Friday, June 19, 2009

Harry Nicolaides

I don't have to guess who Harry Nicolaides is because I wrote a note to myself next to his name. Jailed for writing a novel. I wish I hadn't done that. I like looking at names and having no earthly idea who they are and/or why I added them to my list.

I robbed myself of all that surprise and fun.

Well, there's still a lot to be learned.

I guess I shall begin.

I have a feeling this story might be interesting.

Lord Wiki doesn't give a birthday for Nicholaides. He says he was born somewhere between 1967 and 1968. That would make him close to Tim's age.

Nicholaides was arrested and jailed for writing bad things about the Thai Monarchy.

Fortunately, writing bad things about the monarchy doesn't get as severe a punishment as drug smuggling. Nicholaides didn't get a death sentence. He got three years in prison. But he really didn't get three years. He ended up being pardoned, and got out after six months. I am sighing in relief for the guy.

The Thai Law says Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.

Nicholaides got the minimum sentence. I guess he didn't insult the monarchy too horribly.
He was arrested at the Bangkok airport as he was trying to get back to Australia. He had no idea that there was a warrant out for his arrest.

Nicholaides claims he knew there were laws regarding the monarchy, but he didn't think what he wrote would qualify as being bad.

Ah, his book sounds like my book. He self-published it and sold seven copies. I'm laughing AT the guy. But that's okay because in laughing at him, I'm also laughing at myself. I think I've probably sold about seven copies of my novel.   Maybe a little more. It could be even less.

This is the passage that got Nicholaides into trouble:

 From King Rama to the Crown Prince, the nobility was renowned for their romantic entanglements and intrigues. The Crown Prince had many wives major and minor with a coterie of concubines for entertainment. One of his recent wives was exiled with her entire family, including a son they conceived together, for an undisclosed indiscretion. He subsequently remarried with another woman and fathered another child. It was rumoured that if the prince fell in love with one of his minor wives and she betrayed him, she and her family would disappear with their name, familial lineage and all vestiges of their existence expunged forever.

Is that horribly offensive? I don't know. It's fiction. It's not defaming a real person as far as I know. I don't think it's worth imprisonment.

I'm glad the public is given a chance to read it though and make decisions for themselves. I think it would be VERY unethical to accuse someone of writing horrible things and then refuse to let people see what they wrote.

Let's say someone wrote a comment on my blog that offended me.

I think there are three ethical choices.

A) post their comment and respond to them in an intelligent civil way (I've responded in this way before)
B) Post the comment and just ignore it (I've responded this way before)
C) delete the comment and don't mention it (I haven't quite done this yet before. I've deleted comments, but not because they offended me. )

What would be very unethical is to name and shame the person who wrote the comment, but hide the comment so other people can't see it.

Why is that wrong? Because people might assume and imagine the comment was more offensive than it ever was.

Let's say someone comes on my blog and says I think you're being too harsh about Norman Lindsay. He's a great guy. The Magic Pudding is the best book in the world. I think you talk too much about Lindsay being racist. You don't give Lindsay the respect he deserves.

The comment is strongly worded and would probably annoy me to some extent. But I'd feel compelled to accept that the comment is both civil and fair. I shared my opinion. The commenter responded by sharing his opinion.

I would probably respond by saying something like We all have our own opinions. That's what makes the world go round. Maybe you can write your own post about Lindsay and concentrate on the more positive stuff.

What if I decided NOT to do that? What if I decided the post was horribly rude and offensive...so offensive that I wanted neither the comment or the man who wrote them on my blog. I remove the comments because they're so horrible to me I don't want them on my blog. But then I write on my blog ABOUT the comments. I let all my readers know that this person left VERY offensive comments on my blog. I let my readers know I've been horribly attacked by this commenter. I allow people to know who left the comment, but I hide what they said. What I'm doing is leaving it up to people's imagination. And they will likely assume the Lindsay comment was much more harsh than it actually was.

That's not to say if I left the Lindsay comment up that some people wouldn't read it and think it was awful. Some people might conclude that I'm right. The pro-Lindsay guy was horribly harsh. But other people might think no. He was just sharing an alternate viewpoint.

