Sunday, July 17, 2011

Black Propaganda: An Example of Fueling Hate Against Soros

This article is also available in Macedonian
- на македонски на Блогерај: Црна пропаганда: Пример за градење омраза кон Сорос
- на македонски на Блогспот: Црна пропаганда: Пример за градење омраза кон Сорос

On July 11, 2011, people who follow the media and social networks' activity in Macedonia witnessed a discussion incited by the mini-campaign to taint the American businessman and philanthropist George Soros. Several media distributed a "news item" based on two lies:
  1. that the respectable newspaper Wall Street Journal published an article about Soros
  2. the quoted content of the "news" alleged that Soros sponsored the Kosovo War, had ties with the KLA and is now rewarded by opportunities to invest in some profitable mines there.
Again, as in the case of murder of Martin Neshkovski, the first line of defense against deception were the Twitter users. JankoL tweeted a comparison [mk] between the article in the online edition of Dnevnik daily and the original quoted text, which is clearly not from the Wall Street Journal newspaper, but is some sort of  comment by a reader with a Serbian name and surname from their forum.

I personally do not find the scandalous claims of this comment credible, because I know that Soros does not invest in countries where his foundations are active. Foundations that advocate the principles of open society, and oppose the principles of violence and war profiteering. Moreover, if a man of such a stature has been in any way involved in financing military operations more than a decade ago, something more substantial would have been revealed by now. It would have been a scandal of global proportions - an opportunity too good to miss for any of his many enemies, some of whom are media moguls.

All in all, it is clear that this is a disinformation aimed at domestic audience in Macedonia. It is useful to examine its spread, because people usually take for granted data from the media, and might think twice if they are aware of how information spreads and helps them form their opinions. It can be expected that, as in other cases, in a while public discussion participants would use this item as a reference or an argument.

The disinformation was first published by the Government-owned news agency MIA. News agencies function as services that distribute news to other media--their subscribers--like newspapers, television and radio stations. They mainly transmit short fact-based reports about events covered by their reporters, such as press conferences and statements by officials. If in this case there was no evil intent, then this is a case of gross incompetence, as the news item has not passed basic journalistic validity check. It equates an article in a well-known newspaper (abusing the credibility of that brand) with a comment by a de facto anonymous reader on a forum.


During the afternoon of July 11, several media relayed the disinformation. I have no information whether this was done through some top-down command, or they simply used what was sent by an agency they thought they can trust. Each of the media from the following time-line might have their own reasons...:
  • 13:35 MIA
  • 13.54 SITEL
  • 14.10 Kurir
  • 15:06 Dnevik on-line
  • 15:49 MTV - Macedonian Televison (public service)
  • ~ 17:00 PlusInfo – the article was soon removed, probably they've read it twice over, or did a check after the Twitter reactions
  • MTV presented this item in the evening news too, and several other TV stations had it in a ticker
  • July 12 (the next day) - the news did not appear in the paper editions of daily newspapers - maybe they figured that such an outright lie which can get them a slander suit
  • 11:30 MK Fondovi website relayed the news, citing SITEL as an author.
Basic rule for any media would be to check any information they receive by consulting at least two independent sources, and to do everything possible within their powers to make sure it's accurate, before publishing. Imagine what would happen if journalists publish as news everything they hear or read, without checking - for instance some bloggers claim high political party officials are closeted homosexuals who promote homophobia in public to camouflage themselves, or that there are high commissions on the public works like the monuments - a money laundering schemes through cousins, that state offices are abused for personal gain... For a person to bear the title of journalist, and for a company to bear the title of professional media, they have to meet certain standards, related to the role in society media play, as protectors of democracy.

Let's assume there was no ill intent. Even without a despicable motive, these media acted unprofessionally. They did not check the information, they did not contact any other source (except MIA), they did not check the Wall Street Journal website where they would see that it is not an article but a reader comment, nor they have done the basic journalistic duty to seek comment by the persons and institutions mentioned in the article. On top of all this, they did not even inform that MIA was the source. All of them are unsigned, which by default means that the media claim authorship and responsibility for the news (in an ideal world).

