Saturday, July 29, 2023

My response to Professor Mohan Dutta

I see I’m now designated as a voice of the Far Right. That description comes from Massey University professor Mohan Dutta, so carries a spurious air of authority.

I supposed I should be alarmed, but I’m not, for two reasons. One is that academia has so recklessly squandered its credibility that we should pay no more heed to the opinion of a professor of “communication” – least of all an imported zealot from the far Left – than to that of the local barber.

The other is that I’m no longer sure what the Far Right is. The term was once reserved for outfits like the Ku Klux Klan and Britain’s National Front, neither of which was active, still less influential, here.

Far Right groups have never secured a political foothold in phlegmatic New Zealand. That remains true despite feverish scaremongering from conspiracy theorists at the Disinformation Project and their media cheerleaders (RNZ’s Susie Ferguson’s dishonest Undercurrent podcast being the latest example). If conspiracy theories are flourishing and paranoia is rampant, then ironically it’s largely due to the efforts of the people who purport to be protecting us from it.

If the same alarmists are to be believed, the term “far Right” now extends to organisations such as Speak Up for Women (which promotes the supposedly radical view that the definition of woman is “adult human female”), the anti-mandate group Voices for Freedom and the farmers’ lobby Groundswell. None of these organisations could be categorised as extremist. Rather, they could be said to have sprung up in response to extremism. They are legitimate pressure groups whose policies and actions should be seen (and would have been, in less hysterical times) as part of the healthy and normal contest of ideas that sustains a mature, liberal democracy.

In the media, the term “far Right” is used equally loosely. Marginally right-of-centre parties such as National are tolerated (although barely) just as long as they humour the media by pusillanimously falling into line with the latest woke diktats. Any genuine conservative, however, risks being demonised as far Right – the more so if they are foolish enough to identify as Christian.

The international media routinely pin the same label on any government whose “populist” policies offend the neo-Marxist Left, the word “populist” now being treated as synonymous with “far Right”. This poses a credibility problem for the media as more and more European voters turn to parties that reject left-wing policies on hot-button issues such as climate change and immigration. Are we to believe that much of Europe has mysteriously succumbed to an extremist right-wing bacillus, or are those voters simply making an informed and rational choice?

But back to Mohan Dutta (whose attack on me, incidentally, is published under the official imprint of Massey University – the same government institution that cancelled Don Brash).

I don’t dispute Dutta’s entitlement to a right of reply after I took a whack at him. Neither do I dispute his right to call me a member of the far Right, even though the term has been rendered virtually meaningless. But I suspect he’ll have more trouble substantiating his characterisation of me than I will my characterisation of him as a neo-Marxist. In fact I invite him to debate me face-to-face to determine which is the more accurate.

I’ll even give him some helpful tips. One is to make sure of his facts. Dutta says I wrote my “hit piece” for Sean Plunket's The Platform. Wrong. That might be where his bitter and disaffected informant (whom I take to be Ben McKay of Australian Associated Press) saw it, but I don’t write for The Platform. The article was written for my blog, as all my pieces are, and republished with permission. I suspect that in Dutta's fevered imagination, Sean Plunket and I are part of the same far-Right conspiracy. In fact The Platform exists only because of the need for a conservative outlet to counter the overwhelming ideological imbalance in the established media.

Dutta goes on to associate me with an “organised” far-Right attack on the “communications and media studies pedagogy” and links to a series of articles which he seems to think prove his point. But nearly all his reference points are from the US and therefore irrelevant. Citing a Washington Post article by a leftist US academic railing against “the US-Infowars-Bannon-Trump-DeSantis-Tucker-Carlson hate machinery” doesn’t get us anywhere. I recognise these names, but that’s all. What little I know about these people, I dislike. (The exception is Trump, about whom I know a lot – in fact more than I want – and whom I detest.)

Elsewhere, Dutta accuses me of “parroting the US-based white supremacist agenda” – this, after saying in his first line that he had never previously heard of me. That being the case, on what basis does Dutta accuse me of pushing a white supremacist agenda? The claim would be defamatory if anyone took it seriously, but the blog post he objects to made no mention of race. In fact I challenge him to find anything I’ve written, in more than five decades as a journalist and columnist, that could remotely be construed as taking a white supremacist line.

No doubt it suits Dutta to resort lazily to overheated American polemics, to frame my post as part of a global far-Right conspiracy and to accuse me of “replicating American far-Right talking points”. Perhaps it’s the only way he can make sense of it in his conspiracy-obsessed world. He seems confused about which country he’s in. But it would be helpful if he could stick to talking about New Zealand, since that’s where we are.