What is my point here?

Who knows.

I'll keep rambling and eventually one of us will figure out what I'm trying to say.

Let's take Harry Potter. Some people believe it's an evil book. It promotes Paganism and New Age stuff. I think though that most people who say these things probably haven't even read the book. I'm guessing a few Christians read the book for themselves, declared it evil, and then passed on the information to everyone else. Some people are intelligent and independent enough to say Hey. I need to read the book and judge it for myself. THEN I'll decide if it's appropriate for my child to read. But I'm betting a lot of other people think that book is evil filth. I know it because the pastor I love told me it is! I don't need to read it for myself.

When Nicolaides was arrested, I'm sure there were people who, without even reading what he wrote, declared he did something wrong and deserved his punishment.

That is why I'm very glad to see his passage out for public viewing. Although I'm not sure if this was the original case. Maybe it was hidden at first and later revealed?

I guess I should stop speaking out of my ass and do more research.

Nicholaides returned to Melbourne on February 21 2009. We were in Australia then.  We had just recently arrived in Sydney.

Sadly, when Nicholaides returned home he learned his mother had suffered a stroke. He hadn't known about it.

And here's something interesting; an interesting twist to the story. A former colleague of Nicolaides believes he purposely put the passage there to get publicity. The colleague claims this was Nicolaides way of guaranteeing his book got published. And whether Nicolaides intended this or not, I'm sure in some ways the ordeal has worked to his favor. I'm guessing he has sold much more than seven copies of his book by now.

I'm guessing censorship and controversy usually works in the author's favor. Yes, many Christians avoid Harry Potter. But I think many people have been inspired to read the books from simply knowing about the Christian-New Age controversy. Did JK Rowling purposely write about controversial religious things because she knew it would create fury and sell more books? I don't think so.

I think most writers (at least the decent ones) write what is in their heart. We write what's on our mind. We write what's in our soul. We write what's in our imagination.

Sometimes we might write something that is controversial. Sometimes that brings us attention. Attention can be good. We might sell more books. We might get higher statistics on our Statcounter. We might get more readers. And most writers love having readers.

I think though that it would take a very....I don't know how to say this. I almost want to say psychopathic, but that's probably too strong a word. I guess what I'm saying is it would take a very cold-hearted ambitious person to write something for the mere purpose of gaining publicity. Who else would want to risk prison sentences, death threats, hate mail, enemies, damaged reputation, etc?

Do I think Nicholaides did all this just to get more readers? I don't know much about him to make a definite conclusion. But my gut instinct says he did NOT do that. Do I think he's enjoying the publicity that has come to him? Maybe. He's not in prison anymore. I'm sure he's selling books. He can write the story of his ordeal and sell a lot of copies. He's probably now benefiting from his ordeal in some ways. Still, I'm pretty sure he doesn't feel that being locked away in prison was worth all of it.

All right. I'm done with Lord Wiki.

What's next?

Here's an editorial from The Huffington Post.

Nicolaides tried to apologize and insisted he didn't mean to offend anyone. I guess that didn't help him much. Well, maybe it did. He's out of prison now....right?

The editorial says Nicolaides originally had a sentence of six years. But that was reduced because he pleaded guilty.

What I'd like to know is this: If Nicolaides only sold seven copies of his book, how did it come to the attention of the government? I mean I guess it's possible. I guess it could be very bad luck.

The article goes into Thai history stuff and why they're currently very sensitive to criticisms of their royalty. I kind of skimmed over that. From what I read, it's about a fear of a coup.

What I'm getting is it's less about WHAT Nicolaides, said and more about the time and place he said it in. When people and/or governments feel threatened, they're more likely to employ censorship.

Here's something else from Huffington.

Nicolaides published the book three years before he was arrested. I was going to say this proves he didn't purposely get himself in trouble for publicity. If he wanted to do that, wouldn't he get the "offensive" passage noticed much earlier? BUT I self-published my novel in 2001 or 2002. I was busy with mothering a baby and didn't do much about it. Then in 2006, I decided to try writing again. And this is when I started working on marketing my old book....didn't do much good obviously.

