There is a certain perverse dignity in the actions of classical tyrannies, when a government by unadulterated acts of state violence disciplines or destroys their political opponents.
Democratically sanctioned tyrannies, however, shy away from such a practice. They embraced the experience summarized by the Irish Machiavellian Stuart O’Neill: “The efficiency of a system is maintained by means of its negation.” That is to say: “A system should be reinforced by actions which nominally demolish it.”
Democratically legitimized tyrannies therefore rarely resort to terrorist methods – that is to say, they undertake strategies which in the collective’s ideological fixation belong to its mortal enemies – creating the remarkable effect of unknown terrorist groups working tirelessly to protect the regime.
Official institutions and repressive organs of state build a relationship with the terrorists that could be described as a radically antagonistic cooperation: they are constantly pursuing those to whom they covertly issue orders.
In a nutshell, in democratically legitimized tyrannies, the government assumes the form of the “unknown perpetrator.” Thanks to the results of free elections, power falls into the hands of a masked gang.
I apologize for distasteful comparisons, but these past few days a false question has been raised in one section of the public – “Who is killing Pescanik” – which can be translated from Serbian to Croatian into dozens of variants. One is: Who killed Milan Levar?
The question, however, can be posed in another way. For instance: “Who killed Slavko Curuvija?” although from a Croatian perspective it is not particularly challenging to translate from Serbian into Serbian. In addition, there is no linguistic barrier that would cast doubt on the similarity of the scenarios after the terrorist act occurs: the sacred task of finding Curuvija’s/Levar’s murderers is enthusiastically undertaken by those responsible for their deaths.
Milan Levar, the unwanted witnesses of the war crimes in Gospic, a witness who refused to keep his mouth shut, blew up the Croatian regime fourteen years ago with a bomb and since then “unknown perpetrators” are successfully avoiding capture. The commitment with which the public is regularly kept informed that despite the time passed, the investigation continues unabated and the culprits will one day be arrested and punished, corresponds to the energy invested in organizing the assassination, because these are two segments of the same effort.
Claudio Battistelli called similar acts programmatic schizophrenia, trying to explain the mechanism that allows a legally elected government to conduct illegal activities, a principle by which the figure of state representative embodies both the investigator and perpetrator, the policeman and criminal.
The main feature of “unknown perpetrators’ anonymity” in the case of the attack on Pescanik is that all of them are found in the person of Aleksandar Vucic. “Unknown perpetrators” hide behind masks so we could, although unable to name them, know very well who they is.
Aided by hired cyber-killers, a death squadron of sorts, the Serbian prime minister has for days been trying to annihilate a disobedient media outlet with relentless terrorist acts (with the apparent motive being an analytical article which exposed the interior minister Nebojsa Stefanovic as a PhD plagiarist, and the essential one that Pescanik is continuously criticizing the criminal nature of Vucic’s rein), while at the same time announcing a comprehensive investigation against those conducting the attacks.
The prime minister would like the public to clearly see both ends of government activity: what awaits his political opponents – those who lead a “typical smear campaign against their own government” – and what actions he is taking to guarantee a democratic environment and the media freedom by which he eagerly swears. The prime minister does not perceive the deep contradiction between the factual and the demonstrative as a problem; he believes that through a pact with voters this discrepancy was resolved.
Apart from drawing their strength from their subjects’ fear, democratically legitimated tyrannies assume that cynicism has got to be a mass phenomenon, that everyone is obliged to know how high (democratic) standards are a refuge of low (authoritarian) motives. Those who do not accept such a moral matrix – and even denounce it – will be removed by means so violent that they will earn the regime’s sharp condemnation.
As it happens, Battistelli’s programmatic schizophrenia is revealed in full splendor, because – in this particular case – the police, headed by minister Stefanovic, is supposed to find the attackers on a website that exposed minister Stefanovic’s misconduct, for which minister Stefanovic should be replaced, while apparently the first wave of attacks came from the institution that awarded minister Stefanovic his academic degree.
The attackers themselves are as subversive as some sort of crypto-Snowden or anti-Assange activists: unlike the famous dissidents who denounced the secret actions of the political regime and protected the public interest, they are destroying the public sphere by protecting the interests of the political regime. By inverting the typical hacker ethics – the one least devoted to obedience – unlike members of the electronic resistance, they assume the role of an electronic firing squad.
They are, in other words, Aleksandar Vucic. There should not be the smallest doubt about their identity. The hunger for mass support, accompanied by a delusion of his own perfection, forced the democratically elected tyrant to digitally multiply, to put on the appropriate disguise and implement legitimate political life as an actor with illegal weapons.
The secret of his disappearance – as with anyone whose desire for omnipotence leads him from one disgrace to the next – is hidden under the pseudonym of “delete”, the demise will be greeted with tremendous fireworks, and the only question remaining is how long will the social finger wander over the keyboard – namely, what will be the extent of the damage in the fatal meantime. Since he embodies the effortless alliance of government and terrorism, the Serbian prime minister is a walking guarantee of the desolation which he will inevitably leave behind.
Aleksandar Vucic is a representation of nothingness taking the form of an organism.
The comming days will mark the 19th anniversary of a spectacular media event, when on the People’s Square in Split copies of Feral Tribune were ritually burnt. The ritual, reported only by a marginal daily newspaper, lasted several hours. The three “unknown perpetrators”, not hiding their faces, unobstructed by anyone, stole from nearby newsstands hundreds of copies of this weekly and burned them right on the square. For hours. Several uniformed police officers watched the spectacle from a safe distance, not showing the slightest intention to intervene. The scenery consisted of hundreds of citizens. Some went by turning their heads, some paused curious to see what was happening, and many have patiently watched the entire event. But – none of them made a peep, let alone utter a word of protest. For hours. They passed by for hours, halting or warming their hands over the bonfire in absolute silence. Their fear seemed to add oxygen to the flares as smoke from the burned newspapers grew denser.
The investigation against “unknown perpetrators” was of course never completed, although Feral’s journalists discovered and published their names, and later came across other interesting findings: the “unknown perpetrators”, who returned from Australia, were awarded a fee of 25,000 deutschmarks for their courageous act by the secret service, although the total cost of the operation was somewhat higher, because the auto-da-fé was overseen from the sidelines by twenty-odd “plain clothes officers,” making sure there were no incidents from the audience.
However, there was no incident. Everything was conducted in perfect order. The sacramental silence lasted until the end of the ceremony, until there was no trace left of the newspapers. The crackling of this bonfire, which burned for hours under the voiceless gaze of the audience, is the ancient audio recording of today’s cosmic loneliness of Pescanik’s editors and authors.
In the absence of fire, water would do. As the democratically legitimized tyranny is anyway constantly working on producing a state of emergency, the cataclysm of a flood came as a god given alibi for a no-holds-barred policy.
The Narcissus in power, aided by enlisted storm troopers, gets a chance to parasitically cling his ambition to collective emotionality, to equate his vulnerability to the vulnerability of the nation, to isolate the contaminated from the healthy for the “common good,” to decide who loves and who does not love his own people, to put in prison the disseminators of disturbing news, to wage a crusade against the truth, to brutally snuff out prominent independent media outlets who lead a “typical smear campaign against their own government”… There is a wonderful intertwining between the disasters caused by the floods and disasters caused by the democratic procedure.
But beware! Once natural disasters ends, the flooded area begins growing. The leader is gushing out from all sides. As he flows by, the only sound he expects to hear is the salute: Water cannon to fascism!
Translated by Ivica Pavlovic