AFAIK, none of the companies whose articles are linked above has published a retraction or an apology to the mentioned persons and institutions on account of (possibly unintentional) damage to their reputation, nor have they apologized to the readers for serving them a lie.

The issue is not whether any legal protection mechanism from defamation would be activated by the concerned parties. This is more about how these media build their relationships with their readers. Keywords: respect versus underestimation, truth versus mistrust.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Macedonia: Shakira Used for Local Political Propaganda

Several pro-government media from Macedonia revived an old Internet hoax about supposed Macedonian roots of global music star Shakira in order to provide more air time for a local politician.

In a seemingly coordinated effort on June 29-30, 2011, Sitel TV and Makedonija 24/Kurir virtually simultaneously relayed the "news" that at Shakira "dedicated her concert in Beirut to her father, who is half-Lebanese, half-Macedonia," that she will become a lobbyist for Macedonia, and that as UN goodwill ambassador she opened a summit in Israel, attended by Macedonian president Gjorge Ivanov.

While the unattributed and unsigned text of the announcements in various media is virtually identical, Sitel and Makedonija 24 used different video clips to illustrate it. There's a recording from Shakira's concert (no date) in which she says she dedicates it to her father, but it is the announcer's voice-over that adds the "information" about his Macedonian heritage. The claim about her being lobbyist remains totally unfounded, serves as reminder to the population about Government campaign claiming they invest much in lobbying efforts. The second section, intended to promote the president, contains number of his close-ups from other events. 

The "news" was retransmitted by number of portals and local agencies, and then the daily Utrinski Vesnik published an article [mk] on July 6, 2011. Entitled "Macedonian blood flows through Shakira's veins," they say they've confirmed the claim, because that information about Shakira's father can be found on several websites, including FoxNews and Madam Tussauds Hollywood (without links). 

This is at least the second time for Macedonian media to inspire joy and happiness about Macedonia's importance by claiming relation to Shakira and attempt to lure readers using the obviously huge interest about the pop-star. In 2006, spurred by article in Utrinski Vesnik, the portal Taratur provided links [mk] to several Shakira bios which include the tidbit about her Macedonian heritage, including FoxNews article from November 29, 2006, which seems to be the perpetual source of the rumor all along. It does not provide any references, nor does the like-minded bio on Madam Tussauds site.

However, on February 2, 2007, Vest daily debunked the claim in an article [mk, en] about an interview made with Shakira in Berlin. When asked about her Macedonian heritage, the Columbian pop star laughed and said it's not true, even though she would not mind to have such ancestry. The full interview was shown on Sitel TV. This article used a more benign form of nationalist spin, with the headline claiming that the singer "wants to be Macedonian."

Shakira by Wikipedia. Photo: Georges Biard, CC-BY-SA.

Macedonian-language version of this propaganda deconstruction attempt was published on the versions of this blog on Blogeraj & Blogspot.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Comics Trappers and American Revolutionary War

Long before Mel Gibson starred in the Patriot, comics readers from southern Europe learned to hate the despicable redcoats and root for the noble American revolutionaries. This upsurge of sympathy for the American independence was fueled by two comics-book series originated in Italy: The Great Blek and Commander Mark.

Both series depict guerrilla struggle against the British in terms very similar to the resistance movements against the Axis occupations of World War II, which made them instantly recognizable and appropriate for the kids in Italy, France, former Yugoslavia, Greece, and Turkey - their main markets. The comics expound the values of patriotism and personal heroism, which presumably resonated with nation-building efforts of the goverments of these countries during the second half of XX century. 

Iconic exchange between Blek and a redcoat:
"But, you are rebels!" - "No! We are patriots!"

