Friday, December 9, 2011

Lèse Majesté, and Staggering Into the 21st Century

The Lemming posted "Lemming Tracks: 'Sexual Harassment' in the Information Age" about an hour ago. That was about an apparently-daft decision to slap a nine-year-old with a three-day suspension from school. For saying his teacher is "cute." What the kid did was, maybe, inappropriate. Maybe it warranted a three-day suspension.

But "sexual harassment?" Disco is dead, the '80s are long gone, and it's time to get a grip. In the Lemming's opinion, of course. Some folks never left Woodstock, and that's another topic.

Three Day Suspension, Two and a Half Year Prison Sentence, and a Lifetime of Memories

I'm not sure that throwing an adult in prison for insulting a king is 'more serious' than teaching a nine-year-old that people in authority are hypersensitive nitwits. Mr. Gordon's two and a half year prison sentence will last longer: but the nine-year-old will probably remember his experience for the rest of his life.

Anyway, here's what the Lemming saw in yesterday's news:

Don't Dis the King

"American Sentenced to Prison for Insulting Thai Monarchy"
Associated Press, via (December 8, 2011)

"A court in Thailand sentenced a U.S. citizen to two and a half years in prison Thursday for defaming the country's royal family by translating excerpts of a locally banned biography of the king and posting them online.

"The verdict is the latest so-called lese majeste punishment handed down in the Southeast Asian kingdom, which has come under increasing pressure at home and abroad to reform harsh legislation that critics say is an affront to freedom of expression.

"The 55-year-old Thai-born American, Joe Gordon, stood calmly with his ankles shackled in an orange prison uniform as the sentence was read out at a Bangkok criminal court...."

"Lese majeste" isn't something you hear every day. Not in 21st-century America, at least. A Wikipedia article says it's French (lèse majesté), that came from the in-house brand of Latin the French used for legal stuff. It means "injured majesty," more or less.

Essentially, offending the king was treason in the 'good old days:' which the Lemming doesn't miss all that much.

Joe Gordon, Thailand, Family and Names

"Joe Gordon" sounds like an old-fashioned, solidly Anglo 'American' name. It's possible that Mr. Gordon did what many other Americans did, to make life easier for themselves: changed his name to something the locals could pronounce and remember easily. Let's face it: most Americans are going to remember "Joe Gordon" more easily than they would something like เจ้าพระยาบดินทรเดชา. Or even กอร์ดอนโจ.

Whether or not someone decides to take an 'American' name is up to the individual: Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar got along fine with his distinctly un-British name. Although the Lemming's noticed that it's reduced to "Chandra" fairly often. The Lemming opined about names and America in another blog:Moving on.

Two and a Half Years: A Light Sentence?

Apparently, the Thai judge is letting Mr. Gordon off easy. Which was awfully nice, considering what a dastardly deed the American had done: dissing the king, and all:

"...Judge Tawan Rodcharoen said the punishment, initially set at five years, was reduced because Gordon pleaded guilty in October.

"The sentence was relatively light compared to other recent cases. In November, 61-year-old Amphon Tangnoppakul was sentenced to 20 years in jail for sending four text messages deemed offensive to the crown.

"Gordon posted links to the banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej several years ago while living in Colorado, and his case has raised questions about the applicability of Thai law to acts committed by foreigners outside Thailand.

"Speaking after the verdict, Gordon said, 'I am an American citizen, and what happened was in America.'...
(Associated Press, via

The Lemming could rant about American arrogance, cultural imperialism, and the general ickiness of Yankee warmonger white racist male dominated authoritarian oppressors. But why bother? The Lemming doesn't have a position in American academia to maintain, and isn't trying to be considered 'intelligent' by America's 'better' sort.

Besides, the Lemming thinks that quite a few folks in America are tired of the post-disco 'establishment' in America. And that's yet another topic.

'There Oughtta be a Law?'

"...Thailand's lese majeste laws are the harshest in the world. They mandate that people found guilty of defaming the monarchy -- including the king, the queen and the heir to the throne -- face three to 15 years behind bars. The nation's 2007 Computer Crimes Act also contains provisions that have enabled prosecutors to increase lese majeste sentences.

"The U.S. Embassy's consul general, Elizabeth Pratt, told reporters in Bangkok after the ruling that Washington considered Gordon's punishment 'severe because he has been sentenced for his right to freedom of expression.'..."

The Lemming remembers the trailing edge of McCarthyism, endured political correctness, and doesn't think highly of what either ideological storm did to America. Freedom of expression is precious: even when the other guy says something you don't like. Sometimes, especially when the other guy doesn't agree. And that's yet more topics, that the Lemming's gone on about in this and other blogs.

Goodbye, 18th Century - - Hello, Information Age

Bottom line? The Lemming thinks that America has done well, in part because folks here don't get thrown in prison for criticizing Congress or the President. Not usually, anyway.

The American Revolution (the one in 1776) was an early step in working out ways to run a country without worrying about what some irritable nincompoop with a crown wanted to hear.

A remarkable number of countries discovered that criticizing incompetence, corruption, and unearned privilege didn't bring civilization to its knees. Some countries, like Thailand, don't seem to have read the memo yet.

Yet again more topics.

Related posts:

No comments:

Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle online store

Pinterest: From the Man Behind the Lemming

Top 10 Most-Viewed Posts

Today's News! Some of it, anyway

Actually, some of yesterday's news may be here. Or maybe last week's.
The software and science stuff might still be interesting, though. Or not.
The Lemming thinks it's interesting: Your experience may vary.
("Following" list moved here, after Blogger changed formats)

Who Follows the Lemming?


Family Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory