YouTube's Thailand videos :Free speech or hate speech?
My husband wrote this article in his weekly column in ITWorld.com (http://www.itworld.com/nl/it_insights/04102007/) and reprinted again in Bangkok Post Newspaper.
He had been in Thailand before and also respects King of Thailand and understands very well about Thai culture. (Please feel free to respond in Thai or English). Following is the article:
YouTube's Thailand videos: Free speech or hate speech? IT INSIGHTS --- 04/10/2007
The posting of an offensive piece of vandalism on Google-owned YouTube, directed against the Thai monarchy and the people of Thailand, has sparked a firestorm of armchair commentary, mostly from people who know nothing about it.
In the Kingdom of Thailand, the law of lèse majesté makes it a crime to insult the Royal family. Such laws, like them or not, are common in many monarchies around the world. It is usually not a problem in Thailand, because His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who has reigned for 60 years, is almost universally respected and revered by the Thai people, who sometimes refer to him as "Father." Just for the sake of clarity: Contrary to what is reported in the press, the King is not considered to be a god, semi-divine, or a "living Buddha," and the King has never made any such claims to divinity. The King has earned his adoration through 60 years of tirelessly working for the betterment of the Thai people. The piece of vandalism in question takes a video of the King and superimposes vulgar and insulting imagery over it. What is not understood in the West, is that this not only insults the King, it insults an entire country and all the people in it. Make no mistake, I make my living putting words on paper and into cyberspace, and am in favor of free speech. But cries about free speech on this issue are missing the point. The YouTube video about the King of Thailand is a piece of hate speech and is worthy of no protection.
YouTube refused to remove the clip, and the government of Thailand responded by banning YouTube completely. Of course, YouTube's absence would be no great loss to any country, but there should be a way for YouTube and Thailand to co-exist peacefully. One way would be for YouTube to be a little more culturally sensitive, and adhere to its own rules (http://www.youtube.com/t/community_guidelines), which specifically prohibit hate speech which contains slurs or the malicious use of stereotypes intended to attack or demean a particular gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, or nationality. That is precisely what the clip in question is, and it clearly violates YouTube's own guidelines.
The Guardian blog
(http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/news/archives/2007/04/04/king_of_insults_sees_royal_knockout_for_youtube.html) agrees that the video was expressly intended to inflame the feelings of Thai people. The Mashable blog (http://mashable.com/2007/04/06/youtube-thai-king-hate/) doesnt seem to see this at all, calling it infantile, but ultimately harmless. The commentary accompanying the blogs mostly shows that non-Thais generally see it as a free speech issue, and are entirely missing the point that the video was a piece of hate speech. Thais that have written into blog commentary give a better idea of the true picture. It's not just a video that offended a monarch. It's a video that demeaned and insulted an entire nationality.
What is particularly maddening about the situation is the blatant two-faced approach by YouTube and its owner Google. Google of course, cooperates fully with the Chinese government in its continuing efforts to censor the entire Internet, but at the same time, will not cooperate with Thailand, who wanted only one culturally insensitive clip to be removed. Why? Obviously, China has a lot of money, and Google stands to benefit by cooperating with the Communist censors. Thailand is not a rich country, so Google saw an opportunity to gain some brownie points by taking the high ground against censorship when it doesn't cost them anything. "Do no evil" indeed.
Do we allow hate speech to exist under the guise of free speech? Generally not. Even in the most liberal of interpretations, there still remains a line that should not be crossedand this video crossed that line.
Copyright © 2007 Accela Communications, Inc. All rights reserved
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