Twitter Violence: Richard Fox Young’s Evangelical Racism Against Rajiv Malhotra
The latest attack on Rajiv Malhotra on Twitter is an attempt to silence and discredit him and thereby interfere with the publication and promotion of his new book on Sanskrit that further exposes anti-Dharma forces.
In July 2015 Rajiv Malhotra, a well-respected American-Indian Dharmic scholar who has devoted 20 years to decolonizing Indology, was viciously attacked on Twitter and social media, using feeble and dubious allegations of plagiarism. This attack was a part of the ongoing war being waged on Dharma by “Breaking India” forces that use Judeo-Christian, Marxist and psychoanalysis ideologies for the purpose of “Invading the Sacred” (titles of Malhotra’s books) to denigrate and digest Dharmic knowledge, language and culture. In this article I apply Evelyn Kallen’s conceptual framework of invalidation ideology, which is grounded in the principles of human rights, to explain the mindset used to justifies and fuel such intellectual violence.
The latest attack on Twitter was an attempt to silence and discredit Malhotra and thereby interfere with the publication and promotion of his new book on Sanskrit that further exposes anti-Dharma forces. I explain these developments in the context of racism, with its components of prejudice and discrimination, which is based on colonialism and paternalism. In the 21st century this racism manifests itself as western universalism, a movement that Malhotra’s purva paksh forcefully challenges in his various books, particularly in his book, Being Different:
An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism (2011).
In an article titled “Hate on the net: A Question of Rights / A question of Power” Evelyn Kallen (1998) explained how “cyberhate messages promoted on the Internet by organized political and religious hate groups incite hatred and promote harmful actions against racial, ethonocultural, religious and same-sex orientated minorities.” Kallen based her arguments on Article 20.2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the UN that provides protection against ‘Incitement to Hate and Group Defamation’ (p. 2). While Kallen’s analysis refers to the state’s responsibility to protect its citizens from cyberhate, the conceptual framework she proposed can be similarly applied to analyze the bullying and exclusion of other persecuted individuals or groups, for example Dharmic practitioner-scholars, by politically driven academics. In the case of Hinduphobia (a phrase coined by Malhotra), the instigators of hate are Western-trained, mainly US-based academics and the Christian evangelical and Marxist ideologues they inspire and co-conspire with.
Collectively, their writings incite hatred towards Dharmic Gurus, deities, rituals, practices and philosophy. However, because they present their work in the guise of academic research, they have been able to claim protection under academic freedom. Kallen’s thesis is that “by manipulating deeply held invalidation myths to provide ‘evidence’ for their arguments, high tech hate mongers incite virulent hatred of and harmful actions towards targeted minorities…By so doing, high tech hate-mongering violates minority member’s human rights to dignity and equality by denying their fundamental freedom from group defamation and harassment”(p.1).
In this article I show that this conceptual analysis also applies those victims who are not officially classified as “minorities”. In particular, I explain the ways in which Hinduphobia is being used in social media, as well as in Western academia, to target Hindu scholars like Malhotra, who are working to protect Sanskrit and Sanskriti, the basis of Indian civilization. Kallen explains that the hate propaganda has been debated in the context of rights in conflict and, using a social science approach, she analyses this conflict by examining the difference between prejudice and discrimination. Regarding prejudice, Kallen argues that that the liberal view is that, “When hate propaganda and its dissemination are conceptualized as prejudice (negative ideas, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings toward the target of hate) it can be argued that it does not violate human rights” (Kallen, p. 4). This line of argument, based on right to freedom of speech and expression, was recently taken by Wendy Doniger, a prominent author of books on Hinduism, in her comment to a journalist interviewing her about allegations against Malhotra.
While summarily accusing Malhotra, Doniger conveyed that she “believes ancient Indian texts are open to interpretation by experts around the world” and she “decried any effort to stop the free flow of ideas,” (Dutt, 2015). However, the journalist has failed to mention in her article why Malhotra has criticized Doniger’s work. The reason is that Doniger has used Freudian psychoanalysis to impose offensive sexual perversion motives onto Hindu gurus, deities and rituals and, that Hindus find her interpretation of Hindu texts to be hateful and hurtful. Kallen offers an explanation that validates the negative response from Hindus. She refers to a Canadian Government study on Hate Propaganda that found that, “hate-mongering can inflict profound psychological and spiritual damage on members of target groups through defamatory messages which violate that right to dignity of the group as a whole” (p. 4).
