and Institutional Disease
The September 15th Macedonian elections are not, in fact, the subject of this piece. But they do provide a convenient jumping-off point. For the elections in themselves are insignificant; they are only symptomatic of a greater malignancy.
Even for the country's sake, it no longer matters who wins the elections and perhaps it never did. For sure, the biggest losers will be the Macedonian people. Utterly alienated from the political process by parties they ceased believing in long ago, and force-fed "democracy" by outside forces, the Macedonians no longer believe in anybody. In the recent words of Dr. Sam Vaknin:
"the relationship between Macedonia and the international community is damaged beyond repair. No matter who is in power, the people are disenchanted, disillusioned and extremely suspicious… it will be very difficult to re-establish trust."
Yet this has not stopped the local parties and media from launching a ferocious pre-election blitz, in which many strange things have been occurring. First of all, the opposition SDSM mysteriously withdrew from the scheduled series of electoral debates. Confident of victory, they apparently thought they had more to lose than gain from debating. The debates four years ago merely degenerated into vitriolic accusations and embarrassment all around.
Meanwhile, articles by the present author were haphazardly paraphrased in both pro-government newspapers and pro-opposition television with both media sensationalizing elements out of context for their own benefit. Apparently also drawing on my last series, the government then printed (on 10 September) a full-page challenge to the ICG (in the pro-government newspaper Vecer), demanding an apology for factual inaccuracies contained in the ICG's corruption report. But by antagonizing the powerful thinktank, this challenge may well blow up in their face.
A Stunningly Predictable Reaction
The Macedonians are not the only losers. The Albanian parties are also fraught with discord. In their special way, they have taken to killing each other to solve their disagreements. The DPA even blew up the print shop of an unfriendly media body, in the early hours of September 11.
But worst of all has been the reaction of some of the Western parties mentioned in my last series. The shrill outcry, and in some cases, outright bullying, from these people shows that they were never very interested in what they were actually talking about or doing. For instead of debating the objections like intelligent people, they have resorted to mere damage control.
This is strange, since none of the institutions mentioned is a political appendage and damage control is most appropriate for politicians and pop stars.
Their reactions, which I will now document, are confirmation more of unthinking desperation than of evil intent: of how the frenzied thirst for damage control at all costs has bludgeoned democratic discussion of something vital to the West's democratic, freedom-of-speech foundations: the issues.
But again, this because all of their efforts whether they be IMF negotiations, IWPR media missives, or Edward Joseph's ICG corruption report never did have much to do with their ostensible purposes, anyway.
For while the veneer of idealism is spread pretty thick, there is nothing academic about such researches, nothing honest about such labors. The tyranny of self-appointed dictators is all too evident.
Ironically, these groups owe their formidable power to the monetary support of many individuals, institutions and governments and for this reason, their representatives can be nothing but mediocre, dutiful, and conformist. Their greatest strength is also their greatest weakness. But they become quite cranky when reminded of this.
The IMF Lashes Out at Sam Vaknin
Only days after the above-mentioned interview came out, the IMF struck back. Dr. Vaknin had given me expert testimony from his personal experience of the recent IMF negotiations in Macedonia. His conclusion, and that of Finance Minister Gruevski, was that the IMF deliberately changed the rules and utilized deceptive tactics to prevent the Macedonian government from reaching a standby arrangement with the Fund.
Although he was not specifically mentioned in the interview, Macedonia's IMF representative, Jan Mikkelson, allegedly was infuriated. So much so, in fact, that he went straight to Gruevski and demanded that Dr. Vaknin not participate in any future IMF negotiations or else he, Jan Mikkelson, would personally boycott the talks, effectively cutting Macedonia off completely from even the thought of international aid.
In the experience of Dr. Vaknin, who has negotiated with the IMF on the behalf of 6 different countries, this act was unprecedented. According to him, Mikkelsen was acting completely beyond his authority. Nothing more than a "messenger boy," Mikkelsen's duties are to communicate Washington's policies to Macedonia, and transmit back the response in essence, to be a liaison. That Mikkelsen suddenly "acquired a mind of his own" was, according to Dr. Vaknin, quite remarkable and disturbing.
Soon thereafter, Dr. Vaknin's official letter of protest was sent to IMF headquarters in Washington. To date, there has been no official reaction. A phone call to Mikkelsen's Skopje office (on 11 September) yielded only an official "no comment."
IWPR Lashes Out (Indirectly) in This Direction
The bold-faced headline literally shouts it out: Macedonian editors face arrest!
