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Supreme Master

“For over 30 years The House Magazine has earned the trust of parliamentarians from all parts of both Houses”, says The House Magazine. Now, granted, I’m not a parliamentarian, but I don’t think I’ll be trusting it any time soon.

A glossy weekly distributed free across Parliament and “independently identified as the most read weekly publication within the Palace of Westminster”, The House Magazine is guaranteed to make all but the most dedicated politicophile glaze over (“The Darzi report, if implemented properly, is just what the doctor ordered, writes Baroness Tonge”). The 15 September edition was a bit of an eye-opener, though, not because of the cover shot of Nick Clegg—surely not combing your hair and looking sulky in photos is how you “dare to be different” when you’re 15?—but because it arrived with two free giveaways: a booklet entitled The Work of the House of Lords 2006-07 and, as if that weren’t enough, a free DVD.

People who work in magazines will attest to the impact a free disc can have on circulation figures. The number of people who clawed open the magazine’s shrink wrap must have shot up that week, perhaps even for once outnumbering politicians checking feverishly for any changes to the articles they had written. What could a The House Magazine giveaway DVD possibly contain? The year’s parliamentary TV “highlights”? Dear God, no. Prime Minister’s Questions with director’s commentary? An electro breaks mix by David Cameron (but selected by his secretary)?

It was this:


Citing the 2006 UN report Livestock’s Long Shadow, it explains the benefits for the individual and for the world of becoming vegetarian, stressing the massive carbon footprint currently left by big agribusiness. It claims, perhaps ambitiously, that a universal take-up of vegetarianism would “save the planet”. It confidently states that eating meat, alongside its known drawbacks of high blood pressure and heart disease, causes lung, skin and breast cancer. And it offers “Messages from the Supreme Grand Master, Ching Hai”. Messages such as this:


Supreme Master TV (“Being the ideal television channel that brings to your life Nobility and Spirituality”, Sky channel 835) has much more of the same. Every doom-laden prediction about mankind’s future on the planet, along with coverage of recent natural disasters—skewed heavily towards money donated to sufferers by Supreme Master Ching Hai—is presented, all of it awash with pisspoor muzak. Also, news! A report on FBI figures showing a downturn in crime in the States contains the lines: “Thank you, Federal Bureau of Investigation. We pray that the trend continues and that one day mankind can live in a world of harmony and tranquillity.” Picture Jeremy Paxman closing a report with that.

Part android, part android, but all android, Supreme Master Ching Hai (website: Godsdirectcontact.org) is already known to those who keep a beady eye on cults. She denies wanting to profit materially from her ventures, and on the DVD she denies even wanting people to follow her in the first place. What’s that, Wikipedia?
She has opened vegetarian restaurants, held public seminars, and has made millions of dollars as a painter, fashion designer, and jewelry designer... In October 1995 on Ching Hai Day, she wore queenly robes “under orders from God”, riding a sedan chair carried by eight bearers to the cheers of “your royal majesty”... Criticisms of Ching Hai tend to focus on the fact that her disciples buy much of her artwork, which critics see as indirectly donating to her. One disciple is supposed to have bought her sweat socks because “when the Master leaves the physical world, at least I will have her socks”. Followers insist that most of the money she makes is used for helping the poor, providing necessities to refugees, and victims of environmental disasters. [Wikipedia]
Along with, I suspect, most people on the parliamentary estate, I had never heard of Supreme Master Ching Hai until a couple of minutes into this DVD. Why have I heard of her now? Who was responsible for distributing this stuff across Parliament? Although the DVD isn’t mentioned anywhere in the magazine, the disc is entitled “HOUSE MAGAZINE” so it isn’t just some unused freebie that was otherwise destined for landfill. Did money change hands for this promotion? Or does the Supreme Master have a faithful adherent in the parliamentary post room who needs to be taken aside for a quiet word?

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
suzanne219
Sep. 19th, 2008 10:20 am (UTC)
When I worked for charities, The House would ring me up on a daily basis offering me (at great expense) advertising space and a column (!) to write on any old educational sh1te I liked, on the pretext that 'it would reach all the key decision-makers' (or some other load of old toss.)

So yes, I would bet that quite a lot of money changed hands.
clanwilliam
Sep. 19th, 2008 10:32 am (UTC)
Worse, I took one glimpse at the Clegg picture, dishevelled hair, hamster-ish cheeks, pouty look, and thought "George Osborne".

Thankfully a second look persuaded me it wasn't the man with the self-preservation instincts of a lemming.
nudejournal
Sep. 19th, 2008 11:31 am (UTC)
I would eat a vegetarian.
psychonomy
Sep. 22nd, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC)
They're grass-fed, so the meat's less tough. Lychees with mine, please.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 22nd, 2008 09:16 am (UTC)
Supreme Master Ching Hai:

Combat skills 7
Defence 3
Dexterity 5
Strength 4
Magic 0

Special ability - can leap 30 feet in any direction.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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