A group of twenty or so military-age men is marching through the main street in Borovo Selo, chanting “Kill the Serb”, singing “Oh my Croatian mother, we will slaughter the Serbs” and similar songs, with a Croatian police car slowly following them, keeping a distance of about ten meter and monitoring this hateful gathering – you can see all this in a video published on the Facebook page of Borovo municipality.
“The police reacted immediately” – says an official statement of the Croatian government, condemning the “scandalous provocation and hate speech” in Borovo Selo.
A citizen who tries to keep informed, thus, faces the same dilemma for the thousandth time: should I trust the government, or my own eyes?
The video clearly shows the police letting the chauvinist group of men sing through to the end of their hateful repertoire, to commit the crime to its full extent. There is even an impression that they are trying to secure the conditions for the perpetrators to act undisturbed, while the government tells us that the police “reacted immediately” to the “scandalous provocation”.
The minister of the interior said that “the perpetrators were identified” and that the police “will do its best to punish them”. So, a temporal note is added to the dilemma faced by the consumer of information:
When is ‘immediately?’ – the citizen wonders – What constitutes immediately in the government’s interpretation? And why does it seem that the police were cooperating with the perpetrators, enabling them to commit a crime undisturbed, before “reacting immediately”?
Croatia’s president Zoran Milanovic saw the same video and reached the same conclusions: he called the chauvinistic outburst in Borovo Selo “disgusting”, but added that “the police assisted them by driving peacefully behind the group”, which he thought was “shameful”. Local organizations of Serbs said that this hateful outburst is “even more shameful and scandalous because it was accompanied by the police”.
“I approached the group and recorded the video”, said Zoran Bacanovic, president of Borovo municipality, “and only when the policemen saw me filming, they reacted, stopped the group and started asking for IDs”. If they hadn’t noticed him with his cellphone, he implies, they wouldn’t even have flinched at this violent outburst and would have continued “to drive peacefully behind the group”.
A statement by the police directorate of Vukovar-Srijem County, however, had a very different tone: “The group was under the supervision of police officials who chose the most favorable moment to act”. A spokesperson for the directorate explained in more detail: “The police were following the perpetrators to establish all elements of illegal conduct”. That is, summarized by the government: “The police reacted immediately”.
For the sake of comparison, a well-informed citizen can picture the following scene: a group of military-age men raping a girl, possibly underage, in a city park, while a group of police officers watches everything from about 10 meters away, “monitoring” the perpetrators, trying to establish “all elements of illegal conduct”, and once the male beasts are satisfied, having kicked the victim in the stomach several times for good measure, and once a passer-by starts filming the scene with their cellphone, they move, judging it to be the “most favorable moment to act”, approach the mischievous young men and ask for their IDs. Perhaps, the next day, the government will condemn the scandalous act of violence and establish that, fortunately, “the police reacted immediately”.
Seriously, when is ‘immediately?’ When is the “most favorable moment to act”, the moment in which the Croatian police transforms from one of the perpetrators into law enforcement? Or, more generally, which amount of crime can the Croatian police enable and logistically support while immediately starting to fight it?
It could be said that “the most favorable moment to act” is one of the most important of the cynical building elements that make up that thing we call the Croatian legal state. These elements have been carefully perfected and honed for years. The history of “the most favorable moment” is not only richer and more vivid than many others, full of incredible twists and bizarre events unknown to the rest of the world, but very often directly influences historical events.
For example, because of the “most favorable moment to act”, Branimir Glavas is only now on trial for the murder of Serbian civilians in Osijek, thirty years after the crime, with good prospects for acquittal. Just like the “most favorable moment to act” caused a full decade to pass between the bloody atrocities committed in the Lora prison camp and the first time that even a fragment of the truth about them was heard in court – even more than a decade, in the case of Pakracka Poljana. The multiple layers of the cynicism of the legal state are manifested in the fact that all those crimes were committed by uniformed officials, meaning the very ones that determine “the most favorable moment”: members of the police reserve were the killers in Pakracka Poljana, and members of the military police in Lora.
A cellphone video of a group of military-age men verbally killing and slaughtering Serbs in the middle of Borovo Selo, with a police vehicle crawling meekly behind, making sure that the perpetrators are not disturbed, is a perfect depiction of the Croatian legal state adapted to the format of social media.
When the government says that the “police reacted immediately”, instead of taking it as another unbearably brazen lie, for a change, we should believe it all the way: the police really did “react immediately”, but that reaction, as usual, meant enabling the violence, only to start theatrically collecting IDs and enforcing the law after the violence was over. The forces of repression are simply demonstrating the practical terrain implementation of Andrej Plenkovic’s government’s policy, which, as we saw on numerous occasions, most decisively condemns every wrongdoing it enables.
Yes, this is a “double connotation” – similar to the one Plenkovic gave to the Ustasha greeting “Za dom spremni!” (For the homeland ready!), by pronouncing it both forbidden and allowed – where it is perfectly logical to use common phrases about international tolerance, while, at the same time, encouraging antagonism against Serbs as the most important component of the ruling ideology. The statement about the Borovo Selo police “reacting immediately” testifies to the advanced level of skill in this trade, because denial of the fact is built into its very condemnation.
So, when is immediately?
Immediately is always, that much is clear. With one important side note that, when speaking about suppressing nationalist hate, the government is using its official statements as a cover – immediately is rhetorical code for “Nothing to see here”.
Translated by Marijana Simic