrorist attack is often individualized in mainstream public discourse as the act of an individual extremist. 

This individualization of white supremacist violence is an essential feature of the whiteness of the settler colonial state.

In this individualizing ideology, violence is attributed to a lone extremist who has been radicalized. 

The response then is an individualizing response, directed at the individual extremist with the justice system of the settler colonial state organized to respond to the extremist. 

The intelligence-security apparatus of the settler colonial state is organized around techniques of surveillance and monitoring directed at identifying and containing individuals likely to be radicalized and turned into extremists.

The individualizing ideology on one hand places the cause of the violence in the actions of an individual who is portrayed to have been radicalized by an ideology. On the other hand, the individualization of the violence keeps intact the very structure of white supremacy that underpins the violence. 

Moreover, the individualizing ideology conveniently erases the white supremacy that makes up the institutional structure of the intelligence-military-police infrastructure of the settler colonial state.

The Australian extremist who carried out the violence in Christchurch is an extension of the white supremacy that forms the settler colonial infrastructure of Australia. This settler colonial structure in Australia is scripted into its political, juridical, military, security, and intelligence institutions. 

White supremacy is built into the structure of the Australian state that has historically been organized around violence directed toward aboriginal communities.On March 18, 2023, a few days after the four-year anniversary of the Christchurch terrorist attack, at an anti-transgender event hosted by the British anti-trans rights figure Kellie-Jay Keen who is currently touring Australia, Nazis dressed in black are seen taking the Nazi salute on the steps of the Victoria parliament.

As the Nazis march through the streets onto the steps of the parliament, the Australian police are seen protecting them. In powerful images that depict the interplays of white supremacy of the police and the Nazis, the police are shown lining up to safeguard the Nazis as they take the salute. 

Anti-fascist activists challenging the Nazis document the violence carried out by the police directed at the anti-fascist activists protesting the Nazis.

Moreover, anti-fascist activists document an Australian police member who flashed a white power sign at an earlier protest. In another report, Australian activists document the presence of Nazis in the Australian military.

The institutionalization of white supremacist hate within the infrastructures of the police and military exists in continuity with the racist colonial structure of Australia. 

Four years since the Christchurch terrorist attack and the Australian state has continued to let the white supremacy within its structures go unchallenged.

To address the white supremacist hate that led to the Christchurch terrorist attack is to first recognize the white supremacy that is embedded within the organizing logics of the state. 

This recognition then can offer the starting point for undoing the racism and hate percolating through the cellular structures of Australian police, military, and related institutions.

#CAREOpEd #ChristchurchTerroristAttack #WhiteSupremacist #Nazis #Aotearoa #NewZealand #CARECCA #CAREMassey #MasseyUni


by Prof. Mohan Dutta, | February 16, 2023

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I have been so looking forward to reading Byron Clark’s “Fear.”

Over the past three years, as I have read and watched Clark’s analyses of the far-right ecosystem in Aotearoa New Zealand, I have come to respect his evidence-based analytic work that is at the same time activist, directly responding to the threats to marginalized communities posed by far-right extremism.

His analytic work has been critical to the ongoing challenges to far-right extremism led by activists.

Byron’s knowledge of the hate ecosystem emerges directly from the empirically grounded challenge he has posed to this ecosystem by placing his body on the line. It is worth pointing out here, that like many other activists in this space, Byron mostly does this work as unpaid labor, and he sustains himself through his day job (I will return to this point toward the end of the article).

So, when some of my activist interlocutors whose work challenges Islamophobic hate in Aotearoa sent me a review of Byron’s book by Chris Wilson, I was disappointed to read it.

Let me note at the beginning that Wilson begins his review by praising Byron for his work exposing a range of what Wilson terms fringe political ideologies. He then goes on to point out places where the book could have been improved, specifically in its definition of terms and presentation of evidence.

I will focus here on a particular part of Wilson’s review, his suggestion that Clark presents no evidence of a Hindutva threat in Aotearoa.

What counts as evidence

In his review, writing about Hindutva, Wilson writes:

“For example, Hindutva is presented as present and threatening in New Zealand, but with little to no evidence. Because of a lack of demonstrable activity or presence here, the author uses the fact that the New Zealand Hindu Council is affiliated to the India-based nationalist organisation VHP, to discuss in much greater length the VHP’s extremist activity in India, even including a discussion of the riots in Gujarat in 2002.”

