Blowback? “Uncertainty clouds future of” Sondhi’s flagship Anglophone Asian “innovation journalism” title and “this is not a strategic content alliance” Times-Mirror business partner, August 2006. Its reporting on “The Finland Plot” make us think the paper is something of a Southeast Asian Veja (Brazil).
In such a “me or them” national atmosphere, there are two extremely opposite scenarios to ponder. One is of a valiant media up against a corrupt, powerful leader who manages to twist, distort and manipulate in order to make himself look like a victim. The other involves a malicious, powerful and self-pitying media that manages to twist, distort and manipulate in a bid to overthrow a democratically elected leader while making itself look like a victim. –The Nation (Thailand), May 3, 2006.
This new strategy, he said, is also in line with the PAD’s overall goals, which are to hold rallies and get people all worked up in the name of democracy. Chamlong Srimuang said he would lead his cult of vegetarian virgins in the march. “I will march with Sondhi and then I will hold a sit-in demanding he leave the country.”
Stealth marketing harms, I argue, by degrading public discourse and undermining the public’s trust in mediated communication. Doubt that an editor has an authentic voice leads to an overgeneralization of distrust as audiences come to believe that mediated speech is inauthentic or untrue even when it is not. The law of bribery as well as public discourse theory helps to show how such distrust corrupts the kind of communicative public sphere that a democracy needs. –See “Stealth Marketing and Editorial Integrity”
Sondhi Limthongkul Makes Stunning Return, Declaring New Target: Himself : A bit of post-USENET humor from soc.culture.thai, with the following caveat:
The Nation is the Bangkok daily whose editorial page guardedly backed the coup that removed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra — “corrupt media mogul,” as The Times of London branded him — in September 2006, but now thinks better of it.
Very reminiscent of the 1960s-era Estado de S. Paulo, which called for the armed forces to depose Jango Goulart, then suffered censorship when it changed its mind, and somehow emerged from the period with the reputation of always having been a courageous champion of democracy.
Attributing the story to NOT THE NATION is a tip-off that the authors are engaged in satire and parody. That is to say, they are kidding. The following is a bit of black humor. You got that, right? Imagine this running under a caricature of Limthongkul as Alfred E. Neuman.
BANGKOK, NOVEMBER 29, 2007 – Desperate to revive the sagging fortunes of his Manager Media and to return to the spotlight during the election run-up, controversial journalist Sondhi Limthongkul branded himself a “liar” and “traitor” yesterday in a stunning press conference at his Baan Phra Athit headquarters.
Pravda (Russia) meanwhile, reports that Thaksin will be arrested if he returns to Thailand, “officials say.” The article is largely plagiarized, verbatim, from Wikipedia — even though it states that the source of the story was the Associated Press.
The brilliant self-promoter called for his own resignation and exile and said that he would hold a massive rally a week before the election if his demands were not met.
Limthongkul’s case is far probably more deserving of such attention than Granier’s was.
Criminal, rather than civil, libel as a routine way for government authorities to respond to disinformation is a slippery slope of Aspen-like proportions. Which is why we have the Sullivan (“actual malice”) standard back there in Gringoland.
The satirical pillorying continues:
“I am a con-man and an opportunist who has taken this country down a complete dead-end,” said Sondhi. “I should leave the country forever and never come back.” He then shouted his trademark “Ok pai!” chant to delirious cheers from his employees and supporters.
A serious comparison of Thaksin v. Sonhdi and The Bolivarian Blowhard v. Granier might make for an interesting academic study on the (1) the rhetoric of hysterical virginity as screamed through the gazillion-jigawatt megaphone, (2) risks of concentrated media ownership, and (3) political risk-management lessons to be learned by (a) practicioners of the New Lacerdism and (b) global news organizations based on “content alliances” in which content flowing down the pipeline is not adequately screened for toxic sludge.
The colorful “journalist” said that if he had not left the country before December 20 he would hold a rally that would make his previous rallies look tiny in comparison. “Thais will pour into the streets by the millions demanding that I finally shut up. They will pay respects to Democracy Monument and then storm my residence in an unprecedented display of people’s power. I will personally lead the charge, arm in arm with my brothers, and then once they have spoken I will leave the country in disgrace.”
And so on.
The other PAD leaders said that they backed the plan 100 percent. Spokesman Phipop Thongchai vehemently denied that suggested a split between Sondhi and the rest of the PAD’s leadership. “We are firmly on Sondhi’s side here. We all agree he is a fraud and a crook.” This new strategy, he said, is also in line with the PAD’s overall goals, which are to hold rallies and get people all worked up in the name of democracy. Chamlong Srimuang said he would lead his cult of vegetarian virgins in the march. “I will march with Sondhi and then I will hold a sit-in demanding he leave the country.”
The Pravda article is plagiarized, verbatim, from the Wikipedia article on Thaksin.
Pravda writes, for example:
However, his government was frequently challenged with allegations of corruption, dictatorship, demagogy, treason, conflicts of interest, acting undiplomatically, tax evasion, the use of legal loopholes and hostility towards a free press. He was accused of lèse-majesté, selling domestic assets to international investors, and religious desecration. Independent bodies, including Amnesty International, have also expressed concern at Thaksin’s human rights record. Human Rights Watch described Thaksin as “a human rights abuser of the worst kind”, alleging that he participated in media suppression and presided over extrajudicial killings. A series of attacks in 2005 and 2006 by Sondhi Limthongkul and his People’s Alliance for Democracy destroyed Thaksin’s name and reputation. He was also subject to several “purported” assassination attempts.
