Thursday, February 3, 2011

Still crazy after all these years

It’s a strange old world and no mistake. In 1999, when the Balkan territory of Kosovo was being ethnically cleansed by Serbian nationalists (eventually triggering belated Nato retaliation in the form of bombing raids), I wrote a newspaper column expressing disgust at the inhuman acts perpetrated in the Balkans in the name of Serbian nationalism.

Though I admit it was a strongly worded column, provoking a number of angry letters and an official complaint to the New Zealand Press Council, I never imagined it would still be reverberating 12 years later. But a few days ago, on this blog, a comment appeared out of the blue – bizarrely, under an inconsequential and totally unrelated post I had written about cricket – that revives the controversy.

It came from someone writing under the name of Kelly Slater, and I now feel obliged to write this post simply to explain to mystified readers what it’s all about. Slater’s rant (assuming Slater is a genuine name, which is doubtful) obviously aroused some interest, because the post attracted an unusually high number of readers, and I can’t believe they were simply interested in my flippant comments about cricket. Hence this attempt to fill in the background.

My column was published in Wellington’s Evening Post and the Nelson Evening Mail, and though it was triggered by events in Kosovo, it was written when the memory of Serbian atrocities in Srebrenica and Sarajevo – some of the most appalling events in my lifetime – was still fresh.

Untangling exactly who was responsible for what in the ghastly charnel house that was the Balkans in the 1990s is notoriously difficult. No one – including Croatians, Muslims and Kosovars – was blameless. But there was no doubt about Serbian responsibility for the worst excesses, and that was the subject of my column. To convey the tone of it, here’s one paragraph:

“The events of the past few years in the Balkans have produced in me a deep detestation of all things Serbian. I don’t take any pride in this, but neither do I apologise for it. Humanity demands that we are repelled by the vile acts carried out in recent years in the name of Serbian nationalism.”

Chastened by some of the subsequent responses, including a conversation with an elderly Serbian woman from Levin, I partially recanted in a subsequent column in which I wrote:

“To treat all people of Serbian descent as sharing culpability for the barbaric behaviour of [Slobodan] Milosevic and his brutish gangs of murderers and rapists was quite plainly simplistic and wrong, and offensive to those Serbs who adhere to humanitarian values and are shamed by the frightful acts carried out in the name of Serbian nationalism.

“To the many good and decent Serbian people living in New Zealand, therefore, I apologise. It was quite wrong of me to visit upon them the sins of the vile people who dishonour the name of Yugoslavia. Does this mean I also retract the rest of my comments? Not for a moment.”

A reader of the Nelson Evening Mail decided I wasn't chastened enough and complained to the Press Council. The then editor of the Mail, the admirable David Mitchell, went to some lengths – far more than most editors in such circumstances – to argue in my defence, and the complaint was subsequently dismissed in a thoughtful decision written by the council's then chairman, former High Court judge Sir John Jeffries. The decision read, in part:

“The first [column] is not for racial hatred, it is against it. It is not for violence, but against it. The central point of the second column is that recourse should not be had to history to explain but that the violence should be halted right now. The political message of the piece is that Nato bombing be supported for the sole purpose of stopping the killing of thousands of Kosovars and the displacement of hundreds of thousands. When ethic cleansing is the issue some columnists choose not to express themselves by detached analysis using language of cold objectivity but prefer to startle and shock.

“This was not writing of an irresponsible, reckless or promiscuous nature. It was powerfully expressed argument laced with emotion and passion. The Council in the name of objectivity, balance and judgment should not interfere with the freedom to write and publish such material. This is highly emotive writing but it does not call for disapprobation by the Council.”

You might think the matter would have rested there, but no. In 2006 my columns were dredged up on an aggressively pro-Serbian website run by someone calling himself Jared Israel, who described me not only as racist (fair enough – I had confessed in my first column to racist sentiments toward Serbians) but as an anti-Semite as well, based on his particular interpretation of the language I used. This might come as a surprise to my Jewish friends, but there you go.

Now, another five years on, this “Kelly Slater” has weighed in. My column may be 12 years old, but that's a mere moment in time to people who still nurture bitter grudges and hatred arising from events that happened 600 years ago.

It’s pointless trying to engage in rational, coherent debate with such people; the manic-obsessive tone of his/her comments, with all their wild-eyed accusations and bizarre non-sequiturs (I don't like murderous Serbian nationalists so must love Croatians, Muslims and Kosovar organ harvesters), speaks for itself.


The probligo said...

:D:D Karl, a well written and most reserved response.

Personally, I heard that wally as an echo of the kind of paranoia coming from the US "far right" in the past couple of years. What makes matters so much worse in my mind is that their rhetoric is catching on as a standard for the right wing here.

