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


“This book is a study of how hate spin operates and how democracies should deal with it. In its eight chapters I analyze major transnational episodes, typified by the 2005-06 controversies surrounding the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. I also investigate several domestic conflicts within the world’s three largest democracies. The Hindu Right in India, the Muslim Right in Indonesia, and the Christian Right in the United States all include accomplished users of hate spin, adapting their methods to suit their respective legal and social environments. I show how practitioners of hate spin use the freedom and tolerance provided by democracy to push an agenda that undermines democratic values. Hate spin agents assert themselves in the public sphere, claiming victimhood and demanding respect - even as they deny others the right to participate as equals in the life of society, or even to be treated with the basic dignity owed to fellow human beings.

“Democracies must develop legal, political, media, and civic responses to hate spin. Notwithstanding the need to protect free speech, they have to prohibit incitement. This book will show how vulnerable communities are terrorized when authorities fail to live up to this obligation. But dealing with offendedness is a different matter. We’ll see that laws against blasphemy or the wounding of religious feelings are highly counterproductive. They allow exponents of hate spin to hijack the coercive powers of the state by staging performances of righteous indignation. Thus, misguided policies toward hate spin can doubly disadvantage vulnerable groups. On the one hand, inadequate policing of incitement leaves them exposed to hate campaigns that result in discrimination and violence. On the other, their own religious or cultural practices may be declared offensive to the dominant group, and then suppressed through the selective use of insult laws.”

For more information, read Hate Spin: The Manufacture of Religious Offense and Its Threat to Democracy.