Pro-American, Anti-Communist Propaganda, Stupidification, and Thai Identity in Two Cold War Novellas

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    The fear of “communist subversion” in Thailand from the 1950s to the 1970s played a crucial role in the ongoing government control of public knowledge and the anti-communist propaganda. The companion piece novellas Made in USA and A Complete Idiot (Made in USA 2) by Sujit Wongthes (1973), a leading independent writer, disclosed the truth about the Vietnam War and challenged the pro-American hype in the context of 1970s Thailand. Made in USA achieved this through a blend of travelogue and journalist distance; A Complete Idiot through a portrayal of the internal struggle of a young Thai man who grew up under the extensive influence of the Thai state’s pro-American, anti-communist propaganda. In A Complete Idiot, the protagonist’s state of blissful ignorance crumbles when his old “knowledge” of the “evil communist” and Thai-American relations are juxtaposed with new(s) information about the 1971 reconciliation between the US and the People’s Republic of China. Reading the two novellas critically, this article investigates how the state-instilled perceptions of communism and propaganda construct a Thai identity that becomes inadequate vis-à-vis a different set of information. It also looks at the extent to which Thai internal politics was subsumed into the international politics of the Cold War and how such an entanglement informed Thai national identity. Finally, this article argues that the two novellas at once challenge the Thai government at the time and subvert its projection of the US. In doing so, the novellas open up a new space for alternative Thai cultural identities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


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