Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Deconstructing Tulsathit: More YouTube Talk


Net's cheap and easy freedoms put values to the test

The Nation

Tulsathit Taptim

"F*** JC! He got off easy! A day on the cross, a weekend in hell, and all the hallelujahs of the legioned angels for eternity! Try seven years in f***in' Otisville, J!"

I was arranging my thoughts on how to rebut YouTube's questionable faith in freedom of expression when the above speech, uttered so convincingly by Edward Norton in the "25th Hour", assaulted my eardrums and in the process left my prepared points of argument in disarray. As a non-believer, it's encouraging to hear such a provocative statement about Jesus Christ coming from a superpower nation that generally worships God.

What if that could be possible in Thailand? It will never be possible, because Thais are really not Buddhists, because a Buddhist sees the dhamma, observes the absurdity, and then goes on. And that is how most rational people, from the East and West, operate. It is the insecure, the fanatics and true believers who can't accept anybody attacking or questioning their sacred cows.

I feel sorry for the believers. Or should I? The suggestion that their faith and beliefs are the mere result of the best and most elaborate hoax in the history of mankind surely could upset so many, but it would also inadvertently give strength to the faithful. The point is that no idea can stand, or should stand, unchallenged. We think, therefore we are.

Why feel sorry for irrational fanatics and true believers? Why is Tulsie taking a stand for liberal thought when he doesn't advocate in action?

Values have to be tested and tried. And also challenged and defended, of course. The controversial YouTube video clip, no matter how malicious the intent behind it, has opened a Pandora's box. The ongoing episode raises a lot of questions - about freedom and responsibility, about cultural sensitivity, about the rights of one person against those of millions, and about how far we should go to defend our values and how much we should let our values be tested for their own good.

Most of those are stupid loaded questions. What the question should be is how could such a stupid thing like a lame video cause such an outcry, especially when most Thais will never see it, don't have to look it and won't be offended by it if they choose to ignore it.

Indeed, the offense to the monarchy doesn't exist except in the minds of those who choose to make the video offensive.

We now know YouTube's values. Its owners won't tolerate footage of nipples and penises, and "pornographic" uploads have been removed on the grounds that they fall outside of the "community" norm. Yet a spokesperson for the website said that postings that ridicule or offend sacred figures revered by millions "do not violate our policies".

Why should a private company in a foreign country be responsible for offending royalists when it wasn't even responsible for uploading the video? The anger is misplaced. YouTube did nothing wrong, yet it gets blamed for the act of an uploader. YouTube gets blamed for being culturally insensitive for a cultural offense it didn't commit. That would be like the US government holding a Thai company responsible for the actions of one its customers

Also, Thais had the freedom to go to the website to voice their complaints to the uploader. But instead of entering into a dialogue with the uploader, Thais chose to punish YouTube by censoring it and millions of people in Thailand who like to visit YouTube.

YouTube has the right to defend its principles, and so do Thais who consider anti-monarchy postings more obscene than pornography. "Freedom" tests everyone's tolerance, and freedom exercised without sensitivity or responsibility, or with malice, presents the biggest challenge of all.

YouTube is defending the right to host a controversial uploaded video on its own fucking website. Unless YouTube is breaking the law, it shouldn't have to justify itself to anybody.

These editors at The Nation are far more offensive to the monarchy, to liberal values, to Thai values, to a progressive Thailand than any stupid insignificant video on YouTube. I don't think The Nation is sensitive to the problems of Thais or handles it responsibilities as a news outlet seriously. In fact, I think The Nation is contributing to the destruction of Thailand. I make this clear every day. But I don' complain to the government to shut it down and I don't advocate it being censored because of its offensive behavior. Instead, I point out in the best way I can why I think The Nation is a horrible newspaper and state the reasons why I think it is a destructive force in Thai society. My opinion is one of many different opinions. It makes a difference or it doesn't. Some may like me, some may be offended by me. Frankly, I don't care. But if somebody challenges my views and tries to convince me that I am wrong, I will listen, because the possibility exists that I could learn something from the exchange.

