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What you don’t see on New Mandala

First a disclaimer – what you don’t see on New Mandala is nothing sensational, it’s a rather mundane stuff, just some of my comments that were not allowed there. You can see whatever I salvaged at the bottom of this post.

At the first glance nothing in their content warrants rejection. They aren’t insulting or trolling or off-topic, nor do they lack supporting references, but they were ripped straight out of a discussion. Maybe they are not “high quality” but it’s hard to accept this reason since random, out of the blue name calling or flaming seem perfectly fine for New Mandala moderators, see an example here.

I inquired Nick Farelly about rejected comments and I generally accept his explanation and I am more than happy to go with his policy as he explained it. What is more interesting, however, is not his polite reply but the underlying reasons for the situation in the first place.

Let’s look at one particular comment that might explain the background. It’s from Ralph Kramden, one of NM regulars, and it’s fair to assume that he reflects the opinion of the community there.

Ralph Kramden // Feb 9, 2010 at 1:50 pm

StanG’s job – no idea if he is self-appointed – is to scramble quite reasonable debates at web sites that he sees are anti-government, anti-monarchy or both. Like the Nation, he comes up with unverifiable claims or engages in daft repeats of government/yellow propaganda (as here) with the intent of derailing debate and seemingly pays little attention to the detailed replies from people who quite naturally disagree with him. The process reminds me of the Monty Python argument sketch. That said, I think commentators here at NM have been remarkably polite, seemingly accepting his interventions as if he is a reasonable commentator open to debate. That is a good sign of the success of a blog like NM.

I see two gripes here, first – “reasonable debates” get scrambled. It is a valid complaint, in a way, some people genuinely go off the rails there, and I’m sorry about that, I’ve got social skills of Larry David and that tends to piss people off. Having said that, Ralph specifically points the second reason why comments are so provocative – they appear to support yellow point of view. Note that Ralph doesn’t include any specific cases, no examples, no references, and nothing related to the topic at hand, just support for a yellow point of view, and that is the crux of the matter.

His last sentence demonstrates that poor Ralph is largely clueless to what is really going on – he praised the moderators for being tolerant in the same thread where two on-topic comments, above and below his, were binned while his unrelated and personal rant was allowed to stay.

Anyway, that’s the basic dynamic there – somehow unwelcome opinions “scramble” the debates and moderators need to keep peace, so inconvenient opinions get binned.

Hard to argue with this policy, unless you realize it comes from a site that proclaims itself as striving for “open discussion” and demands nothing else form the whole country. There have been countless posts on New Mandala arguing against censorship and LM laws in Thailand, strange to see them abandon this attitude when it hits closer to home. They want to have cake and eat it, too!

If they can’t allow freedom on their own site and think it’s better to reject some opinions for the sake of peace or balance, why do they demand different standards from Thai society at large?

Isn’t it just hypocritical? Maybe, but I, personally, still don’t think so, I think they just don’t notice it themselves. It’s basically ignorance and immaturity rather than ill will. They are not against differing opinions per se, they just don’t want them on their site, a variation of “not in my backyard” syndrome.

Problem with transferring their version of an “open discussion” to Thailand as a whole is that unlike a largely anonymous and harmless internet place, Thailand is a country with one of the highest gun ownership and murder rates in the world. What would be the consequences if these debates and opinions, intolerable to folks on New Mandala (not necessarily moderators themselves) go “real”, what will happen if this hostility spills out to the general society? Who will take responsibility if (when) something goes terribly wrong?

Oh, and next time I see demands for free speech I won’t even consider the possibility of it working. New Mandala has effectively bankrupted the idea for good, and people who run around demanding it from others have no clue how things work in real life.

Now let’s have a look at some examples of how this policy affects New Mandala itself.

