Media War

exposing media bias in Thailand

Is “Silent Majority” really a majority & why it is silent?


There are three kinds of lies:

lies, damned lies, and statistics

Mark Twain

Fresh example of  a typical  logical syllogism in Thai Media  from Bangkok Post :

The silent majority in Bangkok has finally awoken and started to speak up in the wake of the latest round of red shirt protestsA smaller rally by the so-called silent majority against the red shirt protest, attended by a few hundred people, took place the following day in front of King Rama IX Park

another fresh example :  Chula Network urges silent forces to a show of strength on 9 April

(Chula Network – means academics of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok)

Previously I’ve already tried to expose some “Fallacies used in Thai media and by academics” because I was just too appalled by their shameless blatancy.

Today I’ll try to debunk  another  BS, from a category of  logical fallacies, shamelessly  and EXCESSIVELY employed by Thai Media :  phrase  “silent majority“.

It is  regularly used  all over any MSM in the world (well, because actually all MSM  are owned by 6 main giant corporations !  😉  ), and especially so in Thailand now, where local Media is very partisan and often blatantly shamelessly biased (these links are just most recent examples, but in those blogs and many others there are many more older posts with evidences of that).

Ever since Abhisit and his “Democrats”  finally managed to form a government  and thus caused the whole “Red-shirt” movement (UDD/ DAAD) –  the present government and aligned with it  academics, social activists and especially Thai Media has  started to  use the term “silent majority” to counteract the common belief (or rather a fact for many ?)  that anti-government  protesters  represent a majority of  country’s population.  It is a very clever phrase which  implies  that  actually most of  Thais in this smiling wonderland are actually  peace loving, content and already happy folks  who prefer to abstain from expressing their opinions.

Average  being called “consumer” – who is rather some sort of politically inert (up to the point of being conservative and even reactionary)  person,  more or less same around the world : classless and perhaps even fair to say  nation-less in the sense that such person would easily or gladly change country & nationality to a place / conditions where his life style would be better – where  he can safely and happily CONSUME more.

now, these folks, this inert mass, the herd, who are presently rightly called sheeple in the West  and here in Thailand it is a so called “silent majority” (although perhaps among such there are several different “sub-types” – one of which are rather “silenced” than silent) – yes, for them may be  it doesn’t matter.  because  – hell, yeah, for them matters nothing else than their ability to continue to CONSUME. (read this good article :  “Sheeple: Why They Are The Way They Are…” )

yes, they are the base (and even driving force?) of the modern global socio-politico-economical system – Thailand is no exception, in fact present “Democrat” government tries hard to make Thailand more consumerism centered (thus Abhisit’s main reason given : “hurt economy” = read “disturb consumeristic model”).

now, even though Thai gov, ajarns, Media  try hard to present “silent majority” allegedly supporting the same  state of affairs  (ie patronage system with Amart running the show) – I think it is not true and is mostly their Propaganda. in reality though,  among “silent majority” there are  many different types of people with DIFFERENT opinions !  the ONLY thing which places all of them into  this category of “silent majority”   – is that they are  mostly politically passive for their own different reasons (although that doesn’t necessary mean that ALL of them are entirely politically inert), meaning that they not participate in one or another party/ movement/ “colored group”.

there is one other things I’d like to point out in regard to this phrase “silent majority”:  are those people actually a “majority” at all ? who has ACTUALLY counted the numbers of  those “silent”? if ever any such research/ poll was ever done – how it was done, according to which criteria, etc? and then – did those who coined this supposition (“silent majority“) REALLY carefully examine each and every single person in the country to make such a bold  conclusion ?  and what is their own  motivations, interests & political alignments – are they really unbiased / neutral ?

there is a famous Mark Twain’s sarcastic joke :  “There are three kinds of lies:  lies, damned lies, and statistics”.  thus, worse case after damned shameless lies are only STATISTICS.  That’s precisely what all those polls & surveys are – which Thai Media love to  publish !here is latest example :    More than 40% want govt to stay: poll
Average sheeple-consumer easily or even eagerly accepts such numbers,  because thse numbers for them are another ready  to consume product which makes it very convenient due to their deeply ingrained habit to CONSUME. that is my establishment and Mainstream Media employ this trick – giving NUMBERS (statistics) – along with  opinions & analysis from some “specialists”  (as Ajarns in Thailand).

so, WHO are those “silent majority“, how many are they,  are they really silent or silenced ?  many of them are NOT silent – they DO talk in families, among friends and even strangers – only may be not  all of them do or are willing to  to voice their opinions to larger auditory. or may be they do show support to one group or another, but do not actively participate in any political particular movements or actions / campaigns. and then – are they really a “majority” ? I doubt it very much, because more or less everyone is concerned with economical condition of their lives, and if something  affect that – surely they would feel  involved in some way or another. therefore, I doubt it very much that “MAJORITY”  are really completely 100% indifferent to what’s going on. they may be only not as active as  some other, who take particular actions.

