22 November 2022

“What can’t be fixed is the mental illness of the prime minister...”


Ehud Olmert

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and winner of the country’s 1st November election, has won his defamation case against another former PM, Ehud Olmert. Tel Aviv Magistrates’ Court yesterday awarded Netanyahu 62,000 shekels ($17,850) in compensation, though this was less than 10% of the 837,000 shekels he had sued for.

In an interview with Gadi Sukenik on the show המהדורה המרכזית (‘the main edition’), Olmert said that Netanyahu was mentally ill: “What can’t be fixed is the mental illness of the prime minister and his wife and son.” The interview was broadcast by Democrat TV on 12th April last year. In a second interview nine days later, on Keshet 12’s Ofira and Berkovich (אופירה וברקוביץ') show, he refused to retract the claim and scoffed at the prospect of being sued by Netanyahu.

07 November 2022

King Protection Group


Amarat Chokepamitkul

A royalist pressure group has filed lèse-majesté charges against Move Forward MP Amarat Chokepamitkul. She spoke in parliament on 2nd November about the Criminal Court’s reluctance to issue summonses for royal travel and financial documents, thus preventing them from being admitted as exculpatory evidence in lèse-majesté trials. Her statement was cut short by Chuan Leekpai, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Amarat shared an online video of her speech from Matichon, which the King Protection Group submitted to police the next day. (Their complaint seemingly disregards an MP’s right of parliamentary privilege.) Last month, the same pressure group filed charges against the rapper P9D, alleging that his song Kuay Rai A (ควยไรอะ) violated the lèse-majesté law.

18 October 2022

Deaw 13


Deaw 13

Udom Taephanich, the popular stand-up comedian, is under investigation today after a pro-government campaigner filed criminal charges against him. Udom ended his Netflix comedy special Deaw 13 (เดี่ยว 13), released on 11th October, with a mildly satirical routine about PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Srisuwan Janya, head of the ultra-conservative Constitution Protection Association pressure group, accused Udom of endangering national security by encouraging his audience to join the recent anti-government protests. When he filed the charges at the Central Investigation Bureau in Bangkok today, he was kicked and punched by a red-shirt supporter.

Srisuwan has been called “Thailand’s complainer-in-chief”, and Udom began his show with a comment on the campaigner’s love of the media spotlight. The live show was filmed while some coronavirus restrictions were still in place, and Udom joked that he was happy to be back on stage: “I’ve been craving this. Now I understand how Srisuwan Janya feels.”

Srisuwan Janya

After comparing Prayut and his deputy, Prawit Wongsuwan, to unqualified pilots, Udom suggested that they should resign: “both of you, the pilot and copilot, please eject yourselves from the plane.” Noticing that one man in the audience was not clapping, Udom asked him if he was a soldier, and—ironically, given today’s events—told him: “Don’t report me, okay?”

Udom is not especially known for political satire, and Thai comedy generally tends to be more slapstick than satirical, perhaps to avoid charges of defamation, which is a criminal offence under Thai law. But a Prayut lookalike did appear in Udom’s spoof music video Sud-Swing Ringo Eto Bump (สุดสวิงริงโก้อีโต้บั๊มพ์).

14 October 2022

6 Oct:
Facing Demons


6 Oct

Last year, Thammasat University cancelled the annual exhibition commemorating the 6th October 1976 massacre, so the organisers created a ‘museum in a box’. This year, Thammasat’s football pitch was mysteriously fenced off on the anniversary of the massacre, and the commemoration is taking place at the Kinjai Contemporary gallery in Bangkok instead.

Kinjai’s photography exhibition 6 Oct: Facing Demons (6 ตุลา เผชิญหน้าปิศาจ) is comprised almost entirely of previously unpublished news photographs of the massacre. This is refreshing, as it expands the historical record beyond the limited set of images that usually represent the event. Thus, Neal Ulevich’s famous photograph of a hanging man—which has arguably become a cliché—is not included in 6 Oct. In its place is another powerful, award-winning image, though one that’s much less known: a Village Scout hammering a wooden stake into a dead student’s body, photographed by Preecha Karnsompot.

