Life or Death

Media watchdog David Edwards spurs Buddhists to action.David Edwards

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Making People Think

David Edwards is co-editor of Media Lens (, a UK-based watchdog site that challenges mainstream media reporting. Much of the work of Media Lens involves producing Media Alerts, which are sent out to tens of thousands of subscribers and readers of allied websites. Typically, Media Lens will quote a news bite such as the following from the Guardian writer Martin Woollacott, who wrote in January 2003: “Among those knowledgeable about Iraq there are few, if any, who believe [Saddam Hussein] is not hiding such weapons [of mass destruction]. It is a given.”

Such comments are then contrasted with the views, for example, of former chief U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who claimed that Iraq had been “fundamentally disarmed” of 90 to 95 percent of its weapons of mass destruction by December 1998. According to Ritter, Iraq represented “zero” threat to America and its allies from 1998 onward.

Media Lens goes on to note that, although highly credible, this view has been virtually ignored by the mass media. It then invites readers to form their own views on the relative merits of the arguments, and to make their views known to journalists and editors via company email addresses. Journalists often reply, and Media Lens includes their replies in further debate and discussion.

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Sahajatara's picture

Hi All ,

I think we need to realise that Ethics is something active , and that we do need to act in the world .

In my Order / movement ( Triratna ) we often talk about ' the world ' as if it were some sort of alternate reality , as " out there , in ' the world ' " and I think we fail to really see what interconnectedness means .

We've recently been trying to move towads sustainability at the Brighton Buddhist Centre and in some of our other UK centres .

Our inspiration has been the Quakers who are often at the cutting edge of social change and who already committed to sustainability some years ago.

The Quaker Sustainable Living Group has helped us alot .

I have to say though that I do find it shocking that people fail to realise that Actions do indeed have consequences and that flying to a retreat , or not voting , or not being vegan , does have implications in the world .

Anyways , we're trying now , several retreats at our centres this year on Eco matters and so far four centres trying to be more sustainable .

I have to say though that in some quarters theres still a view that climate change doesnt have much to do with the Dharma , even though the Dharma needs human beings to practice it , and likely there wont be any of those in 2oo years .

Metta , Sahajatara xx

melcher's picture

Largely due to the hypnotic spell that the media casts over an ignorant population, the real question in American politics these days is whether "stupid" is a worse problem than "evil" or "greed".

jmysin1's picture

The paradox of turning inward to experience true compassion and generosity "fiddling while Rome burns" has troubled me for some time. I began this journey 5 years ago and only know that taking refuge is the correct path for me. The paradox is in taking refuge from the hate, greed and delusion filled world we live in, how will I end suffering for all sentient beings. At least I will start by reducing my own greed, hatred and delusion.

Dominic Gomez's picture

We do our jobs as bodhisattvas: Teach others to the best of our ability how they can change their negative karma while we are changing our own. And as each of us, one-by-one, transform our lives from within, we gradually turn this world of samsara into a Buddha's land. Of course this takes time and effort, but it won't happen with just wishful thinking or fairy tale magic.

celticpassage's picture


Is 'getting the word out' that the system is corrupt, biased, and serves the rich and powerful and that the media are also biased and not reporting the 'truth' really the issue?

Isn't this already common knowledge?

Perhaps the real issue is that people must come to terms with the idea that they are actually powerless to effect change.

wtompepper's picture

You needn’t worry, celticpassage. There are enough people without the terrible hardships of jobs, homes, piano lessons, etc. An increasing number of people have the luxury of homelessness and unemployment, and can’t afford dance and music classes for the kids or shopping. They have the luxury to be active, and hopefully can change the social formation. They may not change it in a way that is desirable for those enjoying the benefits of the system…but that’s the price the rich will pay for denial and ignorance.

Seriously, though, I don’t think it is “common knowledge” that the media is a tool of the ruling class. The poorest people I know always seem most certain that everything they hear on Fox News is the truth.

