Rectification of names

Rectification of names is an ancient Confucian doctrine that, in essence, is calling a spade a spade, only applied to societies. Confucius believed that people masquerading as something else would eventually lead to social disharmony, and, in order for society to succeed, people declaring themselves as such and such should behave accordingly. No bullshitting, so to speak.

It’s what keeps red shirts together here – they know who Thaksin is, for example, who are his favourites, who represents him or anyone else and so on. Politicians can call themselves this and that but, ultimately, people know where their power comes from, what family they belong and whether they have their clan support or not. Samak declaring himself Thaksin’s proxy was a bold move on the surface but in reality he was just practicing “rectification of names”, and everybody knew what the deal was anyway.

Lately there has been a parade of Thaksin proxy wannabes and PTP found itself in turmoil because no one knew who the real proxy was. Finally Thaksin himself had to step in and tell everyone to wait for his decision and so PTP members shouldn’t believe anyone pretending to have any special powers. Rectification of names again.

Well, the world has progressed since Confucius times, he was talking about father and son, the rules and servants. Life wasn’t so complicated in those days. Now we have a whole bunch of new phenomena that requires careful consideration.

So, I have given it a long thought and finally I gave up on things like “benefit of doubt” and possibilities that there is something more than meets the eye. Let’s call a spade a spade.

The problem is that I still don’t know what a proper name should be, for example, for a popular movement that genuinely believes that the cream of the society is rotten and it needs change, that the elites have abused their positions for too long and they must answer to the public, that power and wealth should be returned to people.

What label to put on this movement, which is at the same time bankrolled by the richest segment of the population and led by exactly the same people the movement is rallying against. Nuts?

Nothing else, even remotely respectful, comes to mind. Idiots make mistakes but they are hardly dangerous, the worst kind are the idiots who think they are actually educated and who feel entitled, and are willing to impose their mistakes on you, oblivious to any sense or reason.

This week they will come out and make themselves heard, at midterm American elections.

I was talking about the Tea Party, of course.

If the supposedly better educated Americans can be so hopelessly deceived, I completely gave up on our local red shirts.

It all makes sense, though, if you treat them as Astrorurf – a brand name for artificial grass carpets, artificial grassroots.

Both movements have members really buying into their causes, that’s a fact. Over in the States they are angry at the big and inefficient government, over here they blame the elites instead. They are angry at the elites in the US, too:”The elite’s fear and loathing of the tea party movement is rooted in the recognition that the real change is only now coming,” – Tony Blankley. I’m sure you can find a lot more quotes in the same vein.

This kind of rhetoric is all too familiar.

The Astroturf creators played out on a whole sleigh of these largely dormant sentiments to stir up a real revolution against their current enemies. They saw the opportunity to use the useful idiots to their own ends and they seized it.

In both cases the movements still work for the ultimate benefit of the richest class and corporations. Over in the US they already control the country and, most importantly, the general population, and the government is the only entity that dares to stand in their way, so it must go. Here in Thailand the situation is very similar, the government and the elites stand in the way of Thaksin’s return.

What is truly remarkable, though, is the ability of those rich cats to control population minds, to impose their ideas and to convince the ordinary folks to even act against their self-interest. They have proved beyond any doubt that propaganda pays. For people who made fortunes by advertising their products, shift to political propaganda was seamless and it is pretty much an established fact of life in the West – politicians are nothing but products who live by the rules of marketing, on all sides.

The traditional concept of “democracy” has become meaningless – all we see is farming voters, developing and nurturing them and weeding out any troublemakers. And then out comes the ultimate product of genetic engineering – Tea Party like grass roots movements that completely identify themselves with corporate agendas.

About a month ago one of their millionaire leaders conceived a donation campaign, asking people to come online and give $10 to American Chamber of Commerce. That was a cruel joke – the board of that organization probably has a lot more money than all these misguided donors combined – Pfizer, Conaco, Lokheed Martin, JP Morgan, Rolls Royce… Poor souls still came out in force and crashed Chamber’s servers. Idiots.

Over here we have red shirts collecting money for the red cause, too. Let’s all help Thaksin come back and establish democracy. Duh.

For those who insist that reds have moved beyond Thaksin – just a couple of weeks ago he personally told PTP meeting that he would direct their election strategy, set up the platform and select the PM candidate. PTP resolved that bringing back Thaksin would be their major issue. As for reds – they will be given the opportunity to run in elections if PTP doesn’t have strong candidates themselves. Just like republicans in the US where they sport quite a few Tea Party candidates on the ballots.

Anyway, debating the merits of either Tea Party of Reds is a waste of time. There’s nothing left to prove there.