New Zealand is not the US and for the record, I’m not part of an organised anything. I’m a lone blogger in a provincial town and I own all my own opinions – right or wrong, good or bad, fatuous or inspired. I don’t have the backing of a substantial, taxpayer-funded academic institution and the only political organisation I have any association with is the Free Speech Union, which would defend Dutta’s rights as vigorously as it would mine.

Moreover I’m not on social media and wouldn’t have a clue how to access the supposedly toxic rhetoric spouted by the noisy American extremists Dutta refers to. That’s assuming I’m interested in the first place, which I’m not. Other than the FSU, I have no links with anyone. I’m the original Mr Clean.

Oh, and another thing. Dutta objected to my criticism of his impenetrable writing style, then proceeded to prove my point with passages like this: “The white supremacist hegemony of the far-right sees the organising for justice from the margins as threatening to the status quo. Its conspiracy web therefore communicatively inverts materiality, inverting historic processes of racist marginalisation on their head to portray voices advocating for social justice as the elites occupying power.” He goes on to say that I’m “drawing from misinformation-based discursive frames weaved [sic] by the alt Right”.

Comically, he suggests it’s my job as a journalist to translate this obscurantist crap, to which I say: bullshit. It shouldn’t need translating; the onus is on him to express himself clearly. Clarity of language denotes clarity of thinking, and the reverse – which applies in his case – is equally true.

To be fair, Dutta is occasionally unambiguous. There’s no misunderstanding him when he refers to the culture wars being “a far-right mobilisation of white supremacist cultural nationalism … in continuity with the racist colonial infrastructure of Aotearoa”. It was helpful of him to provide this tiny sample of the toxic ideological gruel presumably served up to gullible communication and media studies students at Massey.

And he did touch on another important point: “Accountability to the taxpayer is one of the key resources in the mobilisation of the far-right. Designating themselves as gatekeepers, as representatives and advocates of the voices of the tax payer, far-right individuals and organisations launch their attacks on academic freedom by claiming that the research and teaching on questions of social justice are a waste of taxpayer money.” Note how Dutta invokes academic freedom while conveniently avoiding the even more fundamental principle of accountability for the spending of public money. He would presumably prefer this to be left to the academics, free from critical outside scrutiny. But insistence on accountability to the taxpayer can hardly be dismissed as a fetish of the extreme Right. It’s a fundamental mechanism without which democratic government ceases to function.

Anyway, I encourage all followers of this blog to read Dutta’s article. Some of it may be incomprehensible, but they’ll decipher enough to decide whether it confirms everything I said in my original post.


Gary Peters said...

Sorry Karl but I won't be reading the idiot's tome as I have a busy life and I try to eliminate stupidity from it as much as possible.

For me personally I think the terms "left" and "right" as far as political aspiration goes are long gone. I think now we have "liberal" and "totalitarian" and from my amateur observations I would have to categorise our current government as more Totalitarian than any we have experienced before.

Sure, before my time, the wartime government exerted more controls but I doubt even then they sought to peer into the bedrooms and thoughts of the people with as much enthusiasm as today. I doubt they would have constructed "right thought" as these numpties have done and you either think like them or face the consequences.

I once categorised you as being slightly "lefty" but I think I may have mis-spoken. I think you are possibly slightly more liberal than I but essentially. like many many others, we are on the same page and October 15 will be a pleasing day for many.

Sponge said...

I am very grateful to you Karl for standing up against the nonsense that people like this spout. The lazy accusation of being "far right" by people like Dutta is sadly far too common. I find it utterly laughable that he accuses you of being a part of a conspiracy. What is more his word soup response totally proves the point you were making. If Dutta is representative of the current state of academia in New Zealand then we are in more trouble as a nation than I thought.

Keep up the fight.

Paul Peters said...

Culture war from one side is sure being ramped up here in Taranaki. Full on article in TDN about a group fighting for co least they admit the agenda is co governance, which was supposed to be a conspiracy theory. Those who disagree with their view get no space of course. It is building up to another noisy and if necessary, violent attempt to stop the pending ant-CG meeting . I is quite blatant . Disagree and you get the Dutta style tirade

Max in the deep south said...

I tried reading the waffle from Massey and discovered there's not enough barf-bags around the house. Then I tried again, this time reading it as comedy. Still no luck. Clearly I don't inhabit his sealed compound of received idiocy (lovely sentence, not original, can't remember the source). Common sense is common but underused. Clearly @mjdutt didn't get the memo.

