Thursday, May 14, 2009

Deconstructing Tulsathit Taptim: I'm a Thai Reporter; Truth is Irrelevent

The Nation:

What's interesting, though, is how the partisans treat the respective scenarios. If you are pro-Abhisit, you tend to believe he was in the car, but you wouldn't lose sleep if there was evidence that he was in fact hiding somewhere else. If you are pro-red, of course, the ambush was staged - but if government politicians had died, it would have been a revolution going out of control.

And what if Abhisit wasn't in the car but the red shirts attacked it in the belief that he was? Does that make their whole action less heinous?

On the other hand, if he was in the car but the attack was staged, does this mean the red shirts "lied" to the public by claiming he wasn't in it?

Whatever the truth is, the "ambush" was an outgrowth of a symptom that has never been properly treated. It won't do either side any good to provoke a debate on something that senseless. After all, if people had cared about right and wrong, the controversial incident would not have happened in the first place.

We should let bygones be bygones; not that we can do anything about them, though. What matters is how we can haul ourselves up after sinking that low. Finding out how the attack was carried out will not help, as it was an act executed at the height of a nasty battle in which many dirty tactics were employed. Only when we can answer the question "why" it happened will there be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Some say that Thais were lucky, reasoning that with the military and police split and seeming ready to switch allegiance - while shadowy elements were lurking in the background - last month could have easily been the most tragic period in our modern political history. If we really were that fortunate, the question is whether we realise it.

Maybe it's time we ignored all the intrigues. Of course, it's fascinating to discuss who planted the "car bomb" purportedly intended to kill Thaksin Shinawatra, or who wanted to assassinate his arch-rival Sondhi Limthongkul, or whether or not Abhisit was in that black Mercedes, but political mysteries in Thailand are mostly meant to exploit, not puzzle, us. If you want some fun putting together the jigsaw pieces, fine, but never fall into the trap by taking these things too seriously.

I read something like this and wonder why the hell Tulsie is even a journalist.

I have been blogging for two and a half years now and it never ceases to amaze how The Nation's columnists ignore the basic tenets of journalism: Who, what, why, when and where.

They can't even get that right.
There isn't even a pretense of real journalism.

Instead, they live in the world of pontificating and conspiracy theory development based on asking questions that they are either too lazy or too incompetent to answer by doing basic reporting.

Uh, maybe it is important to find out what the facts, so people know the truth as it exists.

Cognitive dissonance exists, indeed, but that is no excuse for a major metropolitan newspaper to just throw up its hands in resignation and leave important questions unanswered.

Let's see: Was there an assassination attempt on the prime minister or was there a conspiracy to frame the Reds?

Tulsie doesn't think political assassinations of major figures are major stories. Anywhere else in the civilized world this would be a major story. You decide.


Anonymous said...


as usually enjoying your smashing of these unprincipled morons.
(somehow Sopon keeps quite lately, huh ?)

I think the following pretty much summs up Tulsie's (and Nation's) style :

"Yellow journalism is a type of journalism that downplays legitimate news in favor of eye-catching headlines that sell more newspapers. It may feature exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, sensationalism, or unprofessional practices by news media organizations or journalists...

By extension the term is used today as a pejorative to decry any journalism that treats news in an unprofessional or unethical fashion, such as systematic political bias. Yellow Journalism can also be the practice of over-dramatizing events."

tom said...

I got very annoyed with this and wrote to the Nation. Probably won't see the light of day there so I'll add it to your post. I'm new to bloogging and have tried to post this before. I don't think it got through by apologies if I'm repeating myself.

I do not know if this letter will be published but I hope that if is not it can be directed to Tulsathit Tapthim to remind him why he became a journalist. I presume that one of the reasons he became a journalist was because he wanted to tell people what was happening in the world –the good, the bad and the ugly. This is not an easy task but it is a necessary and honourable one. I’m sorry to see a leading journalist on a major newspaper admit that it’s not important to find out the truth about the presumed assassination attempt on Abhisit. I know that journalists become cynical and jaded and defeated by the immensity of their job but I have never read such an open and complete admission of defeat as I did in Tulsathit’s opinion piece. (‘Was the PM in that Mercedes? Who cares anyway?” May 13, 2009”)

“It had been a war with no rules all along, and that moment was no different, so what's the use of whining or trying to pinpoint who did what or who was where? We have abused so many principles for such a long time that anyone who cries foul will end up a sad joke.”

When he says “we have abused so many principles” I think he must be talking about the journalistic coverage of Thai politics as well as the behavior of the Thai people. The sad joke is his journalism.

The topic for Tulsathit’s article was whether or not the Prime Minister was in a certain car at a certain time. On the night in question, the Prime Minister either was or was not in a car, this car was attacked by either redshirts or people posing as redshirts. I do not know what happened. I depend on people like Tulsathit to present the facts and evidence about what happened. That is their job. Who, what, when, where, how, and then maybe we can figure out why.

What are the ramifications of this event? If the Prime Minister was not in the car, then he is a liar and should not be trusted. If the Prime Minister was in the car, then Jatuporn is a liar and should not be trusted. This will not solve all the problem of Thai politics but it will give us some clues and some insights and some basis for the opinions we form.
Tulsathit argues that truth is irrelevant, that facts do not matter, that any opinion is valid, that we can only form ideological responses to these questions and proposes that therefore we should stop asking them.

“There are two contrasting stories, so take your pick. The first one has Abhisit narrowly escaping a potentially fatal ambush that could have paved the way for bloody anarchy and a possible power shift. The other has the "ambush" either completely "staged" or made to look much more terrible by infiltrators in order to discredit the red shirts and justify a subsequent crackdown.”
He then goes on to argue that the truth doesn’t matter. The reds will believe one thing, the yellows another. Maybe so. But both stories according to Tulasathit are bad stories because for the “neutrals” they are not “comforting”. I’m not exactly neutral but I am not looking for comfort; I am looking for the nearest approximation to truth I can get. If Tulsathit wants to write stories that make us feel “better”, he should give up journalism and turn his hand to writing fairytales for children where they all live happily ever after. He is not writing for adults.

Tulsathit says we should forget about everything, “let bygones be bygones”, truth is unimportant. Feeling nice is more important. Forgetting about everything for the sake of temporary comfort is precisely what has lead Thailand to this impasse - forget about corruption, forget about Tak Bai, forget about the Rohingyas forget about April 2009, forget about the siege of government house and the airports, forget about the massacres of 1973, 1976, and 1992, forget about this general’s crimes, forget about that politician’s corruption. Live in a lovely childish fantasy world.

The great Czech novelist Milan Kundera wrote of the way the Soviets airbrushed unwelcome events and unwelcome people out of history to keep their people, tame, ignorant and happy. He said, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

It is the journalist’s job to help us remember. Tulsathit has forgotten this.

Tom Hoy