Hate Speech and Hate Spin – How to Counter it?

Date: 18 November 2016

Country: UK, London

Hate_Spin_Book_Launch“Take a stand against hate speech. Never report it neutrally” – this is professor Cherian George’s message to the media. At the launch of his new book Hate Spin: The Manufacture of Religious Offense and its Threat to Democracy, George argued political and civic responses are required in order to develop and maintain a culture of tolerance and openness to others. Further, he asserted that legal restrictions are often ineffective and should be a last resort in open societies. “What is the most needed are equal rights and discrimination laws,” believes George.

His new book was launched during the Inter Faith Week in the UK that aims to enable greater interaction between people of different backgrounds. It also celebrates diversity and interfaith dialogue, as well as understanding between people of different religious and non-religious beliefs.

George explained the relevance of the term hate spin and how it differentiates from what is commonly known as hate speech.

We talk about hate speech when an out-group is vilified and becomes the victim of harms. However, sometimes a group that feels insulted reacts by attacking those who are seen as responsible for the offending expression. Here is where the term hate spin takes sense: it captures the double-sided strategy of offence-giving and offence-taking,” says George. The phenomenon of hate spin is extensively explained in the first part of the George’s book, where he tries to discover where, how and why it tends to increase.

Later on, the author illustrates the phenomenon of hate spin through three case studies, which form three substantive chapters of his book. He decided to focus on three very different democracies through which he advances considerable evidence of the scale of hate spin.”I show how hate spin agents use the freedom and tolerance provided by democracy to push an agenda that undermines democratic values”, he says.

The first case study comes from the United States where the Muslim minority has been targeted by an Islamophobic campaign. As a second case study, George  chooses Indonesia where religious intolerance is rising despite the consolidated democracy. For a third and last illustration he explains the case of India, where censorship and vigilante violence are still very common, especially towards the minority Muslim population.

Answering how the media should treat these issues, how they report on religion and interfaith dialogue, what they should do to counter hate spin, George is firm and clear. He argues that the media, as well as politicians and civil society, have a tremendous role to play in standing up against hate spin.