[INDOLOGY] Supporting each other in public

Patricia Sauthoff sauthoff at ualberta.ca
Sat Jun 29 19:45:23 UTC 2019

For those who are unaware of the tactics adopted by the far-right, you may
enjoy reading this short article
You'll see that Dr. Elst utilizes them all, from trolling and gaslighting,
to victimization, to turning everything into a free speech issue.

Make no mistake, there is nothing unintentional about this and it is a
performance for those lurkers who silently agree. It is meant to bait those
who do not agree into "debate" in order to try to turn their words around
against them, as Elst attempted to do in his response to me.

In his earlier email, Elst presents Pamela Geller
and Robert Spencer
as subjects who have had their free speech trampled. This is a dog whistle.
Geller and Spencer are opportunistic far-right anti-Muslim activists.
Spencer was banned from the UK in 2013 due to his extremism. A security
guard was shot
at a stunt in Texas in which they offered a $10K prize to the person who
drew the "best" cartoon of the Prophet Muhammed.

These writers, Elst, and many other far-right writers were cited for their
anti-Islamic views in the manifesto written by the Norwegian terrorist
Anders Brevik. If that name isn't familiar, perhaps you'll remember the
2011 Oslo bombing and subsequent mass shooting of teenagers on an island by
a "lone wolf" who killed 77 people in total. Brevik's manifesto
now canon among the violent far-right as it lays out tactics and strategies
for online harassment and real-world terrorism. The Austrailian-born
Christchurch shooter made reference to it as inspiration in his own

To me, the most worrying tactic of the online far-right is its penchant for
making lists of "leftists" in order to target them. Recently an online
ran an article with a list of journalists they believed to be connected to
the anti-fascist movement
The article "was circulated approvingly on white supremacist forum
Stormfront the day after its publication; a day later, a YouTube user
uploaded a video of imagery of mass shooters intercut with images of the
reporters mentioned by Lenihan under the heading “Sunset the Media.”"

Scary stuff. Turns out words on the internet aren't just words afterall. I
worry that lurkers on this email listserv may build their own list of
targets, i.e., some of us.

On Sat, Jun 29, 2019 at 10:17 AM Koenraad Elst via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear Dominik,
> Thanks for being so openly partisan and yet not even threatening to
> exclude me, let alone simply censor me. In a better world this ought
> to be a matter of course rather than a reason for thanks, but is has
> become so rare that it deserves special mention.
> Your point is well taken: make expressions of kindness, human
> fellow-feeling etc. public. Only, I have received several messages of
> support off-list from members who insist on keeping them off-list.
> They claim to have reasons to believe that their social standing and
> career chances would suffer otherwise. No use telling them that Good
> Guys would never countenance such an intolerant scenario. Public
> expressions of support must be an SJW privilege.
> As for your notion of "majority", in India so problematic but on this
> list a source of warm feelings of kindness etc., I dare say from
> experience that it is not very consequential. In 1990 when I was
> hatefully attacked by big experts at the Ramayana Conference in my
> hometown Leuven, only for my politely formulated viewpoint that there
> had indeed been a temple at the contentious site in Ayodhya, those who
> expressed sympathy with me (in private) were in a minority. Yet, the
> big experts were resoundingly wrong while I went on to being proven
> right: as the 2003 excavations superfluously proved once more, of
> course there had been a temple there. And when the UP High Court
> acknowledged as much in autumn 2010, at the next AAA annual conference
> I was actually congratulated by two American professors. That felt
> quite good. The price for staying within the safe and warm majority is
> that you'll never get to feel this.
> When Copernicus launched the heliocentric worldview, he was in a
> minority of one. Overnight, his theory made all the works containing
> references to the geocentric framework obsolete, and their authors
> resented him. The support he enjoyed was sparse, the opposition
> abundant; but none of that mattered to the next generation, that found
> he had been right. And today, the "majority" opinion of those days is
> only a historical curiosity. So, enjoy your majority while it lasts.
> Now I don't want to compare myself to Copernicus, if only because his
> insight was highly original whereas I only restated what had been a
> matter of consensus until a few years earlier. As was clear in a trial
> ca. 1885, all parties concerned agreed that a temple had forcibly been
> replaced with a mosque, though the local Muslims and the British judge
> in his verdict thought that no remedy for that should be tried at this
> late hour.  That could have remained the position of the anti-temple
> camp. Alas, the "eminent historians" in the late 1980s started
> pleading that the temple had never existed and was only a "Hindutva
> concoction". They never gave evidence for this break with the
> consensus, but the Congress politicians felt intimidated enough to
> abandon their earlier attempts for a peaceful settlement giving the
> site to the Hindus, leaving the issue to the BJP. More important for
> this forum, and far stranger, is that most Western experts started
> speaking out against the existence of the temple at the mere say-so of
> their "eminent" colleagues. A Dutch scholar who had in tempore non
> suspecto adduced more indications for the temple in his own research,
> and got retro-actively attacked for this (what had suddenly become a)
> deviation from the party-line, even hurried to fall in line and
> condemn the temple tradition. But years later, when called to the
> witness stand at the UP High Court to present the fabled evidence that
> had somehow swayed politicians and Indologists alike, the eminent
> historians imploded one after another, an embarrassing coda on which
> the lid has carefully been kept (except in
> http://indiafacts.org/definitive-ayodhya-chronicle/).
> Even more strangely, many supposedly dispassionate scholars got quite
> emotionally involved in this borrowed anti-temple position. This
> partly followed from their prior assumption that the pro-temple party
> (though containing Congress politicians like Gulzarilal Nanda, Buta
> Singh and PM Rajiv Gandhi, who merely wanted a reasonable solution,
> see https://www.academia.edu/14614579/The_Three_Ayodhya_Debates) were
> the bad guys, and how could these ever be right? There is nothing
> wrong with hate if it is against the bad guys, right? So, many of the
> attacks I underwent in those days had a particularly self-righteous
> and mean quality. Better to be wrong with the eminences than to be
> right with the allegedly Hindutva crowd.
> But that was then and this is now. I trust we have learned from
> episodes like that one. Hence, no doubt, the practice of real
> toleration in free speech on this forum.
> Kind regards,
> Koenraad Elst
> On Sat, Jun 29, 2019 at 4:58 AM Dominik Wujastyk via INDOLOGY
> <indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
> >
> > Dear colleagues,
> >
> > When these discussions arise that have a political dimension, and you
> feel moved to write to one of the good guys with a message of support,
> please think about sending it publicly.  Messages of support are a very
> good thing, public or private.  Anything is better than nothing.  But
> sending such a message publicly can greatly magnify the effectiveness of
> the support for the individual.  It also sends a message to everyone, on
> this list and beyond, that there is a ground-swell of kindness, of human
> fellow-feeling, positivity and watchfulness amongst the majority of our
> community.  We care about each other and will support each other when
> attacked.
> >
> > Best wishes,
> > Dominik
> >
> >
> > --
> > Professor Dominik Wujastyk,
> > Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity,
> > Department of History and Classics,
> > University of Alberta, Canada.
> > South Asia at the U of A: sas.ualberta.ca
> >
> > _______________________________________________
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Patricia Sauthoff
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of History and Classics
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Canada

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