Tricycle Joins in with Russophobic “Mind-Control” Hysteria

It appears American Buddhists are not impervious to the current wave of xenophobic paranoia sweeping the US in both conservative and mainstream liberal circles.

Editing Note: I had intended to post the link to the original article, not the tweet that links to it. Corrected.


Fact checking is a good practice. As is investigating the sources of information we share on social media. Neither of which are xenophobic.


Kalama Sutta, paraphrases about don’t take things on heresay yada yada.

Especially with people working themselves up with Wrong Effort for Wrong Mental states on social media and they aren’t even responding to people, but bots.

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Of course. But the overall argument in the piece is a hyperbolical endorsement of a grand conspiracy theory that has become very popular. It ludicrously cites three statements, each of which expresses a sentiment that is widespread among people of many different political persuasions, as evidence of dark forces of mind control and propaganda.

It is a strange article even for Tricycle I’ll give you that. People online and in real life will always try to influence you and get you to do things-- include being eternally outraged about one thing or the other. Its not mind control unless you blindly follow it. I too would think “Buddhists” would have a good idea of that.

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For better perspective on the much smoke, little fire hysteria in the US surrounding “Russiagate”, I would recommend the work of Aaron Maté, in The Nation, especially his February 18 piece from this year.

USAToday russian-us-election-interference-donald-trump

The definition of paranoia includes “unreasonable”. There seems to be a lot of documented evidence and international analysis which makes these fears reasonable.


Absolutely. :pray:

It’s interesting to see these actors using a “mindfulness” screen. This probably tells us something interesting about the way “mindfulness” operates in US culture, but I will leave that for the experts. Note that this account is singled out as one of the three most popular of the 32 fake accounts recently terminated by Facebook.

The Tricycle article—by the always intelligent and interesting Bodhipakṣa, author of Fake Buddha Quotes—lays out in some detail the methodology that bad faith actors use on social media. Their most effective weapon, of course, is that most people just don’t believe it’s happening.

For anyone interested, I’d urge a read of the linked Facebook article:

This gives a lot of detail on their methodology and approach. I have, of course, been critical of FB in the past, and I strongly encourage everyone to delete their account. But kudos to them for at least starting to address the issue in a meaningful way.

There are more elections coming up, not just in the US, and we can be sure that the Russian IRA and other bad faith actors will be using social media to manipulate public opinion, sow discord, and achieve election results amenable to their interests. Understanding the way they operate helps us to become less vulnerable to their exploits.


Yes and no.

Right View suggests this is how our minds work; in a sense it’s always “mind control”…for all beings.

But if we make it part of our Practice to be honest about what our deepest assumptions are, we openly then can choose which forces we expose ourselves to and how we shape our lives and minds. But it can’t happen with any clarity if we can’t even see that we are not removed to some objective high ground - that we are influenced by all that we are immersed in too…including our current ways of thinking, viewing and perceiving…and not always the ways we would “like” to (or think we should) be influenced by!

Only if they’ve got a good idea about who and what they are… Most people, in most places, don’t and calling themselves “Buddhists” doesn’t magically change that.

It has become increasingly clear to me the urgency of unpacking what Right View actually means in practice and for practice.

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If I know anything about myself for sure, it’s that I am easily influenced!! So yeah,

and yeah,

Considering how conditioned and flexible “we” actually are… This is perhaps some aspect of the best we can do…

EDIT: to me, acknowledging and seeing this conditionality and flexibility in my own mind and viewing others in this way also… Simply ties in with teachings on uncertainty and non-self. And make it easier to forgive myself and others. Again, (and again) views influence practice. Not just in the Buddhist world either.

And then there’s the other side effect of this kind of Practice… beginning to see that we are partially “built” up by our assumptions. Beginning to see what “we take our self to be”…beginning to make it more likely that we see deeply into anatta when the other conditions for this are also in place…

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Bhante, if you read the Aaron Mate articles to which I linked, you may come away with a reduced estimate of just how grave and serious these trolling and eyeball-catching Facebook efforts by Russian nationals are. Most of them seem to be commercially motivated - the same reason for most other soft and junk news Facebook accounts. There are hucksters all over the internet, from all countries - Russia included.

The author of the piece is himself a supplier of mindfulness services in the US mindfulness industry, so perhaps his alarmism is motivated by potential worries about the erosion of his brand. The same, of course, might be true of Tricycle itself, whose pages are filled with advertising for many such services and retreats. Given the pervasive anti-Russia hysteria in the US, and the movement toward a new McCarthyist, blacklisting environment, nobody wants to be associated with anything Russian, or linked with Russian “trolls” or “bots” or “assets” or “Putinists” or “Kremlin apologists” or any of the other creatures in the menagerie of nightmare figures in the current US political dreamscape. So, you know, “Buy our real deal, all-American mindfulness, and not that dangerous Russian substitute!” :slight_smile:

The Atlantic Council, which Facebook is working with to impose more stringent censorship, is a pro-Nato think tank and lobbying group, with funding from US and other defense contractors, as well as many other interested elites from across the US and broader western foreign policy establishment. These people have a clear economic interest in advancing alarmist views of Russia, without which Nato would lack a clear mission, and a clear sales pitch to keep the tax dollars flowing. After 2016, which saw the Brexit vote, the Sanders candidacy, the Trump election and the rise of Corbyn in short order, the establishment mainstream mobilized to restore their own desired order, through new organizations allegedly committed to the preservation of “democracy”, but which are really geared more toward preserving established plutocratic hierarchies, private interests, and a military imperium.

