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The Age of Dis-Consent

The Age of Dis-Consent

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At the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Thursday evening 10 June 2010 a large audience turned out to watch a series of videos shot during the May 14th to 19th period when violence erupted in parts of Bangkok. The panelists were photographers and cameramen (no women on the panel) who had, often at great personal risk, shot compelling images. After watching almost one hour of the events unfold through these images, I had the question as to what to make of what I saw on the TV monitors.

I suspect that I wasn’t alone in feeling the powerful emotions that images of being dead bodies, the wounded, soldiers firing M16s and armed demonstrators throwing firecrackers, Molotov cocktails. There were also images of the Men In Black (MiB), the name given to a group of men who wore (mostly) black and were armed with handguns or M16s or other weapons. Those on the panel contradicted the government’s claim that there were 500 hundred such MiB. It is likely to be exceedingly difficult to find out the exact number, who these mystery were, their affiliations with outsiders, their connection to the Red Shirt demonstrators, and who financed, organized and led these men. Or if indeed there were multiple groups of MiB. These MiB moved like particles in a quantum system. Everyone sought to collapse the quantum state and measure what was inside the war zone.

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Posted: 6/13/2010 10:31:21 PM 

 

Politics in Thailand, as in most countries, is a tug of war between the past and the future. The constitution and institutions function as setting the ground rules for the tug of war and assign referees who show a red card when one side violates the rules. That is the theory. Nation states arose as way to exercise on sovereignty over geographic borders. The idea of exercise of that sovereignty as the internal affairs of states within those borders is an old, established one.

It is hard to let go of the idea that geographic borders will matter less in the future. Borders are in the processing of diminishing in importance with collateral consequences for sovereignty, constitutions and political institutions. Place matters less than it once did. Place is analogue. We have entered a digital world that, for communications purposes, makes geographic borders irrelevant.

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Posted: 6/10/2010 11:59:26 PM 

 

Tomorrow Friday, 11 June 2010, I'll post a blog on Bandwidth, Social Networks and Political Dissent.
What is happens when geographic borders collide with the digital world?

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Posted: 6/10/2010 12:34:21 AM 

 

Who we are, how we feel about ourselves, not to mention how we organize our life is contingent on what we remember. Without our memory, our world collapses not unlike a black hole where all information is lost (or at least inaccessible).

Writing fiction is an actively engagement of memory. The characters’ memories, the way they are affected and deal with memories is an essential part of the story. In real life, when there is a trial, a witness is asked to recall what she or he saw. By recalling events, we engage in memory recall.

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Posted: 6/8/2010 11:13:13 PM 

 

The demonstrations have ended in Bangkok, but the Thai script wars continue. This reflects the fact that both the government and the Reds Shirts are deeply divided. There is one thing that binds them. There are certain universal tropes used to silence or dismiss their critics (Thailand isn’t unique in using them). In waging the propaganda wars, the advantage is to the government as they have more resources to bring to bear to censor their critics. For example blocking websites for not telling what they deem to be truth.

There is the rub. The truth. How it is told and who tells it and what is to be done with those who seek to tell a different truth? Different truths like ambiguous heroes can cause confusion. Thus the official justification for bans, censorship and detentions.

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Posted: 6/7/2010 1:23:09 AM 

 

The intention of this blog has been to connect reality with what is loosely called crime fiction. The reality checking asks: does a novel which purports to be an authentic representation of social, political and economic conditions in which the characters find themselves match the facts on the ground? Or are the facts wrong, twisted, biased, or otherwise subject to dispute.

Swedish crime author Henning Mankell became part of the Israeli commando raid on 6 ships loaded with relief supplies destined to breach the blockade on Gaza. In an early morning raid, commandoes were dropped by helicopter onto the boats. Mankell happened to be on one of the boats (Swedish ship Sofia), though it appears no one on his boat was killed. But they were all arrested, including Mankell. He has been deported from Israel and is in England where the Guardian reports, “The bestselling Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell today accused Israel of murder, piracy and kidnapping after describing how the aid ship he was travelling on was seized by Israeli forces this week.”

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Posted: 6/3/2010 10:49:14 PM 

 

Report on Foreign Eyes

The subject of the panel was: Thailand in the Eyes of Others. The FCCT described the evening as follows:

“Thailand has been through some tumultuous months with scenes that have both horrified and bemused many. The world has drunk a heady cocktail of ramwongs, snipers, firebugs, rogue generals, blood-pouring rituals, live firing, burning tyres, APCs, black militia/magic/smoke, terrorism warrants, VIP prisons, dead journalists, travel advisories, Kevlar, empty streets, failed compromises, broken deadlines, government statements, razor wire, outraged letters to the editor, burnt-out buildings and disputed body counts.

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Posted: 6/3/2010 12:03:43 AM 

 

On Friday I will post a blog titled: Henning Mankell: When a Crime Writer becomes part of the Story

Here's a preview:

Mankell has become part of the Israeli commando story. The Telegraph reports that Mankell has urged global sanctions on Israel.

The Telegraph continues with this quote from Mankell: "I can promise there was not a single weapon aboard the ships," he told an Expressen reporter who was returning to Sweden with him after the writer had been deported by Israel. ...
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Posted: 6/2/2010 6:20:28 AM 

 

I have been in a conversation with author Jonathan Hayes on Facebook and others have joined our discussion about filters in book publishing and what they may look like in the future.

