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.

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As we’ve seen, Dutta is far from unique in academia, and of course, his behaviour is fairly common among Mainstream Media types. —Eds