February 26, 2015

Update: On Bikram vs. Rape Allegations.

It’s tough times for writers, and truth-tellers, and journalists. The first sign a society is degrading from equal rights-aspiring democracy to cultish nationalism—you can see it in Turkey, or Russia, or China, and even the U.S.—is that journalism is no longer important, it’s going out of business, or worse—it’s getting suppressed. Journalists get killed, imprisoned.

I’ve probably already lost you, in this speedy world where everyone’s competing for your attention. But I’m not going to try to be faster, or clickbaitier, or “viral”—I’m going to say something really boring, and genuine.

We are a country governed by our ideals, one of which is the rule of law. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram are good for arguing, posturing, soapboxing. It’s given fuel to much of #metoo. But what really started #metoo off was 10 years of investment in reporting on Harvey Weinstein by ardent reporters, under threat of lawsuit. And when those two articles came out, the world exploded, and imploded, and awoke to a slimy reality that had for too long been hidden by those with power. Yes, an activist sparked the first #metoo, and she is to be honored. And yes, twitter sparked the tidal wave of Me Toos—brave women (and men) who came forward to say yes, I’ve been abused, assaulted, taken advantage of—and it’s time to change that culture.

The upside is that we can expose patriarchy, which is a plague upon both women and men. Girls and boys deserve better than to be raised to be abusive bullies, or to be abused, and all deserve to grow up in a world that’s safe, and accountable, and fair. Me Too should be celebrated for exposing a timelessly toxic element in our societies.

But there’s a downside to twitter, facebook, youtube, instagram—these companies are not here for public good. They’re here for viral—you know, profits. They feed on anger, much the same as the Dark Side in a little movie you mighta heard of. We can not allow extremists and aggression to replace patriarchy—we must allow room for vulnerable dialogue, for education, for boundaries and systems to be put in place so that we can end the feeling of safety and above-the-law that those, like our President, have too long enjoyed.

Years ago, Bikram (the ridiculous, Rolex and Bentley-flaunting speedo-wearing yoga empire-owner) was charged by multiple women who bravely came forward, and journalists who exposed his alleged abuse. (I myself had earlier broken the story on Pattabhi Jois, after I discovered a notorious but unidentified photo of him online. Exposing him exposed me to the anger of those who would protect him).

I reported on Bikram’s alleged abuse, and Elephant published dozens of articles after he was accused, exposing his character and history. In my video—recorded before he was tried or convicted—I noted that many women had come forward to charge him, and encouraged folks to wait for the facts, and to condemn him once the truth came out if it bore out his alleged crimes. That video has since been questioned by readers, and even friends of mine, who feel that in some way I was defending Bikram.

I clearly owe more clarity.

First of all, f*ck Bikram.

Secondly, my point was simple—journalism, and the courts, and the brave women coming forward, and the evidence will hang him, or try him, or judge him. And that, years ago, when it was yet unproven, we should look at the truth that came to light, and follow it wherever it leads.

It’s important we never allow ourselves into mob rule. That’s the tool of aggression, of fear, of prejudice, of harming those who are weak—whether its slaves or so-called witches or decent Muslim citizens.

Here’s that video. Read the comments. If I should take it down, I’m happy to—now that he’s been reported on by the NY Times, and convicted, and the subject of a documentary, the heartbreaking abuse he perpetrated is more widely known. But, back then, I felt it important to discuss the process. Because the process is what protects democracy, and equal rights, from being degraded by folks like President Trump and his more extreme nationalist and racist fans.

While it’s tough to try to have a reasonable conversation around such hurtful topics, I’ve kept the video up because, while it does me no favors in today’s social media climate, we must try to talk, and listen, and learn together.

We as a society must have the hard conversations, thoughtfully—and not just tweet at each other and see who can put one another down most wittily.


Original article follows:

bikram rape

A personal take.

It’s an old story: powerful, lonely, insecure man takes advantage of young, attractive students. It’s as close to evil as anything I’ve seen: it’s date rape, it’s sexual assault. And, of course, at this point, it’s alleged–nothing is proven, so let’s not rush to judgement. But with many women coming forward, the circle is closing. ~ Waylon.

Read more here: > Bikram & Rape.

Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis Presents…


10 Commandments of Bikram Yoga.


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