Joe Simon and Jack Kirby: Justice Traps the Guilty, volume 2 number 2 (Prize Comics, January 1949), Wikimedia Commons
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby: Justice Traps the Guilty, volume 2 number 2 (Prize Comics, January 1949), Wikimedia Commons

The machine doesn’t lie – said Vucic about the polygraph. So, if the machine says that a person is lying, then it must be true. Vucic wasn’t hooked up to a polygraph machine when he said this. Which, according to him, should immediately cause doubt and disbelief. If he were hooked up to a polygraph, it would have been a different story. In other words, the polygraph has metastasized. It has consumed institutions and common sense. It is all we have left. 

Vucic said, if you don’t trust me, trust the polygraph. But the polygraph was nowhere to be seen when he said this. Hook him up to one immediately and ask him… Honestly, what should we ask him? He said to ask him anything about Jovanjica. Okay, we can do that. But, why only about Jovanjica? It is not the only thing in Serbia about which we already know and about which he denies all the things we know.

Vucic said, don’t trust your own eyes, trust the polygraph. The polygraph will test whether your judgment is trustworthy. You don’t need common sense, the polygraph is enough. What a respirator does for the lungs, the polygraph does for the brain. If we follow this analogy, every time he mentions the polygraph, Vucic implies that Serbian citizens are seriously or terminally ill – “in the head.”

It is not difficult to imagine Vucic’s Serbia as a polygraph utopia. First, just like with respirators, you need to buy a large number of polygraph machines and install them in all public places and institutions: for example, in television studios, in the parliament, the courts. But why stop at public places? Everywhere, then! No one is allowed to say anything to anyone without being hooked up to a polygraph.

And no one should ever listen to anything anyone else says, it is enough to watch and listen to the polygraph. Because, says Vucic, the machine does not lie. And Serbia yearns for the truth. Although the truth here has never been more obvious than it is today. But we need a polygraph to confirm that. Imagine, for example, a news program or an interview on a national TV station. Wrapped in wires, in the background, journalists report, while the machine stands in the foreground and gives judgments – truth or lie.

It could be the same in parliament. A polygraph put on the chair of the President of the Parliament. As an MP gets up to speak, they immediately connect them to the wires, and in the TV broadcast the screen is divided in two – on the left, the MP, and on the right, the polygraph, so that everything is immediately clear: true or false. The same in the courtrooms. And everywhere else.

A polygraph in every house and every family – that could be the election slogan of the new Radical Party led by Vucic. Let Serbia drown in the truth. If we had ten times more respirators than needed, it could be the same with polygraphs.

A person hooked up to a polygraph becomes a machine (and machines, let us not forget, don’t lie). As a device, a polygraph would be inconceivable if someone hadn’t looked at the human body and brain as a machine. According to this idea, just like a machine, the human body and the brain always produce the same outputs for the same inputs. Truth and lies are treated as inputs, and, according to this assumption, the reactions of the brain and body, as outputs, are always the same.

In other words, in order for Vucic’s polygraph utopia to be possible, the citizens of Serbia would have to be robots. In the land of robots, Vucic guarantees the truth. And he is ready to sacrifice himself – to let us crucify him on the polygraph first.

But, like any other, this utopia has one essential drawback: the polygraph is vulnerable to sedatives. “You can’t cheat the machine, unless you take too many sedatives, but then no one would accept your interrogation in the first place,” said Vucic. The Serbia of polygraphs versus the Serbia of sedatives – that’s how Serbia is divided. In other words: if you want to remain a human being in Serbia, you have to be on sedatives.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 17.03.2021.

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Dejan Ilić (1965, Zemun), urednik izdavačke kuće FABRIKA KNJIGA i časopisa REČ. Diplomirao je na Filološkom fakultetu u Beogradu, magistrirao na Programu za studije roda i kulture na Centralnoevropskom univerzitetu u Budimpešti i doktorirao na istom univerzitetu na Odseku za rodne studije. Objavio je zbirke eseja „Osam i po ogleda iz razumevanja“ (2008), „Tranziciona pravda i tumačenje književnosti: srpski primer“ (2011), „Škola za 'petparačke' priče: predlozi za drugačiji kurikulum“ (2016), „Dva lica patriotizma“ (2016), „Fantastična škola“ (2020) i „Srbija u kontinuitetu“ (2020).

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