Buddhism and the media

I’m reading a book about Buddhism, and one of the principles that is explained is the idea (sometimes labeled appropriately as a paradox) of “non-action.” Actions, according to this principle, are only genuine or meaningful if they issue from a complete lack of caring for the result. This seems paradoxical. How could action be distinguished from a spasm or mere movement without an underlying intention? This philosophical difficulty is not the subject of this post though.

There is another sense of this principle however, which I is aimed I think at the desire to always act. To solve a problem by confronting it directly rather than trying to contest it obliquely. Sometimes inaction may be the best response to a problem.

I think media coverage of certain events exemplifies a possible application of this principle. My example is Sarah Palin. The conservative literati has nothing, as far as I can tell, very good to say about her. They are afraid of her shallow populism and her cynical rejection of the importance of policy analysis or managerial experience. Yet she grows. She gains adherence and more detractors, and then the media covers the controversy. The cycle repeats over and over. Some accuse the media of a soap opera journalism, and the media defends itself by claiming that there is a really story here that needs covering.

I wish conservative writers and the greater media would adopt a principle of non action. By not covering Palin’s every move, the media would discover that there is no story to be covered and that interest in her doings is like a mist that burns off at the first hint of the morning sun. Conservative intellectuals would find that she poses no threat to the party’s future. I consider this an interpretation of the adage that “no news is good news.” Sometimes the best way to enhance public knowledge is, paradoxically, non coverage.


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