Anonymous on Sat Apr 21 00:06:57 2001

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> a land of pluralist
>democracy and high developed media freedom

...totally ignoring the very well-documented story of widespread censorship,
intimidation of journalists, assassination of editors, legally dubious
take-overs of opposition radio stations, confiscation of newspaper print
runs, etc etc etc -- not to mention the fact that the vast majority of the
population of Serbia relied for their information on state-controlled media

We then get such ground-breaking statements as:

>The concept of
>democracy which cannot abandon the framework of a nation-state has
>been brought in the Balkans to its absurdity.

And some that are more interesting, and which are then specifically tied to
the uncomfortably similar political design of the EU, like this:

>On the Yugoslav
>question - the question of how to unite democratically a people,
>already divided in political nations, on a level higher than the
>nation-state - it has faced obviously its immanent limits.

And a lot of not particularily insightful, nor 'alternative', views about
the Hague tribunal being a political institution -- and all the various
implications and ramifications of that -- before we end up at his
conclusion. But before I get to Buden's conclusion, I want to examine some
of his accusations directed towards Richard Barbrook, who is allegedly
trafficking in "cynical pragmatism" and "moralistic kitsch."

To be moralistic is a particularily ideologically freighted word, since it
carries all the burdens of being associated with massive entrenched
conservative power structures like (just to give one not overly obscure
example) the Catholic church. Morality of course is well known for being
easily enlisted in the political rhetoric of all sides in a conflict. Being
"moralistic" is a-priori conservative, it's the antithesis to being
'alternative', to thinking independently -- to the virtues that Buden, not
inaccurately, holds up as valuable.

The problem with tarring people with easy accusations of moralism is that
you run the risk of throwing the idea that there is such a thing as "right"
and "wrong" behavior directly out the window. Buden makes much of the fact
that he didn't support the bombing of Serbia, even though his momma did, but
I wonder how he would have felt about it if, instead of being snug and safe
in Zagreb or Vienna, he had been on the run through the woods after watching
a bunch of paramilitaries burn his house down and drag his wife off? (He
could now accuse me of moralistic pornography, or something, but it was he
who brought his family into his larger polemic as an illustration. I wish
Buden and his family well.) Would the idea that there is "right" and "wrong"
behavior still have such overtones of reprehensible conservatism? Would he
still use the idea of making distinctions between right and wrong as a brush
to tar those who demand accountability for that kind of behavior? And who
demand accountability for those who have created the political conditions
leading to that kind of behavior? Including, in Barbrook's case, those on
the left who cast a blind eye on massive violations of human rights, simply
due to the fact that they've earned the "attention" of NATO countries?

The same parable goes for "cynical pragmatism", which I assume refers to
Barbrook's point that, though he wouldn't under any circumstanced defend
Stalinism or the Soviet Union, he still approved of that country's helping
the South African anti-apartheid fighters. Hounded from his house, a victim
of Serbian terror, would my hypothetical Buden, and by extension the other
comfortably housed and well fed protestors against western military action
against Serbia, be as prepared to be critical, and craft nicely-wrought
'alternative' buzz-compound phrases like "cynical pragmatism"? Or would the
just be, you know, pragmatic -- in the most relieved way possible? Before
they started trying to rebuild their house in a protectorate, rather than in
a state of terror? It might be interesting to ask some veterans of the seige
of Sarajevo for their views, pro or con, on the topic of western military
intervention in ex-Yugoslavia. (Though Sarajevans aren't known for their
lack of cynicism -- even if they aren't very pragmatic sometimes.)

As for the kitsch part of the Barbrook accusation, we all know that's a much
more serious charge, but I'll leave it aside for the moment!

Ok, so now we can get to Buden's ground-breaking, earth-shattering,
spine-tingling conclusion:

>And finally a rhetoric question: What makes this approach alternative?
>This is the fact that it doesn't focus on the others in their
>responsibility for the past we cannot change. On the contrary, it
>addresses our own responsibility for the future we can still

Which is quickly followed by the local patriotism of this ad copy:

>Let the main stream not forget the past. Nettime should remember the

Well. Buden's answer to his own rhetorical question speaks pretty well for
itself -- particularily when paired off with the slogan immediately
following it -- and if that's all the 'alternative' he can come up with, so
be it. But as he cloaks himself in the silvery sheen of the future, he
doesn't bother to explain how it's possible to be "responsible" to a future
"we can still influence" without addressing, and coming to terms with,
traumatic events in the recent past which we as a human species are all
implicated in. Focussing on the ways and means by which historical events
unfold and trying to understand them isn't just about assigning blame,
easily dismissed as reprehensibly moralistic, and it also can't be said to
be a futile exercise because "we cannot change" what happened. It _is_ about
understanding what human beings have done, and the implications of that, and
yes, the right and wrong of it, not to mention the ways in which we
ourselves are implicated. That's the only way to "remember" the future.
Amnesia's easy, and the future has no way to protest.

Michael Benson

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