Therefore  I think this whole  phrase “silent majority”  is  a deliberate FALSE PREMISE on which current government and all those allied with it and supports it  base all their reasoning  in  their continuous  rejection  of  concerns  expressed by anti-government protesters. And even history of this term shows that it has quite a dubious meaning, or even clearly misleading. Interestingly it has been used against the popular movements and progressive revolutionary forces.

This is very much used phrase “silent majority”  – old  Nixonian trick of the Vietnam War era.

A term used by President Richard Nixon  to indicate his belief that the great body of Americans supported his policies and that

those who demonstrated against the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War amounted to only a noisy minority.

The silent majority is an unspecified large majority of people in a country or group who do not express their opinions publicly.

The silent majority theme has been a contentious issue amongst journalists since Nixon used the phrase

many conservatives have pointed to the silent majority as a force still ignored by the media, who, in the eyes of conservatives,

focus generally on sensational activities of both parties to boost the media’s own viewer ratings.

Not surprising at all that it is being actively used  here in Thailand during the present reign of  so called  “Democrat” government: after all,  Thailand has a good long history of  adopting and successfully  employing  any and every  “useful” stuff from the West !  😀  (particularly from US,  especially when it comes to all kind of military stuff, or like in this case –  another sort of warfare, called  “information warfare“). Even though often it might be  something  what was already thoroughly debunked in the west quite some time ago .

In this instance,  idiom “silent majority” usually is defined as :

A group that makes up a majority of voters but does not widely express its views through marches or demonstrations.

This is more or less the meaning used by Thai gov, Media and academics which alleges that “Red-shirts” (UDD) are just one  group of many  which is not a majority of Thai people. while actual  majority allegedly  supports government  and / or  disproves of  any sort of mob, particularly  Red mob. in such a way they imply that present “Democrat” government rather  has an actual support from that “silent majority” – merely because they do not join with anti-government protesters, or prefer to  avoid expressing their actual opinions, but go along with their lives. Of course,  this can be not necessarily true, or perhaps even entirely opposite, or there might be all sorts of different reasons of while people are “silent”.

There is, for example,  a very interesting thing in political science named “Spiral of silence“, which explains  a lot  about why people might be “silent”,

as well as why and  how it is used by Media and Media’s  huge role in forming this whole idea of  what “silent” people’s opinion really is :

The theory asserts that a person is less likely to voice an opinion  on a topic if one feels that one is in the minority  for fear of reprisal or isolation  from the majority...

The spiral of silence begins with fear of reprisal or isolation, and escalates from there. Individuals use what is described as “an innate ability” or quasi-statistical sense to gauge public opinion. Mass media plays a large part in determining what the dominant opinion is, since our direct observation is limited to a small percentage of the population. Mass media has an enormous impact on how public opinion is portrayed, and can dramatically impact an individual’s perception about where public opinion lies, whether or not that portrayal is factual.

Crucial Points to the Theory:

  • 1. People have a fear of being rejected by those in their social environment, which is called “fear of isolation.”
  • 2. People are constantly observing the behaviors of those around them, and seeing which gain approval and disapproval from society.
  • 3. People unconsciously issue their own threats of isolation by showing signals of approval or disapproval.
  • 4. Threats of isolation are avoided by a person’s tendency to refrain from making a statement about something they think might attract objections.
  • 5. People are more willing to publicly state things that they believe will be accepted positively.
  • 6. The spiral effect begins because when people speak out confidently, the opposition feels a greater sense of fear of isolation and is further convinced to stay silent, since they are in the minority. The feelings continue to grow in either direction exponentially.
  • 7. A strong moral component is necessary for the issue to activate the spiral.
  • 8. If there is a social consensus, the spiral will not be activated. There must be two opposing forces.
  • 9. The mass media has a strong influence on this process.
  • 10. Fear and threat of isolation are subconscious processes.
  • 11. The spiral of silence only “holds a sway” over the public for a limited time.
  • 12. If a topic activates the spiral of silence, this means that the issue is a great threat to social cohesion.

now, here is the most interesting part I think :

It is as much a measure of protection as it is one of oppression. Since it only applies to moral issues, which tend to evoke passionate responses in even the most reserved individuals, it can be used to contain social unrest over highly controversial topics. Though it can aid in keeping civil order, attempts to employ it knowingly are essentially methods of manipulation and coercion.