Keep up the good work Karl.

Huskynut said...

This is up there with the best columns you've ever written.
Dutta is an absurd clown, like many of his contemporary academic performers.

Ben Thomas said...

As soon as I read the words, "reached out", I vomited and had to force myself to read the rest of this impenetrable, cliched nonsense. It may come as a surprise to Mr Dutta that some of us do not want his thoughts to be ‘translated' by a journalist. I like to read items in understandable English, free of jargon and cliché. 'Far right'! This is a nonsensical term now used as a label for anyone whose opinions are slightly right of centre. For balance I also believe the term 'far left' is equally nonsensical and overused.

I imagine that in Mr Dutta's eyes I am yet another far right, imperialist lackey, running dog and paper tiger (at least the Chinese used some imagination when coming up with insults).

Chris Nisbet said...

"Far Right", as best as I can tell, is a label that gets attached by the likes of that bloke to lovers of free speech and democracy.
Therefore, it's a label you should wear with pride.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Karl.

My family has devoted 60 years of service to Massey University and a LOT of money in charitable donations. The new Refectory even has a plaque with our name on it.

We are absolutely flabbergasted how the university has devolved under the administration of Vice Chancellor Jan Thomas, that incompetent extremists such as Dutta find a home there. For our family it is absolutely devastating.

Doug Longmire said...

As I posted previously:-

I worked for over 50 years as a pharmacist.

A core part of my work was to explain complex medical and pharmaceutical terms in clear English so that patients could actually understand what they were taking and how it works.

Then, when I read something like this:-

“At the core of his research agenda is the activist emphasis on provincializing Eurocentric knowledge structures, and de-centering hegemonic knowledge constructions through subaltern participation.”

I just find it gibberish.
This privileged academic demonstrates how the English language can be twisted and tortured into something incomprehensible. Obviously the writer of this gibberish intends to confuse and baffle the reader.

Neil Keating said...

Thanks Karl.

It's worth here noting some Europeans' interest in the late Sir Roger Scruton, an English political philosopher (died Jan 2020). His political conservatism, a bit in the line of Edmund Burke, is seen by some -- but alas not many -- as a way 'forward'. I append some lines from 'The Salisbury Review' on this topic:

"As John Lloyd wrote recently for the online magazine Unherd, those at the summit of political power and influence in countries like Italy and Sweden explicitly cite Scruton’s philosophy as inspiration for their vision of life and how it relates to the role of government. In A Political Philosophy, Scruton articulated a form of conservatism antithetical to an Anglo-Saxon Right-liberalism, instantiated in the Thatcherite worldview, which sees liberation from bonds of restraint and the maximisation of economic autonomy as the highest good of politics, while simultaneously making incoherent gestures at socially conservative values.

For Scruton, conservatism concerns “the conservation of our shared resources – social, material, economic and spiritual – and resistance to social entropy in all its forms”.

I find 'The Salisbury Review' worth paying for at 10 pounds sterling four times a year online.

Phil said...

Perhaps Professor Dutta has done some worthwhile research in his career but his own article is full of lazy scatter gun accusations about far right links and conspiracy theories. He seems to be using the same conspiratorial language he thinks is used against him from the mysterious far right cabal.

Doug Longmire said...

It is now becoming standard (sloppy msm) journalism to fling out terms like "far right", "racist", "alt-right" etc as an accusatory label against any normal free thinking person who happens to disagree with, or criticise the current Left wing government.

And, OMG ! If you care to ask for actual evidence that humans are causing climate change - you are a climate change denier !!!

Look how Maureen Pugh got sent to the naughty corner.

rivoniaboy said...

Karl, your response to Mohan Dutta is in my humble opinion - magnificent!

George Price

Birdman said...

I did as I was told Karl and read Dutta's post. He may just be a charlatan (definition: a person falsely claiming to have a special knowledge or skill) but we each need to make our own assessment and judgement on that score. As an example, Dutta is particularly hurt (feels vulnerable maybe) by you highlighting him tapping into public funds for what he likely describes as 'research'. In particular, he refers to the US$1.5 million grant from AHRQ (Agency for HealthCare Research and Quality whatever that is but the bottom line it is US taxpayers' money).

He then describes what this funding achieved and he's serious because he wrote this: "..the community-led culture-centered intervention, co-created through partnership with a range of African American organisations, and evaluated through a quasi-experimental community-based design,..". As I say, apply your own assessment and judgement when it comes to deciding who is or isn't a charlatan. We can only hope Massey applies continuous rigour in assessing every position it applies our taxpayer funds to.