Also, the 6 Oct archive photographs have all been enlarged and restored. Again, this is a significant development, as images of the massacre are usually poorly-reproduced prints. (When Preecha’s photograph was published in a book by the Thai Journalists Association—๔ทศวรรษภาพข่าว/‘four decades of Thai photojournalism’—the editors lamented that the images had to be sourced from reproductions.) The enlargements reveal previously hidden elements, which become new focal points (or what Roland Barthes called ‘punctums’), hence the exhibition’s strapline: ‘the devil is in the details’.

6 Oct 6 Oct
6 Oct 6 Oct

This is also an unusually provocative exhibition. A photograph of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (who is now King Rama X) at a Village Scout meeting is captioned “the King of Thai Politics”, implying a royal intervention. On an adjacent wall, an image of the massacre is juxtaposed with a photograph of the 2010 military crackdown, indicating that the cycle of Thai state violence continues. Also, the taboo against showing the front page of Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) is now a thing of the past, as a reproduction of the newspaper is displayed on the street outside the gallery.

Continuing the themes of media and propaganda explored by Thasnai Sethaseree in Cold War, the exhibition brochure is designed to resemble a broadsheet newspaper. Chulayarnnon Siriphol has directed six short videos on different aspects of the exhibition, and a longer documentary titled ชวนอ่านภาพ 6 ตุลา (‘invitation to read images of 6th October’) in which Octobrists and current students interpret the photographs in the exhibition. 6 Oct opened on 1st October, and runs until 20th November (a week after the original closing date).

12 October 2022

Cold War:
The Mysterious


Cold War

Thasnai Sethaseree’s stunning exhibition Cold War: The Mysterious examines Thai politics and media in the Cold War era, focusing particularly on state suppression of the Communist insurgency in the 1970s. Thasnai has created a series of untitled paper collages, based on press photographs of the period, densely overlaid and partially obscured by brightly coloured paint.

For his Remembrance, 6 October 1976 series, he painted individual portraits of Manas Siansing, Watchari Petchsun, and other victims of the Thammasat University massacre. A painting of red droplets, symbolising blood, also commemorates the massacre.

Remembrance, 6 October 1976
Remembrance, 6 October 1976 Remembrance, 6 October 1976 RPropaganda Through Media

For the Dismantle (ปลด) group exhibition last year, Thasnai created collages of newspaper front pages dated 5th October 1976, the day before the Thammasat massacre. One of those works is included in Cold War, alongside seven collages of newspaper front pages dated 6th October 1976 (in a series titled Propaganda Through Media).

Most of the papers published on that day—เสียง ปวงชน (‘people’s voice’), ชาวไทย (‘people of Thailand’), Daily News (เดลินิวส์), Bangkok Daily Time (บางกอกเดลิไทม์), and Bangkok Post—were printed before the massacre began, though one title—Siam Rath (สยามรัฐ) managed to print a late edition that included coverage of the event. Infamously, it was the headline in that morning’s edition of Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) that lit the touchpaper and provoked the massacre.

6th October 1976 Remembrance, 6 October 1976 6th October 1976 Remembrance, 6 October 1976
Propaganda Through Media 6 October 1976 Propaganda Through Media 6 October 1976
6th October 1976 Propaganda Through Media 6th October 1976 Propaganda Through Media

Cold War opened at MAIIAM in Chiang Mai on 12th March, and runs until Valentine’s Day 2023. This year, the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok has held a series of exhibitions on the Cold War, beginning with Future Tense.

10 October 2022

“A serious breach of journalistic ethics in crime reporting...”


CNN

Two CNN journalists were deported from Thailand today, after being accused of trespassing, unethical reporting, and working without permission. They had entered a nursery in Nong Bua Lamphu and filmed the aftermath of a killing spree that had taken place there two days earlier.