This paragraph is flawed in its argumentation.

It begins with the claim that Clark presents Hindutva as threatening in Aotearoa, “with little to no evidence.”

Note then the following sentence that points to Byron’s observation that the New Zealand Hindu Council is affiliated to the India-based nationalist organisation Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

That Clark has established the link between the New Zealand Hindu Council and VHP is itself evidence of the threat to social cohesion in Aotearoa posed by Hindutva.

Also consider here that Wilson doesn’t operationalize the concept of threat; so what is he assessing Clark’s evidence on the basis of is largely unclear.

If we take social cohesion as the value to uphold (my insertion of a value), that the New Zealand Hindu Council is affiliated to the India-based nationalist organization VHP is of great concern here in Aotearoa. I have personally learned about the threat posed by Hindutva-aligned organizations such as the VHP to New Zealand democracy (including academic freedom) the hard way.

A number of Indian-origin community members, including Indian minorities and Indian activists in Aotearoa have documented the threat posed by Hindutva to democracy and social cohesion in Aotearoa. In March 2021, a Sikh youth had been attacked online in New Zealand.

Wilson then goes on to write:

“This history of violence and extremism in India will give many readers the impression that something similar is present in New Zealand, when no evidence has been provided for this inference.”

The sentence above is ambiguous and lacks clarity. The ambiguity itself is strategic, not naming Hindutva as the driver of the violence and omitting the robust body of evidence on the nature of the VHP and other affiliated Hindutva organizations as right-wing extremist groups and their roles in violence.

Wilson’s account bypasses this history of violence and extremism in India directly connected to the VHP, instead making a generic statement about the history of violence and extremism in India.

Consider here that the VHP has been linked with attacks on Muslims and Christians, organized attacks on mosques and churches, destruction of the Babri masjid, and various incidences of violence across regions.

Hindutva is a radicalizing force globally, leading to violence in the Indian diaspora across Western democracies. It has been linked with violence in United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

Much like the Hindutva attacks that targeted me and other academic researchers at the Center for Culture-centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) at Massey University (note here that New Zealand Hindu Council and Hindu Youth were key organizers of these attacks), Hindutva-related trolls and organizations have attacked academics globally, posing direct threats to academic freedom and democracy.

CARE’s research has documented the online infrastructure of Hindutva in Aotearoa New Zealand. The activist group Aotearoa Alliance of Progressive Indians (AAPI) has consistently and systematically highlighted the presence of Hindutva in Aotearoa New Zealand including the role of the New Zealand Hindu Council in spreading disinformation as an organization affiliated with Hindutva. AAPI has raised critical concerns of relationships between community leaders in Aotearoa New Zealand and Hindutva.

That the association of New Zealand Hindu Council with VHP doesn’t count as evidence of threats posed by Hindutva to Wilson is of concern, particularly given his expert role on countering violent extremism. Although Wilson is not discounting the presence of Hindutva in Aotearoa New Zealand, his argument about what counts as evidence for an organization to be counted as threat raises the question whether the incidences outlined above meet Wilson’s threshold of a threat. Alas, we wouldn’t know because Wilson doesn’t define the term threat within this context, something he accuses Clark of not doing adequately in his book.

By this logic, affiliation or association doesn’t count as evidence of the presence of a threat. Is the same definitional parameter used by the New Zealand security community when conceptualizing affiliations with organizations such as ISIS (Note here the similarities with ISIS shared by Hindutva).

Moreover, Wilson complains that Clark does not explain why Hindutva should be understood as “far right,” ignoring the evidence that Byron does present of Hindutva’s underlying fascist far-right ideology.

In fact, Byron is one of the few New Zealand-based activists that has engaged activists in the Indian diaspora in dialogue about the threats of Hindutva. One of his earliest analyses of the relationship between the Hindutva proponent Roy Kaunds, Kelvyn Alp and Counterspin media (Wilson does accept Alp and Counterspin as examples of the far-right) offered a conceptual framework for examining the discursive flows between the Islamophobia of Hindutva and the Islamophobia of white supremacy that I have discussed in my public writing.

Performative references to Christchurch

It is ironic that Wilson begins his opinion piece in Newsroom by referring to the Christchurch terrorist attack (that directly targets Muslims, with its attack on mosques).

Yet there is not a single reference to Islamophobia (the driving force behind the Chrictcurch attack and the underlying ideology that connects white supremacists with Hindutva) in Wilson’s essay.