But anyway, I still don't think Nicolaides purposely tried to offend anyone so he could get publicity.

Nicolaides says his time in prison was awful. He talks about seeing people carried away dead...death from unknown causes. Scary.

The article says the movie The King and I has been censored in Thailand. Also, 2300 websites have been censored.

Yikes.

Really. It's pathetic in my opinion.

My feeling is those who have to work so hard to hide from criticism must feel they have a lot to be criticized for.

It reminds me of Obama wanting to hide the torture photos. What good does that do? Hiding evidence doesn't remove the shame. I think in the end it makes you look worse.

Here's another article...or editorial. I'm not sure. I'll have to read to find out.

It says Nicolaides published his first book in 2002. This was called Concierge Confidential. It was about his experiences working at the Rydges Hotel in Melbourne. The book's back cover has praise and gratitude from some of the hotel's influential guests. Apparently Whitlam wrote something as well, but I think it wasn't included on the back cover. He said, God save the queen because nothing will save Harry.

I thought I was having major deja vu here, but no. Now I remember. Whitlam used that line before....I think regarding Kerr. So it was a play on his famous old line.

I'm not sure if Whitlam was joking or truly criticizing the book.

The article says the remark delighted Nicolaides. I guess he wasn't offended.

The second book with the damaging passage is called Verisimilitude. If that book was self-published, should I assume the first one was as well?

At the time the article was written, Nicolaides had just been formally charged. Prior to that though he had spent 82 days in prison. That's over three months.

He had to share a toilet with sixty people. Yuck. I hate hearing stuff like that.

I really don't understand how people share toilets like that. I like to be able to pee and shit when I need to. I hate standing in line.

Natasha Stott Despoja met Nicolaides in 2001. She describes him as caring, compassionate, and witty.

The more I read about this case and the more I think about it; the more angry I feel. I guess it's because I write? I guess I take it all very personally.

I don't think I ever want to go to Thailand. Maybe that's being too harsh. Oh well. What can I say? The whole drug smuggling thing has always scared me anyway.

Here's some timeline stuff:

Nicolaides went to Thailand in 2003. He taught English. He did some writing about being an expat. He published his novel.

In 2006 he returned to Melbourne. Then he went to Saudi Arabia.

Late 2007 he returned to Thailand.

HOLY SHIT.

The article says when Nicolaides first published his novel, he sent copies to National Library, the Thai Ministry of Culture, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bureau of the Royal Household. Why did he do this? He wanted to make sure the book was kosher. He received no response. Now one could say he should have waited for the response. But I'd probably do what he did....assume no news is good news.

To me, it sounds like he tried to do the right thing. But that didn't help. It also explains to me why the authorities found out about the book in the first place. They had it all along.

I am SO incredibly glad that Nicolaides is home now. If not, I would probably be in a horrible angry mood all day. I have a dinner date with my mom tonight. She'd probably be wondering why I'm stabbing my food so viscously with my fork.

Now I'm going to look at recent news about Nicolaides.

Well, here's something actually WRITTEN by Nicolaides. It's about one of his fellow human beings being wrongly imprisoned.

These stories are so tragic.

I'm going to end this soon. I mean this blog post, not the tragic stories. I WISH I could end the tragic stories though.

First I wanted to look at Amazon.com and see if Nicolaides' books are available. Concierge Confidential is not. There's only one review. So far the ordeal has not brought Nicolaides a lot of publicity....at least not in America.

This Australian site has a photo of the book.

I can't find the controversial book.

This site has some information on it. I think maybe you can actually download the book, but it's not working on my computer. The page is part of s site that fights for the rights of the Akha people. I'm not going to go too much into it, but it seems the Akha are a group of people who live in Thailand and China. They're not well-treated by the Chinese and Thai. I'm guessing Nicolaides defended them in his book, and now they're defending him.

I'm glad there are people out there who look out for, and defend, those who are mistreated.