Remember the old "looney left" tag? Perhaps "rabid right" might do the trick?

Anonymous said...

You still don't get it do you Karl...what Serbian Nationalism are you talking about - you don't have any clue and that is the problem you just repeat the same lies and accusations of your friends with a MUSLIM agenda.

Tell me some facts please, tell me do you know that 1981 200,000 Serbs were cleansed out of Kosovo way before any "freedom fighting". Do you know that in the 1990's before any war there were 17,000, yah thats right 17,000 attacks against Serbian police, the community, churches, the Army, civilians, kidnappings and murders by your "freedom" you know any of this stuff? Do you know how many people were murdered in the entire 90's, kidnapped, raped, terrorized by your beloved Albanians?

What if Muslims in your country bombed one police station JUST ONE? Not 17,000 attacks, what would you say and what would you write then. Do you know how many churches have been destroyed in Kosovo, do you? Come on just answer me for once with some bravery instead of leaning on your tired old story about Serbian nationalism, the world isn't buying it anymore it is old and full of lies. You still haven't responded to how your Muslim victims slaughtered and sold young Serbian innocent internal organs to the world? Please answer me for once instead of talking in generals.

Please I ask you to find me one speech by Slobodan Milosevic that says anything that supports your accusations. For your information he was a Yugoslav from Montenegro, he never said he was Serb, but that is useless and beside the point. The point, Kosovo is part of a Muslim offensive that one day will come to your beloved New Zealand and to your cousin Australia.

I am writing facts, you haven't wrote one fact - not one. You still haven't answered me why there were over 10,000 Mujahadeen fighters in Bosnia from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran...and why the Bosnian Muslim president declared that infidels and Islam could not live together. Please just answer me about scientific facts. Do you think this war happened 5000 years ago that their does not exist scientific data and actual reality of truth?

Karl, please answer me why Serbians signed every peace accord and pleaded against war and stay in YUGOSLAVIA. How is that nationalism? Do you know that 300,000 Serbs in two days were totally pushed out of Croatia? Is that ok to you? Have you even been to Kosovo or Bosnia? Have you seen sarajevo and how there used to be 200,000 Serbs living there, how many are there now?

How many Christian Serbs live in Kosovo now, now since your great muslim freedom fighters got their independence?

Karl, you jumped on the wrong boat, you have been supporting the Muslim agenda against a people that if anything shouldve done more to protect their beliefs and their right to freedom and their right to not live under Isalm. How many years to did the Turkish Muslims rape Serbia, is that too harsh of a word, do some research - 500 years Islam enslaved Serbia and Serbs, why don't you live under Islam.

I am still waiting for FACTS, scientific, but I know I will never get are one of those with no back bone, you just write what the others write, you FEAR Islam and would never speak the truth, but we don't and we will. And we have money and we have resources and we are going to sue you and expose. Don't worry you don't have to fear anything except losing your dignity, Serbs would never touch a hair on your head, so sleep peacefully but know that we are coming after your false accusations and lies.

I will wait for you in vain to respond to the European Council report of your beloved Muslim Freedom Fighters the KLA and what they did to 500 young Serbs and their kidneys, livers, eyeballs and spleens...patiently waiting...

Kelly Slater

ps I work with ASP tour and the US National Soccer team, I love surfing and soccer and that is why I used his name.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kelly said...

Karl, what happened to your powerful nation that was once a nation of integrity, dignity and known to the rest of the world for its chivalry?

What happened to that New Zealand I heard so much about?

You have reduced yourself to someone who first wrote things he knew nothing about, with no research, no science, no evidence and still in your arrogance won't even out conviction and honesty try to study and research to seek out the truth about the Muslim agenda in the balkans and the truth of what happened there.

I encourage you to take a trip to Serbia and see for yourself, go to sarajevo, go to kosovo, go to krajina see, ask, hear, don't let yourself continue to be one of those who still believes there were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

You still never answered me but thats ok, I understand you are trapped with the truth and it is the same reaction the Muslims give when they are confronted with the scientific truth - they start with their accused me of this and that yet still you haven't responded to one scientific fact that I appealed to you and pleaded to you for your response.

Why can we never have a direct, calm dialogue, contact with people who spread the lies or with Islam...? It is funny that you picked up their ways and respond in general relentless accusation.

We forgive you for not knowing the truth, we forgive you that 2, thats right 2 Islamic states now exist in Europe at the expense of Serbians. We forgive you but we will not stop until we expose everyone who wrote and proclaimed and declared with such venom and poison all the untruths that you were all a part of. The blood of so many Serbs are on all of your hands and soul, i will leave you with that because their is no hope for a scientific response.

Hoping New Zealand returns to its golden days of men who were filled with truth and integrity,