The media. We haven't concentrated much on them here because, to be honest, media representation of Tibet is such a can of worms that it's overwhelming to try and cover all of the ways the media disempowers Tibet and Tibetans. Therefore, I ask of readers that you be patient with us as we cover each issue individually over time. What I want to talk about today is far from the only issue or the biggest issue of media coverage of Tibetan issues. It is just the one I saw most recently.
While doing my daily BBC browse, I came upon this headline on the front page for Asia-Pacific news.
"China attack." I was shocked and interested. HH Dalai Lama has spent the past several decades attempting to negotiate with China. It had been several years since HH Dalai Lama had made any strongly worded statements critical of China. If my memory serves me right, it's been since the protests and crackdown of 2008. However, even those could barely be termed "attacks." Perhaps, with his official retirement from political power and instatement of the new Kalon Tripa, he had decided to be more vocal?
The small blurb underneath was limited to saying he "criticises China," and so I decided to read the article.
The moment I clicked the link I was faced with a far tamer headline:
And an article even tamer yet:
This supposed attack, according to the BBC, was such things as the Dalai Lama maintaining that he, himself, made China uncomfortable for talking about the truth. "Made China uncomfortable?" If that's an attack, then tickling someone with a feather is felony assault!
He continues by mentioning that "Some Chinese officials describe me as a demon so naturally they fear...the demon." Here, the Dalai Lama is referencing widely publicized incidences where major Chinese officials have called him names and then showing understanding for the Chinese officials by justifying that they are just scared and having a fear reaction.
The so-called attack continues with (as the BBC puts it)
"He said that 'hypocrisy' has become part of the fabric of the 'communist' system and said that those who spoke the truth made China uncomfortable."
Okay, I can understand the use of the word hypocrisy in quotes, but communist? While communist and socialist may be used as an accusation and insult by American conservatives, this hardly applies in the case of China which describes itself as and is, according to its own constitution and ruling party, a communist nation!
This supposed "attack" is nothing more than observations that can be backed up by any reading of the news, and a few statements that are clearly from the Dalai Lama's point of view as a representative of Tibet. Unlike China, which calls the Dalai Lama a "Wolf in sheep's clothing" or a "demon," statements which could be termed attacks, how can statements such as "Naturally they fear [me]" or the stronger statement that the truth "makes China uncomfortable" be termed an "attack"?
This sensationalist headline, which is all that many readers will see, functions to falsely even the playing field. It makes it seem as though not only is China the rhetoric flinging, aggressive, attacking party with a total unwillingness to negotiate, but look: Even the Dalai Lama is on the attack!
I know, it's the media. Sensationalist headlines is what they do. But is this even a story?