We saw a similar phenomenon after 9/11, which provided the military-industrial-intelligence complex with the tool it needed to launch the Global War on Terror, which in turn boosted military budgets, led to a state of permanent war and mobilization in the US, killed at least half a million Iraqis in a war sold with deliberate government lies, and increased domestic surveillance.

Unfortunately, the Trump election has produced a similar rightward and reactionary lurch across the US - not just among Republican voters for Trump, but also among older, liberal voters as well, whose terrified fears of Trump’s dangerous populist encroachments on the old norms and verities of their version of middle class common sense, a new political scene that is emotionally and intellectually inexplicable to many liberal voters who were not paying attention, have been easily exploited by the stakeholders in imperial and establishment institutions and orthodoxies. The latter have sold them a fantastic story about a conspiracy so grand, so all-encompassing and so powerful, that it can explain away their unexpected election loss, and also disparage stories about deep and disturbing unsolved problems at home as merely the work of a foreign enemy and its propaganda. They have been assisted in this effort by major media. The New York Times, Washington Post, and the cable news channels have all brought on more right wing and military contributors, and stoked an atmosphere of panic and paranoia. Many US liberals now even oppose the efforts by the President of South Korea to pursue a new era of detente and the first steps toward unification in Korea, efforts very popular among Koreans themselves, because this is a threat to South Korea’s status as a quasi-colonial US military outpost.

Facebook is under a lot of political pressure, since they have been dragged before government panels and their stock price took a hit after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, so they are making an ostentatious show of cooperation with government authorities and gatekeepers. Unfortunately, this will probably turn Facebook into something closer to an arm of the US state - like VOA or the BBC - than to a truly open and global platform for the free sharing of information and and international social and political organizing. Every day now, we hear of more left wing groups, and media organizations who report on dissident views of the US military-industrial-intelligence complex, having their accounts canceled.


Well, thank you for the context.

But—apart from the title—the article in tricycle was neither “Russophobic” nor “hysteria”, nor was it about “mind control”. The title, I agree, could be categorized in this way and it is alarmist clickbait. But titles are often not supplied by the author, and I cannot see any such irrational paranoia in the article itself.

I would encourage you to be more careful in how you characterize your sources. You want us to believe that you have insight into the workings of truth behind the scenes: but you mischaracterize the article that you link to, in a way that is obvious and easily falsified.

Two things can be true:

  1. Bad faith actors based in Russia (and elsewhere) manipulate social media to further their ends.
  2. Bad faith actors based in the US (and elsewhere) leverage such interference to further their ends.

We live in dangerous times. Let us try to be a little more careful.


I’m sorry, Bhante, but the article is filled with woeful exaggerations about a vast campaign of “nihilistic skepticism” launched by a foreign power, supposedly aimed at making us more accepting of authoritarianism, woven from the three thin reeds: statements that can be found in much the same form almost everywhere, and every day. Next we’ll hear that all of those “challenge authority” bumper stickers in my youth were an insidious Kremlin plot to make us distrust the President.

The grand Russophobic plot narrative fails even its own internal criterion rationality. Why would anyone think that the Russian government would prefer an American society that was authoritarian? Which version of Germany was more dangerous to Russia, the republican Weimar regime or the authoritarian Nazi regime?

Perhaps Buddhists aren’t the most credible folks to be preaching the gospel of critical thinking in the evaluation of messages and sources, given the immersion of Buddhist cultural circles in all kinds of spiritualism, new age fantasy and pseudo-science, including routine “nihilistic” rages about resisting “scientism.” Discerning the difference between truth and falsity involves more than just mindfulness. It requires the use of mathematical, scientific and logical tools that the Buddhist world hasn’t really been in the forefront of promoting.

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… and to me, this sounds like populist conspiracy theory. :slight_smile: Different POVs, from different experiences. “Establishment mainstream” is also a filter, a view, through which interpretation is offered. But Russian efforts to manipulate electuons (not just in the US) have been documented and discussed by many persons in many professuonal roles…

One pundit’s opinion in one mostly Republican leaning publication (the Atlantic) is not strong to disregard all that imo.

Which pundit are you talking about @ERose? The one I linked to published in The Nation.

Sorry folks, I’m not really getting how any of this is relevant to this forum.


@Aminah, It’s about opinions published in a noted Buddhist magazine, by a Buddhist author, taking a Buddhist perspective, on potentially deadly international affairs between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. Isn’t that relevant in a Buddhist forum?

I lived through one Cold War already. My entire youth was lived in the shadow of what many us believed was a nuclear annihilation whose coming was only a matter of time. I don’t feel I can afford to be complacent about efforts to promote a new Cold War.

It’s an Early Buddhist Text forum that accommodates a little bit of general Buddhist stuff that manages to be good natured.

Kind of comes across as wranglesomeness to me.

Please don’t confuse, I’m not dismissing the importance or seriousness of the topic, I’m just pointing out this isn’t a political forum, there are plenty out there which I’m sure would love to be enriched with this conversation.


Yes, Dan.

Would you consider using another word than “hysteria” in title? I don’t have suggestuons to offer, but the word is loaded with historical and predefining nuances, which i feel reduce our chances to maintain Right Speech. What do you think?