The whiteness (referring to the hegemonic values of white culture, held up as universal) of the extremism industry that has flourished post-Christchurch is marked by similar ongoing gaslighting of the actually existing Islamophobia in Aotearoa New Zealand (including its casual omission).

There is no reference in Wilson’s review of the concerns regarding Hindutva extremism and Islamophobia in Aotearoa expressed by Muslim women activists.

These same activists had earlier raised multiple alarm bells about a potential extremist attack targeting Muslims and driven by Islamophobia. Here’s the noted activist Anjum Rahman speaking about Hindutva:

“It’s extreme hate…It’s dehumanising material, trying to dehumanise our community.”

The Stuff article citing Rahman goes on to note:

“Later, Rahman shares with Stuff social media posts containing abuse directed at Muslims. She’s right – it’s dehumanising and awful. Similar material has been cited in a report from Massey University researcher Mohan Dutta who has studied discrimination against minority groups in India and in the Indian diaspora.”

Context and structures matter

The systemic erasure of the voices of Muslim communities and activists post the Christchurch terrorist attack has been accompanied by the ongoing erasure of the evidence of Islamophobia presented by Muslims.

In our research carried out at CARE with Muslim communities experiencing hate, the ongoing erasure of accounts of evidence is part of the racist structure that upholds and perpetuates Islamophobia. Muslim communities and activists often ask, How much evidence on the drivers of violence is actually evidence that will count for security experts?

And more vitally, when will the accounting of this evidence actually lead to positive policy responses that do something about the drivers of hate.

This ongoing discounting of evidence is accompanied by the systemic individualization of the analytic framework imposed by the expert security community, shaped by the hegemonic values of whiteness.

As focus is turned on identifying, categorizing and surveilling violent individuals, the structural contexts and drivers of violence remain erased from mainstream analytic frameworks. It is this individualization within the security apparatus that fails to see Hindutva’s links to violence (after all, Hindutva supporters in the Indian diaspora are often professionals and members of the successful model minority business community).

Moreover, the absence of structural analysis means that security experts and bureaucrats conveniently turn a blind eye to the actually existing Islamophobia within the security community itself, which fundamentally underlies the perpetuation of Islamophobia.

Silence doesn’t make the problem go away

Toward the end of his review, Wilson suggests that we need to take care about how we describe the various groups under the umbrella of the far-right, conspiracy theorists, and anti-government movements. He suggests that not taking adequate care in defining these groups would likely push them together, generate misplaced fear, and contribute to rising polarization.

I agree with Wilson. We need to take great care in defining the various groups that threaten democracy and social cohesion and develop appropriate response strategies that are nuanced.

At the same time, digging our head in the sand and pretending these groups don’t exist or they don’t pose a threat to our social cohesion is not going to curb the rising polarization. In fact, doing so might fuel further polarization.

Not counting, categorizing and adequately responding to the threat posed by Hindutva in Aotearoa New Zealand is likely to further heighten the sense of marginalization felt by Indian minorities here. Moreover, such discounting of evidence is likely to empower Hindutva ideologues here in Aotearoa New Zealand to continue to target social cohesion and democracy.

Without adequate structural responses and frameworks for empowering communities at the margins in the Indian diaspora, the inter-communal threat posed by Hindutva is likely to go unchecked. We can’t wait for Hindutva violence to show itself for us to then respond to it post-hoc. Lessons learned from ChristchurchAustraliaLeicester ought to offer us insights into strategies for countering Hindutva.

What qualifies you as an expert

Talking about credentials, historically, we have turned to academic expertise as the basis for generating knowledge. This knowledge then has shaped how we have historically crafted policies, developed interventions, and responded to these interventions.

Knowledge, therefore, is directly tied to policies.

Given the severe lack of diversity in academic disciplines, this has meant that academic knowledge informing policy formations is also severely limited. The absence of minority communities who are the targets of majoritarian hate and violence from decision-making spaces has meant that conceptual frameworks are largely absent in addressing the hate and violence.

Consider the area of terrorism and conflict studies and the ways in which this area has been shaped by academic expertise. That the area has been largely dominated by whiteness and imperial agenda has meant that what is operationalized as terror and therefore placed under surveillance has been grossly shaped by Islamophobia post-9/11. The prevailing ideology of the “War on Terror” has over-surveilled Muslims, mainstreamed the racist targeting of Muslims, and legitimized the terror narrative that drives Islamophobia. Ultimately, the mainstreaming of the Muslim terror narrative is directly tied to the accelerated growth of Islamophobic white supremacist and Hindutva hate post 9/11.

