Global Independent Analytics
Stefan Karganovic
Stefan Karganovic

Location: USA

Specialization: Head of "Srebrenica Historical Project"

Srebrenica as paradigmatic media spin

Innocent lives we lost

This year the twentieth anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica is being observed. On July 11 a huge spectacle will take place at the Srebrenica Memorial center specially constructed for that purpose. It will feature the presence of most of the rather insignificant individuals purporting to be political leaders in the region and the Western-dominated world. Their speeches, which never vary substantially, will be infused with the predictable platitudes.

I propose to deal with some aspects of the Srebrenica narrative from the standpoint of the media. As I am sure there is no need to remind you, after two decades of conditioning at the mention of the word “Srebrenica” two memes immediately come to your mind: “genocide” and “8.000 executed men and boys.” If I am right, and if I have successfully read your minds even though this is the first time I have met most of you, that means that the Srebrenica media spin has been a resounding success. I would like to offer a few reflections on how that came about and why.

First, we should put the issue of Srebrenica in some sort of general framework. As with most unspontaneous events, special operations mounted to achieve some political effect, Srebrenica is a purposely a multilayered affair. As an American scholar who has devoted an inordinate amount of time to Srebrenica, Prof. Edward Herman, has put it, far from being a straightforward story “Srebrenica symbolizes the triumph of propaganda at the end of the twentieth century. To this sobering injunction we could add the extraordinary thought recently expressed by Judge Jean-Claude Antonetti of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the dissenting opinion he wrote in the Tolimir case, which focused on Srebrenica:

If the relatives of those killed were to ask me who ordered the killing of their dear ones and why, I would not know what answer to give them

This statement is an amazing admission of opacity, considering the fact that ICTY has been in existence for over twenty years, has been collecting evidence about Srebrenica since 1996 and has convicted over a dozen defendants of involvement in the Srebrenica affair, meeting out harsh sentences, including life imprisonments.

Secondly, I suggest therefore that we try to find the most suitable form to organize the actual or potential information that we have on the events in Srebrenica. I propose that that we use the “levels of information” model advanced by the distinguished British scholar, Prof. Anthony Sutton. His typology is rather nicely applicable to Srebrenica

 

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