In my last article I wrote about techniques to cover up the truth. Now, I would like to go one step further and raise the issue of the phenomenon of ruling with lies. It is worth wondering whether there is a theory on the phenomenon of complete lies or at least an assumption to explain it. A complete lie represents the ruling “culture of lies” produced by a repressive inventing of reality and denial of facts. In this “culture” the facts are arrested and put out of reach. The symbolic shift toward counter-factual culture in our country took place when the court overturned the fact that prime minister Vucic’s brother has a company called Asamacum, although it was duly registered. The Court did so under pressure from the government, accepting its fabrications saying that the brother’s identity, ID, and signature were stolen. It was one of the first blows against common sense. The Court confirmed that lie and, thus, undermined a key branch of the government. Savamala also falls under the same category, because the state was also suspended on that occasion, and the facts distorted. And so we stepped into a world of blunt power and manipulation.
OK, politicians are always promising more than they can achieve, demagogues didn’t appear yesterday, but where did this deliberate and constant lying come from? It seems that it is required as a qualification for state office, especially for the position of a minister in Vucic’s government, which will be discussed further at the end of this article. I accidentally stumbled across an explanation worthy of attention. Vedran Dzihic, scientific advisor currently working in Austria, asserts that, in such situations, it becomes impossible to distinguish facts from lies. What is even more interesting, he argues that this phenomenon is spreading throughout the world and that it’s not characteristic only of Serbia. Dzihic says that this is a trend called post-factual politics. This theory has already been widely applied in our public, and the story of a post-factual era is a blessing for our commentators trying to cope with lies spilled lavishly by the prime minister and his closest group of skilled liars. Before we heard that we’re living in a post-factual age, many spontaneously spoke about the politics of actively confusing the citizens. And they weren’t wrong. Dzihic himself seems to think so. He believes that those confusing stories about spies, traitors, and coups d’état serve to the benefit of mythical Serbia to boost its sense of importance, but also to “throw dust in the eyes of the public”.
The fact that Donald Trump has won the US elections thanks to his skillful management of lies confirms that there is some truth to the theory of post-factual politics. He unstintingly gave false promises in order to get votes of the “forgotten”, which were happy to be remembered, even if it was merely to be lied to. However, even the assumption that the low-paid working class will be saved by a billionaire who does not pay taxes and who is the king of reality shows (false reality) sounds like pure deception. Which will become evident very soon. Trump will reduce taxes for those who have too much, but he won’t be able to return well-paid jobs to the Americans, because it is impossible to do that in a developed post-industrial society. But the angry and the poor believed that a rich showman will start a fight against the establishment that had caused injustice to the working class. And it’s not just an American phenomenon, but also French, Austrian, German, Hungarian, Polish, and there will be more. In fact, threatening coalitions of the poor and super wealthy right-wing demagogues are happening all over the world and this pathological coalition could be labeled as a source of post-factual, i.e. deceitful politics. By taking over the abandoned working class from the left and by relying on nationalism which always wins in times of crisis, right-wing demagogues threaten Western liberal democracies. We are, in fact, dealing with an advancing social fascism which is not new to us. And we know that it is the most dangerous enemy of democracy and liberal values of equality and freedom of citizens.
Since global issues are not the subject of this article, it is certainly clear to the reader that Serbia fits this “fashion” trend, at least at first glance. We also have a right-wing demagogue, an experienced and extreme nationalist, and a great manipulator who is most supported by the poor, prone to authoritarianism and nationalism. But let’s not kid ourselves, the similarities end here. Our working class and other citizens won’t have it like in the US or France (if a right-wing demagogue wins the election there). In underdeveloped countries such as ours, things are much worse, because one could lie to infinity here. This is because the citizens are much poorer, prone to authoritarianism, powerless, less educated, and reluctant of democracy (see Demostat research), institutions are weathered and fragile, the media unsupported, and the economy frail. And the winning demagogue is not the same. The winner of our elections is not rich, but belongs to the political mafia which intends to get rich through the government. This distinction is crucial simply because such a government must hide. When all is hidden, a chronic lack of facts occurs, which leads to the appearance of rumors. Only a very interested public can learn something about the life of the ruling mafia. And it must be so, since the origin of its wealth is illegal and illegitimate (corruption and crime).