Disappointingly, this reaction of IWPR to my last series only further confirmed it: these people (at least in the Balkans) are charlatans, devoid of any credibility whatsoever. Rather than discuss the quite reasonable objections that had been made, the IWPR deliberately censored and manipulated them:
"the state-owned dailies Nova Makedonija and Vecer this week serialized a long article accusing international organizations including IWPR and the International Crisis Group, ICG, NATO, the OSCE and others of conspiring to bring about electoral defeat for Boskovski and Georgievski's party, VMRO-DPMNE…"
Apparently, the provenance of the "long article" was not important to mention. Further, it is unclear from the piece whether the sentiment of "conspiring" was more appropriate to the original, or (as it turns out) the Macedonian translation.
Apparently too, the "long article" was not read very carefully, for in it, NATO isn't accused of anything (spokesman Craig Radcliff personally told me that allegations made against it were specious).
In short, this entire sentence smacks of pre-packaged rhetoric which is not hard to understand when one sees the whole piece for what it is: desperate, distraught damage control.
As I am well aware, once an article leaves the safety of its mother tongue, all control over its translation and dissemination disappears. Local manipulation is to be expected. But the fact that IWPR was not interested in citing the original article is revealing: it shows deliberate censorship of damaging arguments.
Since the organization is not used to taking any kind of criticism whatsoever, it was perhaps unprepared for how to react. Sadly, the IWPR folks chose to do so in the worst fashion possible by hurriedly concealing the charges, and manipulating developments to their advantage. At least when I criticized them, I linked to very specific articles and quotes. But apparently the "professionals" have better methods than source citation.
This hurried whitewashing attempt just makes IWPR look pathetic.
The Drama Queens of London
The IWPR piece nevertheless attempts to create a sense of tactical drama by printing disingenuous information, which nevertheless seems compelling to the general reader. The institution betrays its lack of credibility by blowing the situation out of all proportion. And, in attempting to prove the enormity of the alleged "anti-Western" movement, IWPR willfully deceives its sincere readers.
Indeed, there is only one real event reported in the article: Minister Boskovski's announcement that he might arrest certain anti-government editors. Whether or not he follows through with such an unwise scheme remains to be seen. Chances are, however, that he won't, and they know it: after all, haven't the IWPR and Co. long mocked Boskovski for his many bombastic (and ultimately empty) threats? Especially considering their constant predictions of his swift demise after 15 September, should we really believe that they are scared?
Yet witness the breathless testimony of Forum editor (and IWPR project editor) Saso Ordanovski: "today, I was informed by a very reliable source that Boskovski is finalizing the list of those who will be arrested, and apparently I am at the top of it." Ordanovski adds that he is currently under "the highest form of surveillance."
Of course, IWPR presents this targeting as some kind of unspeakable tragedy, one of those inexplicable events that drop from the sky like a biblical plague. Yet enemies do not spring up overnight, and by deliberately censoring the relevant information, IWPR betrays its own paucity of method. As in a classical tragedy, the emotions are hijacked, and then the mind, so that the reader ultimately arrives at the pre-desired conclusion, which could be:
"Here we see yet another case of backwards, barbaric Eastern European governments cracking down on valiant, but weak, independent journalists the rights of whom IWPR is sworn to protect. Indeed, how uncivilized and uncouth would the Balkans be without us!"
They Are Right But Still They Are Wrong
This is not to defend Boskovski, of course. Threatening journalists is so out of style. Everyone knows that a war of words is the only civilized way to fight. But really, the Macedonian government is about as barbaric as the IWPR is weak. (And to imply that IWPR's Macedonia clones are objective, disinterested bystanders is devious to say the least).
Indeed, jailing editors would also be severely counterproductive for winning an election. Any writer in favor of the government (as I am alleged to be) would try to improve upon its tarnished anti-Western image. I have instead pointed out the animosities of specific members of Western organizations working in tandem with specific local people against the current government, solely from information that can be gleaned by anyone from the internet. This has not really aided the government, but neither has it encouraged the IWPR to reform its ways as is abundantly clear from this report.
Propaganda and Power
As I stated before, there is absolutely nothing independent about the IWPR or its affiliates in Macedonia. Their greedy hands are thrust deep into all sorts of pies. Indeed, nothing that they write can be removed from its blatantly political context. And the fact that this recent article was written by the very same people it quoted reinforces this complicity. Clearly, IWPR has an interest in remaining in Macedonia.
By working with locals, the institution gains prestige from having such valued "inside reports." In addition to prestige, however, its local disciples can gain political favor, NGO contracts, international grants, and more. Nothing exists in a vacuum.
In fairness, their Caucasus reports are often quite good. But in Macedonia at least, IWPR has no independence, and no objective voice. Just like the pro-government bodies which it criticizes, IWPR is propagandistic in nature only less obviously so.
A Laugh Riot
Although the report is only two pages long, it contains untold comic utterances. The astonishing, willful disregard for everything that provoked the reactionary piece in the first place continues: the IWPR again cites "polls" indicating VMRO's impending doom. Yet the only survey they have ever explicitly referred to was one (US government-backed) poll of 15 July.