In this backdrop, the work of activists such as Byron Clark is vital to generating knowledge and to countering the myopic frameworks of analysis imposed by academic experts.

I have found my own knowledge of studying social change as constrained within the rules and norms of academia. These rules and norms themselves are often established within the structures of whiteness, the hegemonic values of white mainstream academic culture.

Working with activists in CARE’s activist-in-residence programming and learning from their knowledge I have found brings critical insights that shape the mobilization toward structural transformation.
The ability to see broad linkages and to explore these linkages is vital to mapping the far-right threat to social cohesion and democracies globally. I am so glad that Byron has dedicated a Chapter on Hindutva in his book. For the Indian diaspora minority communities and activists who have witnessed the accelerated growth of Hindutva in Aotearoa over the past decade, Byron’s intervention is vital to placing in the mainstream their concerns about hate. 

#CAREOpEd #Fear #Hate #Hindutva #RightWing #Activist #ByronClark #Aotearoa #NewZealand #CARECCA #CAREMassey #MasseyUni

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CARE Director’s Opinion: Caste, communication and the tech sector by Prof. Mohan Dutta

A Washington Post story published on June 2, titled “Google’s plan to talk about caste bias led to ‘division and rancor’,” documents the resistance put up by employees at Google identifying themselves as Hindu protesting the platforming of a pedagogy-based lecture by the dalit rights activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan, the founder and executive director of Equality Labs. Equality Labs is a nonprofit that advocates for Dalits.

What is powerful about the story is the complicity of the infrastructure of Google in de-platforming the event and in targeting the organizer of the event at Google, Tanuja Gupta, who worked as a senior manager at Google News. 

The disinformation campaign organized by Hindu employees targeting Soundararajan called her “Hindu-phobic” and “anti-Hindu” in emails to the company’s leaders.

I am very familiar with these tropes, rooted in disinformation, that are increasingly being deployed by Hindutva adherents to target critics of Hindutva, particularly academics, journalists, and activists.

Over the course of the past year, in response to my scholarship on Hindutva and the support of CARE, the center I direct, for a conference titled “Dismantling Global Hindutva,” I have experienced relentless attacks fuelled by a disinformation campaign labelling me Hinduphobic and accusing me of spreading “Hindumisia” (both Hinduphobia and Hindumisia are terms concocted by Hindutva to silence critics of the hateful ideology). These attacks have taken the forms of letter-writing campaigns directed at my employer, threats on Twitter, sexually violent emails threatening rape, and death threats on digital platforms. 

What is critical to this global disinformation campaign is the role of formally recognized organizations such as Hindu Council and Hindu Youth here in Aotearoa, Hindu American Foundation in the US, as well as professionals and business owners in disseminating the disinformation.

In the context of Google, the disinformation is seeded and disseminated by employees.

In doing so, Hindutva adherents draw on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies, making the claim that the criticism of caste or Islamophobia in Hindutva violates the principles of DEI.

The Indian Institutes of Technologies that both the Google CEO Sundar Pichai (a Tamil Brahmin) and I attended (Pichai graduated two years ahead of me from IIT Kharagpur), and that boast of having trained the leaders of the global tech sector (IIT Bombay alumnus Parag Agarwal is the Twitter CEO, the chairman and CEO of IBM is the IIT Kanpur B.Tech Arvind Krishna, among many other alums who lead the tech sector) were founded on the principle of cultivating the scientific temper and preparing the engineers that will build the newly independent postcolonial nation.

Inherent in the construction of the IITs is a Brahminical structure that privileges specific forms of merit that draw upon the historic hierarchies of caste in India.

The very notion of merit is rooted in and intrinsically intertwined with caste in the Indian context.

That caste hierarchies and the accompanying oppressions have shaped access to learning resources and opportunities for learning are erased from the hegemonic caste formations that shape education, and certainly engineering education, in India.

These caste hierarchies are intensified in the IITs, with their projection of elite education based on the hyper-competitive joint entrance examination.

At IIT, Kharagpur, the Institution I attended, the caste structure played out in the largely Brahmin men, and the occasional Brahmin women, that formed the professorial ranks. The Mukherjees, Chatterjees, Banerjees, and the Bhattacharyas (Bengali Brahmins) made up these ranks, replete with the taken-for-granted practices of inclusion and exclusion, rooted in caste supremacy. In the 1990s when I attended the IITs, it was rare to take a course from a dalit professor. 

