In recent weeks, we’ve witnessed a new phase of propaganda activities launched by the authorities, involving all aspects of social reality. Public speech is reminiscent of a stream of consciousness, the voice of the deep subconscious, which cameras and microphones simply record and transmit to an audience that no longer cares to understand it, because it only works with a few symbols constructed in the nineties and transferred to the current political moment through SPS and SNS channels. “Fascists”, “pieces of shit”, “cretins”, “criminals”, “aggressors” have become our everyday life, labels without content that are begging for meaning and a return to where they came from, back to the cloaca, which was demolished in the meantime by Goran Vesic’s construction machinery. There is little left of the city and nothing at all of politics. In fact, Vucic has destroyed the agora both symbolically and physically. The street remains the only zone for the articulation of alternatives. This street, however, also curves around excavations, ruins, illegal construction sites, chopped-down trees and concrete obstacles. Belgrade today closely resembles Vucic’s propaganda, as all these holes are “closed” with models, 3D plots of squares and photographs of gondolas in different European cities. In reality, the street under Vucic has physically lost its most important characteristic, as the last retreat for the affirmation of a different policy and for citizens’ dissatisfaction as the only possible correction of a reality which is turning, more and more, into film noir.
In accordance with the poetics of this genre, the light is dimmed or all but gone, although the New Year’s lights still shine over the capital even after six months, while the story revolves around criminal acts, corruption, scams, robberies, deception in all its meanings. In this nighttime scene, people in balaclavas are demolishing parts of the city and never getting caught. When journalists ask the president about the event, he swears that he never avoids the answer to any question. On such nights, the homes of journalists on the perimeter of the city are burned down, opposition politicians are beaten, or simply killed. In hotel rooms, dead girls who are reliably known to have been in relationships with media moguls are found. However, there are no rogue detectives willing to fight the system, and carry out an investigation no matter the cost. Even when verdicts are made twenty years later, we find out that the shooters and the people who gave the order are unknown. On these nights and in these cities, murders simply happen. There are only people who call each other on the phone and allow their will to be done. No one can prove the truth, since there are no more instruments or institutional support for such ventures. On the contrary, deleting traces of crimes is the task of an army of employees. Due to such an erosion of social memory, which actually began in Banjica on the night between October 5 and 6, 2000, it is possible, after a decade or two, for the fascists to return and occupy public space, under the banner of antifascism.
Fascists are no longer in power in Serbia. They have lustrated themselves and become much better than they could ever dream. In the discourse of the SNS, “fascists” have become all those who do not obey the will of the supreme leader, whether they may be opposition politicians or citizens who walk among the ruins on Saturdays. In order to explain this, the government uses its own media with national frequency and tabloids, which have entered a new phase of propaganda, implying a complete split between images and words, or a state in which an image is attributed a meaning it doesn’t have. On the contrary, this meaning is assigned by continuous repetition (“fascists”, “aggressors”, “killers”, “thieves”), often by shouting from the studio, so that a viewer doesn’t have time to decipher the scenes of the crowd and understand the true meaning of the image, but is forced to associate it with the violent rhetoric from the studio. Pink, as the central newsletter of the Progressives, is the leader of this pack, since the entire news program of this television has become an edifice – a propaganda attraction. The most radical forms of this type of propaganda montage were broadcast after the opposition attempted to submit their objections to the Mayor of Belgrade, Zoran Radojicic, in the City Assembly. The Progressive use of the “female cordon” and live editing from Pink and Studio B led to general confusion among viewers, even among the most experienced television connoisseurs. There was even a synchronization of the shouts in the field and in the studio: “Fascists! Fascists!” It could be said that this model of Vucic propaganda has gone the furthest, because it succeeded in merging several levels of abuse into informative-propaganda content that discredits the opposition morally and politically in the eyes of the public.
This model of media propaganda was developed during Milosevic’s time and enforced to an extent that would put even Goebbels to shame. He himself advised that propaganda content should be repeated, but only to a certain extent. Vucic, however, is trying to cross this red line and see what happens on the other side Goebbels, i.e. if his postulates on media manipulation can be raised to a higher level. This manipulation technology has proven effective on the home field: the viewership, “educated” through war propaganda with fictional images of “Serbian babies being thrown to the lions by the enemy”, is now facing a new form of disinformation. Namely, even if there are no lions devouring their prey in the image, the images of violence are suggested discursively, which also implies the potential escalation of that violence in the street. No doubt that this is a way for Vucic to mobilize public support for the possible violent reaction of the regime against the protestors, as April 13th approaches and the regime’s tolerance for dissent decreases.
Translated by Marijana Simic