Although love of language, literature and history drew me to become a classicist, my long career as an activist has taught me that’s just not enough for the modern world.
We have a powerful responsibility as classicists in the 21st century. The core values of the ancient world, our very foundations, have been fragmented by political correctness in the modern age.
We may see modern life more nuanced and the ancient world more defined, however, this is far from the truth.
As human beings, we are given choice and free will. All of us know right from wrong.
It’s up to us, as educators, to choose acceptance and tolerance of all points of view. A fully-informed citizenry cannot be shackled by censorship.
If we believe in the values of the ancient world, it is our duty to embrace freedom of expression regardless of the consequences.
We all have a small part to play in the creation of the new world, never bowing to injustice.
Member, Int’l Advisory Board, WikiLeaks
Most, if not all, govts have been lying to their citizens: Wikileaks academic
The Nation, Bangkok Thailand: January 18, 2011
With WikiLeaks cables continuing to cause reverberations around the world, the website’s Bangkok-based international advisory board member, C J Hinke, answers questions put to him by The Nation’s Pravit Rojanaphruk about the impact the leaks have had domestically and internationally. Excerpts:
Is WikiLeaks essentially good, without any negative repercussions? The London-based Financial Times Weekend, for example, quoted Australian commentator Michael Fullilove as saying: “With this dump, WikiLeaks is not uncovering a particular secret; it is outlawing secrets altogether … Would the world be safer, saner or more pleasant if nothing could be held in confidence? How could wars be averted in such a world? How could peace negotiations take place? Would news sources talk to journalists?”
I believe most, if not all, governments have been lying to their citizens for a long time. Keeping secrets and keeping lies are not the same thing. Taxpayers fund their government’s actions. Shouldn’t we believe in what we’re paying for? I don’t see any downside to government openness, transparency and accountability.
A number of WikiLeaks cables on Thailand regarding the ruling class and the 2006 military coup were self-censored by the mainstream Thai media. Did you expect such a response? What does it say about the media and Thai society?
Interestingly, most of the media thought this was news, that it was the public’s right to know and tried to publish it. For instance, the Bangkok Post carried the leaks briefly and, perhaps surprisingly, so did ASTV-Manager Daily. The cables are unquestionably real news, but we have been taught to expect a self-censored press in Thailand. All media, including citizen media, have been silenced by the fear of persecution.
Why did you decide to be part of WikiLeaks? Tell us the nature of your role there.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) was responsible for posting some of the first documents to WikiLeaks in 2007. FACT leaked nine of the Information and Communications Technology Ministry’s secret list of blocked websites as they were released and published them in our website. We were afraid we would be blocked, so we mirrored these in WikiLeaks. This first leak resulted in posting secret Internet block lists from 16 countries, but Thailand was first!
Shortly after, Julian Assange invited me to join the WikiLeaks international advisory board. My role is primarily academic in fielding press and student inquiries on censorship. I think WikiLeak’s Afghani and Iraqi videos and Cablegate may be the tipping point where the US loses its confidence in prosecuting its illegal, undeclared, racist wars. I am immensely proud to be associated with ending these senseless wars.
As a founder of FACT, which was blocked under the emergency decree, tell us how things have changed since the decree was lifted late last month?
FACT was blocked from May 9, 2010, and when the emergency decree was lifted, it changed nothing. FACT is still blocked, along with well over 425,296 websites as of December 22, increasing at a rate of 690 per day.
When the state of emergency was lifted, the government had the duty to return the Internet to the rule of law. We should have gone back to an uncensored Web on December 22, until the government submitted its lists of websites for assessment by the courts as required under the Computer Act. The Thai government is blocking hundreds of thousands of pages completely illegally.
Are there many more cables on Thailand to be released? Do you think most will be self-censored again?
Cablegate includes between 2,985 and 3,516 documents from the US Embassy in Bangkok and there are far more explosive revelations, particularly regarding human rights. While it is obvious that the publication of some would make one criminally liable, there has never been a challenge about whether linking to such material is illegal. FACT continues to link.
What’s your view on some red-shirts’ attempt to have three senior political figures arrested under the lese majeste law due to one WikiLeaks cable?
I think it is especially sad that the reds are buying into the same wrong attitudes as the Thai government. This tactic has now co-opted and corrupted the red-shirt movement. Thai people need real freedom of expression without fear.