Demonizing the Serbs


 The Yugoslavian government has just expelled some
 journalists from NATO countries from its territory. This is
 deplored by the media as censorship, but in some of us it has
 created a strange sense of relief: perhaps now there will be a
 ceasefire in the 10-year disinformation campaign about the
 Yugoslavian conflict in general and the Serbs in particular. Or
 at least the journalists (few actually deserve the name) have
 to declare that what they are talking about is unverified
 rumour and hearsay since they are nowhere near the scene.
 Up to this point they have been able to create the false
 impression that they have witnessed the events they report

 The Western media's relentless demonization of the Serbs of
 Yugoslavia has, however, produced a very predictable (and
 no doubt, wished-for) result: a truly genocidal assault on the
 Serbian people by Western military might, Canada to its
 eternal shame participating, breaking every relevant
 international covenant and treaty.

 The pack-journalism over the last ten years has also
 succeeded in hoodwinking many Canadians into thinking that
 what is at stake is the good-riddance of a Serbian Hitler who
 has attempted a "final solution" of sorts on assorted ethnic
 groups in Yugoslavia. A lot of well- intentioned people are
 cheering the bombing of yet another pariah nation into the
 Stone Age. With the accumulated effects of mediarumour-
 mongering and willful disinformation, who can blame these
 folks for their barely controlled blood thirst? After all,
 because Hitler wasn't stopped in time, millions perished in
 concentration camps, goes the heart-felt argument.

 Yet the labelling of Yugoslavia's Serb leaders as Hitlers and
 the Serbs themselves as brutal, subhuman monsters is a
 familiar trick from recent history. It has been perpetuated by
 the various hired hands, PR firms, who have worked
 overtime for the various ethnic groups pushing for secession
 which would utterly destroy the once well-functioning, multi-
 ethnic Yugoslavian federation and replace it with small
 nation-states which ethnically cleansed themselves (Croatia,
 for instance, expelled between 500,000 and a million Serbs
 from its territory.) The media has merely carried the message
 of these "hidden hands" of the Balkan conflict.

 The world was shocked to find out that a PR firm, Hill and
 Knowlton, had manufactured the "incubator babies" incident
 in Kuwait which precipitated the Gulf War: Iraqi soldiers
 ripping Kuwaiti babies out of incubators in a genocidal
 fashion. Phony eywitnesses to this atrocity tearfully testified
 in front of U.S. politicians and the media, adding to public
 support for the subsequent bombing of Iraq and contributing
 hugely to the demonization of the Iraqis, leaders and citizens
 alike. Even Amnesty International was taken in by the
 falsehood, which was later exposed as such, but only after the
 military damage was done.

 Yet the shock of being duped soon wore off and gullibility
 returned. In no time another American PR firm, Ruder Finn,
 working for the Croatian and Bosnian separatists, publicly
 bragged that it had been able to turn world opinion against the
 Serbs. In April 1993 on French television, James Harff, the
 director of Ruder Finn, described his proudest public relations
 effort as having "managed to put Jewish opinion on our
 [Croatian and Bosnian] side." This was a "sensitive matter,"
 he added, as "the Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by
 real and cruel anti- semitism. Tens of thousands of Jews
 perished in Croatian camps... Our
 challenge was to reverse this attitude and we succeeded
 masterfully. At the beginning of July 1992, New York
 Newsday came out with the article on Serb camps. We
 jumped at the opportunity immediately. We outwitted three
 big Jewish organizations.... That was a tremendous coup.
 When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side
 of the [Muslim] Bosnians we could promptly equate the
 Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind. Nobody understood
 what was happening in Yugoslavia.... By a single move, we
 were able to present a simple story of good guys and bad
 guys which would hereafter play itself. We won by targeting
 the Jewish audience. Almost immediately there was a clear
 change of language in the press, with the use of words with
 high emotional content such as ethnic cleansing, concentration
 camps, etc, which evoke images of Nazi Germany and the
 gas chambers of Auschwitz. "

 The PR firm was piling hoax upon hoax. The famous story of
 Serb concentration camps was built on a photo of a gaunt
 man surrounded by others, staring at the viewer from behind
 barbed wire; surely an image to chill one to the bones. It took
 years before a German journalist Thomas Deichman, in an
 article titled "The picture that fooled the world," described
 how the famous photo was staged by its takers, British
 journalists, who were photographing the inhabitants from
 inside barbed wire which was protecting agricultural products
 and machinery from theft in a refugee and transit camp; the
 men stood outside of it; and at no time was there a
 barbed-wire fence surrounding the camp. But by that time the
 image had done its deed, terminally slamming the Serbs as
 genocidal mass murderers.

 There are countless other stories, all deliberately maligning
 the Serbs to further the ends of military intervention. These
 stories and photos of "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing" (a la
 Hitler) in a civil war, in which Serbs are guilty as sin and
 others are their innocent victims, are repeated ad nauseam by
 western reporters without the slightest evidence, and have
 provided the ground for the public's (hopefully only
 temporary) acceptance of the illegal and brutal war against the
 sovereign nation of Yugoslavia.

 They continue after NATO's bombing began, unabated, with
 new absurdities such as the suggestion that the Serbs are
 really bombing themselves! Perhaps in the war crimes court
 there will soon be a place for journalists and PR firms who
 with their inflammatory reporting and fraudulent actions
 cause wars to begin.

 MARJALEENA REPO is a free lance writer with a special
 interest injustice issues. She is also the national organizer of
 Citizens Concerned About Free Trade. She lives and works in
 Saskatoon and Toronto (Canada).She can be reached by