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Breaking the Code

This is just to tie up some loose ends left after my New Mandala comments on Elephants in the room were rejected.

On the FCCT matter, there was a long running discussion on Prachatai once, I can’t really add anything to it.

They shouldn’t have got themselves in the situation in the first place. At that point is was a matter of perception, not truth, so arguing whether there was any real basis for the lawsuit is pointless. They’ve managed to create a perception of bias (and treasonous plot) in Laksna’s mind and that is all that was needed for her to file a police complaint.

The workings of her mind are far more interesting. She is a PAD supporter with some professional success in consulting, and she was writing a doctorate paper on “visualization (forming correct and twisted perceptions, understandings and misunderstandings through graphical and textual information).”

When I didn’t see any mention of this in Thomas Hoy’s Elephants Part 3 I was disappointed, all he did was to put broken links to Bangkok Post forums, now the links are up but two out of three I checked do not have examples of “//\\” anymore.

That is just a child’s play comparing to Laksna case. I understand that not only she searched for the codes, she tried to break their algorithms and looked beyond the first step, direct decoded meaning (as was the case with Bangkok Post), she also looked at the perception that meaning was creating.

Journalists have great many ways to create a perception of something without actually saying it. They rely on studies of how people read and digest information, what elements make stronger impact, what elements make the crucial first impression. Headlines, subheadlines, first sentences in paragraphs, images and captions, highlighted text, the order in which they appear and so on.

Look at these two examples, maybe open them in separate tabs or something.


Prominently put images immediately create two different subconscious reactions to the airport takeover, even before the mind processes the headlines and works out the nuances. Compare them side by side yourself:

Do you see what I mean? What kind of reaction it would have provoked in a generic BBC reader? In a red shirt supporter? In someone like Laksna? I don’t blame her for seing the bias here.

As you begin to read, two articles blend seamlessly with each other, there aren’t any major contradictions, the second just follows up on the first one. From a quick scan I object only to Jonathan Heads saying PAD had planned airport takeover weeks before without mentioning even the possibility of it being a case of “crime of opportunity” – the official and rarely disputed version. Never mind that, it’s not the point. As you scroll down, more images appear and again they are very different.

People sleeping on the floor vs a protester carrying a stick and a caption that says something about police, and then there’s a video of passengers at the airport vs protesters holding the picture of the King.

It appears the images in the second article tell the whole story in a nutshell, if you give just these three pictures to anyone following Thai news at that time they could have written the article themselves. One picture was literally worth a thousand words.

I’m not saying Jonathan Head consciously applied these methods in his reporting, he signed the second article but it could have been BBC editors in London who chose the images. That kind of doubts didn’t stop Laksna though and so she decided to decipher the hidden messages. I don’t know if her research had been published yet. However feeble attempt it was, it’s still an attempt to address “speaking in codes” that Thomas Hoy dedicated his article to.

And then, predictably, the argument about the code went on in circular ways – defenders deny existence of any code or any malicious intent and attackers are not taking these denials at face value.

Another example of decoding indirect references is a court verdict against Da Torpedo. From the first few pages that I read the judges didn’t give any benefit of doubt as to who Da was calling an “old man” or “invisible hand” so the code didn’t work at all, it was all originally in Thai, of course. Thanks to Thai Political Prisoners for hosting the pdf.

I think these two examples can expand Thomas Hoy study considerably, if he is reading this, feel free to use whatever you find here.


43 Responses

  1. As usual, you miss the bigger picture – why are these draconian laws even in existence in this day and age?
    Why are people like Luksnsa (and you:) so eager to see them used?

  2. Dear StanG,

    Thanks for the attention you’ve paid to my article and there are some things here that will be useful to me in any further reworking of my article. I’m pleased with the constructive nature of this criticism and will try and take it on board. I might add that I’ve got no problem with responding to your comments and criticisms.

    But basically I agree with Hobby. Laksana may be, like me, interested in deciphering codes. But our purposes are completely different. She wants to see people put into prison for her perception of what they say. I don’t.

    She should however feel quite free, as you do, to identify whatever biases or errors she sees in the statements and journalistic techniques such as juxtaposition of pictures of those she accuses. That’s a whole different question.

    What she is doing, though, and what the current legal framework allows and encourages her and others like her to do, is to try to shut people up with the threat of force and punishment.

    Of course, the whole question of the relationship between perception and reality is of great philosophical interest and much of my article is about how perception influences behavior. But it is a bit rich to blame the FCCT for what goes on in Laksana’s mind and ask them to change their behavior so as not to upset her. Her perceptions are her own problem, not theirs. You might as well ask me to abandon my belief in democracy because it upsets dictators.