However, his government was frequently challenged with allegations of corruption, dictatorship, demagogy, treason, conflicts of interest, acting undiplomatically, tax evasion, the use of legal loopholes and hostility towards a free press. He was accused of lèse-majesté, selling domestic assets to international investors, and religious desecration. Independent bodies, including Amnesty International, have also expressed concern at Thaksin’s human rights record. Human Rights Watch described Thaksin as “a human rights abuser of the worst kind”, alleging that he participated in media suppression and presided over extrajudicial killings. A series of attacks in 2005 and 2006 by Sondhi Limthongkul and his People’s Alliance for Democracy destroyed Thaksin’s name and reputation. He was also subject to several purported assassination attempts.
The last time I read that Wikipedia article, the last sentence read
He was also subject to several “purported” assassination attempts.
The most active editor of the Wikipedia article is someone named Patiwat, who proudly proclaims on his or her user profile page:
I am not sure how Wikipedia awards “good article status” medals– rules, regulations and new forms of NPOV and quality challenges tend to proliferate on Wikipedia like halls of mirrors in Kafka’s The Trial — but it actually does seem like a very useful overview of the Finland plot theory for which Sondhi has been condemned. It quotes a Nation editorial (May 27, 2006) headlined “Hatred debases public discourse”:
Even those Thaksin opponents who find the “Finland Plot” incredible nonsense can’t help but relish the fact that Thaksin and his people have found themselves in hot water over the worst possible publicity that could befall any Thai politician. Make no mistake, this is an accusation of disloyalty bordering on high treason against the country’s much-revered and genuinely popular constitutional monarchy. Such a serious allegation must never be taken lightly by anyone … Whether or not such a plot really exists may be impossible to prove. But Sondhi and the others should know better than to stir up an already volatile political situation with irresponsible accusations that have a potential to inflame further hatred and violence between opposing groups. Looking back over Thailand’s political history, similar allegations of someone plotting the “overthrow of the monarchy” have been used as justification for coup attempts to topple the government or for bloody repression against those who hold unpopular political views.
The past is prologue:
Many commentators noted the similarity between the Finland Plot allegations and the allegations used justify the massacre of students on 6 October 1976, which in the context of the Thailand political crisis, might justify a military coup. The Thai military eventually successfully executed a coup against the Thaksin government on 19 September 2006. One of the junta’s stated rationalle for the coup was that Thaksin had insulted the King.
And of course, the “Brazilian Clearstream” case:
- Dantas’ Inferno: The Disney Version
- “Feds Charge Daniel Dantas Over “Phony Dossier”: Unsourced Report
- “Rumors, Brazilian Journalism and Other Unsubstantiated Hearsay”: More Notes on Dantas’ Inferno
- Seen on “The Brazilian Letterman Show”: Diogo Mainardi on the Journalism of Buzz
- Veja (Brazil): Behind the Scenes of an “Exemplary” Investigative Report
- Whatever Happened to the Secret Offshore Bank Account of Brazil’s Top Cop?
So what was the “Finland theory”? Let Patiwat explain.
The articles claimed that Thaksin and former student leaders of Thailand’s 1970s democratic movement met in Finland in 1999 to develop a plan to institute rule by a single party, overthrow the monarchy and establish a republic, and hold elections for provincial governors. The 5-part article were titled “Finland Strategy: Thailand’s Revolution Plan?”, was written by Pramote Nakhonthap, and appeared in 17, 19, 22, 23 and 24 May 2006. Thaksin’s alleged co-conspirators apparently included Thai Rak Thai party members Prommin Lertsuridej (Secretary-General to the Premier), Chaturon Chaisaeng (Deputy Prime Minister), Surapong Suebwonglee (Minister of Information and Communications Technology), Adisorn Piangket (Former Deputy Science Minister), Sutham Saengprathum (Deputy Interior Minister), and Phumtham Wechayachai (Deputy Transport Minister), all of whom had been affiliated with the Communist Party of Thailand following the massacre of 6 October 1976.
What evidence did they have?
None of the accusers provided any evidence to back up their allegations. Sondhi noted that his source was a Thai Rak Thai worker who had recently “defected.”
Themes and variations, I:
Variations of the original theory were also proposed, including the claim that the plot involved overseas groups intent on overthrowing the Chakri dynasty, the claim that media consolidation was a core component of the conspiracy, the claim that the Plan was aimed at maintaining a constitutional monarchy while reducing the powers of the monarch to a mere figurehead, and the claim that a law designed to further decentralize central administrative power to the Thai provinces, and the claim that Thaksin wanted to establish a government based on the model of western democracies.
Themes and variations, II:
Another variation claimed that Thaksin’s co-conspirators were former members of the Communist Party of Thailand including Deputy Transport Minister Phumtham Wechayachai and had applied a theory of orthodox Marxism to map out the TRT strategy to promote capitalism. This variation claimed that Thailand during the 1970s was still a semi-feudal society and needed to become a capitalist society as part of the transition to socialism. The communists then worked with Thaksin to fully develop Thailand’s capitalist economic system, destroy all remnants of feudalism, and privatize state-owned assets, while at the same time establishing a single-party dictatorship, all in order to create a socialist dictatorship.
Sondhi screamed for Thaksin to face a firing squad because Thaksin was claimed to be scandalously opposed to feudalism?