The giving and taking of religious offence is a threat to democratic life around the world. This website is an extension of a book project that examines how political entrepreneurs use both offence and offendedness at the expense of vulnerable groups.


In the United States, elements of the Religious Right fuel fears of an existential Islamic threat, spreading anti-Muslim rhetoric into mainstream politics. In Indonesia, Muslim absolutists urge suppression of churches and minority sects, fostering a climate of rising intolerance. In India, Narendra Modi’s radical supporters instigate communal riots and academic censorship in pursuit of their Hindu nationalist vision.

Outbreaks of religious intolerance are usually assumed to be visceral and spontaneous. But in Hate Spin, I show that they often involve sophisticated campaigns manufactured by political opportunists to mobilise supporters and marginalise opponents. The double-sided strategy of “hate spin”—combining hate speech (incitement through vilification) with manufactured offence-taking (the performing of righteous indignation)—is deployed in societies as diverse as Buddhist Myanmar and Orthodox Christian Russia. The internet and Google have opened up new opportunities for cross-border hate spin.

Hate spin exploits democratic space to promote agendas that undermine democratic values. I argue that democracies must protect vulnerable communities by prohibiting calls to action that lead directly to discrimination and violence. But laws that try to protect believers’ feelings against all provocative expression invariably backfire. They arm hate spin agents’ offence-taking campaigns with legal ammunition. Anti-discrimination laws and a commitment to religious equality will protect communities more meaningfully than misguided attempts to insulate them from insult.




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