In essence, the article makes the case that the IWPR and (unaffiliated) Western organizations are suspected of "conspiring" to influence the elections. To defend themselves, they would like to discredit anyone who seems to share this view. Yet any doubts that these groups are at least very friendly disappear, as the article merrily disintegrates into apology for the ICG's corruption report. Apparently, the two groups believe that the best defense is a good offense: for instead of answering the serious charges of factual misrepresentation and perceptible bias, the IWPR piece just hollers more loudly in defense of the beleaguered report. To wit:
"as exhaustively detailed in a recent ICG report, corruption allegations implicate political figures at the highest level of the Macedonian government. Huge sums have been siphoned into political coffers and officials' pockets, not only from local trade but also from international assistance. Loss of office could mean loss of control of such channels, and possible investigation on corruption charges."
The IWPR must really take its readers for fools, as reading between the lines here is not very hard. To translate it out of spin-speak and into an (appropriately) high-school vernacular, the paragraph might read:
"OK, forget about the wrong parts and stuff, the corruption report was like, really really long, and it had a lot of footnotes, so it's true, OK? Just take our word for it you don't need to read it for yourself! Anyway, we got these guys pretty good, and we can intimidate them for now but when our friends take over the government, we're gonna be there to like, publicize the trials… and get a piece of the action! Come on, all the cool kids are doing it!"
As If Nothing Had Ever Happened
The same tactic (of taking the offensive) was employed by the ICG's Edward Joseph. Amazingly enough, he got right back on the bike in a sensationalistic AP article, acting as if his method and motive had not just been blown out of the water:
"Desperate political figures can do desperate things, and that is the most worrying,'' said Edward Joseph, who monitors Macedonia for the International Crisis Group, an organization that keeps tabs on the world's trouble spots."
The AP article breathlessly summed up all of the "troubling" events in Macedonia these days:
"Teenagers shout 'Death to Albanians!' at a rally of Macedonia's ruling party. Protesters block a highway to demand the release of jailed activists. A mass kidnapping rattles the country."
Regardless of the newsworthiness of teenage testimony, it is notable that this is the only one of the three events mentioned that is given an agent (i.e., partisans of Macedonia's "ruling party"). The other nouns without owners ("protesters" and "kidnapping"), of course, belong to the same militant Albanians who have caused all of the disruptions, murders and explosions lately. When it comes time to mention the inter-Albanian shooting that left two dead a fortnight ago, the perpetrators are only named as "masked assailants." Of course, given that the article begins with Macedonians shouting "death to Albanians," who would the reader be inclined to suspect here?
Besides this whitewash, the murder of two policemen on the Gostivar road is not even mentioned. But a man who is mentioned and extensively quoted is Joseph's apparent friend, Ali Ahmeti. On 9 September, Macedonians traveling by public bus on that same road reported being intimidated at a rest stop, by three busloads of Ahmeti's supporters, waving Albanian flags menacingly and shouting Albanian nationalistic songs. What country's election is the man running in, anyway?
Oh yeah, I forgot the one being rigged by the "Slav-Macedonian colonizers."
For good measure, the article goes on to indirectly support Joseph and his duties by vouching for the corruption problem and stating that it is worse under the present government. Apparently, all caution is being thrown to the wind: it's coming down to the wire, and all the guns are blazing.
Observing these trends damage control at all costs, willful censorship and a blistering, deaf offensive leaves us with no room for doubt. We are not dealing here with free-thinking individuals, but with…
100 Monkeys, 100 Typewriters
The purely reactive nature of the various responses to my series indicates that we are dealing here not with people who like to think, but with people who like to be right all the time.
Occasionally a reader will complain about what I have written. If I feel I was wrong, then I apologize. On the other hand, the IWPR and Co. just react either by hiding the objections, or by attempting to jabber over them. This is dull, predictable labor something fit for a trained chimp.
As we will see in the following sections, the biggest problem with the IWPR or ICG is not unique to these specific organizations. The fundamental problem instead is one that plagues institutions in general the relations between individuals and the collective.
Individual members of such groups are constrained by many things, including ideology, rank and obedience to the overall objective. Their chronic lack of a sense of humor probably derives from the continual need for ideological vigilance, peer approval, and the oppressive stench of the omnipresent lawyers.
"Independent media" organizations such as the IWPR claim to defend free speech. Yet sadly, they sacrifice the possibility of enjoying it themselves. They are rigid, frozen, unable to speak with true personal conviction. They adhere more strictly to their party line than does any political party.
The Problem of Institutions
For these bodies suffer neither self-criticism nor dissent. They train other people in how to think and how to operate but never the other way around. And, they are never wrong.
These NGO's know full well, too, that should they refuse to be accountable for their actions, they had better be able to rely on their own perceived infallibility. And if the latter should go… so will they. They are aware that to allow any public trepidation, any doubt, is to invite the spread of a creeping disease that will quickly devour the institution from within.