Anonymous said...

Karl, your mature and thoughtful commentary seems to me to compare rather favorably to that of Dutta's "academic" writing.

As you point out, an author has the responsibility to ensure that any communication to their intended audience is actually comprehensible. So it would seem that the gobbledygook that Dutta seems to have written is only meant to be read by other woke "academics".

In terms of the definition of far right, some people sit so extremely far to the left that a centrist political view must seem to be radically far to the right from their perspective.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

“parroting the US-based white supremacist agenda”??

I find that comical. Few NZ writers are capable of the originality of thought that makes this blog such a rewarding read.

Scott said...

I think barbers deserve an apology. They're usually quite sensible chaps.

R Singers said...

I like how the delicate wee flower objects to you pointing out that he uses coded language, and then he launches straight into maximum babble. The problem with Massey, and it's been happening for decades, is that they think that foreign academics help give their humanities and social sciences faculties credibility, and help battle the impression that they're an agricultural college. This leads to them ignoring some very talented Kiwis.

And I think "far right" means you are right of Michael Bassett, if Lange was still alive heavens know what Dutta would think of him.

hughvane said...

Years ago, at a friendly social gathering, our hostess referred to a local hostelry as having an “eclectic mix of patrons”.

Stunned silence. Then her mother, who described herself as ’working class’ English, spoke; “yer what?”

We badly need that woman’s type of down-to-earth response to the drivel emanating from the likes of Dutta.

Hilary Taylor said...

Excellent rebuttal to his piece that I still won't read, sorry with Lionel Shriver when it comes to spending my time on drivel or the plethora of stunningly- written stuff out there in the wild. Saw the piece, gave it the attention it probably deserved, none.
Scruton worth it, Dutta not so much.

Odysseus said...

I enjoyed that, what an excellent rebuttal and more. "Far Right" seems to have gained widespread currency as term of abuse in this country after the appalling atrocity in Christchurch, when one or two politicians on the Left and a few academics went out of their way to suggest all male New Zealanders of European extraction were "white supremacists". Their language was extravagant, intended to inflame feeling and totally ungrounded in fact. The language of this Massey intellectual (oxymoron?) is in the same category - it is no more than abuse from someone who is unable to present a fair argument. I hope any prospective students do their homework and decide to give these courses a wide berth. They hardly seem value for money.

Andy Espersen said...

Ha, Karl : I have now read both yours and Dutta's articles - also looked up more about him. Yes, you are doing just fine in your response to his article. But alas, what your are telling him will run off him like water on a goose-back. During his professional, academic life his grey matter has ossified to his particular view of life - he is simply unable to read what you write with a logical mind.

Everything he writes is suffused with his own ludicrous, mysterious "logic-of-a-sort". Your sober comments will not change him, Karl (you probably know already). But I'm sure he is very happy : he bravely confronts the "frenzied conspiracy-attacks" from you and your ilk on him and his steadfast followers.

Alex said...

How about all those saying they haven't or won't read the article, read it.

Form your opinion first hand rather than accept the opinion of the subject.

My reason for saying this is to remind all that opinions are worth more if they are backed by reason and logic gained from inquiry.

Who knows, you may be even more outraged.

But it will be your own.

Kevn said...

Dutta, word soup exponent, also a kiri allan doppleganger.

Birdman said...

I agree Alex, however painful you need to read Dutta's response to be able to understand why Karl (a well known beastly far right white supremacy-spouting so-and-so) has so well called out Dutta, who's a bit of a tosspot really.

David McLoughlin said...

You have the professor's article such a promo, Karl, that I simply had to read it.

It left me almost without words, it was written in so amateurish and childish a way. But one of his attacks on you did catch my attention. He says you "pose as a journalist."

That made me assume that he was a journalist, so I went to his Massey biography page to see what kind. It says he sits in the Dean's Chair in Communication, but alas, I was unable to find even a hint of any journalism experience. The biography says he engages in activism (his term) and "the mobilization of cultural tropes."

It does help to explain the journalism we are seeing in much of our mainstream media... activists posing as journalists promoting their cultural tropes de jour.

Brendan McNeill said...

"Any genuine conservative, however, risks being demonised as far Right – the more so if they are foolish enough to identify as Christian."

Karl, I'm not sure if you have stumbled upon the underlying cultural issue of our time, or if you have identified it with clear eyes. We are first and foremost in a spiritual battle. There is a reason why the most persecuted people on the planet are not LGBT+ or Trans, or Jews or any specific ethnicity, but rather those who hold to the virtues and the confession of Christ. To be a Christian in the Middle East or North Africa or in China, or any communist country is an act of unprecedented courage or foolishness, depending upon your perspective.

