Thursday, August 10, 2023

An update on the Dutta file

It’s now nearly two weeks since I invited Professor Mohan Dutta (above) of Massey University to have a debate with me to determine which of us was more accurate in his characterisation of the other. (He says I’m an agent of the hateful American Far-Right; I say he’s a bitter, angry, obsessive zealot peddling a toxic ideological line that’s openly hostile to the country he has chosen to live in. I think he may even be unhinged.)

In case Dutta didn’t see the blog post in which I issued this invitation (although he obviously did), I repeated it in an email to him. I have had no response.

While waiting to hear back from him, I had a look at his Twitter account. I saw nothing there to contradict my opinion of him. If anything, quite the contrary.

I urge people to check it out. Here’s a sample tweet from earlier this year in which Dutta applauded something Greens co-leader Marama Davidson had said: “Our research @CAREMasseyNZ consistently demonstrates that whiteness, cisnormative patriarchy and settler colonialism are the drivers of family violence and sexual violence”.

Right there you’ve got several trademark Dutta-isms: the undergraduate, bumper-sticker jargon, the wild accusatory tone and the outlandish, unsubstantiated assertion that family violence is somehow the fault of a white settler patriarchy. (Explainer: the clumsily named CARE (Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation), of which Dutta is director, sits within Massey University and appears to have at least semi-official status. It describes itself as “a global hub for justice-based communication research that uses participatory and culture-centered methodologies to develop community-driven com­munication solutions for building and sustaining human health and wellbeing”.)

At times Dutta is so angry as to be almost incoherent. A recurring theme in his tweets is the iniquity of “whiteness” – this from a man who presents himself, ironically, as a crusader against racism. It appears that to Dutta, anyone who is white is automatically and ineradicably stained with the taint of racism.

One of the points I would like to explore with Dutta, in the unlikely event that my suggested debate happens, is how we define racism. It would be helpful if we could settle on an agreed meaning.

The essence of racism, surely, is the belief that some races are intrinsically superior to others and that discrimination and ill-treatment, even genocide, is therefore okay. That’s what the Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and the rulers of apartheid-era South Africa believed. But it suits people like Dutta to adopt an infinitely flexible definition that can be stretched as required to fit any circumstance; in other words, to denigrate any opinion he doesn’t like and to smear his opponents as white supremacists.

Another notable feature of Dutta’s splenetic tweets is his obsession with the Hindu nationalist movement called Hindutva. You hadn’t heard of it? No, me neither, until recently. But Dutta is doing his utmost to ensure that we do.

Hindutva may be a political and ideological force in India. It may be true that it’s a malignant one, as Dutta insists. But does Hindutva present a threat to democracy or social cohesion in New Zealand? If it doesn’t, Dutta should pull his head in.

Many immigrants come to New Zealand to escape violent, divided societies where old hatreds run deep. They don’t need them stirred up here.

Sunni and Shi’a Muslims appear to co-exist peacefully in New Zealand. So do Catholics and Protestants who came here from Northern Ireland, and immigrants from the Balkan States – parts of the world long plagued by vicious sectarian divisions. Old enmities should be left behind: dumped in a bin in the airport arrivals lounge, metaphorically speaking, in the same way that incoming passengers are encouraged to jettison plants and foodstuffs that pose a biosecurity threat to the economy.

As a liberal, tolerant, open, capitalist democracy, New Zealand offers an opportunity to break free from historic patterns that lock people into ancient prejudices and predetermine their social and economic status. Thousands of desperate refugees from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia risk their lives trying to get into Western Europe, often with tragic consequences, for much the same reason.

Dutta, however, gives the impression of wanting to replicate in New Zealand the social, cultural and religious tensions that bedevil other countries. For all his sanctimonious and hypocritical talk about wanting to promote social cohesion, creating division is what he does. It’s his ideological stock-in-trade. He views society not as a settled collection of disparate yet compatible groups with common values and aspirations, but as a seething agglomeration of aggrieved minorities whose interests are irreconcilable with those of the supposedly oppressive majority.