In this comment Alladin, a reasonable poster by all accounts, talks about proposals for the reform of monarchy:

“This debate ought to start to happen now, in blogs, seminars, conferences, even newspaper columns..” and later “The problem is that there isn’t enough rational debate and concrete proposals being put forward…”

Alladin is posting it on a site where the community exhibits palpable contempt for anybody with a differing opinion. Forget attacking me, recently they had a good go at Stephen Young, an academic with a long history of involvement with Thailand, and Borwornsak Uwanno, a Thai academic who represents largely mainstream views. Alladin here is talking about proposal put forward by another New Mandala regular, Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who once couldn’t last two posts without resorting to “are you stupid?” and “asserting all the crap” arguments.

Yeah, talk about lack of rational debate.

What reception do these people expect when they leave the safety of their intellectual inbreeding ground and go mainstream?

Nevermind that, there’s another, very simple answer to Alladin concerns that he, unfortunately, won’t be able to see.

Just a few days earlier my reply to a similar Alladin’s proposal for LM reform going mainstream was not allowed so I didn’t even bother commenting on why no one listens to monarchy reform proposals – it’s simply not the right time, in the twilight of over sixty year old reign and when the King is in the hospital. It’s not the right time to talk about reforms of things that allegedly went wrong in the past, nor is it a good time to fix the future wrongs – no one knows what the next reign will look like and what problems it might bring.

Is it a “yellow” point of view? I don’t know. Folks over there are quite narrow minded and intolerant and “yellow” is a label used much like “Nazi”. Once someone is called yellow, discussion is over.

I am not officially banned from posting on New Mandala but since I have no confidence that my comments are going to be allowed and when they could be rejected I’ll leave Alladin to lament the lack of debate himself. This time it’s not LM that stifles it, however.

Recently a guest contributor, Thomas Hoi, posted a three part article called Elephants in the room.

The last part is about “speaking in codes”, about people trying to avoid censorship which he, predictably, considers the main enemy of open thought and open discussion. Fine, but I would add that censorship comes in many ways and from ALL sides. Moderators deleting inconvenient posts are doing exactly the same thing, and just as effectively. The “purity” of ones ideas is being preserved just the same.

Another curious example is New Mandala’s reaction to an academic seminar organized by Thai embassy in the UK. Several articles have covered it practically play by play, but what is curious is a debate about broken Chatham House rule that dominated the discussion for several days until someone who has been there said that none of the actual participants had any concerns about privacy and voluntarily stated their names and affiliations.

“Lack of freedom stifles the discussion” – what discussion? In this case it’s not the censorship that constraints the debate, it’s arguing about it. There are about thirty comments there at this point (excluding one of my rejected ones), and not one of them actually touches on what has been said at the seminar. Is it possible to discuss some rather interesting ideas presented there? Andrew Walker tried to draw attention to Borwornsak’s paper but not succeeded, I don’t hold much hope it will change any time soon.

My first comment there was about Q&A session – it seems people asking questions weren’t listening to presentations at all, or it went straight past their heads. Well, people discussing it on New Mandala went even further – they are discussing their own presentations instead. It all goes in the same boring and predictable way, people scratching each other’s backs and patting each other on the shoulder while repeating basically the same stuff over and over again. They are also very protective of their views and get very angry when something different comes along. I suspect they tear newspapers like The Nation to shreds before they finish their morning coffee.

In the end it only underlines their own insecurity and frustration.

I will end with New Mandala “Leave a Comment” rules:

Please note: New Mandala encourages vigorous debate. However, for the moment we will only be publishing high-quality comments that make original contributions to discussion. There will, of course, still be space for pithy, humorous, eccentric and cheeky input. Short and sweet will usually trump long and involved. Repetitive ranting, unimaginative point-scoring and idle abuse will not be entertained. Comments which carry a real name are also more likely to be approved. Thank you for your ongoing interest and contributions.

Ahem, thanks but no thanks.