Ebooks and epublishing has many people talking about leveling the playing field. The adult equivalent of “No Child Left Behind” idea that allows everyone to become an author. To start with first principles, in Canada and America people have a history of "democratization of expression.” There has been censorship in the past but in reality people today can pretty write whatever they want.

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Posted: 5/31/2010 6:26:32 AM 

 

A good cover attracts people to a book. Cover art has a new life in the digital world where so much of the cutting edge in publishing is happening.

Ebooks are greatest game changer in publishing to have happened in the past several years. Physical bookstores are slowly being replaced in the digital world of booksellers. These books are made from paper. They are electronic. They are called ebooks. By now most people will have heard about Kindle, iphone, ipad, Nook, Sony and other readers that allow readers to download books and read them from a computer or smart phone. Millions of people have bought one of these devices and have downloaded books on them. Kindle is the clear winning horse so far in this race.

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Posted: 5/26/2010 11:08:26 PM 

 

One feature of the current climate in Thailand is that rather than trying to see another side’s point of view, people seeking such an examination are shouted down. The heightened state of emotion translates as either you are on one side or the other. If you try to seek nuance you may be attacked as being pro-government or pro-red, depending on what incident, statement, rumour, or policy you choose to examine.

This is a difficult time for free speech. The only speech recognized as ‘free’ is that speech which supports the side of the argument. The reality is that free speech means you dig into the facts and circumstances and try to keep the emotions out of that search. Perhaps what has happened is so close, raw, and open that even though fires are out, the anger, hatred and outrage continue to burn.

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Posted: 5/25/2010 6:33:44 AM 

 


Bangkok Rama IV Road 15 May 2010


Introspection is a valuable asset in the governed as well as in those who govern them. Introspection along with consensus is a good definition of how the engines of democracy work. But in 2010 introspection and consensus are threatened with extinction and this is happening just before the public conversation that needs to be had if people are going to move on. Otherwise we will risk being permanently stranded in the dead zone between existential nihilism and sophism with no peaceful exit.

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Posted: 5/24/2010 3:21:17 AM 

 


For the last week I’ve lived near one of the front line areas in the conflict between the Government/Military and the Red Shirted protesters. On 15th, 16th and 17th May I walked along Rama IV, filming and talking with Red shirt supporters, protesters, onlookers. It was a mixed bag of people of varying degrees of commitment to the Red cause—whatever that might be—as the policies and principles appear to be fractured among a number of factions. There are those wishing to reinstall Thaksin as prime minister. Others are bound by a larger social justice and equality movement.

Read more: http://www.internationalcrimeauthors.com/
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Posted: 5/21/2010 2:20:42 AM 

 

On Monday 17th May I returned to film and interview people who’d gathered in and along Rama IV Road and the Expressway area. By the third day of fighting, it was less frightening being on the street. It is strange how we adapt to what is a dangerous, uncertain environment. The first thing people learn is to distinguish the sound of firecrackers and from the sound of bullets coming from shotguns, M16s, M79s and AK47s weapons. These weapons as well as the firecrackers were used at some stage in during the street conflict. I didn’t see any war weapons on the 17th May. That doesn’t mean they Red side wasn’t armed. It means I personally didn’t see them.

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Posted: 5/20/2010 12:00:16 AM 

 

I am writing this 15 minutes before the curfew starts on Wednesday 19 May 2010. This morning I awoke to gunfire. The crack of an M16, and if you know that sound, then you understand this isn’t the way to start your day. This is the fourth day I have gone to sleep with the sound of gunfire in the background and woken up to the same sound.

 

It has been a long day. The phone never stopped; neither did emails from readers around the world. For their support and thoughts I am grateful. I appreciate your concern for my safety.

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Posted: 5/19/2010 9:46:01 AM 

 

The SET was torched by demonstrators in the late afternoon. After 30 minutes fire trucks (3 in number) came screaming down Asoke. Demonstrators met them with stones. They retreated. A few minutes later the sizeable crowd started to run as rumours of the army circulated.

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Posted: 5/19/2010 6:05:25 AM 

 

Dispatch from Sukhumvit Road.

 

I returned moments ago from the intersection at Asoke and Sukhumvit Road.

Tires burnt in the middle of the lanes carrying traffic toward Klong Toey. Those lanes are blocked with debris and burning tires.

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Posted: 5/19/2010 4:13:06 AM 

 

I shot this video on Saturday on Rama IV.

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Posted: 5/19/2010 3:10:39 AM 

 

By Sunday the amount of small arm fire on Rama IV had increased from the day before. The scene was similar to Saturday. Groups of people who had gathered inside shophouse doorways, along the road for about one kilometer, and the hardcore group of Red shirted protesters who manned the barricades and kept the tyres rolling toward the front line.


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Posted: 5/19/2010 1:13:05 AM 

 

On 15th, 16th, and 17th May for around one and half hours I filmed and interviewed people who had gathered along Rama IV Road from the Rachadapiesek or Klong Toey intersection to Soi Ngam Dupli. As the authorities tightened the noose around Rachadaprasong, a second front opened along Rama IV, including a makeshift stage and speakers, microphones, and sound system.

I am not a professional photographer. Indeed I am not even a very good amateur photographer. What I’ve tried to do is capture the mood of people who have gathered around one of the main sites where Reds and the Security Forces have clashed. People in the outside world can glimpse for themselves some of the faces in the crowd—in other words what do the people on the scene look like—and the chaos surrounding the street barricades. Each day a community of onlookers have gathered drawn by the spectacle of violence, fire, and explosions.

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Posted: 5/18/2010 8:13:30 AM 

 

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