On Thursday, a former police officer, Panya Khamrab, stabbed twenty-four toddlers to death at the nursery. CNN reporter Anna Coren and cameraman Daniel Hodge entered the building on Saturday, filming unsupervised at a crime scene that had been cordoned off by police. In her report, Coren described, and Hodge filmed, “the bloodstains splattered across the floor.” (CNN has since deleted the video from its website.)

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand took the unusual step of issuing a statement strongly criticising the CNN journalists, describing their actions as “unprofessional and a serious breach of journalistic ethics in crime reporting.” In its initial response to this and other criticism, CNN attempted to justify the filming, stating that “three public health officials exiting the building spoke to the team and told them they could film inside.”

Clearly, insofar as permission was given, it was cursory and informal. A later, more conciliatory CNN statement clarified that “these officials were not authorized to grant this permission.” The two journalists were arrested on trespassing charges, and were also found to be working without visas. They were given a nominal fine of 5,000 baht, on the condition that they filmed an apology. (Coren offered her “deepest apologies to the people of Thailand, especially the families of the victims of this tragedy.”)

07 October 2022

“What’s being alleged is that Dyson is guilty of wrongdoing...”



James Dyson is suing Channel 4 and ITN for libel over their coverage of labour abuses at a Malaysian factory. In a report broadcast on 10th February, Channel 4 News claimed that “behind the professional image Dyson likes to portray, there’s a dark side to its supply chain, with claims of exploitation, intimidation, and even torture.”

Dyson’s defamation lawsuit does not dispute the allegations made by the factory workers. Instead, the case concerns the programme’s focus on Dyson’s company rather than the factory owner, ATA. At a court hearing in London yesterday, Dyson’s lawyer highlighted the news report’s conflation of ATA and Dyson: “Nobody disputes that this was taking place at ATA... What’s being alleged is that Dyson is guilty of wrongdoing.”

04 October 2022

“The big lie...”


State of the Union

Donald Trump has launched a defamation lawsuit against CNN, accusing them of maliciously comparing him to Hitler. CNN has used the phrase ‘the big lie’ as an umbrella term to describe Trump’s false statements about the 2020 presidential election result, to distinguish these immensely consequential falsehoods from the 30,000 other misleading claims he made during his presidency (as catalogued by The Washington Post). Trump’s lawsuit alleges, however, that ‘the big lie’ “is a direct reference to a tactic employed by Adolf Hitler and appearing in Hitler’s Mein Kampf.”

Hitler did indeed use the term ‘the big lie’ in his autobiography Mein Kampf (‘my struggle’), though he regarded it as a Jewish propaganda tactic, not as a strategy that he himself endorsed. (Specifically, he argued that General Erich Ludendorff was made a scapegoat for Germany’s defeat in World War I, and that this ‘big lie’ was paradoxically more believable.) Thus, ‘the big lie’ has no fascistic implications, as the term was used only pejoratively by Hitler. On the other hand, Trump has repeatedly described the mainstream media as “the enemy of the people”, a phrase associated with Communist dictators such as Stalin.

Trump’s lawsuit, issued yesterday, cites several CNN blog posts by Chris Cillizza, and also singles out an episode of State of the Union as defamatory. In the episode, broadcast on 16th Janaury, host Jake Tapper referred to Trump’s “deranged election lies.” Trump is seeking $475 million in damages, though the ubiquity of the phrase ‘the big lie’—it has been used by many writers and news organisations, not only CNN—makes it highly likely that the case will be dismissed.

01 October 2022

“A relentless barrage of highly personal attacks...”


The Mail on Sunday

The long-running BBC1 satirical panel show Have I Got News for You marked the end of Boris Johnson’s premiership with a special episode titled Have I Got News for Boris on 2nd September. The programme recounted Johnson’s numerous scandals (such as unlawfully proroguing parliament and breaking coronavirus pandemic restrictions), though two words in the script—“cosmic cunt”—led to tabloid outrage two days later. The Mail on Sunday’s front-page headline on 4th September was “BBC COMIC’S C-WORD JIBE AGAINST PM”.

