Twitter allows for that Hitlerian propaganda technique: keep it short, keep repeating, overwhelm and it will pass as the truth. For the past two days, the tweeting Serbia has been screaming the “happily ever after” paroles readily manufactured and projected to hype up the “joy” of Serbia’s people caused by the European Council nodding in approval of Serbia’s “credible commitment and … further progress in moving forward with the implementation in good faith of agreements reached in the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue including on IBM, has reached an agreement on inclusive regional cooperation and has actively cooperated to enable EULEX and KFOR to execute their mandates” (http://www.consilium.europa.eu).
In translation, Serbia was finally granted the status of a candidate for the EU accession, after being rejected on December Ninth of last year, due to the commendable capitulation to the pressure to technically recognize its province of Kosovo as an independent state. That was the only “progress” I have seen since the December Ninth and the surrender of Kosovo was the lone condition the candidacy hinged on. And that is what Serbia’s Twitter community is exhilarated over. In effect, the candidacy is nothing tangible, but Serbian regime’s PR machine, including its Twitter cog, is working on all cylinders to make it look like a tangible success of Boris Tadić’s regime.
This exhilaration is unnervingly expressed in empty, softly Hitlerian, serotonin-charged repetitions that can’t escape resembling an election campaign typical of Serbia. The incessantly tweeted and retweeted paroles like “smile today more than any other day,” or “welcome to the brighter future” sounded eerily familiar to Hitler’s “No one shall go hungry! No one shall be cold!” posters from 1934, in form and within a broader context. (The only difference was that Hitler indeed intended to reinvigorate the power of the “pure” German race at the expense of every other European nation, while Tadić intends to empower every vulture out there at the expense of the Serbian people’s independence and prosperity.) The deliberate, consent-manufacturing form of these messages has only been outdone by their volume following the news from Brussels. It is clear to me, after being hit by a score of variations on the “brighter future” and “don’t worry, be happy” themes, that this tweeting campaign has been engineered in advance by a political marketing agency in Belgrade or in Brussels, to artificially induce the Serbian public into believing that the EU candidacy is indeed their long-awaited salvation. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, it aims to credit the Tadić regime for this “success,” thus giving it a much needed wind in the sails in the election campaign. In reality, both the “success” and the “credit” conditioned on it are highly refutable categories.
Assuming from tweets by some of its more prominent members (the prominence is measured in the number of followers, not in the value of the tweeted content – sometimes it looks like they are diametrically opposite), Serbia’s Twitter “community” prides itself on being the sophisticated social networking bunch, more urban and with a more emancipated worldview than its Facebook counterparts. In 140 characters or less, this “sophisticated” community presents an image of Serbian society – and their private lives - with an utter disregard for any Serbian grammar rules (or lacking the sufficient knowledge of grammar – I can’t say with certainty which is the case). In Serbia where the Serbian language is massacred by more important public personas than the Twitter vanguard, this is neither a surprise nor does it warrant a special emphasis.
What should be emphasized is that the Twitter outburst of eurofanaticism does not really reflect the mood of most of the population. While the Twitter-provided PR tools are accessible to all and the only alarming development is the lack of an organized effort at discrediting the “success,” most of Serbia’s mainstream media is regime-controlled, directly, through ownership stakes and the managing boards, or indirectly, through economic and political pressures, so the reports touting the candidacy as a success of the Boris Tadić regime and hesitantly glorifying it as a step forward into the brighter future are not really surprising. The readers’ commentary beneath these articles, however, reveals a picture quite different from the regime-disseminated “feel-good” qualities of the mainstream reports and the Twitter gloating. Across the board, comments submitted below Tadić’s reaction pieces, sway the pendulum dramatically into the direction of euroskeptics, with eurorejectionists taking up a significant chunk of the public response pie chart. Even on such regime-controlled outlets as the B92 internet site, notorious for its censoring of the follow-up commentary, it is clear that the mood of the Serbs who decided to speak out is not nearly in correspondence with the Twitter pro-regime community who are celebrating the floating of the EU flag on the Serbian government buildings. On the B92 website, opinions range from “Hell, no!” to “Let’s wait and see,” with a very small number unconditionally supporting the candidacy. Even those who welcomed the candidacy were often lambasting the regime. On the websites with less controlled commentary content, this pendulum swings almost fully towards those who are skeptical or outright rejectionist.
