A clip of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” has been blocked on YouTube in Thailand following a request by the Thai military-backed government, or junta. The government was overtaken by a military coup last year, following the death of the beloved king, Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The clip features Chaplin’s stirring speech as a remorseful Adolf Hitler speaking about the tide of human progress. It featured Thai subtitles.
“The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress,” Chaplin says. “The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish.”
Earlier this month, the Thai Academic Network of Civil Rights (TANCR) posted on their Facebook page urging people to watch the clip as inspiration. The clip apparently violated Thailand’s lese majeste laws barring any citizen from defaming, insulting, or threatening the government.
“The Great Dictator” was Chaplin’s first sound film. A highly influential and controversial political satire from 1940, Chaplin plays both lead roles in the film — Hitler and a Jewish barber. It was a searing critique of fascism and remains a hallmark of political satire to this day. As an American company and the world’s leading streaming video site, YouTube has a responsibility to uphold democratic ideals of free speech.