When it comes to the monarchy, why are people so afraid? If people are true believers and are so enthralled by their love of the king, then nothing should be able to shake those beliefs and that love. They should be unflappable. And for these editors at The Nation to even argue that a stupid video that nobody has watched is offensive to the monarchy when King Bumibol probably could give two shits about it says more about the shaky feelings of these hysterical royalists than it does about the offender.

Thai authorities lost this battle the minute the controversial video clip was uploaded. Ignoring it would have provoked a major local uproar, so they chose to block the website, playing nicely into the hands of those waiting to say, "See? This is what dictatorial rulers do." The spiritual link between Thais and the beloved King doesn't matter because nearly every debate on Net freedom has ended in a victory for the freedoms of the anonymous. "You" was Time's Person of the Year for 2006 and this powerful tide of democratisation is sweeping everything else aside.

The problem is deeper. Most Thais are incapable of having a rational discussion about the monarchy because of decades of systematic brainwashing. And because the monarchy is a taboo topic, there will be some people who resist being stifled. In Thailand, Thais say nasty things about the monarchy all the time. I think I have heard horrible things about every member of the royal family with the exception of Princess Sirindhorn. What is so ironic about this supposed outrage about a YouTube video is that those who are outraged about it have probably at one time or another said something nasty about the monarchy or a member of the royal family.

How many have heard about the King killing his brother, or the Queen's drug problems, or Princess Ubolratana's nasty divorce, or the Crown Prince's anger problem, or Princess Chulabhorn's plagiarism? Guess what? Thais gossip about these things all the time. How are these nasty things said about the royal family in Thailand any different than the YouTube video?

The Internet gives freedom a new meaning. It's a freedom that you don't have to fight for and the fact that this freedom comes cheap and easy may help explain how it is being used. The person who posted the contentious video clip would cry foul about his or her rights being violated had it been removed, and this voice, as far as the global community is concerned, would be louder than that of millions of Thais whose right to worship their King was insulted.

Considering what I wrote above, doesn' Tulsie sound like a sanctimonious prick? He knows the gossip just as much as I do. But here he goes on with his little disgusting charade.

I am going to go a little further. This notion of worshiping the king is nothing but a lie.

Yet faith can either be undermined or reinforced under these circumstances. God has been questioned, mocked, scrutinised or provoked in numerous works of modern art. He still holds sway, despite people like me, and flourishing "freedoms". But is he "the same" as 2000 years ago? Absolutely not.

What is the point of this statement? God has been rigorously attacked and defended for a couple thousand years. We have literally millions of pages of texts from many sides of the God debate that have become the foundation of western religion and philosophy. The difference between the West and Thailand is that Thailand is afraid to have sensible debates about the monarchy at all, not because they love and respect the monarchy, but because they are too intellectually weak to defend it.

Why make an argument for or against the monarchy when some hypocritical asshole in the military or bureaucracy who only loves the monarchy as a pretense can make up your mind for you?

This is a new era and at the end of the day nobody escapes scrutiny and contempt. All institutions and entities need to flirt with chaos and threats at times in order to remain strong. I guess all we can do is let the flaws and merits of freedom wrestle in a soul-searching fight and move on. Thais love and want to protect His Majesty the King of their own free will, and this fact alone will ensure their values can withstand the assaults. As for YouTube, the controversy has brought its noble founding principles into question.

Tulsie tries to suck us in with his reasonableness. But, in fact, he is being an asshole. Thais are not allowed to defend the monarchy of their own free will. And this is at the crux of the YouTube controversy.

As for YouTube, it is nothing but a medium for somebody else's expression against the monarchy. Tulsie and the rest of the columnists don't seem to get this.

Freedom is nothing without responsibility. Did the YouTube poster "exercise" freedom or "exploit" it?

The uploader exercised freedom on YouTube because there is no freedom in Thailand.