The Mail accused presenter Jack Dee of insulting Johnson, though in fact the alliterative pejorative was a quote from The Times, which attributed it to an unnamed cabinet minister in an article published on 9th July. The Mail’s hyperbolic description of the show as “a relentless barrage of highly personal attacks” and “a torrent of ‘spiteful and crass insults’” is an indication of its anti-BBC bias.

Daily Star / The Sun

There have been two previous front-page tabloid headlines about the c-word. On 4th February 2017, The Sun (“BECKS C-WORD FURY AT ‘SIR’ SNUB”) reported a leaked email in which ex-footballer David Beckham called the Honours Committee “unappreciative cunts”. (Beckham had obtained an injunction preventing The Times from publishing the email, though other papers were not bound by it.) On 15th May 2015, the Daily Star (“BEEB CALLS FARAGE C-WORD ON TELLY”) gleefully highlighted a slip of the tongue by journalist Norman Smith, who referred to politician Nigel Farage as a “cunt” rather than a ‘cult’ during a live BBC News TV report.

23 September 2022

The Lord of the Rings:
The Rings of Power


The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films (An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies) were prequels to his Lord of the Rings trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King), making the blockbuster new Amazon Prime Video series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power a prequel to the prequels. Released on 2nd September and directed by J.A. Bayona (who made The Impossible), the series is Prime Video’s first major franchise, and another escalation in the vast original-content budgets of the streaming platforms.

At a cost of $465 million, the first season of The Rings of Power averages $58 million per episode. (Compare that to Boardwalk Empire, with its $18 million pilot, which set records a decade ago.) So, on a per-episode basis, The Rings of Power is the most expensive show in the history of television. Yet it feels entirely cinematic rather than televisual: as in the original film trilogies, there are sweeping aerial shots of New Zealand’s vistas (filmed with drones this time, rather than helicopters) and theme music by Howard Shore. This epic spectacle is impressive, though stilted performances in the Elven sequences highlight the lack of A-list actors.

22 August 2022

The Genius of Prince


Prince Vanity Fair The Genius of Prince

The US Supreme Court will rule later this year on a long-running copyright lawsuit between photographer Lynn Goldsmith and the Andy Warhol Foundation. Warhol was commissioned by Vanity Fair to create a portrait of Prince, and the magazine paid Goldsmith for the rights to use her black-and-white Prince photograph as the basis for Warhol’s painting. Both Warhol and Goldsmith were credited when the image was published in the November 1984 issue (on page 67), to illustrate an article titled Purple Fame.

The dispute stems not from that original publication, but from a commemorative magazine, The Genius of Prince, released in 2016 by the publisher of Vanity Fair. The cover illustration for The Genius of Prince was another Warhol portrait, also based on Goldsmith’s photo, and this time she wasn’t credited. Goldsmith sued the Warhol Foundation, though the Foundation counter-sued and argued that Warhol’s manipulation of her image was sufficiently transformative that it did not infringe her copyright.

The precedent for transformative works constituting fair use dates to a 1993 Supreme Court verdict that permitted The 2 Live Crew’s sampling of Roy Orbison’s single Oh, Pretty Woman. Even more directly relevant is the case of another photographer, Patrick Cariou, who sued the artist Richard Prince for copyright infringement. In that instance, most of Prince’s images were deemed fair use, though the legal status of five works remains unresolved, as the appeals court was unable to “make a determination about their transformative nature” and the case was ultimately settled out of court.

15 August 2022

Uninspired by Current Events:
Sorry Stories


Uninspired by Current Events

Saratta Chuengsatiansup, the artist behind the Uninspired by Current Events page on Facebook, has released a book of his work. Uninspired by Current Events: Sorry Stories reproduces some of the digital artworks he has been posting daily since last year, alongside a handful of new images.

Despite the ironic disclaimer in its title, Uninspired by Current Events provides a topical, satirical commentary on Thai news and politics. The book also features short poems, in both English and Thai, to accompany each illustration, and the poetry is as sharp and subversive as the images themselves.

12 August 2022

Quote of the day...