It would be worthwhile to examine the caste composition of the Professoriate in the IITs in 2022.

Caste practices play out in the oppressive treatment meted out to oppressed caste students.

Marked as “quota students,” dalits are subjected to racialized slurs challenging their intelligence and their right to be in the IITs. These racialized slurs were often uttered by peers and reinforced by Professors.

The power of the caste infrastructure is held up through communication, through gossip networks that undermine, through racialized slurs, and through practices of touch and body that exclude.

In 2021, an IIT Kharagpur Professor was video recorded bullying and verbally abusing dalit students. This recording offered an account of practices of casteist violence that are deep-seated in the institutions.

The toxicity of the caste structure is manifest in the negotiations of mental health among dalit students, reflected in the disproportionate suicide rates among dalit students. Students report experiencing discrimination on the basis of caste and religion, holding the religious and caste biases of the IITs as the underlying reasons for suicides.

Caste-based inequality flows from education into the technology sectors, with discriminatory practices around touch, racialized verbal and emotional abuse, and denial of opportunities to dalits built into organizational structures.

Global technology organizations such as Google have large representation of South Asians, with a strong presence of Indians. 

For Indians in such tech organizations, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) forms a key resource in addressing the challenges of organizational bias and structural racism. 

Hindutva-espousing professionals within organizations such as Google then communicatively invert caste, on one hand, erasing the presence of caste, and on the other hand, claiming that any discussion of caste in Hinduism is Hinduphobic and will result in discrimination of Hindus. The erasure of caste oppression then is incorporated into the discursive architecture, denying caste oppression while perpetuating it. 

Salient in the farewell note of Tanuja Gupta to Google is the following account:

“Of all the organizing I have done at this company, I think many are surprised that fighting for caste equity was the lightning rod issue that took me down. But I have an Indian CEO and SVP who both know exactly what’s going on and tacitly approve of everything that’s  happened. I know this because multiple VPs and Directors confirmed that in Sundar’s  Leads meeting, they discussed the need for a new universal vetting process of speakers to ensure this doesn’t happen again. So my hope is that Googlers start to understand the magnitude of this issue, and the threat that their greater understanding poses to the South Asians in power.”

The discussion of caste in global tech organizations threatens the power consolidated by upper caste Indians within these organizations. The discussion of caste disrupts the carefully crafted model minority narrative that is essential to the upward mobility of Indians in the tech sector and to the perpetuation of the meritocratic myth that fuels the tech sector. The discussion of caste threatens to reveal the misogyny, violence, and racism that forms the communicative infrastructure of a cross-section of Hindu society. 

Paradoxically, the claims to DEI serve as tools for shutting down necessary discussions of caste violence in tech.

The silencing of the voices of dalits within organizational structures is violence that perpetuates Hindutva. Moreover, the erasure of conversations on caste in tech forecloses critical conversations on the role of caste in shaping algorithms and platform infrastructures. These are critical questions as the speak to the organizing role of a racist ideology in shaping platform algorithms and search engines. Critical conversations on caste led by dalits is vital to building just platform architectures.

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.

Google #ThenmozhiSoundararajan #EqualityLabs #Dalits #IITKharagpur #IndianInstitutesOfTechnologies #Hindutva #CAREMassey #CAREMasseyNZ #CARECCA

Article & Image Source: Massey News

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:

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.


by Prof. Mohan Dutta, Massey University

Professor Mohan Dutta, director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) at Massey University.

Hindutva, a political ideology that seeks to construct India in the structure of a Hindu nation (Hindu Rashtra), draws its conceptual tenets from the organising framework of fascism. As a modern project, Hindutva is rooted in the desire to create a Hindu nation that is organised on the principles of the European nation-state through cultural hegemony that homogenises the population, simultaneously erasing the rights of religious minorities.

The fascist root of Hindutva is evident in the writings of one of the key architects of the concept, MS Golwalkar, who writes: “German race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races – the Jews … a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

Note here the deep interplays of the ideology of Hindutva and white supremacy. The purity of race and culture that forms the hate structure of white supremacy is mobilised in the political formation of Hindutva. Hindutva embodies the colonial imposition of a politics of purity through the purge of the ‘other’ organised by the state.