The theory explains a vocal minority by stating that people who are highly educated, or who have greater affluence, and the few other cavalier individuals who do not fear isolation, are likely to speak out regardless of public opinion.  It further states that this minority is a necessary factor of change while the compliant majority is a necessary factor of stability, with both being a product of evolution.

The spiral of silence tends to be the outcome of something controversial and political in nature

some people more than others are inclined to use cues about the opinion climate when deciding whether to speak out

there are more  things explained about “Spiral of silence“, but are a bit too long to quote them all. but one of them I think is important :

Equality

An important issue in obtaining heterogeneity in conversation is equal access for all the participants and equal opportunities to influence in the discussion. When people believe they are ignorant about a topic, incapable to participate in a discussion or not equal to their peers, they tend to not even become involved in a deliberation. When people do decide to participate, their participation might be overruled by dominant others, or their contribution might be valued less or more, depending on their status…

That is why here in Thailand there is a thorough,  systematic, consistent, methodical  disenfranchisement  of the poor and  rural people which is  often multifold increased by Thai Media ! Even ordinary Bangkokians (the “middle class”)  use derogatory (or even openly obscene) remarks towards / about  the provincial peasant, who  coincidentally comprise the  majority of the labour force servicing urbanites  in every aspect and thus  naturally looked down upon and considered no more than a “stupid dumb buffaloes“, uneducated and unable to do anything else than menial low payed work for their “betters”, and who “must know their place” :  of maids and servants. therefore,  by such a logic,  those  maids and servants are considered  not able to say anything intelligible, and  if some of them are seen  protesting and voicing some opinions – natural reaction to that from their “betters” is  that these “stupid buffaloes”  surely do not even comprehend  what they are talking about – and most likely they must be just  parroting some words without understanding, because they have been paid by someone.

here is  BP blog  providing evidence about that, a picture taken from PAD’s  website, about  recent UDD  rally on  March 27-28 :

ASTV Cartoon comparing reds to buffalos

"Bufaloes on the road"

Panel on the left reads: Monday-Friday, cars use the road.

Panel on the right reads: Saturday-Sunday, buffaloes walk on the road.

Surely  such an attitude to their fellow countrymen creates such  “Spiral of silence“, and it is actually practically encouraged and increased by Thai Media, all  sorts of authorities (government, community elders, police, army, company bosses etc. ), “specialists” and academics:  the subservient mood, isolation, fear of disapproval  or even of more severe consequences (condemnations, abuse, insults, loss of  opportunities, and finally even harm)  only magnifies and strengthens already deeply instilled  reluctance  to express their opinions.  that is why  some time ago I have  raised a question :   is it really Silent or Silenced majority ? I tend to think it is actually SILENCED.

Yet it is truly remarkable that despite being Silenced Majority – somehow  despite all the   silencing, disfranchisement, massive propaganda (conducted on taxpayers money on National TV and MSM),  and often even open hostility –  somehow the SILENCED  majority  dares to speak out,  to protest, to express their opinions on internet more and more  and in the end –  vote  AGAINST  those who tries so hard to silence them  time and again, despite all the military and judiciary coups.  🙂

which proves WRONG all the  Propaganda and polls statistics – because of   “Bradley effect“, which is related to this   :

some voters tend to tell pollsters that they are undecided or likely to vote for a black candidate, and yet, on election day, vote for the white opponent.

some … voters give inaccurate polling responses for fear that, by stating their true preference, they will open themselves to criticism … Members of the public may feel under pressure to provide an answer that is deemed to be more publicly acceptable… pollsters generally believe that perceived societal pressures have led some … voters to be less than forthcoming in their poll responses

well,  although Bradley effect is mostly about racial issues (black Vs white), it applies to other cases, as rural/ poor Vs  urban/ wealthy  – like in Thailand. and there are many facts that  people DO  act in the same way in Thailand:  they may  even attend  different functions of this or that party,  participate in their campaigns,  give their  answers  in polls and surveys according to  their status quo – but in the end  when they come to ballot booth where  nobody can see / know what choice they make – they  make their vote in favor of THAT  party / person  whom they really prefer.  I have heard  many about such confessions among people.

that’s why, I  guess,  political parties are aware of that  and  some of them  by hook or crook  try to avoid  elections,  or otherwise  reject the election results, as well as try to change the rules of elections (as PAD has proposed their agenda of so called   “New Politics“: 70% of MPs appointed from professional groups and only 30% of MPs really elected)

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April 4, 2010 - Posted by | Ajarns-watch, Fallacies in Thai Media, Media Control, Propaganda | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] protesters are not majority, but just a group of people, while real majority are so called “silent majority“)  of […]

    Pingback by “Folk media” Vs Social media « Media War | May 28, 2010 | Reply


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