Apparently no one has paid any attention to this for years. Do they apply these rules fairly? It doesn’t seem so but, as I said, I give them the benefit of the doubt, or ignorance, in this case. I’d rather avoid thinking they are duping their folks with free speech propaganda on purpose, they can’t be that evil.

PS. Just as I was about to publish this I’ve noticed a new comment on NM, on a long running “The King Never Smiles?” entry. The book doesn’t need an introduction of course, and occasional appearances by Handley himself is one of New Mandala indisputable advantages, Anyway, here’s a comment 349:

rubykon // Feb 17, 2010 at 5:15 am

I fail to see what is ‘academic’ in this debate. Academic would mean to be at least aware about the narrow rationality and homogenizing will of such primitive ‘modernization’ theories. To just say democracy here, democracy there does not supply the amount of participation one would need for a functioning polity. The book is suffused with simplistic modernisation-shaming strategies.

Please take some newer political theory (what about the very American Nancy Fraser? or maybe European stile Axel Honneth?) get out of the behaviouralism of the Cold War propaganda (it seems it is alive!!! -read Ron Robin for the making of the cold war enemy and all sorts of – i was hoping – for ever gone colonial speculations). Read some of the new ‘global orthodoxy’ such as Marshall Sahlins, James Wilce, Joel Robbins etc etc etc.

Unfortunately, the only result of one hour reading this forum of selective demonization, is that I have no idea what serious scholarship on Thailand might look like.

Hasta la vista,

I don’t particularly like his dropping off names and his parting line. In the end it seems he is not in a hurry to “see you later”. Pity, the man clearly has something to add to NM pool of knowledge, even if pretentious and controversial.

Rejected comments

StanG // Feb 9, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Thomas Hoy, re Comment 13:

The origin is Jakrapob’s phone interview with Jonathan Head, first reported by BBC. Apart from his earlier quote there’s this, too:

Speaking to the BBC from in hiding, he said the movement would use different tactics to confront the government, including possible armed attacks.

Maybe it’s not enough to successfully prosecute him but his intentions were rather clear.

Regardless, you, and Nick, seem to miss the basic point – people file police complaints based on their perceptions, not court established facts.

FCCT is free to do whatever it wants but if dealing with resulting police charges is causing them inconvenience, perhaps they should consider how their actions are perceived and whether they are likely to be sued or not.

Note that two people who reported on Jakrapob’s new strategy when he went into hiding were Nirmal Ghosh and Jonathan Head – the president and vice president of FCCT. Who can say there were no grounds to perceive them as red movement mouthpiece?

Your comment is awaiting moderation.


StanG // Feb 8, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Alladin, I was replying to your line in Comment 18: “One “minimalist” idea would be for Puea Thai go to the next election on a platform..”

That’s where I saw the jump from Somsak’s academic proposal to real life politics.

R.N. England, I proposed socialists only because they are more receptive to these ideas than any other party here.

Incidentally, Dr. Weng, one of red leaders, recently set up a new party “Socialist progressive reform” or something, and his wife wrote an article in red media that they can’t rely on PTP in their fight against Ammart. I don’t know how much socialism is really there as Privy Council seems to be their biggest target.

Your comment is awaiting moderation.


StanG // Feb 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Nick, being seen as pro-red is not the same as actually being pro-red. If that’s the impression they created among concerned and worried “elites”, that’s the impression they created, and it’s their job to correct it. I don’t think I’ve distorted any facts when I said they were seen as pro-red.

The Frog, they have freedom to say daft things and Thais have freedom to sue them for it.

Thomas, I don’t see anything wrong with contemplating alternative scenarios, like FCCT not provoking harsh response by withdrawing controversial videos from sale after the first couple of warnings.

In case of “rumor mongers”, the case is a lot bigger than posting translation of some article, by that time the marked tanked already, the source of the real damage was clearly elsewhere. Charging people with translating English into Thai was not the crux of the matter at all, even though it undeniably happened.

Your comment is awaiting moderation.