One of the key architects of Hindutva, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, wrote the book Hindutva in 1923, outlining the concepts of a common nation (rashtra), a common race (jati) and a common culture or civilisation (sanskriti). Note the parallels here with the ideology of the German Nazi party, anchored in ein volk(one people), ein reich (one nation), ein Fuhrer (one leader).

At the heart of this ideology is the production of the ‘other’ that is outside of the nation. Similar to the construction of Jews as the outside of ein volk in Nazi ideology, Muslims and Christians are constructed as the outside of the Hindu rashtra in the ideological construction of Hindutva.

The effects of this ideology are evident in the hate and violence that have been directed at Muslims. The ongoing political project of disenfranchising Muslims through the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a reminder of the Nuremberg Laws passed in Nazi Germany to strip German Jews of their citizenship.

The communicative infrastructure of Hindutva is deployed through the articulation of a monolithic ‘Hinduness’ as the basis for organising the political project. To belong, one has to declare their ‘Hinduness’ and allegiance to the Hindu Rashtra, as defined by the political project of Hindutva.

To dissent from this monolithic vision of Hindutva is to be anti-Hindu. Within the organising structures of India, to dissent against the ideology of Hindutva is to be anti-Indian. The political project of Hindutva threatens the pluralism, polymorphism, and democratic ethos of Hinduism.

The celebrated Indian film-maker Anand Patwardhan, observed at the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference, “If Hindutva is Hinduism, then the Ku Klux Klan is Christianity.”

The recent attacks on me, the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), Massey University, and on academics globally writing on and debating about the pernicious effects of Hindutva, are reflective of the hegemonic communicative infrastructure of Hindutva. At the heart of this hegemonic infrastructure is the silencing of dissent while imposing a monolithic ideology. In this instance, Hindutva proclaims to speak for all Hindus as it carries out this fundamental attack on academic freedom.

From trolls reproducing digital hate, to hateful propaganda published in diaspora digital portals, to letter writing campaigns targeting the university, to petitions attacking the university for steadfastly supporting academic freedom, forces of Hindutva draw on a wide range of strategies. Hindutva deploys bullying and rhetorical fallacies to silence dissent because it lacks the tools of argumentation to appeal to reason.

Referring to these forces of Hindutva at work to silence academic freedom in the form of the organised attacks on the Dismantling Global Hindutva conference, Professor Gyan Prakash, Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at Princeton University, observes: “The extraordinary thing about the conference was the massive disinformation campaign by those seeking to prevent the academic scrutiny of Hindutva. The campaign launched against this conference was concerted, comprehensive, and entirely without scruples. As has been covered in the Guardian and Al Jazeera, many participants received threats, including death threats. We know that, as a co-sponsoring institution, you also faced overwhelming pressure to pull out from this conference. The threats include nearly every threat to academic freedom listed on the AAUP’s (American Association of University Professors) website.”

Of particular concern in western democracies are the threads of foreign influence and interference into academic freedom and the fabric of pluralism.

In western democracies, Hindutva seeks to silence criticism by communicatively inverting the violence perpetuated by the political ideology of Hindutva, while simultaneously playing to the ethos of superficial western multiculturalism. It projects a narrative of fragility, constructing references to Hinduphobia, in seeking to assert its cultural hegemony in the diaspora, while simultaneously silencing dissent and articulations of social justice. Hindutva actively erases the voices of adivasis (indigenous people), oppressed caste communities, women experiencing gender violence, gender diverse communities, and minority communities in seeking to establish the hegemony of its monolithic values.

In our work at CARE that seeks to co-create spaces for the voices of the ‘margins of the margins’ to be heard, we will continue to pursue our justice-based scholarship in spite of the organised forces of hate seeking to silence these voices by policing the term Hindutva. We are empowered in this work by the steadfast support of the leadership of Massey University in safeguarding our academic freedom, and in the protections offered by the Education Act 1989.

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Article Source: Massey University News

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

Opinion: Attacking courses on critical pedagogy is a strategy of the far right

By Professor Mohan J. Dutta, Director, CARE: Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation

Opinion: Attacking courses on critical pedagogy is a strategy of the far right

In what was marketed as the first “Leaders Breakfast” on NewstalkZB with Mike Hoskings, the leader of the National Party, Judith Collins, commented on the secondary education curriculum of Aotearoa New Zealand, stating; “The trouble with NCEA, Mike, to be frank, is there’s too many photography classes, too much media studies, too much woke stuff.”