Increasingly this is also true in the West, New Zealand included.
If you support human life, especially the life of the unborn, the elderly, and the disadvantaged, or if you promote virtue over values, faith over unbelief, truth over relativism, equality over equity, then you have become a target of the left and those who are driven by anger, hatred and violence.

We are living in the days of Elijah when he challenged the people of Israel who had chosen to follow the false god of Baal:

1 Kings 18:21

"Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing."

Eventually we have to choose, are we on the side of truth or falsehood, and if it's truth how do we know what is objectively true? The hint in is the text.

Richard McGrath said...

Karl, it must be intensely irritating to the likes of Dutta that you are not a Trump supporter! You are certainly not playing the game and conforming neatly to the stereotype of someone from the "far-Right". There's a lot I don't like about Trump, but he acts as a lightning rod for those oppressed and belittled by the establishment politicians, their embedded bureaucratic allies and the compliant mainstream media. You're right, this isn't America, but the same forces are at work in New Zealand, similarly determined to crush free speech and the right to be sceptical about the misinformation our political masters feed us (global boiling being the latest).

Peter Auret said...

The best description/explanation I have seen of what is happening all over the West is by James Lindsay and his work on "woke" and Cultural Marxism. To quote: "Woke is Marxism adapted to conquer the West." His interviews on YouTube I find compelling watching and worth the effort. He clearly explains the "long march through the institutions" and how we got to where we are now.

Ray M said...

Hi Karl,
I read the atricle and it is such embarrassingly unprofessional complicated and baseless gibberish it is difficul to comprhend why even the most unbalanced of institutions would publish it. Any one calling themslesves a professor of communication and not being aware of you is like the Pope saying he hasn't heard of God! He makes my stomach churn in worry for the students he must be influencing with his brand of vitreol, that and future of New Zealand as a good community. Disgusting!.

Mike Webber said...

Excellent Karl. One of the most virulent white supremacists was Hitler's National socialists.
It is funny that leftists always try to describe white supremacists right.
The KKK was actually an official arm of the Democrat party, socialists.

Marty Silva said...

I'm with you almost 100 percent on this Karl. The "far right" tag is thrown about in the same way "nazi" or "racist" is ... it's a gutless ploy used by intellectual weaklings who are not prepared to actually debate their corner.

However you are almost guilty of the same by calling clowns like Dutta "neo-Marxists". What is a neo-Marxist? A new Marxist will surely believe the same as a classical Marxist, ie that society is shaped by the clash of classes. Marxists reject the identity politics that Dutta endorses. Marx said "workers of the world unite" - he did not say "workers of the world fight amongst yourselves over who is the most oppressed". Marx wanted to smash the existence of elite privilege. Dutta wants all the power over us that elite privilege brings.

Not surprisingly many associate Marxism with the repressive horrors of Stalin and those who came after him. To blame their appalling sins on Marx is a bit like blaming the horrors of abusive churches on the teachings of Christ.

rouppe said...

I read a couple of paragraphs.

Then the bile rose up in my throat and I had to get a glass of water to regain some equilibrium.

I didn't go back to it.

It has become apparent to me that the most vicious attacks, the most dangerous statements come from the Left.

They invoke race more than anyone else.

They articulate the desire for harm against others more than anyone else.

They are the fascists of the 21st century.

Anonymous said...

Dutta wrote about you once again, yesterday - this time for Massey News:

Tessa said...

In June 2020, Prof. Mohan Dutta collaborated with international scientists in an article run on called ‘Ten considerations for effectively managing the COVID-19 transition’.

In the article, Condition No.9 : ‘Anticipate and manage misinformation’ of which, based on Dutta’s area of expertise I would expect he had input, talks about the need for officials to [quote] “cognitively inoculate” the population. “Prebunking and debunking approaches (i.e., inoculating people against misinformation before it spreads and correcting misinformation after it appears)”.

Read it here:

The Covid Pandemic seems to have provided Dutta Et al with the justification to extend the scope of this ‘cognitive inoculating lens’ through which any non-mainstream opinions now must be viewed by the population. The term ‘far right’ is part of this lens, as is ‘antivaxxer’ ‘conspiracy theorist’ ‘racist’ ‘coloniser’ ‘white supremacist’ etc. These are trigger-terms used to deactivate peoples brains, and give them an excuse to outsource any further inquiry to ‘experts’ like Dutta.