Old-school soldiers and politicians have a difficult time adjusting to the age of social media.
From General Prayut Chan-o-cha to Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, they never had to deal with situations in which, as soon as words leave their lips, those words become viral content, served up in funny memes and top-off with biting hashtags.
Their rise to power was in a different time.
Before there was Facebook and Twitter
There was a time when the news was simply broadsheet papers that you read today about what happened yesterday. On television, newscasters sat properly, straight back and hands folded, only reporting stories that were filtered for what was passed as “facts.” In a soft, monotone voice and calm manner, no less. None of the laughters and casualness in story-telling that we see on the news these days. None of the drama either.
Politicians uttering faux pax and throwing tantrums were considered nonsensical and not newsworthy. But in the age of social media, those are viral contents, and it’s better this way.
Fake news aside, the more power the people have to check & balance the government, the better.
Facebook was launched in 2004. Youtube in 2005. Twitter in 2006. Instagram in 2010. The hotbeds for political ranting and raving are Facebook and Twitter, but it wasn’t so until years after launching. In the early days, they were simply tools to connect people.
Now, they are virtual jungles full of lions and tigers and bears, oh my.
Imagine back in the old days. It doesn’t have to be that old, just in the late 90s and early 2000s. If words can become viral content in matter of minutes, what fun it would have been with Sanoh Thientong, Chalerm Yubamrung, Samak Sundaravej, Newin Chidchob, Banharn Silapa-archa, General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh and others.
Back when they were either ministers or prime ministers, journalists can tell you, the things they said would have you roll on the floor in laughter or churn your innards into vomit-inducing nausea.
But back then, faux pas and tantrums weren’t news. However, given human nature, if we could all walk around with a computer that fits in the palm of our hand in 1999. If like-click, share-button and page-views were a thing in 2001. The news would have been back then as it is today.
Because, you see, human nature is as it was, technology simply liberates us more.
The culture of poo-yai and poo-noi
Boiling underneath advancement in communication technology is a changing culture.
Human behavior is an expression of culture. The Thai culture is the theme of this conflict between the older generation and the younger generation, where the cage of combat is known as social media.
Lest we all forget, do not question, do not talk back and do not criticize “poo-yai” (the elder, the superior) is still a thing. At least it is for the poo-yai, but not so much for the people who are supposed to be “poo-noi” (the younger, the inferior). The gap between the two groups is divided by age, but also by social status.
Traditionally, the poo-yai — from parents to teachers to politicians to generals to government officials to tycoons, as well as your local kam-nan (district head) and poo-yai-baan (village chief) — can do and say as they please. The poo-noi’s role is to be subservient.
Head bow slightly, hands folded across our pelvis, nodding “krub, krub” or “kha, kha.” Even if the poo-yai says the sky is green and the grass is blue, “krub, your magnificence is always correct.”
These days? Culture and tradition turn upside down. Anything and everything a poo-yai says, a poo-nai can criticize on social media with furiousness and ferocity. To the poo-yai, this is inappropriate and un-Thai.
Our cultural foundation is not based on freedom and individuality. Rather, it’s based on patriarchy and conformity. The age of social media has shaken that foundation and is threatening to tear it apart.
The only way for the poo-yai to win this battle is to be like North Korea. Facebook? Twitter? They don’t exist over there. The only way to silence the poo-noi is to pull the plug. But while Thailand isn’t the freest nation in the world, we are not North Korea either. .
Therefore the battle rages on and in the cage, representing the poo-yai is the Anti-Fake News Centers. Left glove, Computer Crime Act. Right glove, Article 112.
Representing the poo-noi? Well, we are legion.
The only problem is, the referees and the judges might just be in the pocket of the poo-yai.