The Failure Of Political Correctness In Thai Media During 2019 Election

The Failure Of Political Correctness In Thai Media During 2019 Election

May 1, 2019 0 By Kittisak Maneepong

Over 10 years, Thai media have been creating biased political contents which both divided Thai’s political aspects into two sides, and allowed the history tends to repeat itself. During the Thai House of Representatives election 2019, February-April 2019, there are big numbers of news, articles, and critiques on worldwide media about the situation in Thailand. The failure of Political Correctness in Thai media is leading society into bias, hatred, and separation. With this, we are going to analyze Thai political landscape as well as its background.

Political conflict in Thailand is complex and difficult to understand. The situation becomes more complicated during the 2019 elections, which was the first election since the 2014 coup in Thailand. New political parties rise up and set up their speech to persuade and insert new belief to people. The group that was once separated as pro-Thaksin and anti-Thanksin now break into smaller groups that cannot be spotted like in the past. The color of the shirt might not be the factors to judge others but it is how one’s think or act that judge people’s belief. In some case, the group uses hate speech as their political communication tools to discredit the opposite sides and create a sense of belonging to the members. New negative words are now used to describe the opposite sides. This phenomenon becomes a problem when we talk about “political correctness” in the Thai political landscape.

One example is the used of the word “สลิ่ม” pronounced as “slim”. When using the word “สลิ่ม” alone, it has no deep political meaning. Instead, it is just a noodle-like dessert in coconut milk. But when it was used in the political context, the meaning changes drastically to a person who is anti-Thaksin or pro-loyalist. From the perspective of the left-wing, the “สลิ่ม” was usually seen as a chauvinist and conservative individual. It is unexpected that the word like “สลิ่ม” or slim has a hidden political meaning.

Voice TV (pro-Thaksin channel) often use the word “สลิ่ม” to describe the opposite side. Khun-Pluem, a TV host of Voice TV refer “สลิ่ม” as “the person who thinks that they are smart but cannot think for themselves… they try to blend in with society by wearing colorful clothes like colorful noodle-like dessert in coconut milk”.

In contrast, anti-Thaksin’s publishing company, Manager Online also use the word that has a negative meaning toward the red shirt. Manager Online uses “ควายแดง” or “red buffalo” to portray the red shirt (pro-Thaksin). In Thai connotation, the buffalo has different meaning ranging from royalty to stupidity. But the most common meaning that is used is stupidity. In one online article, there is a picture of a red buffalo and a square face character walking side by side. It can be analyzed that the red buffalo is controlled by Thaksin Shinawatra.  

With that being said, the evidence of Political correctness existed on many pages and media sites unknowingly allow Thai people to get used to it as one of many things they find it as a ‘common.’ Consequently, Thai people usually look pass these words and that is what grants political correctness to keep its extension within our society.

To elaborate, the concept of the specification is eventually brought up to a discussion and then come along with the generalization which generally obtained by inference from specific cases. The meaning of the term specification is being used widely depending on how and what angle it is being used. In this article, specification is the term used to describe an act of describing or identifying something precisely or of stating a precise requirement. By that, it does not only involve with specifically mentioning about some particular group of people, but this also includes separating them from society. So what exactly the point of having such a democratic-like society when we unknowingly set one apart? Looking at the fact, those people whom the media and pretty much other people had called such words both on pages of newspaper and social media can possibly be seen as the minority but is there the need to eventually call them something else?

Ranging from the specification to the generalization that has moved our society to the next step due to the use of political correctness, it somehow consequently distinguishes between the majority and minority which leads to generate a mindset that generalizes a specific group of people. Eventually, those political correctness can be used in many ways even to represent any particular person, people, community, or even a country. Here, we can say that it is almost one part of the process to create such stereotypes that we can see and hear people call out daily.

According to Google Trends, a service which analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search, from the beginning of 2019, the word ‘สลิ่ม’ were significantly trended during two major political events.

Source: Google Trends

The first event is Thai Raksa Chart party after it nominated Princess Ubolratana Mahidol, the elder sister of the king, as a Prime Minister candidate on 8-9 February 2019. The second event is the election date on 24 March so it is able to imply that the use of the word is surely related to political discourse.

Media owner is the things to concern while consuming media as well, some media firm can be ‘not so neutral’. For international instance Fox and CNN on news coverage about Trump.

tone of coverage
Sources: Stephen J. Farnsworth and S. Robert Lichter, The Mediated President (2006), p. 37 for Clinton and Bush; Center for Media & Public Affairs for Obama; Media Tenor for Trump. Percentages exclude news reports that were neutral in tone, which accounted for about a third of the reports.

This kind of events also occurs in Thailand where some of the news agency supports a political side. Until 5th April 2019, Meechai Ruchuphan was working as a Chairman of News Network Corp PCL while he also working as a chairman of Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) which appointed by National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). One another example is Watanya Wongopasi, a member of the Palang Pracharath Party member, her spouse is a chairman of Nation Multimedia Group PCL which has media under its administration such as The Nation newspaper, Nation TV Channel 22.

Political correctness is a vital method which is widely considered as a very powerful tool to re-navigate mass media discourse in a global society. Media consumers have a various belief, thoughts, and logic. Therefore, those key factors play an important role in shaping different discourse for one individual.

The use of political correctness in news report and mass media provides more choices to avoid creating bias and dilemma in the society because storytelling is a basis of communication among humankind. Its powerfulness can drastically create massive impact to society as a whole.

In digital era, communication outlets play various roles in shaping reality and attitude of people. Media are influential to turn discourse and perception of society toward certain issue since the social discourse is based on 3 key dimensions, including language use, communication of belief, and interaction in social context. As presented information above, political correctness is a crucial element of the first dimension of social discourse which is language use.

In Thailand, the use of language in sensitive issues has constantly been neglected for decades, due to a lack of communication ethics in Thai media outlet. Therefore, it can vividly be seen social conflict and unconstructive criticism in Thai society in almost every critical situations, including this current priministrial election. The inappropriate use of language potentially separate people into small subgroups with different common beliefs. Genericization & specification are the chain phenomena of the misused language. The political jumble during the general election is a clear example showing the existence of genericization and specification in Thai society at the time since each media outlet has already set intent agenda to go support specific political camp, so genericization is vastly used to remove people who believe differently (them) away from the readers who tend to be convinced. This phenomenon leads to many unpredictable social conflicts. This kind of language persuade people to treat another group who think against as ‘others. For example, Thai Rath news once called a group of young activists calling for the general election as a group of “thick head” (Stubborn kids) who behave differently from us (the readers).
The essence of media is to be neutral in order to provide accurate information to public equally as well as help maintaining national stability and educate public with the truth. Political correctness is an effective solution to bring all journalists back on the right track as they are expected from the people. Politically-correct content would strongly benefit society in various ways in both common time and critical period such as the election to create better understanding among people, government, and the key stakeholders to strengthen national stability together with develop the society as common burden.

Our republic and its press will rise or fall together”

Joseph Pulitzer

Reference:

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