Cherian George to give talk about ‘hate spin’, freedom of expression implications

cherian-george-2010-9-squareOn Thursday, March 31, Cherian George will be visiting the Department of Communication from Hong Kong Baptist University to deliver a colloquium. Join us; all are welcome.

WHEN: Thursday, March 31 at 3:30 p.m.
SYNOPSIS > The ‘hate spin’ challenge: Religious incitement and indignation as tools of contentious politics

This study examines how religious offence—often framed as visceral and spontaneous—is purposefully manufactured to mobilize support and marginalize opponents. “Hate spin” is a double-sided strategy of offense-giving and offense-taking, used by political entrepreneurs to stoke up communities’ fears, exploit identity politics, and instigate mob action. Case studies are drawn from the world’s three largest democracies: the Religious Right’s Islamophobia network in the United States; the Hindu nationalist movement behind Narendra Modi’s victory in India’s 2014 election; and the rising intolerance of Muslim groups in Indonesia.

The study considers the implications for freedom of expression. Must minorities accept vilification as a necessary price of freedom? Or must free speech be rolled back in the interest of peaceful coexistence? International human rights norms provide the most promising framework for balancing competing rights. States need to prohibit incitement that would cause actual harm to vulnerable groups. But blasphemy laws and other attempts to enforce respect for religion backfire by allowing hate spin agents to hijack state power for their offense-taking campaigns.

This research will be published in a monograph, Hate Spin: The Manufacture of Religious Offense and its Threat to Democracy, being released by the MIT Press this Fall. (

BIO: Cherian George is an associate professor at the School of Communication, Hong Kong Baptist University. His current research centers on freedom of expression and censorship. His PhD research in communication at Stanford University examined the democratic role of alternative online journalism. It was published as Contentious Journalism and the Internet: Toward Democratic Discourse in Malaysia and Singapore (University of Washington Press, 2006). He also writes extensively on his native Singapore. His previous book, Freedom from the Press: Journalism and State Power in Singapore, was published in 2012. (