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Lions Roar : May 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2010 26 not just how Buddhists would stick up for themselves, but if. Another question: Would Big Media allow Buddhists to speak up on their airwaves? There was plenty of punditry, sure—starting with Hume on FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, answering “I don’t think so” to the question of whether he’d been proselytizing, and going on to argue that Woods should make a “true conversion.” O’Reilly, predictably, steered the talk into his comfort zone: “I don’t think we’re trying to denigrate Buddhism... What do you think drives the negative comments about Christianity?” Pat Buchanan, for his part, admitted on MSNBC that Buddhism was being denigrated, but so what? “There are not a lot of Buddhists watching FOX.” A direct offer to FOX News executives—for a Shambhala Sun inter- view with Hume, wherein he could speak directly to the Buddhist world—went, it would seem, into the digital trash. So it was a sweet sight to see commentators like Don Imus and Howard Stern starting to rail against FOX. But was anyone going to ask Buddhists what they thought about the Hume Affair? All anyone had to do was to scroll through the comments on Sun- Space, and elsewhere in the Buddhist blogosphere, and they’d see: Buddhists were a lot more savvy and impassioned than Big Media was giving them credit for. Maybe that was the problem. Finally, CNN’s Rick Sanchez did have the Interdependence Project’s Ethan Nichtern on. Sanchez made himself clear: “As a Christian, I think that [Hume’s suggestion for Woods] is a fine one.” Nichtern, though, skillfully explained that Buddhism is a sys- tem of meditation techniques, psychological teachings, and ethics “for creating greater self-awareness and understanding.” Together, he reasoned, this greater self-awareness and understanding are the redemption that Hume sees as inadequate in the Buddhist faith. For all of the online outrage, Nichtern got to the heart of the matter: When it comes to faith, no one way is the true way. But when it comes to being fair and balanced, well, I’d say the Buddhists won this one hands down. In the face of unfair and imbalanced coverage, we banded together as best we could, de- termined not to stand by as the O’Reillys and the Humes of the world distorted what we stand for. We’ll surely have to do so again sometime; as Buchanan made clear with his remark, certain news outlets aren’t interested in what Buddhists think. Well, not yet at least. But as the punk pio- neer Jello Biafra said, if you don’t like what you’re seeing in the news, “Don’t hate the media. Become the media.” The question is, can we counter the dualism so perfectly expressed in FOX’s black-and-white coverage not just with passion, but with skill? Can we express truth with confidence, and without contribut- ing to divisiveness? Can we be lotus flowers, strong, inviting, and unsullied in Big Media’s muck? We’ll have to. To respond with articulate compassion—as so many Buddhist bloggers did in the case of the Hume Affair—is not only an expression of our practice. It’s guerilla PR, a way to get noticed despite the racket created by the big guys. I’d like to think that’s just what we’ll do if Hume ever accepts my offer for an interview. I’d love for him to learn what Buddhism’s brand of forgiveness and redemption might really look like. ♦