Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Milosevic's Virtual Demise

Yugoslavs were this week disappointed to learn that an internet news site report on the death of President Slobodan Milosevic was a hacker's prank
By Petar Lukovic

Slobodan Milosevic, president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - who last week had the constitution changed so he could stay in power until 2009 - has finally been defeated. Not by the opposition, but by the grim reaper.


Doctors from a special team at the "Dragisa Misovic" hospital issued a statement announcing that Slobodan Milosevic passed away at six minutes past two on Wednesday morning. After fighting for his life for several hours, the president finally succumbed to internal bleeding caused after an explosive device was triggered in his bunker in the exclusive Belgrade suburb of Dedinje.


Or so the regime newspaper Politika's web site announced at around 10.00am on Wednesday, July 12. Unknown hackers posted this "exclusive" at the top of the page and urged readers to "watch this website for breaking news at this terrible moment for all Serbs".


Politika closed its web-site (www.politika.co.yu) immediately. From Thursday, it suddenly became impossible to download Politika's triumphal headlines, lauding the President for his great wisdom, whilst routinely attacking the US, Croatia, Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, the UK, Holland, Germany and France. In fact, Politika can't find an honest government anywhere on the face of the earth - with the honourable exceptions of China, Russia, Iraq, Miamar (formerly Burma), Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea, of course.


In Belgrade, the virtual assassination of Slobodan Milosevic illicited glee and disappointment in equal measure. Regret that the death was only virtual was tempered with mirth and admiration for the mischievous hackers.


That Slobodan Milosevic is alive and well, unscathed by any explosive device, was confirmed by Politika on Thursday June 13. There he was, as usual, on the front page, talking to a delegation from the Patriotic Union of Yugoslavia. "Huge Majority of Citizens back the Unity and Independence of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia", announced the headline, just to confirm that everything is as it should be. Readers were also informed that "America Falls Behind Yugoslavia" - at volleyball, that is.


Indeed, patriotic propaganda has descended to such a level that Serbia in the year 2000 has taken on an Orwellian appearance. Milosevic propaganda rags regularly serve us up gems that George himself would have been proud of. Here's just a couple.


"Our textile workers were ahead of schedule even when the bombs were falling, and our products, in spite of cruel inhuman sanctions, are highly sought-after in precisely those countries which most attack us" and "They are bringing in syndicates, foundations, scholarships and other nonsense to make workers forget their real interests".


Nor has Kosovo lost its propaganda value. A few days ago, Lieutenant-General Vladimir Lazarevic, commander of the Third Army, uttered the following, "Nowhere on this planet is the depravity of the West seen better than in Kosovo-Metohija. Today churches, monasteries, icons and Serbian frescoes are burning in that sacred Serb land, but the criminals and their aides should know that our ancestors and saints burn inside us. The Third Army is an iconostasis of the sacred face of a future victory over a degenerate aggressor seeking the destruction of civilisation. That monster is NATO - led by US".


But how to fight such a monster? With words, obviously.


A few days ago yet another memorial tablet was unveiled in Belgrade, this time at the spot where NATO missiles hit the "21st May" factory. Made of black marble, the tablet reads, "This monument, this ruin, was erected by the following criminals during their lifetime: the President of America Bill Clinkton (sic), the President of England Tony Blair (sic), Secretary of America Madeleine Albright (sic), and their faithful servants. May this monument serve as a memorial to future generations of the evil that cruised the world and of the heroic resistance our people put up in 1999."


Elementary, illiterate and inaccurate -this is a perfect example of the 'accomplishments' of the Serbian regime, whose only dialogue with the West takes place through inscriptions on memorials. This country is marching proud and mighty towards total spiritual and intellectual destruction, aggrandising its own stupidity along the way.


Which brings us back to the virtual assassins. In their own way, they were striking a blow for sanity - like us, they have also had enough.


Petar Lukovic is a leading Belgrade commentator.