Thailand: “Sondhi’s Apocalyptic Journalism”

“Newspapers are like revolvers: You keep them around so you can pull them out when it’s time to open fire.” — Julio Mario Santo Domingo, Colombian media owner; see “A Newspaper is Like a Gun”: Armed Media Monopolist No. 47

Though Limthongkul was not affiliated with the coup, he had been personally affected by the government when his television show was cancelled due to his criticism of the prime minister. –The Daily Bruin (UCLA)

On February 4 of last year, Thaksin said he would resign if His Majesty whispered in his ear. That evening, Sondhi thundered from his rally stage, “Where is the army? This talk is enough to bring [Thaksin] to the execution post.” The Nation (Bangkok)

AsiaMedia (UCLA, Los Angeles, California) on Sondhi’s ‘new time journalism.’

Unlike the Daily Bruin, AsiaMedia describe Sondhi Lithmongkul as a “media mogul” rather than a “journalist” and provides a decent capsule history of his business dealings over the years.

See also

It immediately occurs to me that Lithmongkul might well be described as a “journalist” in much the same way the late (serial coup-abetting) Roberto Marinho has been enshrined as such here in Brazil.

See also

In an on-camera interview with AsiaMedia, media mogul and anti-Thaksin activist Sondhi Limthongkul said corruption in Thailand has forced his news reporting into a journalism-activism hybrid.

A video of that interview is available on the Web site, with a transcript. There are quite a few prima facie signs of autohagiography in it.

Sondhi is the founder and owner of Manager Group, a conglomerate of media outlets including the Manager Daily newspaper, a weekly newspaper, a monthly magazine, a community radio station and Asian Satellite TV (ASTV).

Pushing the envelope.

His media outlets, said Sondhi, push the envelope of journalism in Thailand. Pervasive government control and corruption, he said, make it impossible to practice traditional news reporting. He subscribes to what he called “new time journalism,” a journalism-activism hybrid that calls for political change. One of the differences between Thai and American democracy, he said, is that media outlets in the United States cover a variety of political perspectives.

The debate over the “social-change agent” theory of journalism goes back at least to the 1960s, where it tended to be espoused by people who thought if you needed to lie to people in order to prod them into making the “right”decisions, well, then, so be it.

“Here, if you don’t like Bush, you stop watching Fox News. Instead, you maybe take a look at CNN. If you hate Bush, you read The New York Times, Washington Post. If you love Bush, you read Washington Times. But in Thailand, there’s bloody no choice. There’s only one side of the story,” Sondhi told AsiaMedia.

I do not watch CNN anymore. It has gone banana-republican on us. See

The same goes for Glenn Beck and Keith Obermann as goes for Wolf Blitzer and Neal Cavuto.

Carmen Aristegui gets a pass, for now.

“We are the only network which asks ‘why’ and once we asked a lot of ‘whys,’ we’ve been bullied,” he said. “[The government] sues us in court, they try to close down the station, they instruct the Communications Authority of Thailand — which controls the Internet — to have the Internet company to shut us down.”

The similarities to the martyrdom narratives of Diogo Mainardi and Marcel Granier are eerie, don’t you think? [Cue spooky theremin music, and see also]

Sondhi has faced considerable hurdles in his business and his political crusades. He declared bankruptcy after the 1997 Asian financial crisis and Manager Group went into serious debt.

Why did the group go bankrupt?

He said he learned the “hard way” by overcoming three years of bankruptcy and facing endless criticism, but he strongly believes that the people “love to hear the truth.” Thaksin had destroyed the commercial viability of media outlets, Sondhi said, but ASTV fans are not easily duped by political figures’ statements.

Endless criticism for what?

“If you don’t stick to your principles, you’ll be dead on arrival,” he told the UCLA audience.

Libel lawsuits:

This year, Sondhi has faced many lawsuits, including charges of defamation and lèse majesté. In May, the Manager Daily newspaper published a series of articles claiming that Thaksin and former student leaders met in Finland in 1999 and plotted to abolish Thailand’s monarchy and create a republic similar to western countries’. Thaksin and his administration vehemently denied these accusations and sued Sondhi for defamation.

Was that charge true? Would it have been illegal to propose? (There are proposals afoot in Spain to the effect that the transitional post-Franco constitutional monarchy has run its course. Are such propsals, technically speaking, seditious under Spanish law?)

Is there good evidence for the claim?

Does Sondhi have the right to truth as a defense?

Now, Manager Group faces new adversity while martial law remains in effect: “We are still the only media group defying martial law,” Sondhi said.

Defy martial law? The flagship publication stopped printing on August 31 of this year.

Addressing a rally calling for the ouster of the prime minister last year, Sondhi screamed for the generalissimos to rise from the barracks and purify the nation of demonic, Hitlerian evil”

On February 4 of last year, Thaksin said he would resign if His Majesty whispered in his ear. That evening, Sondhi thundered from his rally stage, “Where is the army? This talk is enough to bring [Thaksin] to the execution post.” The Nation (Bangkok)

Take the fucker out and shoot him. He advocated the violent overthrow of the government and now he “defies martial law.”

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Gratuitious argumentum ad Nazium (creative synergies with Buddhist visions of Hell): Anti-Thaksin rally, March 2006

You know what this all reminds me? Dick Morris and his “The PRD candidate is a danger to Mexico” campaign. Which he has publicly assumed authorship of.

See

One of the charges against Thaksin — I still have only vague information on this — is that he scandalously hired some sort of U.S. political consultant or K Street lobbyist. Did the PAD Thai hire some of their own? Who gets NED money in Thailand, anyway?

Is Sondhi starting to experience the sort of blowback that Carlos Lacerda experienced in the 1960s? Global Voices Online cites anti-Thaksin bloggers who seem to be complaining of such blowback.

The Lost Boy describes how the ruling Council for National Security (CNS) in Thailand is “playing into Thaksin’s hands“. The authorities closed three radio stations last week after they featured Thaksin calling in from his current home in England. “What has happened now is that all community radio stations are being closely monitored, and so we can expect any that steps out of line, in the eyes of the CNS, to be closed down immediately. Can’t the CNS see that this will only lead to resentment?”

The Brook Bros. Riot Squad and Bloggers for Dean gang at Globo Voices Online is apparently rooting for that coup d’etat to turn out well. Historical precedents according to which such things seldom do turn out well be damned. The Internet, after all, has changed everything!

The generalissimos just faced a general election and apparently got thumped — although weirdly, all the news coverage omits the raw vote and only reports on the number of federal legislators elected for each party, so you cannot really get a good handle on how thumped they got. Turnout was reportedly on the order of 70%.

On the eve of the vote, the rump legislature authorized discretionary emergency powers for the generalissimos, including arrest without showing cause and the suspension of habeas corpus.

“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.”

Is anyone translating The Manager Times from Thai to English or some NMM-accessible Romance language (Catalán, say, or Walloon), so we can get a handle on what, exactly, is being aired and written that has attracted these libel suits?


Seizing of the Nanking Palace.” See also “Spontaneous Joy as the Free Iraqi Forces Seize Firdaus Square” and “A grass-roots groundswell of podcasters rise up to bum rush Billboard Magazine!”

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