Quislings Do It Better

Empire’s Enablers, Paid and Unpaid

Several weeks ago, a scandal erupted in the U.S. when it was revealed that several pundits got paid by the Bush government to support its policies. Commenting on the scandal, Lew Rockwell, president of the libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute, wrote that “it’s not those who lie for money we should worry about; it’s those who lie for free who are the real danger.”

There are many journalists, activists, and politicians in the Balkans who have taken money from the Empire, but there are also many who don’t have to – they serve it willingly and zealously. Whether paid or not, these “insiders” are doing the bulk of Empire’s work in their countries, in the belief that what they are doing is beneficial and righteous. Even as the Empire itself re-examines the most overt cases of presstitution, the Balkans shills are soldiering on, undaunted.

The Bland Times of “Southeastern Europe”

In the wake of the “paid pundit” scandal, AP reported last Friday that the Pentagon was investigating the practice of employing journalists to write for its propaganda outfits, including the Southeast European Times, aimed at the Balkans.

Established by the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), the SE Times aimed to “offer accurate, balanced, and forward-looking (emphasis added) coverage of developments” in the peninsula. In practice, “forward-looking” reporting means the news are presented in a manner that best serves the Imperial agenda. As all government efforts at subtlety, the SE Times has been a failure. The fact that it was once called “Balkan Times,” before some bureaucrat decided to replace the peninsula’s proper name with a meaningless geographic descriptive, testifies to the unbearable blandness of official propaganda.

The investigation has prompted Srdja Trifkovic of the Rockford Institute to observe:

“The trouble with this Southeast European Times is not that it is government propaganda, but that it is (a) unbelievably bad propaganda, and (b) totally unnecessary … because the ‘pro-Western’ view of post-Yugoslav politics is now largely dominant in the domestic media of the successor states.”

He goes on to list several print and electronic media in Serbia, specifically, where “no one is more insanely vehement in his insults against the Serbian people and their history, religion, art, and suffering than a dozen Serb-born columnists … on [their] payroll.” These media are a far greater threat to truth than the SE Times, because they are far better at their job:

“They are doing their propaganda work professionally and, thanks to an abundance of funds, they have attracted a number of journalists and other media professionals ready to sell their body and soul to the highest bidder.”

The Peculiar Case of B92

One of the media Trifkovic names is B92, a radio/TV/Internet outfit founded in 1989. Almost since its inception, the station cast itself as the implacable enemy of Slobodan Milosevic and “Serbian totalitarianism,” which guaranteed them outside funding and support while advertising them as a trustworthy source of news for Serbians disillusioned with Milosevic’s rule.

Trifkovic accuses B92 of being a puppet of George Soros, Hungarian-born currency speculator whose “Open Society Institute” has been at the forefront of Imperial conquest in Eastern Europe. According to B92’s information page, 49 percent of its shares are owned by something called the Media Development Loan Fund, which turns out to be an American nonprofit funded heavily by George Soros and the National Endowment for Democracy, among others. Another 36.5 percent is owned by the B92 Trust (owned 44 percent by Veran Matic), with the rest in the possession of small shareholders.

Such a money trail already speaks volumes, but further proof is in the network’s content. For example, the network serves as a bullhorn for Natasa Kandic and the Humanitarian Law Center, airing her sensationalist charges (generally not accompanied by evidence) and praising the HLC as “relentless in its pursuit of justice for the victims of crimes and the uncovering of crimes committed by the state.”

B92’s founder and head honcho Matic has long been a fair-haired boy in Washington and Brussels, and a welcome guest in their mainstream publications. And in May 2004, Matic pleaded for more Imperial intervention in the Balkans on the pages of IWPR – another Imperial mercenary, funded by the U.S. State Department, UK Foreign office, and yes, George Soros.

In short, B92 is the media apotheosis of forces within Serbia that exalt the Empire and want to impose its “values” (whatever they may be) on the country, by deceit when useful and by force if necessary.

“Baby” Makes a Fuss

It should not surprise, therefore, that B92 TV recently aired a three-part interview with a former shadowy figure in the DOS regime, in a show titled The Insider. Vladimir “Beba” (Baby) Popovic, presented as a “top political adviser and friend” of the late PM Zoran Djindjic, caused a sensation with a series of accusations. He charged current PM Vojislav Kostunica with masterminding the Djindjic assassination, with help from the Church, the army, and Russian intelligence(!). He also claimed many other notables were involved in corruption, embezzlement, and treason. Not unexpectedly, Popovic offered no evidence for any of this; in the chaos that is Serbia today, rumors are the strongest currency.

