PPT has never quite understood why the Bangkok Post has repeatedly published the op-ed drivel by Philip J. Cunningham who has been listed as having several locations to “report” from in recent years and is now listed as “a media researcher covering Asian politics.”
So anodyne are most of his pieces that we don’t think we have ever commented on any of them. They have usually been driven by royalist hatred of Thaksin Shinawatra. Ignoring his bile was nothing lost. However, his most recent outing, however, a brief observation of Cunningham’s most recent rant is necessary to observe how bizarre the thinking of mad royalists can be.
Cunningham seems agitated that with the “anniversary of the April-May 2010 red-shirt protests looming” that expresses a concern that there will be “colourful demonstrations and incendiary street brawls…”. In fact, the anniversary of the protest beginnings, in March 2010 – remember the Red Caravan of 20 March 2010 – has already passed. So let’s assume he means the anniversaries of the violent and bloody crackdowns against red shirts launched by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government.
Since 2010, anniversaries associated with the red shirts have been entirely peaceful.
Cunningham’s angst is heightened by his imaginary linking of red shirts, Hitler and Nazis. In this he is engaging is propaganda and expressing a line of bellicose blather from the most extreme yellow shirts. Forgetting that the royal propagandists at the palace have been the ones who “often point to numbers as a metric of success” and who think that the “bigger the crowd … the easier he found it to tap mass emotion and manipulate minds,” he accuses red shirts of this.
Given the many groups under the red shirt banner, often not aligned with each other ideologically, Cunningham he might well describe the ultra-royalists when he refers to “lockstep, groupthink” and “rhetoric [that] gets vitriolic and lies take the place of unvarnished truth, individual agency is lost and people get stepped on and crushed.” It has been this way for several decades.
Cunningham seems to only recognize “spontaneous … gatherings,” ridiculing those that “are planned and choreographed in advance.” Again, we can only point to the “planned and choreographed” monarchy events. Later he refers to “fascistic movements that … appear to be on the side of the little people, and against the old fancy-pants establishment, the loyalists, the royalists and urban snobs…”. Again, he forgets the rhetoric that spills out of the palace about the king and, say, sufficiency economy. All protected by a feudal law that is lese majeste.
Of course, for this kind of diatribe, the problem is Thaksin Shinawatra and deluded, paid or led around by the nose. No red shirt from the countryside or the factories can ever be considered to have the “agency” that Cunningham claims to value. Presumably he didn’t attend the spontaneous anniversaries at Rajaprasong where there were many groups and no leaders.
It is Thaksin “who paved the way for the nascent fascism that has intermittently gripped Thailand in recent years,” not the fascists in the military, who is to be blamed for everything that seems to make the aristocratic elite uncomfortable. It is Thaksin who engaged in a “corporatist linking of the state and big business,” not the linking of the most powerful and wealthy corporate conglomerate that is the monarchy to the Sino-Thai capitalist class in a manner that keeps profits flowing to entrench a royally-connected elite.
And by referring to Thaksin as “Dear Leader” he skates over the real cult of personality that exists in Thailand and now embedded in the person of the current king, meaning that the monarchists are now on a black death watch worrying about succession.
That Thaksin and his political parties have been able to win every single national election since 2000 is not even considered worthy of mention. That Thaksin has the capacity to mobilize “Thais in all walks of life, especially the common folk” is discounted as Nazism when Cunningham’s real beef seems to be that somehow the rich Thaksin has been “arousing dormant class struggle.” On that one point about class, we agree. The ousting of elected governments by extra-constitutional means has been so resented by average folks that they have seen protests as an opportunity to speak to larger political and economic inequalities in Thai society. That has some shaking in their military books and Berluti shoes. Cunningham is one of them, bleating about a “false flag, a false dawn.”
The one thing that Cunningham’s propagandist diatribe demonstrates is the fear that the elites and those allied to them have of the downtrodden rising, and we guess that there are some in the current government who would worry about that just as much as Cunningham and his royalist audience.