Regarding discrimination, Kallen explains that, in contrast to the above view on prejudice, the egalitarian view is that, “When hate promotion activities are conceptualized as discrimination (acts or practices which deny target groups their individual and collective human right to dignity), the promotion of hatred indisputably violates human rights” (Kallen, p. 4) Again I refer back to the Doniger interview to provide an example. Doniger’s previously stated comment referred to her 2009 book, The Hindus An Alternative History, which was pulled off the shelf by her publisher as Indian law prohibited “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the feelings of any religious community” (Dutt, 2015).
While Doniger’s book was seen as an activity that promoted hate, Doniger remains unmoved and unrelenting. Still “smarting from that attack” Doniger maintained that “Western scholars can’t damage the texts they interpret, no matter how wrong their ideas about them may be” and that, “Indians can air their view at any time” (Dutt, 2015). In the book “Invading the Sacred” Krishnan Ramaswamy has pointed out the hypocrisy of this statement by exposing the Hinduphobic academic cartel Doniger and her cohorts control to exclude alternate views to be studied or presented (Chapter 26). The book, Invading the Sacred (2007) provides a detailed critique of Doniger’s Hinduphobic writings, as well of her “children’s” (her protégés) writings. For example, Paul Courtright’s book on Ganesha caricatures the beloved Hindu God’s trunk as a limp phallus (Chapter 5). One wonders about the reasons why Doniger and her ‘children’ have chosen to write such filth only on Hindu religious figures and not on Islamic, Christian or Jewish religious figures.
How about applying psychoanalysis to Jesus, his apostles, Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene? How about the epidemic of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests? The public is well aware of the dire consequences to those who chose to make caricatures of Prophet Mohammad; the fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his Satanic Verses and the bombing deaths of cartoon artists at Charlie Hebdo are cautionary reminders. Is it because Hindus have historically been benevolent towards other religions and were viewed as docile? The latest attack on Malhotra is by Richard Fox Young (RFY), a New Jersey based Christian evangelical who promotes the very divisive Afro-Dalit campaign, as described in Malhotra’s book, “Breaking India” (2011A, Chapter 12). RFY has a history of harassing Malhotra on Twitter, with over 50% of his Tweets aimed at Malhotra. RFY trolls Twitter in order to respond to any positive posts made on Malhotra’s site with negative comments about Malhotra. I had personal experience of this.
In March 2015 when I posted a message to say that I had read Being Different and it had shocked and inspired me, I immediately got a tweet from RFY to state that Malhotra writings do not address oppression of women in India and therefore his work is discredited. When I tried to engage with him using the content of Malhotra’s books, RFY became belligerent and I had to finally block him to prevent being harassed by him. He is clearly an Internet bully. Briefly, RFY’s current attack on Malhotra used a ‘shoot and scoot’ strategy in which he sacrificed academic integrity in favor of hatemongering through a cheap Twitter based smear-campaign.
He dramatically posted his allegation of plagiarism in a series of sensationalized tweets starting July 1, 2015. Specifically he alleged that in his book, Indra’s Net, Malhotra had not properly cited references to Andrew Nicholson’s book titled, Unifying Hinduism. Malhotra’s response was quick and to the point; while denying any intention to plagiarize he acknowledged some minor editing errors that the new edition of the book would correct; he also pointed out the 30 references he had made to Nicholson’s book as an indication of his full acknowledgement of Nicholson’s book.
During the days and weeks that followed, numerous articles and comments posted in social media expressed support for Malhotra along with a few articles and comments that were either neutral or antagonistic. There was an on-line petition on Change.org asking Malhotra’s publisher to withdraw his books. Its noteworthy that while the RFY sponsored petition against Malhotra was signed by less than 250 people, Malhotra’s counter petition, sponsored by Madhu Kishwar, an Indian journalist, had quickly garnered over 5, 000 signatures (was at over 10,000 by end of July, 2015). When RFY sensed his campaign was petering out, he ostensibly coaxed Nicholson himself to write an article on line to reiterate the allegation of plagiarism. Interestingly, in his article Nicholson mentions his allegiance to Sheldon Pollock, an American Sanskrit scholar, who Malhotra’s new book on Sanskrit seeks to expose as being anti-Dharma and anti-India. Malhotra responded by giving a strong rejoinder to Nicholson, challenging Nicholson to acknowledge the names of all the indigenous Sanskrit scholars that provided him with assistance with Sanskrit translation or face allegations of plagiarism himself.
