Slobodan Markovic on Sun, 25 Apr 1999 02:04:17 +0200

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Syndicate: Fw: Zizek's Lads

[forwarded from <nettime> --sloba]

Svetlana Slapsak

Zizek's Lads

In all of the many violent crises we have lived through over the past ten
years in former Yugoslavia, voices like that of Dejan Krsic would come to
the surface: voices strident with sudden zeal for taking profit, with no
risk involved, by forgetting intellectual honesty and self-examination,
while others dither, because in doubt or simply because they are ashamed.
The past has been brutally erased by new ideological interventions and the
protegees and parasites of the old regime can now spill their bile on those
who had the guts to speak then, and will not keep silent now. These types
breed on falsifying memories and disseminating oblivion or straight
misinformation. Slavoj Zizek, quoted by Krsic, is indeed a good reference
in this respect: he presents himself to the West as a Marxist, while in his
native Slovenia he operates as ideologist, slightly on the right-wing, of
the liberal-democratic party; for the outside world he's a poor
intellectual emigre, in Slovenia he's an "ambassador of science for the
world";  moral authority when speaking about the Balkans in the West, he
thinks he can afford sexist and racist outbursts at home. The admiring gang
of old lads, with Dejan Krsic, would have the same. There we have a success
story through ideological humdrum and cynicism which sweeps former leftists
in the West into raptures: the expert from the East, connoisseur of
mechanisms of destruction of their own leftist ideals, has a message for
them: swallow that Western junk you've always despised, it's good for you
since it's good for us. For manipulation, there's nothing better than
separate, easy-to-control worlds. Srdjan Dragojevic and his utterly
reckless and amoral films are good; Veran Matic and Radio B92's honest
reporting are not, because they muddy the image of nasty filthy Serbs who
are all the same and who are excellently represented by Dragojevic, openly
vilifying Croats, Muslims and Slovenians. When the heat is off, the lads
gather between the trenches to exchange the latest curses and slap one
another on the back, but when the going gets tough again, back they go to
their respective camps.

Things become clearer only with a careful reading of Dejan Krsic's attack
on Radio B92. First comes the author's peevish complaint that he can only
see "Help B92", no word about Koha Ditore and the Kosovo Albanians. Heady
stuff, but merely a lie. The truth is that Radio B92 was virtually the only
Serbian media outlet which reported on Koha Ditore and the Kosovo
Albanians. It also gave them practical assistance such as carrying Radio 21
and other Albanian broadcasters via satellite as part of the ANEM project.
Unlike other media, Radio B92 had correspondents in Kosovo whose mother
tongue was Albanian. B92's correspondents had access to places where other
reporters, even independent journalists, were not present. If he was unable
to listen to Radio B92 directly, Krsic could have read all of that on the
Internet several times a day. As he obviously didn't bother to do so, it's
hardly surprising that he can't comprehend "what is so special, independent
and democratic" about B92. Mere ignorance and lack of information, or a
case of brazen, Zizek-style manipulation of his ill-informed readers? The
latter, I would say. B92 has built a reputation which irritates Dejan Krsic
a great deal: he believes this sort of status properly belongs only to
those who are firmly "on the right side". He is further irritated by the
fact that this status is earned by courage, in opposition to prevailing
collective values. Also, he is irritated because such prestige seriously
diminishes the prospectives of all those who, like himself, having done
nothing for Kosovo Albanians in the past, now gnash their teeth over TV
footage, from a safe distance. Is he perhaps suggesting that Croatia should
accommodate some of many Albanian refugees? When Serbian authorities denied
the exhausted Serb refugees from Krajina the possibility to rest and seek
help in the capital, herding them towards remote villages and rounding up
recruitable males back in 1995, B92 staff at least went out to help these
unfortunate people; the nationalist elites in Belgrade retired to their
penthouses and left the homeless to fend for themselves. Needless to insist
on the long history of B92's problems with the Belgrade regime, including
bannings, obstruction, and, on the other side, B92's key role in stirring
up, nurturing and enlightening Belgrade's rebellion in 1996/97. It is
hardly surprising that the regime's first response to the NATO bombing of
Yugoslavia was to arrest Veran Matic.

But Krsic's intervention is in fact much more low-key and therefore
offensive to the misfortunes of the Kosovo refugees. Krsic dubs Veran Matic
"mister", which is a shabby trick hailing back to the Socialist tradition
of public slurs and should imply deepest contempt for the addressee. Matic
has received a large number of international awards, therefore for Krsic he
is "a master of self-promotion". To add transparency to his claim, Krsic
calls Matic's maturity into question and proposes the image of "his child,
B92" deliberately and not at all naively "wallowing in the filthy water of
the Milosevic regime". This is a phantasmagoric image which poignantly
reveals all about Krsic himself. But the matter does not rest there. For
those completely unfamiliar with the issue, Krsic likens Matic to the
completely out-of-control Vuk Draskovic. The maliciousness of this parallel
is lost in the puerility of the approach.

However absurd, Krsic's intervention raises questions about the position of
people such as Veran Matic and the whole B92 team, and of some others in
Belgrade, like those who were travelling, under NATO bombing, to Pristina
to collect evidence on the crimes of the Milosevic regime. What is the most
efficient way to maintain the stereotype of all Serbs, and of all Serbs
being alike, and thus do away with any hope not only for Serbs, but also
for a good many Montenegrins, Macedonians and Kosovo Albanians? Silencing?
Refusing to help? Or simply denouncing any Serbs who break the mould? The
moment has never been more favorable. While bombs are dropping on them,
"deviant" Serbs can be denounced for "failing to voice themselves". Or,
they can be silenced when they voice themselves, while bombs are dropping
on them. The argument, current in the West, that a large part of the
Serbian opposition was nationalistic, seems hypocritical to me. Western
politicians and analysts have times and again legitimised Milosevic; they
have been protecting top war criminals; they had no scruples in
collaborating with nationalists in other parts of the former Yugoslavia;
they did not really invest in Serbian opposition. Had the Serbian
opposition, nationalistic or otherwise, had the support of the
international community to win in 1997, when Milosevic was seriously
weakened, its nationalism could hardly have the same reach as under
Milosevic, plus it would at least have an anti-nationalist counterbalance.
In any case, now that Serbia's showdown with the rest of the world is on,
some would push the stereotype all the way and eliminate "the other Serbs"
altogether. Indeed, those who do not fit the stereotype will be attacked
first, and thoroughly, lest they muddy the image later. All I can do is to
expose the moral and intellectual misery of this thinking and to point out
my belief that "the other" and "different" Serbs should now shut up and
survive. Let those who don't have bombs falling all around speak for them
in the meantime. And in case they choose not to shut up - yes, B92 does
have the moral right to call for a halt to the bombing of a country in
which it is oppressed and harassed by a government against which it has
struggled openly and systematically. No, B92 is not to blame for the lack
of morals and style among those who consented or kept silent while others
in Yugoslavia were bombed, and now moan for their own selfish benefit.

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