Flaming and insulting posts

Anonymous1 // Jan 29, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Just a note to readers – it’s becoming increasingly obvious that StanG is either a troll or a plant.

He is posting across a range of Thai english language blogs and makes continued outrageous and ridiculous points in an attempt to divert discussion.

So far he’s proved quite successful but I would caution that from this point his comments are roundly ignored.




13 Responses

  1. Hi Stan, why don’t you tell people what our reply to you was?

    Andrew Walker
    New Mandala

  2. StanG : I think the problem most have with you is that discussing with you is like banging ones head against a brick wall.
    Experts like Somsak J point out the stupidity & inaccuracies in your posts, and you ignore them & just carry on with your nonsense (you did the same thing in the guise of Trep over at Prachatai)

    If you think you are right and they are wrong, you will need to learn to do much better.
    (and if you end up being wrong, concede the point and move on, thankful to them for expanding your knowledge:)

    You also need to remember that there are very harsh & draconian LM & Computer laws in place in Thailand (and outside), and many of the people you are arguing with effectively are gagged.
    (in a fight, they would be considered to be fighting with one hand tied behind their backs)

    If you really want to take up the censorship issue, head over to Thai Visa, its filled with gutless wonders who try to get their opponents banned whenever they are losing an argument.

    • I still don’t know why Somsak brought up a fifty year old episode when I said coup makers couldn’t accept Thaksin’s insubordination. Instead of clarifying the connection Somsak resorted to abuse.

      I don’t dispute Somsak’s knowledge of Thai history, I just don’t see why he had to plug it into that discussion and then call me an idiot for asking him about it.

      Since you mentioned Prachatai – here’s an old post on Somsak’s proposals, I’d say it went rather well, without any insults and accusations of stupidity.

      • Thats an interesting old thread because Plaadip seems to be arguing against his usual opinion.

        About Privy Coucillors being caught stealing – I’d like to know how many of them accumulated their wealth given the govt jobs they have held over the years.
        (And you would have to admit that there is a definite smell about Surayud and the way he got that mountain forest reserve land.)

        • It was a gift from his fellow soldier. We can speculate if there were any inferior motives but that guy got the land for only 50k.

          Perhaps the word got out that Surayud was looking for a place to retire and that dude thought it was a good opportunity. Did he get anything in return? More likely he owed his entire career to Surayud’s patronage. That’s just the way things are here. It’s not exactly illegal or immoral.

          • I’ve heard different stories – bought it or a gift – its still smelly.
            Being a career soldier seems to be quite lucrative – him & wife managed to accumulate assets of nearly 90 million baht?

    • I’m not complaining about your policy, it is more or less exactly what I expected. It appears contradictory to “free speech” principle, that’s all. Those who are familiar with my views know that I don’t hold in a very high regard myself when it comes to abolishing LM laws, for example.

      Moderation is necessary and natural, imo, I don’t hold it against you.

      I have not protested and I’m not complaining and I do not claim my rights given back to me, I never had them in the first place, it’s your site and you set the rules.

      Oh, maybe if you removed all juvenile and personal attacks on me the total post count would be cut by a third, not that they bother me very much.

  3. Paltry sum considering his career culminated in Supreme Commander and Prime Minister positions and his wife wasn’t sitting home cooking dinners, she owns most of their assets. Most of it is in real estate, I believe, and it just appreciated along with land and property prices.

    How about this test – after reds had done with him, could there be any dirt left?

    • Agree its a paltry sum compared to the amounts many others seems to have been able to accumulate, but you should note that amounrt was before he became PM.

      We both know that unless there is a revolution, guys like him are untouchable anyway.

  4. There’s a mess with comments order, have not idea how that happened.

  5. Didnt agree with you in an discussion on New Mandala, but agree with the notion that the culture of debate within the NM community prevents me from joining it. That said, I’ll go ahead as there is nothing to say that goes beyong their nose.

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