Ethical Blogging Part I

I had another post planned for today, but I read something yesterday that rather disturbed me. Actually a couple of things, but I will deal with only one today. I’m just going to write this off the cuff, so to speak, so it might be a bit disjointed, and may seem like a rant, but so be it.

If you think of yourself as a Buddhist then as far as I am concerned you have an obligation to try to practice and behave as one. This is not a free for all party. There are some standards, and sorry to say, they are not really subject to your interpretation. At least not until you have had some real years of practice, or you are a qualified teacher.

Some people think Buddhism has nothing to do with morality or ethics. They’re wrong. Ethics is one of the cornerstones of Buddhism. And one thing I’ve noticed in the Buddhist Blogosphere is that some people also seem to be under the impression that when we switch on our computers, the reasons for why we should engage in ethical behavior somehow magically vanish. Ethics has no on or off switch.

If you are going to identify your blog as Buddhist then I believe that your blogging should reflect Buddhist values. That means more than just blogging about compassion and peace and stuff. Your blogging should be ethical and compassionate. It is neither ethical or compassionate to mislead people.

Most blogs are about opinions, and as such, they have a limited value. But whether it’s opinion or some sort of factual reporting, blogging falls under the category of journalism. It’s very true that people believe what they read. People forget that it’s merely opinion, especially when there are so-called facts thrown into the mix.

When mixing opinion with fact, I think one has to be very careful to make sure that somehow they stay separated or duly noted for what they are. When representing something as a fact, it should be a clear fact that is verifiable and linked to a source. To use hearsay or someone’s opinion and represent them as facts is, I believe, unethical.

If I were to write something like “In Zen Buddhism the practice of hitting people with sticks is widespread,” I would have to call this a misleading fact. Yes, it is true, it’s a fact, but if I don’t provide the context and some explanation, readers could get the wrong impression. If I want to be ethical, fair and balanced, then I should either mention that this is just something I’ve heard and since I have no personal experience with it, it should not be taken as a hard fact, or I should write that this only occurs within the context of formal meditation sessions and only with the consent of the practitioner. Otherwise, people might think that Zennies are just a bunch of stick-wielding abusers going berserk.

If I say that I am going to offer my opinion and then present what appears to be layers of facts that are not linked to any sources beyond a vague mention of some individuals I know, this is the same thing. Misleading and unethical.

As Buddhists we should try to rise above the fray, not sink to the lowest common denominator. We should try to set an example for others, not follow their misguided examples. Just because everyone else in this crazy world today seems to have forgotten about fair play and the importance of having some integrity, we should to? No way.

I think we should have the spirit that as Buddhists we will hold ourselves to a higher standard than anyone else. Why so? Well, I’ll have an explanation for that and more on the subject of ethical blogging when I’ve had time to sort out my thoughts. Had to get this off my chest for now.

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