It is highly probable that most Americans have no clue of the debt of gratitude they "owe" to a couple of trappers wearing fur hats with raccoon tails, and their quirky bands of companions. However, most of [male] former Yugoslavs growing up in the sixties, seventies and eighties know that:
  • The Great Blek or Blek the Rock (pronounced the same as Black, but presumably meaning golden hair in some native American dialect) - a tall, blond giant of a man used his fists and cunning, aided by Professor Occultis (who looks like proudly-overweight Ben Franklin from Ben and Me) and the kid Roddy. They cooperated with the Boston lawyer Connelly, who acted as liaison relaying messages from the resistance HQ.  
  • Commander Mark was more sophisticated in a swashbuckling sort of way - tall, dark, dashing - his main weapon was a rapier, and as sidekicks he had Mr. Bluff - a bald, bearded former pirate, Sorrowful Owl - native American chief-at-large (reminiscent of status of Chingachgook)  and grand-grand-son of medicine man, and Bluff's flea-infested dog Flock. Unlike Blek, Mark also had a fiancée, the lovely and blond Betty who tended to their home base - a fort on Lake Ontario. 
While most of the episodes of both series tended to follow familiar "Western" adventure patterns and had little connection to historical events of the American Revolution, occasionally a historical figure would pop-up, including General Washington.

Both comics were initiated by the comics author trio EsseGesse, who completed the whole Mark series (1966-1990), while Blek (from 1954) was turned into franchise and had numerous authors of various quality, often poor. During the eighties there was even a Yu-Blek series drawn and inked by local artists (mainly from Novi Sad and Belgrade), which besides comics spawned a sticker album.

Numerous ex-Yugoslav websites offer scanned versions of these comics, and in recent years Croatian and Serbian publishers have issued new paperback versions, sometimes with compilations of episodes.  The best Wikipedia articles about these comis are in Serbian (Veliki Blek) and Croatian (Komandant Mark).

If you feel like celebrating the Fourth of July in a cinematic sort of way, I would not recommend the jingoistic Mel Gibson interpretation from 2000, but Revolution with Al Pacino, "a film about a New York fur trapper during the American Revolutionary War" made in 1985.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Support Protests Against Police Brutality through Video-Clips

On Thursday 23rd June 2011, said:

Dear Friends,
as you might know, big things are going on in Skopje and the rest of Macedonia. After the brutal beating to death of the 22 year old Martin Neskoski by a police officer, and the failed attempt by the government to cover up the murder, people of all ethnic groups have taken to the streets and for almost three weeks now, carry on with the most significant civic rallies in the history of the country. We demand justice and responsibility, resignation of the minister of the police and the lying spokesperson, as well as a police reform that will bring the ruthless police brutality to an end. Put simply, we want to live free from fear.

The government has tried to silence the rallies via shameless media campaign that featured false claims, conspiracy theories and personal attacks of the people who take part in the protests, as well as staging so-called "counter-protests against the political abuse of the youth" organized by the ruling party (sic!). In the meantime, the responsible ones are still trying to cover-up as much as possible. They are trying to distract the public by carrying on with their national-populist policies. But we say NO PASSARAN! It was enough. Our slogan is "No More Silence!"


Among other things, we are compiling videos of our supporters. Now we want to take it global. If you feel like joining our cause please do the following:

1) take a short video of yourself or your friends in which you will tell your name and preferably your location, and sound your support for our movement (Hi, I'm John from London and I support the protests against police brutality in Macedonia) - the video does not have to be longer than a few seconds (we won't mind longer videos though) - also, quality is not important as long as we can see and hear you - it can be taken by phone, webcam etc.

2) send the video to both of these email addresses: |


What kind of phrases you can use in the video (of course you can come up with anything as long as it is not offensive):

"Stop police brutality"
"Fight police brutality"
"Police brutality must end"
"Speak up against police brutality"
"Violence might end"
"I ask for justice and responsibility"
"No more silence"
"Silence kills"
"Justice for Martin"
"I support the people of Macedonia in their demands"
"Macedonia, rise up!"
"I support the people of Macedonia rallying for justice"
"Every day!"
"Until they resign"
"Macedonia, don't give up!"
"In solidarity with the people of Macedonia rallying against police brutality"



you can follow the developments and find some information here: |

a review of the events in Macedonia:

don't forget that the video, if you decide to take it, should be sent to BOTH of these email addresses: |