But Their Own?
has been the key ingredient in all Albanian nationalistic uprisings.
Intervention is not, however, the only explanation for their great successes
A Sinking Ship?
do not see
past few months, I have interviewed many young Macedonians, 90 percent
of whom do in fact wish to leave. Children as young as 13 told me that
there are no opportunities left for them at home – a reality made particularly
vicious by the fact that the "no opportunities" strategy was used so
successfully by the Albanians to win Western sympathies last year. Yet
a report by the British
Helsinki Human Rights Group (BHHRG) shows how "opportunities"
are doled out in post-NATO
was told that EU, NATO and OSCE personnel working in
The Brain Drain
article entitled "
is deeply entrenched in despair, defeatism and self-pity. Its tragic
everyday life is not a product of some foreign conspiracies, nor a result
of the Albanian expansionism.
all know the Macedonian demographic reality. In a situation when half
The Education Disaster
one young university-educated Macedonian told me, "all of my friends are in
to the fact that
is only half the reason why young Macedonians feel like second-class
citizens in their own country. Because the complaints of Albanian students
can collectively become politically dangerous, they are coddled.
And Then… the Media
as it is with rancor, incompetence and exaggeration, the Macedonian
media wields a disproportionate amount of power. The surreal fact is
Newspapers chronically overstate their readership; when I asked about the circulation of one magazine, I was told by a sheepish writer, "well, the journalists there have some friends… they like to read it to see what their friends wrote."
In the war of 2001, Western journalists flocked to the NLA commanders and Albanian villages, where they knew a robust welcome awaited them. The Macedonians, on the other hand, berated and occasionally attacked Western correspondents. Oftentimes, Macedonians were too proud and too impatient to slowly and carefully retell their story to journalists. They preferred to be right, rather than to survive as a nation.
For a reporter, the main problem in dealing with Macedonian witnesses is details. On many occasions, a particularly juicy story has come up from an alleged witness to the event. But when asked for specific details, the inevitable reply is, "oh, just ask anybody… everybody knows this is true." The notion that dependable media reports might require specific details – times, places, dates, etc. – is not automatically understood.
The second problem derives from "insiders" who really, really want to be helpful. Occasionally, in their well-intended desire to share their story, they promise more facts than they can really back up or document. This kind of dead-end situation gets tiresome fast – but it keeps happening over and over.
This title implies two things: first, the simple, straight-up concept of PR; and two, the uniquely revelatory quality of certain Macedonian publicity.
of all, we have the type of public relations known as propaganda. An
official actually confided to me, straight-faced, that a detachment
of 500 fearsome mujahedin had once rampaged over
yonder hill. The tragedy here is that, while there might very well have
been 5 fearsome mujahedin, the enormity of the exaggeration
tends to kill any chance of anyone's acknowledging the potential plausibility
of the story. If the Macedonians are going to do propaganda, it should
at least be done well. But that would mean hiring one of those big PR companies which completely failed
to win the war for
The revelatory aspect of Macedonian public relations was captured quite recently, by Prime Minister Georgievski's surprising attack on the New York Times.
June, Dnevnik reported that a major planned promotion
fact, the only thing planned was one of those "special advertising supplements"
that one finds every day in the paper, replete with germane pieces about
natural attractions and tourism. Such supplements are accompanied by
a hefty price tag, precisely because they work. And while the piece
was slated for the Times, the Macedonian government had been
approached by a PR company called Summit Communications. Right now,
Enter the Bland
Macedonians are aware that 2001 turned out so badly for them because they lost the media war. One would think that observing the Albanian propaganda machine in action would inspire at least minor improvements in their presentation. Yet the official government site is not only poorly translated – it also rejoices in blandness.
Stock titles – like 'Situation in the crisis region' – are recycled daily. For readers not already familiar with the country, the title is meaningless. There could be a battle with 8 dead and 18 wounded and the title would be something like, 'Situation in Tetovo at .' Perhaps this is an exaggeration – but not a big one.
Macedonians are generally non-violent people. When threatened, however, their reaction is understandably emotional. The result is that instead of simply and rationally recounting a story as it happened, they will spend ten minutes first on "understood" details, like the inherently terroristic qualities of Albanians. In twenty minutes, perhaps three useable details will come up. One Macedonian explained the phenomenon this way:
"in Macedonia, we think a story is better the longer it is, the more things you tell, and the more you restate your case… we think it is a stronger story and more impressive. But in the West, of course, they want something short and to the point."
Between poor editing, blandness, exaggeration and circumlocution, it's no wonder that few Westerners trust Macedonian news sources, and that Western spokesmen quickly grow impatient with the rambling questions of journalists.
the situation is not merely one of prosaic ineptitude. Rather,
I asked a colleague what could be done. He laughed, and replied, "welcome to the wonderful world of plagiarism."
From the Heart – or From the Head?
Macedonians have not taken a pragmatic view of the situation. They prefer to blame the Albanian militants for many things – intimidation and terrorism, reprehensible crimes, lackeyism, mafia activity, crass cultural insensitivity – which are often true. Yet "exposing" these qualities for the world is not proactive. It is just a reaction. And while they are still reacting, their antagonists have already moved on to the next step. Which brings us to…
Preparing for War – but Why Not Peace?
typically look at peacetime as a period for stockpiling weapons – to
be used in the next war. Yet while
In any case, the moment for official action has slipped away. With contentious elections ahead in September, the government cannot be expected to function in any united way. The various parties will be too caught up in their own self-serving publicity stunts to even think about the national interest. Unfortunately, a few innocent civilians will probably be killed as a result.
Previous articles by Christopher Deliso on Antiwar.com
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