This kind of reaction, relatively unfiltered and unfettered, is especially significant as it is an indicator of the electorate’s mood in the run-up to the election. Those who assume that the candidacy itself, and not the price paid for it, would play the key role in re-electing the current regime with the same or a similar roster, should look at the popular reaction expressed across the board. The people seem to see through the regime’s calculated intent to represent the candidacy as the first step out of a the economic dire straits, while making it look like someone other than this regime was responsible for the horrible shape of Serbia’s economy. To every sane Serb it is clear that the Tadić regime, which touts the EU candidacy as some kind of salvation from the economic misery, actually buried Serbia into the economic dumpster it is now. It would be the same as if the aforementioned Hitler came to Auschwitz to save the Jews. The commentaries seem to dwell on the point of Tadić’s utter ineptitude in fixing Serbia’s internal problems rather than on the perceived benefits of the EU candidacy. More than anything else, it looks like the people have stopped trusting anything that comes out of Tadić’s mouth, not only because all of his statements sound so disconnected with reality and infantile, but because the people completely distrust the source. The question is how will this mood affect the election outcome and what kind of tricks and pressures will the regime succumb to in the run-up to the election.
Let the Twitter eurofanatics be reminded of one illogical aspect of their gloating campaign. One of the most retweeted lines deals with the hope that the EU will weed out the corrupt political and economic practices in Serbia. If such a message was retweeted by anti-regime pundits, it would have certain validity to it, as contradictory as it is. But if the pro-regime cohorts insist on such a political oxymoron, I can only abhor their blatant disregard for logic. If the EU even had the intention of weeding out corruption, the first people that would end up in prison under such an arrangement would be the very regime politicians and economists, their sponsors and the ruling coalition’s party apparatchiks, all mired in corruption up to their eyeballs. And where would this conclusion leave the pro-regime Twitter cohorts? In an insane asylum, of course. How could anyone in their right mind call for the elimination of corruption and at the same time support the regime that facilitated it and that feeds off of it? The EU doesn’t weed out corruption, it only affords special privilege to its loyal subjects and then validates, legitimizes and protects that privilege by legalizing it.
While this gloating v. sulking mood swing rages online, no one is asking the real questions. What is the map of Serbia that was granted the candidacy? What was the real nature of Romania’s opposition to Serbia’s candidacy and how was it alleviated, i.e. what did the Serbian regime commit to in respect to “the Vlach question?” How will Serbia treat the legitimate political will of its own citizens who live in North Kosovo? What will be the next set of conditions? No EU candidate from the former Communist Eastern Europe has ever become a member without first joining NATO. Montenegro became the candidate in December of 2011 and the pro-NATO campaign has been full-fledged since 2010. Will it not be one of the conditions for Serbia as well? How will Serbia manage its relations with non-EU countries, namely Russia, now that Brussels decides all of Serbia economic policies? What will the “special relations” with the EU do to the Dayton Peace Accords now that the EU can influence Serbia’s special relations with non-EU countries? Will Serbia be asked to cut the special ties with Serb Republic? These are all the questions of utmost importance that the Serbian public must insist on being answered. The fairy tales of the promised Europe, which, mind you, still includes Greece devoured by the economic and political catastrophe and Spain with ever-growing unemployment, especially rampant among its youth, are not what any responsible and patriotic Serb should be seduced by.
The Twitter vanguard is in competition with itself, jockeying for a job with an EU “reform” agency, a foreign bank that will bring “prosperity” to Serbia, an NGO that spreads democratic and European “values,” or within the ever-expanding regime. Twitter is where they can best showcase their sycophantic loyalty. They do not tweet in the interest of the people, they are in it for themselves. They are dangerous, however, because their engineered excitement can generate an image of a general joy at the candidacy that can trickle down through the ranks of undecided voters and translate into the electoral support for Boris Tadić and his regime, as the safest of all gambits.