So let’s move on.

Of a particular interest in this regard are the PR people who manage the movement. Over in the US it’s all republican machinery through and through. Over here the masterminds stay in shade, with the exception of Amsterdam who represents red shirts internationally. Oh, hold on, officially he is paid by Thaksin, but, of course, there’s no practical difference.

He claims he is not in for the money (duh!), that he is in for the cause. Well, I, for one, believe him, to a degree. I believe he fully supports the cause – corporations and rich people should rule the world. He also supports the modern day methods of slavery – dragging people into electoral process that falls under full control of big money.

A few months ago Amsterdam wrote about “state capture” where a few privileged individuals make all the important decisions while the general public is left with the image of democracy and a notion that they really matter. Amsterdam learned all about it while working in Russia, for one of those privileged few who fell from grace, so he had access to the inside knowledge of how it works. Fine, don’t want to argue about that, but, look at the free world and tell me there’s no “state capture” there.

Take some most important decisions of the past decade and tell me people were consulted. Financial bailouts – no. People were just told that it was necessary, there was no debate. Iraq war – no, people were not asked, they were brainwashed to believe that it was for the right cause. Just these two decisions benefited the corporations to the tune of trillions of dollars. People were left to fight for crumbs like medicare instead, something they should be entitled to anyway, and they were reduced to fighting amongst themselves.

So yeah, I believe Amsterdam fully buys into this kind of democracy – protecting corporate grip on the world and “liberal democracy” as an instrument. He made a career out of that already. Thanks to his alphabetical advantage he is at the top of major donors of Chatham House, one of the most influential European think tanks supported by a long list of biggest corporations. Who is stupid enough to believe their research supports transfer of wealth and power to the poor?

Another famous freedom fighter like that is George Soros. Here in Thailand he was blamed for the 1997 crisis. Eventually people realized that they brought it upon themselves and left the sheep unprotected and Soros just did what the wolves should naturally do – slaughter as much as possible. What I can’t understand is how this wolf, who brought so much destruction and suffering to millions of families, claims to be world biggest human rights campaigner, bankrolling Human Rights Watch.

Last article about him I read was directed at South America’s human rights abusers. Coincidentally it was directed strictly at the governments that fell out of favor with Wester world order – Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil etc. I’m sure they deserved some of the blame but I can’t help myself to think that the underlying reason for his attacks is to put them back in line and pay their dues.

When in comes to Thailand the concern is not so pronounced but it’s still there. Remember when Thais decided to produce generic drugs themselves? In no time a big name PR company came out with full page adverts condemning the move. Then there was talk about proxy ownership – another stick to stir up the hornet’s nest. Thais managed to escape major wrath but the apprehension of possible consequences was palpable.

Another interesting aspect is New Mandala’s campaign on the internet. Mandala is not just a fancy asian word, it’s distribution of power, the power pyramid, and the relationships between various players and parts. Traditionally in Thailand it culminates at the King at the top who answers to Gods but in the old days Thailand was answerable to China, too.

The problem with this arrangement is that modern corporations don’t have a major say, they are granted permissions but not ultimate control, and “liberal democracy” has no place in it either, hence the need for New Mandala. New power center should be the West and its values and practices, its freedoms and elections.

Unfortunately, people over at New Mandala are not sophisticated enough to slip these ideas without challenging the traditional structure. Americans were far more skillful at that for the last part of the 20th century. New Mandala people instead went into a full attack mode, centering on Thai monarchy and going after elites in general.

For a while I thought I should give them a shot and see if there’s anything more behind their project – after all they all claim to support freedom of speech and look so nice and friendly.

Well, that didn’t last long. Those who read this blog surely remember “What you don’t see on New Mandala” entry a year ago. That had quite an effect on them as they had to admit to some sort of moderation. At first they said they censored my posts because I was talking too much. I thought I’d comply and they’d let me comment there. Nah, didn’t work.

They simply won’t allow anything that undermines their agenda of imposing democracy on uncivilized Thai natives. They allow dissent about as much as Christian preachers talk about atheism – it’s fine to talk about it as long as it stays defeated. They need it there to ridicule it, not to consider it with an open mind.

When they eventually stopped accepting any of my posts on New Mandala this time (it was back in August) there was public campaign to weed out anyone suspected of being me. “Are you StanGin disguise?” was the popular question there for a while.

There was this one comment, about Amsterdam’s White Paper, where, after reasoning that it’s not worth reading as it would contain to many lies and half truths by definition, I gave it a shot and right there, in the very first paragraph, Amsterdam stated that at the time of the coup Thaksin was properly and democratically elected, apparently as the winner of 2006 elections.