According to this world view, these purported power imbalances (which is where the influence of Marxism comes in, although many traditional Marxists are repelled by the woke ideology promoted by people like Dutta) can be resolved only by dismantling existing structures and reconstructing society from the ground up. Dutta is hostile to democracy and even more so to capitalism. It doesn’t concern him that there’s no appetite in New Zealand – outside a noisy extremist minority – for radical transformation of the type he’s agitating for.

After I started writing this, I learned that Dutta had resumed his attack on me. He has posted (again on the Massey University website, thereby implying the university’s official endorsement) Part 3 of what he promises will be a five-part series, all apparently triggered by my post of June 7.

His latest post runs to more than 3700 words. I’m not going to cry “foul”, seeing I started this. But really – 3700 words (with some assistance from his cronies)? And two more articles still to come?

Once again, Dutta abandons any pretence of rational analysis. No longer content to simply characterise me as a voice of the far Right, which in itself justifies my description of him as unhinged, Dutta associates me with violence, racism, death and rape threats, transphobia, misogygny and the banning of books. He sees the world through a lens grotesquely distorted by rage and resentment.

He rails against hate but paradoxically indulges in some of the most hateful rhetoric I’ve seen. We’re left to conclude that there are two types of hate: the virtuous kind, as articulated by Dutta, and the other type that only white people are guilty of.

If his latest attack on me was remotely on target, I would have reason to worry about my reputation, but I get the impression the truth doesn't matter to Dutta. If he’s capable of portraying me as someone who approves of violence and rape threats, he’s capable of saying anything. His characterisation of me is best described as a cartoonishly crude caricature. I urge people to read his article (though be warned – it takes some stamina) and form their own conclusions.

I’ll disregard misquotations and errors of fact in Dutta’s piece and restrict my comment to two points. The first relates to his implication that I’m driven by nostalgia for a vanished New Zealand, which is partially true. I have had the good fortune to spend my life in one of the world’s most civilised (which is not to say flawless) countries. Naturally I value that and will do what I can to protect all that's admirable about that heritage. I think I have a deeper appreciation of what’s worth preserving in this country than someone who arrived yesterday. It's striking that much of the discontent fuelling the culture wars in New Zealand comes from people who, like Dutta, have been here only a short time. I have likened this to being invited into someone's home and immediately demanding they rearrange the furniture.

The other point concerns academic freedom, which Dutta seems to think confers the right to indulge in whatever poisonous ideology suits him (funded by the taxpayer, of course).

In principle I agree with him on academic freedom. The problem in New Zealand, as in other Western democracies, is that academic freedom runs only one way, as we saw when the Listener Seven were vilified by their peers (a cowardly gang-up which Dutta clearly endorsed). As a Curia survey revealed earlier this year, a majority of academics at five New Zealand universities felt unable to express controversial or unpopular opinions. Across all eight universities, only 46 per cent said they felt free to question received wisdom or challenge ideological orthodoxy. At professor level, the ratio was even lower: only 31 per cent. In reality, academic freedom exists in New Zealand only in the sense that press freedom could be said to exist in Putin’s Russia or Xi’s China. But Dutta’s safe.

Beyond that, to deal with Dutta’s latest polemic point by point would imply that it’s serious enough to be worth responding to, which it’s not. But for what it’s worth, I repeat my invitation to him to take part in a debate, the venue and time to be determined by mutual agreement. Needless to say, I’m not holding my breath.


LNF said...

It seems that we are no longer individuals going about our daily lives with our own individual beliefs and thoughts, some of which will differ to whoever and most of which will be the same
Now it seems individuals are being categorised and as such being branded in that category as all being the same.
Some doing the branding seem to be filled with a hatred. Why I don't know. There is not enough time in life between being born and shuffling off this mortal coil to be bothered with this.
Enjoy the positives in both life and people

Paul Peters said...

I wonder if he has large slabs of material and comment pre prepared and simply cuts and pastes and tweaks to suit .
I did notice on Stuff when they go on about colonisation similar pars appearing in most stories with various links embedded .
I have read his material. If a non-coloured person was ranting (and I use this word knowingly) about others this way there would be complaints to all and sundry authorities.