    The workings of her mind may be of interest to you; I’m not particularly interested in them except insofar as her mind and minds like hers with their appalling presumption that they’ve got a corner on what is a “correct” perception and what is “twisted” threaten the physical and intellectual liberty of the rest of us.

    Perceptions are all very interesting but real bodies are being thrown into real prisons and real people are forced into mental contortions for fear of the same thing happening to them. That’s my primary concern.

  3. Thomas, it wasn’t Laksna alone who formed these perceptions, that Prachatai article has quite a few posters, including Hobby, who had exactly the same impressions but defended FCCT on the grounds of free speech.

    Those people also, just like Laksna, think they’ve got the “correct” ideas and it’s Laksna who was “twisted”.

    As for LM laws – it’s the right of the Thai society to protect their King in any way they like, just like it’s NM’s right to sensor my comments.

    I understand the line between Internet and reality, but consider that on the same Prachatai thread people were asking for her home address and real contact numbers, and people on NM posted my real picture – there are plenty of vigilantes who’d gladly bring our Internet fights into a real life if they had a chance.

  4. StanG: You are the one who posted that picture on the internet (NM only copied it and I dont notice any copyright restrictions:)

    I really cannot believe I still bother talking to you after re-reading your posts as Trep in that old Prachatai thread (and others).
    Putting Da away for 18 years IS twisted, and if you support it you are twisted – that’s FACT.

  5. I didn’t say a word about Da Torpedo’s sentence there nor here.

    When (if) I finish reading the verdict I might write something about it but I probably skip the sentencing part anyway.

    The difference is only in degrees and methods, the principle of censorship is still the same.

    Over the past couple of days they’ve rejected two of my comments on NM, leaving only the one on the Elephant’s article.

  6. That’s why I said ‘and others‘ – reading your comments in that thread disgusted me, and brought back memories of you comments in this thread when I asked you the direct question about Da’s 18 year sentence.

  7. The thread you refer to is mixed up, my first batch of comments were on a completely different Prawit’s article, or parts of an article that aren’t there anymore – my “run for the embassy” was a direct quote, for example, and I had a bit longer exchange with Prawit about paranoia, and I don’t remember seeing his correction on who made the first phone call in Chotisak’s case.

    I stand by my first response to your question about Da Torpedo – I can’t comprehend 18 year long sentence.

    What do you think about the court verdict? I haven’t finished it, yet.

  8. Well, I fail to see whats wrong with giving people an impression of something that is true (or at least arguably so).

  9. Because it happened to be in breach of Thai laws.

    I made this argument in that Prachatai thread, it’s like admitting your own guilt: “Yes, your honor, we think your country sucks and we tried our best to help with “demise of plunderers” and “regime change”.

    FCCT has completely changed the tack, btw. They staged a huge PR event for Abhisit and got well covered for canceling red meeting just two days earlier.

    No one is going to sue them for making this impression, wasn’t so difficult, was it?

  10. I’ve said all along that the law is wrong – draconian.

    Here’s a question for you:
    Can someone who routinely signs off on coups be described as anything other than weak, or a part of it (the coup)?

    18 years jail for coming to the only logical conclusion a thinking person could reach seems fair to you?
    (oh, I forgot, its Ok to come to that conclusion, but not to express it others – knowledge is dangerous – better lock them up and throw away the key!)

  11. Do you want me to delete one of the two identical posts? Which one do you want to remain?

    I’m sure you are aware there is a number of descriptions of the King other than being weak or part of coups. You are not being honest to yourself when you say your’s is the only logical one.

  12. Probably best to delete the Nganadeeleg one as I usually post under Hobby here – thanks.

    I honestly cannot think of any other reason apart from weakness or a part of coups – please enlighten me.

  13. actually, same two reasons go for why the LM laws are still in place and used in a draconian way against the likes of Da & Suwicha.

  14. Actually, there weren’t that many coups during his reign and he refused to recognize two of them.

    Another fallacy is to demand that the king must be an anti-coup/pro-democracy crusader. Apart from 1976 there weren’t any coups against democratic system of government – it was always about a power struggle between equally authoritarian rulers, and that goes for anti-Thaksin coup, too.

    Darunee and yours argument arise from a false dichotomy – the King had a million other reasons to endorse or reject any particular coup, democracy hadn’t even entered Thai politics until mid nineties.

    1976 was an aberration with its own causes.

  15. You haven’t negated the conclusion of weakness, or a part of it.

  16. I’m saying you can’t confine King’s reactions to coups to weak-strong or pro-anti democracy duality.

    These considerations didn’t even present themselves in those days.