Overall, the cyber attack on Malhotra by RFY and the support provided by Doniger, Nicholson, Mihir Sharma and others who accuse Malhotra of not measuring up to western academic standards have themselves displayed shallow and unethical conduct that is unbecoming of those standards. How else can one interpret the fact that the feeble and dubious allegations of plagiarism are being carried out through Twitter and other social media campaigns? Instead of using the normal appropriate channel of writing directly and privately to the author and/or publisher of the books to seek a resolution of the minor editing errors, RFY chose to undertake a public smear campaign.
In his August 1, 2015 follow-up article, RFY provides the lame excuse that he took the Twitter route because Malhotra is not affiliated with any academic institution that would provide a route for the allegations to be addressed. RFY has continued the cyber attack despite Malhotra’s appropriate and civilized responses to the allegations and a concrete plan to resolve the issues. Using Kallen’s conceptual frameworks I will show how RFY’s malevolent intentions, to tarnish Malhotra’s scholarly reputation, can be described as hatemongering.
Kallen’s conceptual framework of invalidation ideology can be applied to critically analyze RFY’s cyber attack on Malhotra. Kallen explains that, “organized hate groups rely on and promote invalidation myths and ideologies through which they attempt to invalidate, in essence, to dehumanize, identified minorities and thus to legitimize violation of their human rights” (Kallen, p. 5). She defined invalidation myths as, “falsified statements which allege that identified human populations are innately inferior or invalid (defective) with regard to particular human attributes” (Kallen, p. 5). In the case of Hinduphobia, Malhotra has identified several myths which together promote a viewpoint that Hindu texts and narratives are, and have historically been used as, tools of oppression of women, poor and minorities and therefore need to be challenged, through violent protest, if necessary.
Malhotra has extensively discussed these problematic and negative myths, giving examples, in his books, Invading the Sacred (Chapter 25) and Indra’s Net (Chapter 1). These myths further perpetuate the notion that Hindu deities, gurus and rituals represent gross sexual perversity and need to be discarded and replaced with Euro-Christian values or Marxist social systems. Malhotra has described these divisive movements in detail in his book, Breaking India. Kallen explains how such problematic and false myths are used as grounds for inferiorization and to project these societies as dangerous and threatening. Using this process, “hate propaganda urges its audience to take steps to eliminate the purported threat.” (p. 5).
In the case of Malhotra, RFY urges people to sign a petition he created on Change.org in which he asked the publishers of Malhotra’s books, HarperCollins India, to withdraw all of Malhotra’s books, and in effect not publish his new book on Sanskrit. The cyber attack was therefore an attempt to humiliate and silence Malhotra and to stop him from further publicly challenging the Pollock-Doniger-Rambachan cartel’s hegemony over studies on Sanskrit and Sanskriti. Its goal is to deny Malhotra and other practicing Dharmic scholars like him a seat at the table of Indian Studies. Kallen presents her concept of invalidation as a process that takes place in a sequence of the following three main stages: Invalidation myth (prejudice): definition of target group as inferior and dangerous Invalidation ideology: development of theory of vilification and provision of arguments and “evidence” to “justify” denial of fundamental rights Platform for action: incitement to hatred and harm (discriminatory action), denial of human rights (Kallen, p. 5).
Kallen provides the following example of racism against blacks to show how the processes of invalidation are used to justify discrimination. “Blacks are classified in racist myths as racially, culturally and morally inferior sub-human beings – criminally inclined dope-peddlers, wife-beaters and murderers” (p. 5). Kallen cautions that, “the repetition of racist falsehoods and pseudo-facts can leave behind a residue of prejudice and hate among non-target recipients – a seed bed from which more widespread incitement to hate and harm can flourish” (p. 4). It is this kind of racist ideology that fed White Supremacy and led to slavery of Black people; the violence it fuels still continues in the US today. The incredibly high rates of incarceration of Black males have been called a modern form of slavery. A similar racist, paternal and colonial ideology led to the cultural genocide of millions of Aboriginal communities across North America, South America, Australia and Africa. After 300 years of oppression, the Aboriginal communities still face discrimination and criminalization of their people. The same ideology led to the colonization of India and many other countries – colonization not only of the lands, labour and resources but also of the minds, that persists today, like a cancer within.
Following the above examples, I apply the three processes involved in invalidation proposed by Kallen to Malhotra and his work: Invalidation myth (prejudice): Malhotra is not an academic scholar; he plagiarizes the work of western academics and he tries to stop the free flow of ideas in the work of western academics. He accuses westerners of appropriating Indian texts and wants only Indian writers to write on Hindu texts. Invalidation ideology: Malhotra is a representative of the violent Hindutva forces that seek to continue the historical oppression of women, dalits and other minorities. His books defame western authors and his work against western academic interests in South Asian Studies threatens academic freedom. In short, he is an obstructionist. He also poses a dangerous threat to freeing millions of Indians from oppression which the Hindu religious culture and its leaders impose.