Baby should know. He was once a shadowy media operative for the late PM, known for exerting pressure on journalists and even wiretapping public officials (e.g., Kostunica). Djindjic actually fired him in November 2002, but Popovic staged a surprise comeback the day after Djindjic’s assassination, emerging as head of the government’s Public Information Bureau. Under the martial law that followed, PubIn was the only allowed source of information, and Popovic gleefully organized the media lynch of dissidents and political foes. Eventually, the terror backfired and the squabbling Dossies fell from power. The reviled Baby disappeared from public eye – only to return a year later and find a receptive audience and a willing conduit. How quickly the mob forgets!

As Transitions Online reports from Belgrade, Baby’s closest political allies are Ceda Jovanovic, Vladan Batic, Goran Svilanovic, and Zarko Korac, as well as “several nongovernmental organizations” – all members of the “Jacobin” faction of the late, unlamented DOS, and not accidentally, all faithful camp-followers of the Empire.

Popovic’s alleged “revelations” unleashed the pervasive acrimony and partisanship in Serbia’s political circles, effectively paralyzing the government and drowning out all other news. Perhaps this partly explains the utter absence of reaction to the International Crisis Group’s media offensive regarding Kosovo.

Political Sycophants

While B92 may be the eager purveyor of Imperial PR in Serbia, and “Baby” the shrill scream of the Jacobins, an even greater peril are people in actual positions of power who further the interests of the Empire rather than those of their country. Some defend it by saying submission is the prudent policy, a necessary evil. Others are actually confident that those interests are one and the same, so they feel no need to justify their actions.

Belgrade has long been under pressure from Washington, Brussels, and the Hague Inquisition to arrest and extradite four top generals accused of alleged crimes against Albanians during the Kosovo war. The issue threatened to topple the Kostunica government, with two coalition members insisting on submission to the ICTY, while a key backer in the parliament demanded resistance.

Only last week’s voluntary surrender of one general – Vladimir Lazarevic, commander of the Army Corps that fought NATO and the KLA in Kosovo – resolved the impasse. But instead of capitalizing on Lazarevic’s surrender, Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic (an advocate of complete submission) publicly stated that it was “not enough”! Such proclamations could be expected from the EU and Chief Inquisitor Carla Del Ponte – and they indeed followed – but from a country’s own foreign minister? Did anyone actually ever explain to Draskovic his job was to make Serbia look good?

Then again, he is convinced that the pinnacle of Serbian achievement would be the accession to both a military alliance occupying a part of its territory, and a transnational heir to the Soviet Union, something he said the Lazarevic surrender would help achieve. Worse yet, mainstream Serbian politicians agree that these are valid aspirations that trump the “obsolete” considerations such as freedom, independence, and national interests.

In the meantime, however, such comments made by Draskovic and others are providing the Empire with validation of its policy of pressures and extortion, guaranteeing its continuance. Serbian politicians and media are telling their people defying the Hague Inquisition would mean “new sanctions” – a loaded word for a country that has suffered through a blockade only slightly less severe than that against Iraq – and that submission would result in “much-needed” aid. But the “aid” in question is practically nonexistent: of the $75 million earmarked for Serbia in the 2006 U.S. budget, $72 million is going to occupied Kosovo, while the remainder is to go to various insiders and NGOs to speed up the “process of stabilization and Euro-Atlantic integration.” Both the threats and the promises are empty – and it’s the Imperial sycophants in Belgrade making them, not the Empire itself!

The Cult of Power

Rockwell’s explanation for the behavior of paid pundits was that they were part of the "sickening personality cult" that has coalesced around the American Emperor, one that "seeks power, adores power, exalts power, and has only one agenda: more power."

He was referring to the situation in America today, but the observation applies just as well to Imperial enablers in the Balkans. What hides behind the public worship of “democracy” and “human rights” is really the worship of power and violence. Meanwhile their victims, however skeptical they imagine themselves to be, continue to worship these false gods, look to the media to tell them what to think, and expect the government to tell them what to do. And the Empire marches on.

Author: Nebojsa Malic

Nebojsa Malic left his home in Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and currently resides in the United States. During the Bosnian War he had exposure to diplomatic and media affairs in Sarajevo. As a historian who specializes in international relations and the Balkans, Malic has written numerous essays on the Kosovo War, Bosnia, and Serbian politics. His exclusive column for Antiwar.com debuted in November 2000.