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

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

Cherian George. MIT Press, $29.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-262-03530-9

George urges readers who are considering contentious discussions of religious freedom to pause and examine who deploys the rhetoric of religion under attack and why. He persuasively argues that there is a distinction between actual hate speech and a manufactured form of indignation that he calls “hate spin.” In the latter, public leaders foment offense-taking to target minority groups and maintain the power of the majority at the expense of robust democracy. Laws against blasphemy and insult are unevenly deployed, and the umbrage around perceived attacks can lead to ruthless oppression. George traces hate spin in very recent instances of anti-Muslim Hindu nationalists in India, proponents of a traditionalist Muslim state in Indonesia, and xenophobic Christians in the United States. In each case, he provides sufficient context for any reader to understand the history and stakes of the religious and political landscapes and shows that any majority religion can mobilize hate spin for its own aims. He closes the work by suggesting the pursuit of robust and assertive protection of equality alongside a reduced legal attack on speech in order to forestall the hijacking of liberal societies. This timely work provides an essential warning against the misuse of perceived religious-based bias and an unmasking of the real motives of those who incite manufactured offense. (Sept.)