As soon as I pointed out that gross inaccuracy the hell broke loose and no one else but Andrew Walker himself stepped in and said that he won’t allow anymore “pointless” debates with Stan G.

In a way he was right – all debates on New Mandala are pointless, as someone noticed in another thread that was labeled as a great discussion – where’s the discussion, you all agree with each other?

I was thinking about writing “What you don’t see on New Mandala part 2” and include some of the banned posts but I don’t see the point – they were banned for advocating a different point of view. Interestingly, the original premise of New Mandala was to facilitate new looks at Thailand and South East Asia, or something alone those lines. Do they believe in it? I think they do, they just don’t realize they don’t live by it anymore.

I don’t believe they notice how incredibly condescending and insensitive they are to Asians. There was this strange post of some photoshopped work of some south asian woman carrying a huge can of Coke on her head and a huge hamburger in her hand. All the comments were about asking permission to use the image in some classes, but who they were asking permission from? The dude who photoshopped this poor woman? Not a single soul paused and thought that the woman in the picture has a name and a family and pride in her way of life. She was just an object that doesn’t matter to them, South East Asia scholars.

Speaking of their scholars – about a year ago they had a series of video interviews on Thai political situation. The last episode was particularly telling. Three of their students started the talk by saying they don’t know what was going on with red protests because of the censorship.

Well, the red protests were probably the best covered violent protest in human history. There were hundreds of journalists covering everything from every possible angle. Hundreds of people with mobile phones snapping pictures and videos. There were hours and hours of video footage on Youtube. As soon as something had become the point of interest, some one would come up with video evidence for it. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people online discussing every possible turn.

And there they were, three ANU students, claiming ignorance due to censorship. No, it’s not censorship, it’s lobotomy they’ve undergone while studying there. They just have to repeat this familiar NM party line. Funny thing, I believe they were also taught that they were independent and critical thinkers.

I believe Nick and Andrew are also fully convinced that they are fair and open minded and independent and what not – they themselves had been conditioned this way. They can’t step out of this box – they don’t even notice the box exists, and that’s their ultimate failure as intellectuals.

Recently Walker has got captivated by various graphs. God knows how many of them were completely meaningless, only exposing his ignorance on the matter. Not that there were wrong, but there was simply too much information that was missing that no intelligent person would dare to come up with any definite conclusions. Many people pointed various gaps, sometimes he just lashed at them, sometimes he would simply move on and produce another useless graph.

With that kind of “academic” work I’m not surprised that he pushes the brand of democracy that doesn’t stand a chance in any proper university. On the other hand, if universities are so progressive and anti big money, why doesn’t it translate into real leadership? I guess once people outgrow their idealism they decide to partake rather than fight.

Amsterdam started out with Marxism himself. Now he makes a living off the biggest capitalists. Our local revolutionaries from 70s haven’t fared much better, as they make living off Thaksin’s movement.

At least be honest and declare what you stand for. I don’t think Thailand would reject their model outright, Thais always find ways to incorporate whatever new ideas they find. As I said, Americans knew how to do that fifty years ago. Maybe they just had people a lot smarter than Walker and Farelly advising them on how to take over Thailand.

Now that Americans are on the way out, Australians would never stand a chance, not with this sorry bunch leading the effort.


Misdebating in parliament

Just checked on what Chalerm had to say during the debate today, will leave it alone for now, the subject is very juicy indeed.

I don’t know what these debates are supposed to be for. No one has ever been censured, afaik, despite having them every year. In 2003 debate Democrats tried to nail the Finance Minister for Thaksin’s Ratchada deal – nothing came out of it, the coalition voted along party lines and the subject was laid to rest until independent investigators took the case to the court after the coup (independent of Thaksin, mind you).

Still, a good show for either side can certainly make a lot of difference, even though not through the parliamentary means. After 2005 debate that was centered on airport scanner scandal Thaksin had to remove Suriya from Transport Minister post, the public confidence in TRT government was severy shaken, just months after they swept 75% in the elections. Several months later Sondhi started his anti-Thaksin, anti-corruption shows and they quickly attracted thousands of people, and the rest is history, as they say.

Last year PTP brought up 2005 election campaign charges against the Democrats and the matter now is going to the court, even if the parliament didn’t acknowledge the charges, DSI and the EC did.

This year, however, the debate has lost all sense.

It’s more like a discussion board with two sides piling up youtube videos against each other. This is beyond silly, as the presenters give those anonymous, unverified videos a lot more weight than they deserve. A lot of them would simply be inadmissible in the court, I suspect, yet PTP wants to remove the Prime Minister on their strength.

