One of the major reasons that blogging became a big thing in the 2000s is media criticism. With the decline of blogs most of that has moved to Twitter, but Twitter operates on different principles. Often critiques of media focus around specific issues and concerns which are amplified by positive feedback loops.
But a recent piece by The New York Times, Buddhists Go to Battle: When Nationalism Overrides Pacifism A call to arms for Sri Lankan monks. Ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar. A Buddhist faith known for pacifism is taking its place in a new age of nationalism, highlights how even the most ‘respectable’ of media outlets engage in shortcuts and superficial analysis. Part of me does wonder also if the secularism of the American elite media is one of the reasons they routinely flub anything related to religion.
In any case, the idea that Buddhism is necessarily a pacifist religion is to a great extent a Western fantasy. Much of the genealogy is rooted in Schopenhauer’s interpretations. Though Schopenhauer’s interpretations are as good as anyone’s, they tend to cast Indian religion generally in ethereal mystical terms at strong variance with how they manifest in cultures where they have been ascendant.
The Japanese, Mongols, and Tibetans did not stop being warlike when they converted to Buddhism. The patronage of Buddhism in China was fostered in the early centuries by non-Chinese barbarian military elites. There is nothing particular pacifistic about Thailand or Burma.
The fact that no editor of that well-reported piece even thought to consider these facts, and relied on Western stereotypes, is pretty disappointing, but not surprising.
The weird thing is 20 years on from the heyday of blogging the cultural elite talks and promotes multiculturalism orders of magnitude more. But the cultural elite is fundamentally just as lazy as it was back then, and uses simple heuristics which leverage what their readers know or believe,* rather than actually introducing new and true facts into the discussion.
* Buddhism and Sufism both are treated in American media through the biased and distorted lens of Western gurus and practitioners, rather than living traditions across a variety of cultures with deep and complex histories.