Perhaps if you weren’t so attached to enjoying all the benefits of an economic system that requires horrendous suffering and oppression, you wouldn’t be so terrified of change? Can anyone seriously believe that there has never been any humanly caused change in the world? That we are living in the exact same social system as in prehistoric times, and suffering hasn’t been reduced at all? I suppose only the same people who cannot tolerate the idea that numbers are a humanly created symbolic system. It’s hard to stop reifying abstractions and work for change, when you’re getting all the benefits of the existing social formation.

Not impossible, but difficult. But that’s what Buddhist practice is all about.

celticpassage's picture

Well it all sounds nice but.
When is one supposed to be able to be active in this way?
Between both spouses working, commuting, feeding children when you get home, helping them with their homework, taking them to various classes (piano, dancing, etc.), grocery and other shopping, visiting family, etc., etc., etc.

There are very few people who have the luxury of challenging the system.
It's the system that keeps people resource starved so they cannot offer a challenge to it.

The system controls the money and the microphones. While it may be popular to have a positive outlook, nothing can or will be done until there are enough world-wide socio-economic disasters. And even then, only enough will be done to get those who were in control, back in control

Cook for Good's picture

Our society is in a time of great change, so even small acts can ripple to amplify kindness and connection, helping people, animals, and the planet. In this time of voter suppression, you can at least register to vote and then vote. Make sure your friends and loved ones do the same, then reach further if you can. One of the most rewarding moments I had as an activist happened outside a grocery store, when a young former felon just lit up when learning he could vote if he re-registered (he had completed all conditions of his sentence). He took a stack of voter registration forms and said he would register his friends too.

You can have a big effect at the local level by inviting your friends and neighbors to a meet-and-greet for a candidate. If you have money but no time, donate early. Many local races are decided by a handful of votes. Elected officials decide if buses run on Sundays, whether to militarize the local police force, and how to run the schools and treat the homeless.

You can buy sustainably raised and organic food, refuse to fund brutal raising of animals, carpool to dance lessons, and in general act to reduce suffering and increase happiness. Our collective actions hold great power.

Dominic Gomez's picture

Part of the problem is the popular notion that Buddhism is done only in silent isolaton in a cloistered monastery or mountain cave.

Arjun purohit's picture

But,dear Dominic,unfortunately Buddhism got justifiably bad rap recently when Buddhist monks were seen beating up Muslims in Mynmar in a mass scale. Another instance is the way Sikkim government's treatment of Nepalese immigrants. There is a great danger when religious doctrines are used in politics or for shaping economic policies.Ethical and moral codes of Buddhism are woefully inadequate to deal with present day realities. This is precisely why I stick to Theravada doctrine where individual Liberation is primary goal.I have enough kileshas to deal with before I dare to reform others ! To apply Buddhist principles ininternational affairs is too naive. Panchshil between India and China did not last long. Nations use high sounding religious/ethical principles for PR purposes. Pity but true.

Dominic Gomez's picture

All religions get bad raps. Most recently it was Islam with the massacre of 132 children by Taliban in Pakistan.

JeffScannell's picture

David Edward's is a powerful thinker and an important voice for the future of humanity AND Buddhism.
Please read his fantastic book, "Burning All Illusions" to release the vice grip on our minds perpetrated by the dominant media discourses.

marginal person's picture

Gautama is credited with saying that the world is like a dog's tail, you straighten it out and it just curls right back.
Perhaps a culture of awakening begins with a community of friends supporting each other's practice, no hierarchy involved

sallyotter's picture

I am politically active and make every attempt to do so with compassion. My experience as a progressive here in Florida is that we aren't articulating our message of compassion and loving-kindness in a way to make it attractive. The greed and money seem to triumph. Of course, I must realize that "I" am here for only a miniscule speck of time. But historically, it seems that "the economic and political systems guaranteed to generate tragedy and despair" are pretty constant; they just change locations and leading players. Sometimes, meditating in a cave for the rest of my life looks pretty tempting.

wtompepper's picture

Some of David Edwards's books focus on exactly this issue--on the function of media and educational systems to convince us that atempts to improve the social system are futile or foolish. Actually, it is not the case that all economic and political systems in history have been as oppressive and destructive as global capitalism; however, we are taught, at least in American schools, the "historical evidence" that will convince us that we now have the best of all possible worlds.