Quote of the day

“Prayut will respect the court’s opinions because he has never thought of himself as being above the law.”
— Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana

Today sees the resurrection of Dateline Bangkok’s ‘quote of the day’ feature, an occasional series of I-can’t-believe-they-said-that quotes from Thailand. A government spokesman was quoted by the Bangkok Post newspaper today, assuring Prayut Chan-o-cha’s critics that the Prime Minister “has never thought of himself as being above the law.” This is, to say the least, somewhat ironic given Prayut’s role as leader of the junta that overthrew an elected government in 2014.

Prayut himself has provided two previous quotes of the day: he claimed that “we respect democracy” barely a fortnight after his coup, and he admitted that the army still used GT200 devices three years after they were exposed as a hoax. Other quotes of the day from yesteryear: a PAD leader said that Thailand should be more like North Korea, the ICT Minister openly admitted to violating the Computer Crime Act, Suthep Thaugsuban hypocritically condemned protesters for blocking roads, an Election Commission spokesman claimed that an election would lead to a coup, and a Ministry of Culture official dismissed the work of Thailand’s most acclaimed filmmaker.

11 August 2022

“I have decided to take legal action against The Economist...”



An Iraqi soap opera actress has announced that she plans to sue The Economist over its use of her photograph. The magazine used a photo of Enas Taleb to illustrate an article about female obesity in the Middle East. Taleb told the online magazine New Lines: “I have decided to take legal action against The Economist... I am demanding compensation for the emotional, mental and social damage this incident has caused me.”

The article, headlined Weighty Matters, appears on page 34 of the current issue (vol. 444, no. 9,307) of The Economist, published on 30th July. The Economist was last successfully sued for damages in 2004, after it alleged “a whiff of nepotism” in the appointment of the Singaporean Prime Minister’s wife as head of a state investment agency.

08 August 2022

Dianagate


The Sun

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of the so-called ‘Dianagate’ scandal, the publication of a telephone conversation between Princess Diana and James Gilbey, with whom she was having an affair. A transcript of their phone call was printed in The Sun newspaper on 24th August 1992, under the banner headline “MY LIFE IS TORTURE”. The headline is a quote from the tape: Diana says that Prince Charles “makes my life real, real torture, I’ve decided.” (The tape was later sampled by the techno band House of Windsor for their novelty single Squidgy, a reference to Gilbey’s pet name for Diana.)

According to The Sun, the call was accidentally recorded by a radio ham, Cyril Reenan, on New Year’s Eve 1989. A second amateur radio enthusiast, Jane Norgrove, subsequently provided the paper with her own tape of the call. The clarity of the tapes, and the unlikely coincidence of two accidental recordings of such a significant conversation, led to (as yet unproven) allegations that landlines in royal residences had been tapped.

Such speculation increased when a phone call between Charles and his mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles, was also leaked. The transcript of this so-called ‘Camillagate’ tape—recorded a fortnight before Diana’s call, on 18th December 1989—was first published by New Idea on 23rd January 1993. At the time, the magazine was owned by Rupert Murdoch, proprietor of The Sun, and it’s likely that the story was planted in an Australian magazine to provide some distance from Murdoch’s UK tabloids. Camillagate caused even more of a sensation than Dianagate, as the conversation was more directly sexual, and Charles was recorded joking about being reincarnated as his lover’s tampon: “God forbid, a Tampax! Just my luck!”

05 July 2022

Thai Cinema Uncensored


Sojourn

Thai Cinema Uncensored is reviewed in the new issue of Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia (volume 37, number 2), on pages 374-377. In her review, Annette Hamilton writes: “This is a great read not just for those interested in film, but for anyone trying to understand the nexus between culture and politics in Thailand in recent times.” She concludes: “This book is a valuable addition to Thai cinema studies. It is well-written and instructive.” (The book has previously been reviewed by the Bangkok Post newspaper, Art Review and The Big Chilli magazines, and the 101 World website.)

Thai Cinema Uncensored


The 101 World

The Thai news website The 101 World reviewed Thai Cinema Uncensored on 21st January 2021. (The book has also been reviewed by the Bangkok Post newspaper, and Art Review and The Big Chilli magazines.)

