People are more open to indoctrination and propaganda than critical thinking. This is even so in our universities. Our so-called, Media Indoctrination Complex (MIC) knows this which is why it positions itself to be the first news we see or hear. This is done for a very special reason that is explained by, of all people, Mark Twain: "It is easier to fool the people, than to convince them they have been fooled." This means the human mind is, naturally, disposed to believe the first thing it sees or hears which is not necessarily true. Put another way, the human mind prefers first impressions. A correction of such impressions more that often proves the more difficult task if not sometimes impossible.
The general public is very seldom aware of how they are being constantly manipulated by the media taking advantage of first impressions. A study of history beginning at the start of the 20th century is a goldmine of information of how the American people were deceived and led into the Great War (World War I), the most violet war ever fought in human history up to that time. The same goes with World War II and every following war including the Cold War. In light of this, should we believe our first impressions of Zen Buddhism, especially, when it comes through the media?
Magazines like Tricycle, or articles in Huffington Post about Buddhism, seem more credible to the public than some insignificant blog like The Zennist because they are there first. We get our first impressions from such sources. The public is supposed to believe that Buddhism is all about promoting nonviolence, compassion and the belief that all things are interconnected. Such a view of Buddhism is so vague and shallow that practically any religion, including atheism, might be called Buddhism. Such a portrayal by the media ignores the goal of Buddhism which is nirvana explained as a deathless state that one recognizes in deep meditation which is what the Buddha realized under the Bodhi-tree.
Gradually, as Zen Buddhism and Buddhism, in general, became more popular the public's first impressions were often misleading, moving in a direction almost opposite or short of enlightenment. Alan Watts' book, The Way of Zen (1957) and Walpola Rahula's book, What the Buddha Taught (1959) proved to be popular books that impressed public consciousness, but with a view of Zen Buddhism and Buddhism that swerved so that it became an uphill battle to convince people, later on, that neither authors understood what the Buddha taught. At this point, one might reflect on the old saw that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing which also suggests that a shallow understanding is not knowledge at all but, instead, the illusion of knowledge.
A coda to this, I have been examining my own voyage of discovery which I began when I was a young dude of twenty trying to remember my own first impressions of Zen. Around that time I had read Alan Watts' book, The Spirit of Zen (1958) which, at the time, I found to be difficult to understand. A clear message seemed to be lacking. If I wanted to understand what Zen was really saying, I had to dig for it. I didn't have the benefit of any first impressions, at that time. I think that was a good thing, looking back! I just know how much I was drawn to Zen, like a compass needle to magnetic north. I couldn't get a way from it. If you are a beginner reading this, try to avoid first impressions; also be willing to dump what you think you learned. It could be totally wrong.