Let's just hope the video-clip incident is a learning curve, because if it's a precedent-setter this much-proclaimed stage for global "convergence" may degenerate into just a weird kind of war-zone. And we will be left saying the same thing as the Norton character in "25th Hour". After lambasting everyone including Jesus Christ to vent his anger, he cools down and admits: "No. No, **** you, Montgomery Brogan [himself]. You had it all, and you threw it away, you dumb ****!"

These columnists don't get that this has nothing to with YouTube or globalization.

The problem is that Thailand is not a free country. People are not allowed to express themselves. The internet is nothing but a medium for communication. The royalists don't want to confront the lack of freedom in Thailand or discuss the political role of the monarchy in public.
In other words, the columnists at The Nation, the militarists, the bureaucrats want to control the information regarding Thailand and the monarchy. This is obvious. Look at who owns and controls communication in Thailand right now.

These folks are incapable of accepting political expression that deviates from the party line because they know that expression will be directed at them and their flimsy authority.

So, what this is all about is not love and respect for the monarchy, but rather about sustaining those methods of control that sustain certain power structures in Thailand.

To be continued


Anonymous said...

Boy, somebody must have buggered you HARD.

If you don't like What is going on in Thailand, too bad.

If you're in Thailand, get out.

If you're not in Thailand, stay out.

In any even, get over it AND yoursel. You're not ALL that.

Go back to sleep.


Anonymous said...

Fonzi, I and many others who read your blog agree with your points of view and are happy to read it. Nevermind "Jess" and his well presented case for you to "get out". :)

Anonymous said...

Right. Many others read this blog. Right.

Take a look around. There are some 10 comments posted on this blog in the last week. Two of them were the Fonz', three of them were mine.


Fonzi said...


To answer you question:

I see other options other than getting out and resignation.

I don't make political judgments or life decisions based on what I like and don't like.

Thanks for stopping by and I appreciate that you use a name that I can distinguish you with from the other anonymous users.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jess - instead of just insulting Fonzi and his (excellently presented and argued) blog, why don't you respond intelligently to the issues he raises. I am sure he would have no problem with people disagreeing with him if they did so in an articulate manner.

I don't know who u are or where u are from, but u are acting like so many of those stupid right wing nationalist robots in this country, who when faced with something they don't like resort to insults and cries of 'get the hell out of my country', rather than trying to respond rationally and make a reasoned argument for their case.


Anonymous said...

Too many careless happy-faced farangs/ Thais who are always keen to live 'sabai sabai' just by eating, sleeping, shitting, and paying tax.

Keep bashing Nation/Post fonzi. You're doing a good job.

ps. visited your blog a few days ago. I was annon who wrote you partially misread Thai nationalism-- for a clarification, I do hold a Thai passport!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jess, would you like some champange?

Anonymous said...

Fonzi. In any crowd of foreigners in Thailand, there is always at least one with stars in his/her eyes and his/her head up his/her bum. For these people, staying in a place and trying to make sensible comment or change is anathema. These are the life-long backpackers. They stay long enough to see through the glitz and then move on in a fug of disillusionment, wondering why they never seem to have anything. Rolling stones. If he doesnt like what you write, I doubt there is anyone forcing him to read it. Take no notice, you are doing a worthwhile job in a professional manner.

Even if you do seem to like Thaksin a bit more than I do.


Fonzi said...


Thanks for the comments.

I have never been a Thaksin supporter and I don't like him personally.

My stance is that he was the legal prime minister, and regardless of my personal feelings for him, he should have remained PM unless he resigned or was legally ousted.

The coup was not necessary and there was justification for it, considering that after six months the current government has not prosecuted him for any crimes.

Anonymous said...

Everyone protecting Thaksin says the same thing _ I don't like him and I couldn't wait to see him ousted through legitimate means blah blah. These people never have proof, like their previous writings or whatever that show they abhorred what Thaksin did to Thailand. They are just pro-Thaksin and ironically are too ashamed to defend themselves about it.

Steven Gerrard

Anonymous said...

Wow , this is a blogger with a cause. How much do you cost?