Thursday, August 10, 2023

Karl du Fresne: 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.

Karl du Fresne, a freelance journalist, is the former editor of The Dominion newspaper. He blogs at where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

And to think I once attended Massey, in those days it was great and I learnt lots. It is now a disgrace as are many of its luminaries, called that in jest and it sounds like Dutta is one, who now poison the minds of our young. Their day of reckoning will eventually roll around.

Anonymous said...

Dear Karl.

The question I would ask, is the ""gentleman, of academic thoughts & actions", obviously comes from the same Country (India?) as the gentleman, who currently resides in a seat, working for the Disinformation Group (of Auckland)"

When it comes to "publicity" -
[1] - one remains incognito, within the walls of Massey University, to which I see he has a "Group - CARE"" that one must assume is "financed by the University" or do members pay a "contribution fee" just to sit in a room, to hear " the good professor, wax lyrical about colonialism, whiteness, patriarchy, and how others attack him, for speaking 'to truth'"??

[2] - the other thrives on publicity, especially when TVNZ, News seek "his esteemed opinion"(this was see by all and sundry across NZ, with a recent dialogue [from said person} on the Co-Governance Booklet - to whit (I quote) - colonialism, whiteness, patriarchy etc", to which all Kiwi's have to believe the 'spoken word' that comes from a person who delves into Disinformation.

I wonder why these two gentlemen left their native Country, when if you look at the history of India - which does not have a "white & clean approach to dealing with the internal affairs that have and still do beset that Country.

Others who come from India seem to settle in NZ, with out "disturbing the peace"!

Peter said...

It would be a great debate Karl, but I expect it would be about as one-sided as David Seymour's recent serve to Simon Shepherd, or Douglas Murray's trouncing of Malcolm Gladwell. But, it'll never happen, for it will only show him for the woke fraudster he is and, really, he's not worth your or our time contemplating. Dutta and that other "lettered" piece of unwanted noise, Sanjana Hattotuwa, ought to find a boat, get on it, and depart these shores and do us all a great favour.

Why Massey stooped to employ Dutta, is beyond fathoming. Perhaps that's another reason why they're going broke?

DeeM said...

Put uppa, Dutta, or shut uppa!

Dutta sure sounds like an utta nutta.

Anonymous said...

The FSU is planning 4 public debates - with opposing views.

Let us see what these may bring......

In contrast: Stop CG is attracting very big audiences online ( and has cut public meetings where protesters will disrupt debate with weak police intervention ).

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

Note the spelling of 'Center'. Also the Americanisms on CARE's NZ website. It is a reminder that this subversive ideological trash comes mainly from the US, today's No.1 culturally imperialistic power.

Gaynor said...

I feel this attack needs to be two pronged, Often these misfits get glowing references from their last job because that organisation wants him gone ASAP.

Is there not something positive that could be said about him? Maybe a career change into writing satire of the extreme woke Marxist genre. You have to admit he does have a flair for this.

We badly need some comedy these days. It' all getting a bit heavy going.

Ken Millward said...

Dutta and his acolytes should be viewed as a rich source of humour, their vile venting of spleen a bit like watching someone hurting themselves as a result of throwing a temper tantrum. The reality is however, as clowns like Dutta are ensconced in our so called academia they do huge damage to the reputation and regard higher education once had. As far as debating him goes I think Karl would be better off giving it a miss as the old adage's pointless arguing with an can never win....and if you persist in trying on lookers may have trouble distinguishing identity.