In his 101 World review, headlined “ภาพยนตร์ไทยไม่ต้องห้าม” (‘Thai movies are not forbidden’), Matt Changsupan writes: “สิ่งที่ทำให้ Thai Cinema Uncensored แข็งแรงขึ้นในการนำเสนอเรื่องของการเซนเซอร์ในภาพยนตร์ไทย นอกจากข้อมูลที่อัปเดตมากๆ... ได้ให้ภาพของการตั้งคำถามเกี่ยวกับการเมืองการปกครองร่วมสมัยผ่านภาพยนตร์ได้อย่างค่อนข้างครบถ้วน” (‘what are the strengths of Thai Cinema Uncensored in its discussion of Thai film censorship? In addition to its very up-to-date content... it provides a rather complete picture of the questioning of contemporary politics through film’).

29 June 2022

Boiled Angels:
The Trial of Mike Diana


Boiled Angels

Boiled Angel / Answer Me!

In 1994, cartoonist Mike Diana was convicted of producing and distributing obscene material, after Florida police obtained copies of his zine Boiled Angel (issues 7 and 8). Its twisted humour was certainly provocative—zine bible Factsheet Five described it as “designed to turn your stomach”—though this was precisely Diana’s intention. As he says in the excellent documentary Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana: “My goal was to make the most offensive zine ever made.”

Following the guilty verdict, Diana was denied bail. After four days in custody, he was fined $3,000 and sentenced to 1,248 hours of community service. The documentary, by horror director Frank Henenlotter, features interviews with Diana, his family, and the defence and prosecution attorneys. It’s a thorough recounting of Diana’s trial, and it also gives plenty of historical background on the Comics Code and the underground comix movement.

Diana’s case was very similar to that of Mark Laliberté, whose comic zine Headtrip (issues 1 and 2) was accused of obscenity in Canada. Laliberté and Diana had traded zines, and Laliberté’s copies of Boiled Angel were also cited in the Headtrip obscenity trial. The failure to secure a conviction in Canada perhaps made the US authorities all the more eager to prosecute Diana in Florida. (At least, that’s what Laliberté alleges in the documentary.)

Zap Comix / Nasty Tales / Meng and Ecker

Although Diana is the only artist ever convicted of obscenity in the US, there have been other prosecutions of comic art. Booksellers in New York were fined for stocking Robert Crumb’s Zap Comix (specifically the ‘family values’ parody Joe Blow in issue 4; charges against Zap’s publishers, the Print Mint, were later dropped). In a similar case in the State of Washington, booksellers were prosecuted in relation to Jim Goad’s zine Answer Me! (issue 4, with a cover illustration by Mike Diana), though they were eventually acquitted.

There have also been a handful of obscenity cases against comics in the UK. Charges against Oz magazine (issue 28) and the Nasty Tales comic (issue 1) were both related to Robert Crumb cartoons, and Crumb’s book My Troubles with Women was seized by customs in 1996. (In all three cases, the charges were eventually dropped or overturned.) David Britton was found guilty on obscenity charges relating to his novel Lord Horror and his comic Meng and Ecker (issue 1); the charge against the novel was overturned on appeal, though the conviction of the comic was upheld.

02 June 2022

“It sets back the clock...”


Fairfax County Circuit Court

Johnny Depp has won his defamation case against his ex-wife Amber Heard, after the trial concluded yesterday. Depp had sued Heard for libel in relation to three sentences in an op-ed she wrote, and Heard counter-sued Depp over three quotes attributed to his lawyer. Although Heard won in one of those instances, the trial was a victory for Depp, who won in all three of his cases and was awarded the maximum legal entitlement of $10 million in damages.

Depp’s lawsuit related to a Washington Post op-ed published in 2018, in which Heard described her personal connection to domestic violence: “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.” She also wrote: “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.” The jury determined that both statements defamed Depp, even though he was not named in the article. They also concluded that the op-ed’s online headline (“I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”) was defamatory, and that Heard was liable for this even though she had not written it. (Like other headlines, it was written by a subeditor.)