Be this as it may, institutions are composed of individuals, who sacrifice their individuality, fleeing their freedom of speech for the safety of an acronym. And this inspires cowardice. After all, who needs to stand up for his own opinion, when it can safely be attributed to a protective, providential organization?
The flip side of this, of course, is that the institution as a body must defend what its individuals say. Hence, the need to cultivate an image of infallibility. When this image is destroyed, damage control begins. And so you have the latest IWPR article, which sort of attacks my series (indirectly), and is written by "IWPR staff in London" with not one member of this big and powerful institution even taking the responsibility for their statements.
For being in this situation, I pity them deeply.
Individuals and Institutions
Yet it is not really their fault. These people have been swallowed up by whales. Perhaps they assumed, wrongly as it turns out, that the belly of the beast would contain some glittering treasure.
Sadly, these alleged humanitarians are prevented from being human. Preoccupied every moment with damage control, litigation, keeping up one's image in the press no wonder these people have no sense of humor! When you throw in the rest of the argument (that, as with the Macedonian elections, there are other, more tangible goals in mind), their deadly seriousness becomes clear.
For them to make mistakes is impossible. And of course, any criticism is forbidden. As we have seen, institutions have ways of reacting, both directly and indirectly, to dissidents.
But we should not be too afraid of them. They are not so big after all.
Meeting the Wizard
The word "conspiracy" in English conjures up images of scheming old men, hunched secretly over tables in concealed rooms, plotting the manipulation of the established order. And those who can imagine so vividly such scenarios are dubbed, with affectionate contempt, conspiracy theorists. Indeed, such perfect schemes work only in the pages of spy thrillers and television comedies like when Homer Simpson discovered that the "Stonecutter's Lodge" is secretly responsible for keeping the metric system down in America.
Inevitably, such conspiracies do not exist. Why? Simply put, the would-be conspirators have not an imagination equal to those who would suspect them. In real life, those who have the lowest motives and the most to gain also tend to be the least capable of creating anything really elaborate. And, despite the lights, smoke and mirrors, they are inevitably quite humble, shivering in their ideological nakedness.
The Farce That Now Afflicts Macedonia
Which is why, when it comes to Western intervention in Macedonia's elections, there is no conspiracy. If there had been, it would have been carried out less clumsily, less conspicuously, and above all with more foresight than the present meddling. For one journalist to have found, in ten days, several clear factual examples of this intervention and with no resources, no money, and no assistants reflects rather poorly on those implicated. For either they were very stupid, to have gone about it so obviously, or else just very arrogant, to assume that no one would be intelligent enough to catch on. Or perhaps they were a little of both.
And they were surely disorganized. Perhaps they should have come up with a slick master plan. This is where their tired and automatic reaction "anti-Western conspiracy theories!" holds no water, at least as far as involves the present author. Whatever use others may make of my texts and I know they are used selectively, and sometimes sensationally they should leave me out of it. Why, one might ask?
Usually, the people who manufacture such theories cite the pervasive influence of huge institutions, colluding and controlling, deciding the fates of millions. Hence the little men in little rooms scenario much embraced by LaRouchies, militiamen, and some Leftists.
Yet while there are occasional and apparent effects of such collusion, it is hard to prove that they derive from some unified, malevolent cause. And usually, they don't. For the conspiratorial view derives from a mistaken understanding of how institutions work.
Worse Than Conspiracy… Mediocrity
Far from being towering, unified and goal-oriented, institutions tend to breed internal disharmony, resistance to innovation, mediocrity and acute motivational drift.
Cooperation between institutions happens, above all, due to the friendships of specific individuals, who can cloak those friendships cozily in the safety of the group's name. Don't think for a minute that IWPR is really upset about being linked to an "anti-government conspiracy." Such accusations are relished as mere fodder for their defense. No, these groups are angry because specific individuals, with specific interests have for the first time been cited.
Indeed, these intrinsic drawbacks of institutions tend to diminish the likelihood of any real, top-level conspiracies. Stricken by internal disputes, laziness, peer pressure, miscommunications and divergent goals, even the friendliest of institutions have not the wherewithal to willingly conspire. Only on an individual level do mutual needs, alliances and animosities emerge.
The Disaster of Resources
However, institutions do have resources. But awarding resources to mediocrity is like giving typewriters to rhesus monkeys. One winds up with a room full of jabbering, gesticulating apes, all waving their typescripts and howling.
Unfortunately, as we have seen, today's world seems to prize highly these illegible and poorly thought-out masterpieces. Hopefully, when it comes time to dole out the rewards, they will at least be given the golden banana.
Previous articles by Christopher Deliso on Antiwar.com
Back to Antiwar.com Home Page | Contact Us