I dread the possible outcome of the next election, not that I see National and Act as doing more than putting things on hold. They are really all about who has the money.
So many folk I know live in a bubble of TV One and Stuff and the Herald ( which allows dissent to a degree but only so far on sacred cows where race is involved).
They have no idea of ''other sides''. Raise something and they get uncomfortable.

More worrying are those I know who unapologetically support the totalitarian race/gender/race/ rigged (as in appointed clip- on councillors and various unelected bodies who must be consulted for approval) elections montage as ''necessary'' and warranted. ''Democracy does not work''...I have been told that deal with ''the challenges'' ahead etc.... oh and they include current and ex-media people who see themselves as the guide to virtue- Paul Peters

Joey said...

I like the sexy pose he adopts in his Twitter profile picture... more suited to Grindr, I think.

FRED said...

You are a very naughty boy Karl.
This man is a taxpayer-funded highly paid academic and you have enticed him into preoccupying his time in a long and pointless debate with a tired old journo. You should be ashamed of yourself.
Meanwhile I have been desperately seeking out all those white supremacists who are destroying our country and I have not been able to find them. Can you let me know where to look?

All the best
Roy Hughes

Huskynut said...

Yeah, I always figured Jake the Muss would've been a warm, cuddly loving guy if it wasn't for those terrible white settlers...

Anonymous said...

He might just be butthurt, upset about the Arya Invasion of India which imposed the caste system and culture of hinduism. But he is obviously an anti-white.

The reality is the education system is the hive of these sorts of radical leftists, using state funds to pay for services which the market would not pay for. Pushing to defund the university is a good start since systematically removing these people isn't an option yet.

Libertyscott said...

Given Dutta signed a letter in support of the arguably anti-semitic David Miller, I think he might need to look in the mirror for signs of "far-right" behaviour. Of course it's far-left racism as he writes like he's an accuser in a turgid North Korean struggle session.

Here is Dutta's name on the letter I asked him on Twitter if he is going to withdraw his support, but he hasn't replied.

Miller said in the past 24 hours "Jews are not discriminated against" because "Jews are the most privileged minority group. They’re over-represented in all areas of British public life. With that privilege comes the power to make economic, political and cultural decisions"... he also has claimed Jews face no discrimination, his twitter account sees him doubling down on his "Jews run so much, despite not being more clever than Muslims, so the system discriminates in their favour" trope.

If Dutta wont disassociate from him, you have to wonder...

Artemis said...

Time to defund universities that waste taxpayers money employing dutta and people like him - demand an answer from the university council - does his attacks on you have the backing of the university - copy to the national party education spokesperson -

Karl du Fresne said...

Roy Hughes,
A surprise and a pleasure to hear from you. Consider me chastened.

Phil said...

Professor Dutta is really just miffed that his subject has been criticised once you strip away all of his Far Right conspiracy nonsense.

Ken said...

I speed read through a couple of the Prof's articles. Educational institutions that wonder why they are running out of money only have to look at folks like Prof D. The old saying, 'you can fool some of the people all of the time, some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all the time', comes to mind.
Looking forward to the debate, though I suspect that looking forward will be all that happens.
Ken Maclaren, Napier

Andy Espersen said...

Good on you, Karl. Go for the jugular. You are stirring him up beautifully to come out with absurd, completely unfounded accusations against you - and the more we get of that from him, the more ludicrous he will appear as a proper, balanced, academic professor. I must admit I did not read fully his many references to academic papers, all of which he claims "explains" how right he is in his opinions - but I read enough to see that all of these papers themselves are wide open to withering criticisms on so many fronts.

Bravo, Karl! Keep it up! In the end Dutta will appear an even bigger fool than he was to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all your comments Karl.