Heard counter-sued for $100 million over three statements issued by Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman, to the Daily Mail. Waldman was first quoted in the Mail on 7th April 2020 (on page 38), and on the newspaper’s website the following day: “Amber Heard and her friends in the media use fake sexual violence allegations as both a sword and shield, depending on their needs. They have selected some of her sexual violence hoax ‘facts’ as the sword, inflicting them on the public and Mr Depp.” He was quoted again online on 27th April 2020: “we have reached the beginning of the end of Ms Heard’s abuse hoax against Johnny Depp.” Those statements were not regarded as defamatory by the jury.

A third quote from Waldman, which also appeared online on 27th April 2020, was deemed defamatory, for which Heard was awarded $2 million in damages. Waldman said: “They set Mr Depp up by calling the cops, but the first attempt didn’t do the trick. The officers came to the penthouses, thoroughly searched and interviewed, and left after seeing no damage to face or property. So Amber and her friends spilled a little wine and roughed the place up, got their stories straight under the direction of a lawyer and publicist, and then placed a second call to 911.” (The Mail has deleted each of these Waldman quotes from its website, though the Washington Post has not deleted Heard’s op-ed.)

The verdict was in stark contrast to the outcome of Depp’s libel case in the UK two years earlier. He had sued The Sun after it referred to him by name as a “WIFE-BEATER” in a headline, though he lost the case and the judge described the allegation as “substantially true”. US defamation law is much stricter than that of the UK, with a requirement to prove ‘actual malice’ in cases involving public figures, making the outcome all the more surprising. The jury’s verdict seemingly reflects their belief that Heard deliberately falsified her abuse claims in a vendetta against Depp.

Perhaps the key difference between the UK and US cases is that the former was decided by a judge whereas the latter was a jury trial. The US trial was televised, and Heard had been convicted in the court of public opinion long before the jury’s verdict was announced. It’s possible that the (unsequestered) jury was influenced by the extensive coverage the trial received on social media, which was overwhelmingly negative towards Heard, or that the jurors themselves formed the same opinion of her as the armchair pundits.

After the verdict, Heard described it as a retrograde decision: “It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated.” Depp, on the other hand, welcomed the apparent vindication of his “quest to have the truth be told”. (Heard and Depp were photographed in Fairfax County Circuit Court by Jim Lo Scalzo.)

26 May 2022

สงครามเย็น (ใน)ระหว่าง โบว์ขาว



Kanokrat Lertchoosakul’s book สงครามเย็น (ใน)ระหว่าง โบว์ขาว (‘the Cold War (in)between the white bow’), published last year, examines the roles of successive generations in the current Thai political protest movement. Kanokrat argues that the present government, which came to power in a military coup, is a remnant of the Cold War era, when authoritarianism was accepted by society at large. (Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul discusses this older generation’s submissive attitude in Thai Cinema Uncensored: “disruption of the flow and unity is a really big deal. Like my Mum... she is in the generation of Sarit [Thanarat], all these people who were very powerful.”) On the other hand, today’s students are much less tolerant of Thailand’s top-down culture, and in 2020 the Free Youth anti-government group encouraged high school students to wear white ribbons as a symbol of resistance.

What’s most remarkable about the book is its inclusion (on page 57) of the Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) front page that sparked the 6th October 1976 massacre. (The newspaper falsely accused Thammasat University students of lèse-majesté, and vigilantes stormed the campus.) For more than thirty years, there was an unspoken prohibition against reproducing Dao Siam’s incendiary headline and photo. Sarakadee (สำรคดี) magazine broke the taboo in its June 2012 issue, though other publications have only recently followed suit. The front page has appeared in only three other books, all published within the last three years: 45 ปี 6 (‘45 years of 6th Oct.’), Prism of Photography (ปริซึมของภาพถ่าย), and Moments of Silence. Heavily obscured by overpainting, it’s also part of Thasnai Sethaseree’s new Cold War exhibition at MAIIAM in Chiang Mai.