Platform for action: Urge people to boycott his books and publishers to withdrawn them; prevent his new book on Sanskrit from being published. In short, the call is to silence Malhotra and shut down his advocacy and literary work by all means possible, including continued exclusion from mainstream academia and, vilification through media and cyberspace campaigns.
A similar application of Kallen’s conceptual framework on invalidation to Hinduphobia helps to explain how RFY and other justify hatemongering: Invalidation myth (prejudice): Neo-Hinduism, like its predecessor, is an evil, war-mongering, ignorant, superstitious and politically oppressive religion that is against social harmony and equality. Invalidation ideology: All those who support Hinduism are part of “Hindutva” -a political organization rooted in violence and the oppression of minorities. As religious extremists, Hindutva forces pose a serious threat to safely not only to India but to the world. Platform for action: Urge people and NGOs to organize the disempowerment and overthrow of Hindutva beliefs, scholars and organizations, by violent socialist, Christian evangelical and political and social activities, as needed.
The foregoing analysis demonstrates how invalidation ideologies have and are being used to denigrate Hindu Dharma and to discredit and disempower Malhotra is his efforts to protect Dharma. In a recent article Malhotra poses this gut-wrenching rhetorical question: Is it safe to be a Hindu intellectual? Kallen’s provides an answer.
The answer is ‘No’. Hinduphobic academic cartels controlled by academic heavyweights such as Sheldon Pollock, Wendy Doniger and Ananatananda Rambachan largely prevent the views of practicing Hindu scholars, who have opposing views to that of the cartels, from entering the field of academia, media and think tanks. Malhotra provided details of these cartels in his book Breaking India (Chapters 13 and 14) and in Invading the Sacred. Through their immense influence on academia, the immense financial resources of Christian missionaries and the control of media by leftist organizations and individuals, the cartels have succeeded in hugely influencing public policy and public opinion. Those who oppose the views of the various cartels face strong opposition, as we have seen in the case of Malhotra.
Indeed, the malevolent intentions of the July 2015 cyber-attack on Malhotra were acknowledged by RFY, the perpetrator of the attack. In an online article titled, “Time For a ‘Diagnostic Test’ On Rajiv Malhotra’s Books” RFY refers to a recent book by Jon Ronson titled “So you have been publicly shamed” to reiterate Ronson’s observation that, “Twitter has been every digital terrorist’s favorite weapon of ‘mass online destruction.” RFY then publicly acknowledged that he attempted this attack on Malhotra with “trepidation” and he was careful what he wrote in order to prevent his own “nosedive into obloquy.” So clearly RFY, by his own admission, was involved in digital terrorism against Malhotra. “Hate on the Net” against Hindus is alive and well.
Courtright, P. (1985) Ganesha, Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings. New York: Oxford University Press.
Doniger, W. (1976) The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Dutt, E. (2015) Indologist Wendy Doniger Comments on Rajiv Malhotra’s Plagiarism Controversy. New India Times. Retrieved on line @http://www.newsindiatimes.com/indologist-wendy-doniger-comments-on-rajiv-malhotras-plagiarism-controversy
Kallen, E. (1998) Hate on Net: A Question of Rights / A Question of Power. Retrieved on line on August 3, 2015 @http://www.sociology.org/content/vol003.002/kallen.html
Kishwar, M. (2015) Petition in Change.org. Retrieved online @https://www.change.org/p/publishers-of-rajiv-malhotra-s-books-do-not-yield-to-mafia-pressure-tactics-that-seek-to-compromise-intellectual-freedom
Malhotra, R. & Neelakandan, A. (2011-A) Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines. New Delhi, India: AMARYLLIS
Malhotra, R. (2011) Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism. New Delhi, India: HaperCollins
Malhotra, R. (2014). Indra’s Net: Defending Hinduism’s Philosophical Unity. New Delhi, India: HarperCollins
Ramaswamy, K., de Nicolas, A. & Bannerjee, A. (2007) Invading the Sacred: An analysis of Hinduism Studies in America, New Delhi, India: Rupa and Co
Young, R. F. (2015) Time For a “Diagnostic Test” on Rajiv Malhotra’s Books, Caravan Magazine, August 1, 2015. Retrieved online on August 3, 2015 @http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/richard-fox-young-rajiv-malhotra-plagiarism-books