As it always turns out, neither side can possibly claim a victory, they just dig up more suspicious pictures and images.

Quite often the presenters have no clue what was really going on, Phatumwanaram temple is probably the best example.

As I was following the debate on twitter some opposition MP presented a video of soldiers on BTS tracks. Suthep immediately replied that the video was taken a day later, as there was no smoke coming form Siam Paragon (?). The presenter, according to tweet translations, said the smoke was there last time he checked it but now it’s somehow gone. Several minutes later Suthep himself mistakenly attributes something to a different date. Today in the Nation the episode is reported as doubting fires at Central World, not Paragon.

A week ago Suthep claimed that the Italian journalist was killed in a grenade blast, side by side with a soldier. He was clearly wrong, probably confusing the Italian with another reporter, a Canadian.

How can anyone trust anything said by these people?

What qualifications do they have to perform this ridiculous investigation? How are they better equipped than your average Internet user like you or me?

I, for one, would NOT recommend any real world action based on whatever arguments I present here. I would need a real world proof, not some undated, possibly doctored pictures and videos somewhere on the Internet.

I don’t know who shot all those people at the temple, it could have been soldiers, but, if you want to prove it, you need to find what soldiers they were, what unit, under whose command, what was their tactical goal, what were their orders, rules of engagement, when did they move to the area, how long they stayed, what they have been doing all this time, why they were shooting inside the temple and so on.

In other words, you need a real investigation, summoning real witnesses and collecting real evidence, not some half arsed attempt to search the Internet for “truth”.

Same goes for a lot of other “evidence” that the army was shooting innocent people, especially on the first day of Rajprasong blockade when reds on the outside tried to break in trough the army lines by all means possible.

There was this red dude who decided to play with his laser pointer and flash it on the army positions.

WTF!?! You just don’t play this kind of games, pretending to be a spotter for grenade launchers, like on April 10.

He was shot in the head by a sniper right there and then. Was he innocent? Terminally so.

In another case reds commandeered a truck, don’t know what they tried to do, earlier they have tried to ram trucks and buses at army lines. Anyway, soldiers opened fire, shot the tires.

Was is a warning enough for red shirts? One of them got the point and refused to drive the truck any further. Another volunteered, as soon as he got behind the wheel he was shot dead. Was it soldiers’ fault? Really?

Sometime later, in the same area, in front of the same group of soldiers (afaik) reds tried to set up a tire barricade. Didn’t they get the message yet? Did they need any more warnings? What was the barricade there for if not to attack the troops with molotovs, among other things, or what if it was manned by M70 carrying types, with troops well within the firing range?

How did these red expect NOT to get shot there?

I’m not sure MY version of what happened there is correct, far from it. BUT, it could have been so, even more likely than setting up a peaceful protest site for a little bit of flag waiving, and a water truck was needed there to provide showers.

Nevermind the general ignorance of how things actually developed over these days, the underlying premise of the censure debate, that Abhisit and Suthep should be held responsible, is completely beyond me.

They didn’t order troops to shoot, they weren’t there, up until now they still have no idea what happened at the temple, for example.

Why should they be held responsible for some unidentified soldiers breaking their rules of engagement, or even for some commanders ordering their troops to do so? How’s that Abhisit’s fault?

So far there’s not a shred of evidence to suggest the killings at the temple could be traced back to Abhisit, not even a suggestion this connection exist.

Ok, some could say that Abhisit could have expected that engaging the army would result in innocent casualties. But so did Jatuporn and all the other red leaders. I’m referring to Jatuporn’s speech today where he said “How can I hire people to die? Can I hire Suthep for this job?”

Maybe he didn’t hire people to die, but reds’ determination to fight the army and die for the cause is well documented. How can red leaders deny responsibility for setting this mindset among their followers?

Another point that Abhisit mentioned yesterday once but which is generally overlooked – the army didn’t even try to disperse the rally, they set the blockade outside the perimeter and fought off the attacking reds, and, on May 19, they only break through Saladaeng barricade and secured Ratchadamri and Lumpini park only up to Sarasin intersection, well away from the red stage.

It just doesn’t go well with “Abhisit sent the army to kill protesters” accusation.

Ok, back to Chalerm “bomb” – he decided to grill Kasit for suggesting the society needs to talk about taboo subject like monarchy!

“We including Thaksin & his family have never considered les majesty law as an obstacle like Kasit does.”

There you go.

Where is Hobby with his undying support for the red cause AND for reforming LM laws? Where does the entire New Mandala brigade stand on this one?

Were they batting for this Chalerm team all along?

At the start of his speech Chalerm introduced himself as Thaksin’s disciple, btw.

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.

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.