  17. What?
    Are Weak/Strong/Principlles/Democracy/Conspiracy etc all new concepts never heard of before 2010?

  18. Not really, not before 1992-1997 period.

  19. Are you implying he was ignorant?

  20. I’m saying it was of no immediate concern.

  21. So you basically agree with Handley?

  22. Agree with what exactly?

  23. That you know who has impeded democracy.
    (either anti-democratic or is afraid of it)

  24. There was no democracy to impede at that time.

  25. Ever wonder why?

  26. Not really. Where do you expect it should have come from?

  27. Maybe time to read or re-read TKNS

  28. It’s not a Bible, you know, and his interpretation of HMK’s role appears to be the most contentious part of the book in the first place.

  29. Since the coup the evidence keeps mounting (in spades:)

  30. It was a coup against Thaksin, even in Handley’s view, not against democracy per se.

  31. A coup to avoid an election.
    Plus, one only needs to look at the events since to get further evidence.

  32. A coup to prevent Thaksin from running in the elections.

    And it has been a fight against Thaksin ever since, and still is.

  33. AND its clearly a fight against democracy too!
    (by not letting the people choose who they want)

  34. Democracy is a bit more that people choosing who they want. Among other things, they should agree on following certain rules first.

    Thaksin supporters changed the rules in the middle of the game, when it became clear Thaksin shouldn’t be allowed to play at all. At that point they said: “Screw the rules, we still love him”, to which the other side replied in kind: “You have no idea what we can do if WE decide to screw the rules, too”

  35. Agree about democracy, and agree that the yellow side is far worse when it comes to screwing with the rules.

    Also agree that Thaksin should never have been allowed to play (going back to the 2001 assets concealment case)

    Where we definitely disagree is regarding the double standard – you seem happy to see one side be persecuted, yet you don’t expect the same standards for the other side.

    For instance, what do you think of coup leaders roaming free, when they have done much worse than Thaksin ever did? (not only the coup)
    also PAD leaders continually evading justice regarding their government house & airport invasions.
    Democrat Party miraculously spared from dissolution, when its cleary no better than the others when it comes to corruption issues.

  36. Coup leaders had done much worse in your eyes only. They threw out Thaksin (who fully deserved it), did a mercy killing on the constitution, got the new one in place, held elections almost on time, and let PPP form the government they clearly didn’t expect.

    Democrats had never treated election rules with such contempt.

    PAD was never very far beyond civil disobedience campaign.

    From quick news scans I gathered that this week airports have been shut down in France, Greece and the UK, btw.

  37. “Democrats had never treated election rules with such contempt.”
    In your eyes only:)

    “PAD was never very far beyond civil disobedience campaign.”
    In your eyes only:)

  38. Last elections they caught a campaigner on behalf of a Democrat executive handing out free tickets to a movie.

    Youngyuth was caught openly bribing a dozen government officials to rig election campaign in an area with millions of voters. They weren’t even invited one by one.

    In previous elections TRT set up fake parties, with fake members and fake leaders, and broke into official database and falsified the official records, and no one said sorry to this day.

  39. and Democrats bribed parties to not contest the election, received an illegate 258 million baht donation, and lets not ignore Kasit & Somkiat’s links to the PAD. Korbsaks ‘irregularities’ relating to the self sufficiency project etc etc

    Face it Stan, there IS a DOUBLE STANDARD in Thailand – some are untouchabl, particularly e if they have the right cover (and color:)

  40. sorry about the typo’s

  41. Democrats booted out the dude involved in Apil 2006 elections as soon as it came to light. TRT was dissolved mainly for not even trying to correct their behavior.

    The “illegal” donation, if there ever was one, is one of the biggest Democrat worries now.

    Regardless, “double standards” excuse shouldn’t be used to defend Thaksin’s, or anybody else’s wrongdoings, it’s just an evolution of kindergarten mentality – pointing fingers in every direction to deflect the blame from himself.

    And look who is preaching! Red shirts? Did they go for any of 200+ Surayud’s neighbors on the same hill? Did they go for Alpine Golf club temple swindlers?

  42. Looks like this discussion should be put into the “never the twain shall meet” category.

    Your admission that the double standard exists is probably as close as we are ever going to get, so it’s probably a good time to end this particular conversation.

    See you around the blogs – could be an interesting few days ahead – I’m hoping for a brilliant surprise instead of more of the same:)

  43. Have you thought about the phrase itself – double standards?

    I say there’s only ONE standard – people with power, money, status, VIP patrons and connections can get preferential treatment. There’s no prejudice there – anyone who can prove his mettle can get it.

    Thaksin laments only not qualifying for it anymore.

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