29 March 2008

What if a government claims the world is flat?

Perhaps the most preposterous news story of recent weeks—that is, outside of the lies that spew daily from the Bush administration—is the claim by the Peoples’ Republic of China that that the “Dalai Lama clique,” or the Dalai Lama himself, is orchestrating recent street violence against Chinese rule in Tibet and elsewhere. Anyone who has any opportunity to read to listen to the Dalai Lama—and I don’t care what your religious or ideological leanings are—would know that this man is incapable of fomenting violence, much less violence leading to human deaths. Furthermore, there is no credible evidence for these accusations.

That governments—or any entrenched organization, for that matter—have an intense self-interest in promoting a view of reality that legitimizes their behavior is news to no one. We should expect that. But what is the function of a news organization if not to contest, challenge, or at last offer an alternative explanation for claims that are impossible to imagine, much less occur? This is exactly the kind of spineless conduct that helped to pave the way for the U.S.-led War on Iraq. If the government says it, it must be reported verbatim, even when there is no supporting evidence. Some in the news media will argue, “We don’t make the news, we just report it.” Horseshit. Reporting claims without a shred of support is the grossest violation of journalistic ethics.

To read the Dalai Lama’ most recent statements on the Tibetan violence, visit the Tibetan Bureau web site at http://www.tibetoffice.ch/index.htm or his official site at http://www.dalailama.com/.

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