The contempt for the creative arts and media studies expressed by Collins should be read alongside similar such attacks by the far right on critical pedagogy across the globe. That Collins places the teaching of media studies as “woke stuff” sheds light on what her problem with media studies really is – that she sees the discipline as teaching students how to ask critical questions.

In the US, Donald Trump has issued a state directive attacking the teaching of critical race theory. It has instructed all federal agencies to stop anti-bias training programmes that draw on critical race theory or address white privilege.

In a speech delivered at the National Archives Museum, Trump attacked critical race theory by stating that it encourages “deceptions, falsehoods and lies” by the “left-wing cultural revolution”.

Suggesting that students in US universities are inundated with what he terms “critical race theory propaganda,”, Trump said, “This is a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed. Critical race theory is being forced into our children’s schools, it’s being imposed into workplace trainings, and it’s being deployed to rip apart friends, neighbours, and families.”

In India, the Narendra Modi-led right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has systematically attacked universities that are seen as sites of critical education. Organised state violence has worked alongside the instruments of violence of the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party to attack and seek to dismantle university spaces for critical pedagogy. The renowned Jawaharlal Nehru University has been targeted with violence. Similar attacks have been carried out on Jamia Millia Islamia University.

What is the goal of critical pedagogy?

Critical pedagogy examines the ways in which inequalities are scripted into societal, institutional, and organisational structures and practices. It attends to the inequalities in the distribution of power, reading closely the ways in which these inequalities shape the inequities in outcomes in society. In the US for instance, the African American life span on average is shorter than the lifespan of Caucasians and Asians. In India, lower caste communities experience poorer health outcomes compared to upper castes. In Aotearoa New Zealand, in 2014, premature mortality for Māori and Pacific people was more than two times that of non-Māori and non-Pacific populations. By closely examining the patterns of distribution of power in society, critical pedagogy offers a framework for examining the ways in which inequalities have been historically produced and entrenched. In doing so, it offers students ways of conceptualising and working toward a society that is just, inclusive, and egalitarian.

A common thread across the far right attacks on critical pedagogy is the denial of entrenched societal inequalities that have been actively reworked by five decades of relentless neoliberalism.           

The far right has introduced terms such as “cancel culture” to attack the calls for equality and social, cultural, economic, and political justice. The mainstreaming of the term under the guise of “freedom of expression” obfuscates the inequalities that are actively cultivated by the far right. For instance, attacks on transgender rights under the guise of free speech have been organised under the rhetoric of “cancel culture”. The term works actively to erase the inequalities produced by a gendered politics of hate, instead turning those occupying identities of power as victims. This projection of victimhood is a key strategic resource of the far right. In Trump’s US, white men are the victims. In Modi’s India, upper caste, Hindu men are the victims. In Collins’ Aotearoa New Zealand, white Pākehā culture is the victim.

The narrative of victimhood is used to mainstream hate groups into politics. Consider, for instance, the implicit support offered by Trump to the white supremacist groups. In a recent Presidential debate, he declined to condemn the far right group ‘Proud Boys’, instead stating, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.”

Yet another strategy deployed by the far right is to create the false dichotomy between critical pedagogy and what is termed as “useful subjects.” In her interview with Hoskings, Collins added that she would promote the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). She also noted the importance of financial literacy and more practical economics. As noted by the media scholar Neil Curtis, Collins “quickly qualified what she meant by economics, which she believes should be “less theoretical” and “more practical.” For Collins, what is practical is not critical.

Ironically, what this pernicious ideology of the far right consistently makes visible is the practical urgency of critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy teaches students to closely interrogate the neoliberal ideology that circulates phony claims such as more technology and growth would solve the climate crisis. Critical pedagogy equips students with the capacity to interrogate the ideology of hate perpetuated by the far right on digital platforms.

Communication and media studies, with anchors in critical pedagogy, are vital to the education of a Prime Minister that has led to what is considered globally as one of the most effective responses to the pandemic. Clear communication, anchored in science, with a heart and with a commitment to social, political, and economic justice is the need of the hour.

If there is one thing the pandemic teaches us, it is this. A strong communication and media education grounded in critical pedagogy is as practical and necessary as an education in public health, medicine, and engineering.

Mohan J. Dutta is Dean’s Chair Professor, Director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), and editor of the Journal of Applied Communication Research (JACR)