About the only reasonable thing he raises is Hindutva, but his rhetoric on all other matters undermines this.
In India, Hindutva is associated with militant nationalism and sectarian violence. It is not just cultural Hinduism, but where to draw the line between culture, identity, and violence is naturally complicated. Similarly, when does interest and support of all things Irish become anti-British, and when or how it can be support for the IRA, or not, can be very subtle or complicated. So it is a difficult topic.
In Australia, there have been instances of violence within the Indian community, some of it associated with Hindutva. Tensions within India are not only based on caste discrimination. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs have all been less than perfect at times. So I am wary of Hindutva as an ideology. Similarly, in New Zealand, I am wary of some more fundamental Christian groups, despite respecting traditional moderate Christianity myself, it being my own heritage.

In reading some articles and commentary, I detect within western sympathisers of Hindutva a degree of anti-Islamic sentiment. Just an impression.

On all other accounts I support what you say Karl, and you seem to acknowledge some issues with Hindutva.
I hope such ideologies do not make New Zealand more intolerant or divisive.

In other respects, Dutta in his own way creates divisions...He writes gobbledegook - there have been instances of academics writing fake scholarly articles to call out academic journals once the rubbish is published. Dutta's work is almost written in a similar faahion.

Doug Longmire said...

I have read (some of) his 3700 word diatribe, plus browsed through his twitter ravings.

WOW !!
It is really very clear is that Dutta has got major attitude problems. His prolonged racist rants are indicative of an extreme and unbalanced mind.

Doug Longmire said...

Having read Dutta's long, bitter and almost pathological diatribes I do not believe it would be possible to have anything remotely like a balanced debate with him.
His views are so extreme, biased, racist and judgmental.

Anonymous said...

Hindutva is Indian nationalism, so of course Dutta is against it: he is a communist.

Paul Corrigan said...

Thanks for the update, Karl. I'd wondered how you got on.

I might look at his 3700-worder later when I have a glass of rum in my hand.

- Paul Corrigan

Anonymous said...

He should perhaps see his psychiatrist for an adjustment to his medications perhaps ?

Trev1 said...

It reminds me of Brer Rabbit and the tar-baby (oh dear, that could be "supremacist" talk). The more one tangles with this "academic", the stickier he seems to become. Perhaps he's best ignored.

That such humbug as "media studies" can pass itself off as an academic discipline these days says a lot about the decline of the universities in this country. There is huge scope for rationalization and savings in this bloated sector. What young person could ever imagine that enduring three years of such flatulent claptrap as the Professor purveys could ever equip them with the necessary skills for life? You have done a public service in exposing this nonsense.

Paul Peters said...

Massey is planning a Singapore campus I see. Maybe he can go there but I think his views might rub them up the wrong way too. I hear anecdotes that some employers discount Massey qualifactions when compared with those of other universities. Would that be true? I might depend on the field / Paul Peters

Eamon Sloan said...

I wrote in a previous comment that Dutta was not worthy of any further commentary. Itchy fingers and keyboard withdrawal symptoms have got the better of me. As many other commenters now seem to have found, Dutta is mostly “away with the fairies”. Tried to make sense of his Twitter contributions and could not succeed.

About the only thing to be said in his favour is that he opposes Hindutva and would likely speak out against sexual terrorism which permeates parts of Indian culture. I have come across some truly shocking stories on that subject – New York Times etc.

Karl, it might be time to say farewell to Dutta and any ideas of debating him. I know that sounds like a cancel culture reaction but you could then move on to comment on other things. Such as the Fifa Women’s World Cup. I am not a soccer aficionado in any way, never have been. Haven’t seen all of the games but have been impressed by the drama which seems to pop up from nowhere. Also the TV coverage and commentary has been hard to fault.

Andrew Rouppe van der Voort said...

This is something I've learnt over recent years.

People leave whatever shit hole country they are in, due to conditions or persecution, and then insist on implementing the exact same conditions here that caused them to leave.

I don't understand it.

Chris Morris said...

If the government changes at the election, there is an obvious costcutting symbolic measure they can do by defunding Massey for the cost of his organisation. It has no value. There will be squeals from the left about censorship. However, this will just hypocrisy as the organisation wants censor those that have worldviews different to them.
Of course, if the left see value in the organisation, they can donate funding. For some reason, I don't see any will put their hands in their pockets.

