The rise of LOLitics: Thailand’s politically active turn to humor amid intimidation and arrest

With the Thai government resorting to heavy handed tactics to silence dissent and more and more activists facing arrest for their role in organizing and participating politics, politically savvy Thais have moved their political criticism online.

And oftentimes these online criticisms are veiled increasingly in satire or humor to avoid government censors and prosecution.

Lolitics, as some netizens have come to call it, has been associated with several social movements.

For example, on Wednesday night, a new trending hashtag #7ปีดีจะตาย (It has been great seven years) was used to sarcastically mock the government for their governance over the past seven years.

The joke began when someone hung a banner at Siam Square with the inscription, “It’s been seven years. Long may it last.”

The poster may have nothing to do with politics. It could just be a anniversary celebration for one young couple.  

However, people took the opportunity to satirize the situation by relating it back to the government. It became a way of (safely) lampooning the administration.

Maturing political culture

As Thailand’s political culture matures, the jokes have become more sophisticated and wide ranging. They have also made their way from social media to traditional media, with many people using jokes as a means to cut across sensitive topics.

Take Mode Van’s appearance on The Rapper TV show, for instance, in which he talked about the senate.

Wearing a student uniform, his lyrics touched on how the rich benefit from the plight of the poor and alluded to the military-appointed senate.

It was very well received.

We see the same use of humor in other places like when Young Ohm released his new song called Bangkok Legacy.

The song uses a mixture of hard beats, straight lyrics, and political satire to allude to the dark side of politics including corruption, human inequality, and police abuse of power.

Back to social media

Popular accounts on various social media platforms have also produced social media satire, oftentimes to great reception, to avoid censors.

With over 100 people having been charged with sedition, lese majeste, and the computer crimes act for merely criticizing the government or calling for change, humor has become the one safe area that people have turned to.

It is also a method for reaching an audience that is not political inclined.

A study from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania shows that that political satire makes politics more palatable to people who don’t like discussing it, hence it is a way to create a safe space for communication.

For a movement that has lost steam in recent months, the rise of satire and ‘meme-ing” has been a way of absorbing the trauma of politics and reaching out to engage others.

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