Notes on Buddhist Journalism—2-It exemplifies interdependence, avoids religious ‘propaganda’
Posted on June 22nd, 2011

By Shelton A. Gunaratne© 2011 Professor of mass communications emeritus at Minnesota State U Moorhead

 Responding to my column labeled “Notes on Buddhist Journalism””‚1,” Namarupa D. Andre tells me that journalism deals with the honest treatment of current news and comment,” whereas Wikipedia, which scholars are not supposed to use as an authority, tells me that journalism “is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues, and trends to a broad audience.” By using the adjective “honest” to qualify treatment, Andre falls into the same trap he blithely claims that I had entrapped myself by using the term Buddhist Journalism.

Andre simplistically believes in One Journalism because, he says, the moment you define its genre with an adjective, journalism becomes propaganda. If mainstream journalism is a product of Europe dating back to 1605, when Johann Carolus published the first printed newspaper in Strassburg, it is not far fetched to presume that European, and subsequently American, values””‚colonial, cultural, political, economic, racial, religious, etc.””‚shaped and nursed the putative One Journalism, which the colonial West implanted in the colonized East. Therefore, Andre’s assertion that [West-oriented] journalism represents “honest treatment” of current news and comment is utterly deceptive because he makes that claim by dropping the implicit adjective “West-oriented” associated with One Journalism.

If Andre considers BJ to be propaganda, he should have the honesty to admit that One Journalism (OJ) is also propaganda. OJ had a tremendous impact on the world because of the oligopoly of global news distribution arrogated by the West through giant news agencies like Reuters, Associated Press, Agence France Presse and the like. The Third World unsuccessfully clashed with the West over the biased news reporting of the Western media and their news agencies during the tenure of the Senegalese Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow as director-general of UNESCO from 1974 to 1987.

If Andre were to read the vast output of literature on the New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) and about the formation of the Non-Aligned News Agency (NANA), he would understand the need to “let many journalisms bloom,” an expression I used in an essay I wrote for the journal China Media Research in October 2007.  The more genres of journalism we have, the better we shall be because the clash of “propaganda” will ultimately reveal who is honest.

Wikipedia correctly asserts the existence of “much variation within journalism,” although its “ideal is to inform the citizenry.” Contrary to Andre’s faith in OJ built upon Western news values, I argue that the West has used these values to disparage the East to maintain Western supremacy. The result was the emergence of a number of alternative journalisms and journalism organizations. One such was the Inter Press Service (IPS) founded in 1964 by the Italian journalist Roberto Savio and the Argentine political scientist Pablo Piacentini as a non-profit international cooperative of journalists.

Andre denigrates my exposition of BJ as “simply a statement of Buddhist beliefs.” He says he does not see “anything special in what Shelton has written” because the Internet contains “hundreds of introductory documents on Buddhism.”

What I have done is to interpret the principles of early Buddhist philosophy as a framework to create a more humane journalism aimed at reducing dukkha in the world. Apparently, with a left-hemisphere dominant brain, Andre wants me to calculate the extent of dukkha reduction associated with BJ. For he alleges that most of my statements “have to be taken on faith, and there is little attempt to prove any of them.” I have accepted the Four Noble Truths as the sole truth because no one has been able to falsify them for more than 2,600 years. Therefore, the burden is upon Andre to disprove my statements founded on the fundamentals of Buddhist philosophy.

Wikipedia points out that in modern society, news media have become the chief purveyor of information and opinion about public affairs;  “but the role and status of journalism, along with other forms of mass media, are undergoing changes resulting from the Internet, especially Web 2.0″ associated with web applications that facilitate participatory information sharing, interoperability, user-centered design, and collaboration on the World Wide Web. Thus, citizen journalism has emerged as a reality. A facet of BJ, reporting of Buddhist events and discussions, is already available to a limited degree in websites such as Lankaweb (e.g., see Malwatte Chapter awards Ven. Witiyala Seewalie Thera post of deputy chief Sangha Nayaka of North America Monday, 6 June 2011).

IPS began in 1964 with its main focus on the production of independent news and analysis about events and processes affecting economic, social and political development. Similarly, Buddhist countries in the world could co-operate to run a BJ network to analyze the world through a broad Buddhist perspective. Allegiance to Buddhist goals does not make it a religious journalism for its allegiance is only to the Buddhist philosophy.

Engaged Buddhists, like those in the Fo Guan-Shan movement in Taiwan could play a major role in elevating the existing form of BJ to the level of process reporting as IPS does with development journalism.  Because mutual interdependence is a verifiable fact (attested by quantum physics), BJ would be an interdependent, rather than an independent journalism.