Harvey Jenkins said...

Browsing Dutta's Twitter account (@mjdutt) he seems to actively in the middle of a paranoid mental breakdown and suffering from an intense persecution complex.

Anonymous said...

Has Dutta reached peak nominalism yet? Has the west?

At root the culture war (a war we have essentially lost) is driven by philosophical nominalism which proliferates a false anthropology, nicely packaged in ideas like critical race theory and 'baptised' by academics. Everything is a construct. Truth and reality makes no objective demand on us. All we have is the 'latest thing, and dissent from that is punished by cancellation.

You can't negotiate with it or its activists because there is no ground of reality for an argument. However, by pointing out the emptiness and inconsistency (i.e. there is no truth...except what I say it is) of their claims we can waken others up who may otherwise be taken in by them.

David McLoughlin said...

Browsing Dutta's Twitter account (@mjdutt) he seems to actively in the middle of a paranoid mental breakdown and suffering from an intense persecution complex.

You made it sound so interesting that I leapt there to see (it is my lunch break so I can do these things as I eat). But alas, he has locked his account so only his approved acolytes can see it. Just another echo chamber, no doubt.

Dave said...

Looks like your opponent has now "protected" his tweets, so that only approved followers may view them. A move that signals tribalism or insecurity, or both.

Timothy said...

Where is Dutta from, anyway? My assumption was India, but I am told that until less than a decade ago, Dutta's surname was Dutta-Bergman, suggesting that he is at least half European. If one searches "Dutta-Bergman" one can find all his past academic papers, many of which concern health and online health communications.

Karl du Fresne said...

Certainly looks like the same man.

Anonymous said...

He appears to have changed his name

Odysseus said...

Hi Karl, you have probably seen this article by Juliet Moses on Dutta's defence of an academic notorious for anti-semitic remarks, but here it is in case you missed it:

Anonymous said...

Mr World Economic Forum

John Hurley said...

"Critical race theory, as the lecture explains, is a “body of academic writing that emerged in the US in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which combines postmodernism and subjective idealist philosophy with historical revisionism, racial sectarianism, and an orientation to the Democratic Party and its satellites.”"


"Most prominently, the conceptions associated with critical race theory have found reflection in the New York Times’ 1619 Project, a tendentious revision of American history that diminishes the progressive content of the American Revolution and Civil War and portrays modern American society as irreconcilably divided between hostile races. [1]"

Once we would have been glued to the Telly as one of those exciting documentary programs (bump pump bump bump music) gave us the birds eye view. We would have been talking about it next day at work.

Is it any wonder we don't trust the MSM?

Myself and Rick Giles digitalised Landmarks and put it on line. TVNZ have lost the rights to some of the footage and NZ On Screen don't think our most watched documentary was worth putting on line (except for 2 episodes).
Lecturer Lisa Perot did a PhD on The NZ Wars Documentary Series looking at how it might "disrupt the colonial narrative"

"These insights support my argument that television documentary can potentially serve as a prime site for the articulation of discursive and memory resources, thus opening spaces of resistance to colonial discourse"

CHAPTER 1: Theoretical and Methodological Framework
Maori Youth
MY5: It was quite emotional for me…and I’m quite angry about it.
MY3: I was crying man
MY1: I just feel like getting the British Flag and burning it
MY3: Yeah, same here...I was blown away…I was crying and
everything. I just honestly didn’t think that everything was like that,
but it was…just how like, the great chiefs, how they were just
killed off, like…like nothing
This is taken as success:

John Hurley said...

Whiteness is supposed to be about colonisation, imperialism, capitalism (in relation to an imagined Utopian alternative?) rather than actual white people. However, that black guy Malemna(?) in SA fills a stadium with 10,000 people chanting "Kill the Boer! Shoot the farmer! Brrrrrrrrrr!" and claims it is a metaphor.

PS it would be a fascinating game to have you (Karl) engage Dutta on line sentence by sentence so we could compare what was once considered normal critique of an argument versus a la Dutta.
As far as I can see he asserts like a religious zealot; all based on the authority of his Critical Theory paradigm.