In order to successfully hide themselves, they drown the citizens in lies. And in order to lie successfully, they have to demolish the state and institutions, intimidate the media and pay off people, which they do relentlessly. The phenomenon of domination and expansion of tabloids is not at all random. These are the guns deployed all around us, used by the leader to fire lies about the critics of the government and the opposition, while fiercely protecting the government and all its corrupt mess. Public opinion is directed opposite to the formally proclaimed pro-European policy, just as conflicts with the neighboring nations and countries are encouraged, while stability is proclaimed. This is how the double politics is implemented, one for the nation, and the other for those on the outside.
In a weak and underdeveloped society such as the Serbian one, a lie is not used for ideological seduction, but for linking authoritarian government and dependent citizens into a permanent coalition. It was always there and that is why democratic and liberal-minded parties are facing an almost impenetrable wall. Their ideas are struggling to reach a decisive majority because the majority has already been “bought” and is not prone to Western ideologies. And the parties themselves are under the pressure of authoritarian regimes.
The current super manipulative government elects the ministers, MPs, and media editors by how brutal and willing to lie they are. We know the main rednecks among the ministers, MPs, and editors far too well, but they are not the sole creators of “post-factual” deceit. This is best seen in the division of Vucic’s government into ministers-boxers, on the one hand, who are willing to lie, babble and attack at his whim, and to follow his commands blindly. The second group of ministers is obedient and less visible to the public, and the third group is “nice”, “pro-Western”, and “modern”, tasked with pouring lies about the great achievements of Serbia which are there, within reach, in only two years. This last group has a new star. Although she stumbled at first, minister Ana Brnabić managed to position herself alongside the best liars. As a leader of the IT sector team without any qualifications, she said that Serbia does not lag behind developing countries in this area. “And we plan to catch up with the leading countries, such as the USA and China, in two years”. Marko Somborac’s tweet was the fastest: Ana Brnabić announced that our spacecraft will land on Mars by 2018!
By saying that the EU is yet to do what Serbia is ready to do now, the new ministerial star confirmed that the politics of lies and manipulation is without competitors in Serbia. If this diagnosis is accurate, we need to consider whether there is an effective way of removing the wall of lies behind which hides a mafia regime.
Translated by Marijana Simic
Vesna Pešić, političarka, borkinja za ljudska prava i antiratna aktivistkinja, sociološkinja. Diplomirala na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu, doktorirala na Pravnom, radila u Institutu za društvene nauke i Institutu za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, bila profesorka sociologije. Od 70-ih pripada peticionaškom pokretu, 1982. bila zatvarana sa grupom disidenata. 1985. osnivačica Jugoslovenskog helsinškog komiteta. 1989. članica Udruženja za jugoslovensku demokratsku inicijativu. 1991. članica Evropskog pokreta u Jugoslaviji. 1991. osniva Centar za antiratnu akciju, prvu mirovnu organizaciju u Srbiji. 1992-1999. osnivačica i predsednica Građanskog saveza Srbije (GSS), nastalog ujedinjenjem Republikanskog kluba i Reformske stranke, sukcesora Saveza reformskih snaga Jugoslavije Ante Markovića. 1993-1997. jedna od vođa Koalicije Zajedno (sa Zoranom Đinđićem i Vukom Draškovićem). 2001-2005. ambasadorka SR Jugoslavije, pa SCG u Meksiku. Posle gašenja GSS 2007, njegovim prelaskom u Liberalno-demokratsku partiju (LDP), do 2011. predsednica Političkog saveta LDP-a, kada napušta ovu partiju. Narodna poslanica (1993-1997, 2007-2012).