Finally, I hope that the concept of anatta will not cause a problem for exposing corruption or highlighting the namarupa of leaders because Buddhism denies the existence of a self or soul.  Thanissaro Bhikku (1996) asserts that in the one place where the Buddha was asked point-blank whether or not there was a self, he refused to answer. When later asked why, Buddha said that to hold either that there is a self or that there is no self/soul is to fall into extreme forms of wrong view that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible. In short, some questions are best left unanswered because of the limits of the pancaskanda. Therefore, BJ may follow the conventional reality of treating each namarupa as not-self/soul rather than no-self/soul.

4 Responses to “Notes on Buddhist Journalism—2-It exemplifies interdependence, avoids religious ‘propaganda’”

  1. Ben_silva Says:

    I enjoyed the Professor’s articles on travel which were a joy to read and hope he would continue writing. I am now referring to the ; statements in the recent articles on BJ about reduction of suffering and Dukka etc. In general, Buddhism has good concepts on morality, values, mindfulness, meditation, right action, right speech, right livelyhood etc, However Buddhism has shortcomings in dealing with nastiness in the real world, such as dealing with racists , invaders, and those with the power to kill.etc I respect Buddhism as a good Philosophy; We have to be aware that we live in a very competitive , dangerous, nasty world, with imperialists, invaders, terrorists etc, where only the fittest will survive. So being passive and timid won’t help.Ancient Indian Gurus wanted to find means of ending suffering. In the modern world, it is generally known that ‘No pain’ ‘No Gain’ When some one is promoting reduction of suffering , I would get concerned. If we attempt to eliminate pain, we may end up with no gain and end up as the poorest of the poor. To be successful one has to put in time and effort and perhaps prepared to under go pain. As for the truth, Christians believe that Bible is the truth, Muslims believe that the Kuran gives the truth, followers of Judaism believe that their scripts tell the truth etc. Followers of various religions believe that their religion tell the truth, just as the good Professors belief that Buddhist Philosophy is the truth. Some believers may be affected by the religion mind virus. To quote from Wikipedia:  ref: href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viruses_of_the_Mind” t http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viruses_of_the_Mind    “Dawkins suggests that religious belief in the “faith-sufferer” typically shows the following elements: It is impelled by some deep, inner conviction that something is true, or right, or virtuous: a conviction that doesn’t seem to owe anything to evidence or reason, but which, nevertheless, the believer feels as totally compelling and convincing. “  So when a religious believer talks of truth, I begin to question if that persons mind is affected by the religion mind virus. To me, the Prof. appear to be promoting religion and is not adapting to the changing world but still hanging on to 2500 old year theory, that even Indians do not follow any more.If we want to achive any thing and beat off competition, then we have to be prepared to fight our corner and perhaps suffer some inconvenience. We have our country now because our soldiers underwent pain and suffering. If our soldiers did not undergo pain and suffering, we would have lost our country. It does worry me if our academics start preaching us about reduction of suffering. Those Buddhists in India and in the silk route that followed the ‘reduction of suffering ‘ have been killed and; wiped out and I do not want to follow the same route. We need a fighting mentality and a fight back culture rather than ‘end suffering’ mentality, that will make us passive; Surely, we do not want to go back to a system that brought death and destruction to their followers as in Nalanda. After the Nalanda debacle, Buddhism never revived in India. The law of nature is ‘survival of the fittest’and if we find excuses, such as reduce suffering, not to fight our corner, we will not survive. I think academics should tell us how to survive in the modern world rather than preach religion, which well known scientists have indicated that is a thing of the past. Some survival tips are;1. Adapt and change to meet new situations and threats.2. Continuously improve 3. Learn from those who re successful Carry out SWOT analysis and risk analysis.5. Be prepared to overcome difficulties and undergo suffering.(Do not expect to have an easy ride, if you want to win ) 6.Be imaginative, innovative and have self belief. 7. Be aware of the external environment and be aware of threats.
    It does appear that the Prof. is condcting religios propaganda using Journilism as a vehicle.

  2. AnuD Says:

    Sri Lankan Journalism is western journalism and it is just making news sensational. On top of that, it is very nasty and destructive to anyone who they are opposing.

    In here, I don’t see any news media that destructive. Anyhow, they are not destructive to the country.

    In that respect, Sri Lanka and India are far democratic than North America. SO, the media abuse democracy for their specific interests. Because of that, they lie, mislead and are very destructive.

    Because of that, we can expect drastic actions by the people who have power.

  3. AnuD Says:

    I think Andre comments should be based on the saying that “the truth has many facets”. In other words, what I believe as the truth may not be the truth for another. Every one has their own base line.

    For example, Western journalists who earn money from soecific organization may try to believe actually Gadhaffi is the evil force and in order to get rid of him, it is reasonable to send Libya to stone age.

    At that stage, it becomes the theory of Hitler’s propganda head’s thinking.

  4. AnuD Says:

    Buddha had answered people in very nice ways. One day, Venerable Ananda had been amazed when Buddha answered in three different ways to three people saying, “NO”, “YES” and the silent treatment for asking “Is there a god?.

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