Spectacle without questioning – normalization of the myth about hatred

Spectacle without questioning – normalization of the myth about hatred
Many world media readily reported the latest events in the “bloody Balkans” reinforcing once more the old images of the evil Balkan spirits.
On October 14, the Albanian and Serbian national football teams played a qualifying match for the European Championship 2016. Everything that happened during the match and a few days that followed is a jumble of emotionally charged, shocking, confusing and difficult to understand events. Let us try to recapitulate the key ones. 
Photo: Novosti.rs
The match was assessed a high risk one from the very beginning. Forty-one minute into the match, amidst the boiling-hot atmosphere and fans’ aggressive cheers, the unmanned drone carrying a Greater Albania flag flew over the stadium. The drone triggered a domino effect and disagreeable events followed each other – the brawl and rampage on the pitch ended in the withdrawal of the Albanian players. The match was more reminiscent of a war than a sporting event.
That same night, the war that began on the pitch moved to the media. All of them, almost in unison, reveled in sensationalism arguing the event, with the headlines reminiscent of the industrial era and the onset of the mass media. INCREDIBLE! STAGGERING! SHOCKING! A river of media texts began to roll in, PR agencies and departments for public relations got on their feet, various coaches, football players, team managers, diplomats and interpreters of all kinds were given media space. Within just a few hours and a long time before the police investigation was launched, we learnt who controlled the drone and from where, what dirty plan was behind it, who the main culprits were and the like. On that night, old sentiments were awaken, various histories were summoned, and pubs burst into lively discussions.
However, despite the emotional charge, certain familiarity seeped through media reports, like when a neighbor – that silly one – throws a party again and pumps up the volume to full blast and then people say, “You won’t believe what that jerk did last night!” This time, the only difference was a new loudspeaker system. In the media presentations, the complexity, unpredictability and multi-dimensionality of such events are readily discarded and discussion is restricted to the known terrain. After all, the Albanians and the Serbs are old acquaintances. In the eyes of both, the other is always cunning, evil-thinking, shameful and a nationalist who exploits every occasion to humiliate, discriminate, threaten, or even enter into an open conflict. An unimaginably great number of media texts ran along these lines. Although the blood ran faster, our symbolical maps and our presentations of ourselves and them, evil Others, were left intact. The myth about the Albania-Serbia hatred again appeared as completely natural and therefore unalterable.
Alternative media realities? 
This simplified total picture, like a frosting on the birthday cake, had to be preserved at any expense. Every text that poses question, raises suspicion or marks uncharted territories is superfluous and potentially harmful. The number of such texts was expectedly small although the number of potential questions was infinite. How could the drone enter the stadium at all? What would have happen if it had carried a bomb or some biological or chemical weapon? What were intelligence services doing? How could several fans, led by the many-time-convicted leader of Crvena Zvezda supporters, enter the pitch and openly fight with the rival team players? How come that PM Vučić knew for days that “something was brewing” and he even notified the EU about it, but those who were supposed to ensure security at this high-risk match did not? Did really all Albanian officials and journalists rally behind the provocations at the match as the media said? All of these questions and many more were asked on Facebook, Twitter and alternative media portals like Peščanik. Despite this, the cake was preserved intact.
Bakeries as an internal Other, the Albanian government as an external Other
In the days that followed, a measure of déjà vu lingered on. Mosques and Albanian owned bakeries were set ablaze in many Serbian towns. However, reports on these events were significantly different. The media put on the apparel of objective, value-neutral witnesses that report and convey what others have said but without venturing into interpretations and without using emotionally charged metaphors and allegories. The perpetrators of attacks were called just “perpetrators,” “certain individuals,” and in several cases “hooligans” with whom we are already familiar and who have become a normal part of our everyday. Most of the victims stated that they did not feel threatened and expressed their infinite trust in the Serbian security forces and their protection. Most expressed their dismay at these irrational attacks committed by “certain individuals,” “hooligans,” some dissatisfied, apolitical youths that are found anywhere across the globe and that are a problem of every society (the thesis that these were random attacks by senseless individuals was argued on several occasions, among other things by saying that some of the attacked properties were not owned by the Albanians). It was an obvious relativization and dissolution of the problem intended to relieve the police and the State of their responsibility. The designation of these attacks as frequent and everyday phenomena obscured their connection with the events that unfolded during the Serbia-Albania match. Everything was returned to the old good normalcy in which the Serbs live peacefully side by side with all their neighbors, unconditionally accepting them even if they are Gorani or Albanians, while those who are “aggressive” and “primitive” live across the southern border.
Welcome to the desert of the media
In her recent text published on Peščanik Svetlana Slapšak gives a convincing image of the Serbian media reality which “today looks the way the Mediterranean Sea will look in ten million years – a dry, salty plain occasionally traversed by snails whose feet can stand the boiling hot soil.” These brave snails are always somewhere around, the only question is how many of them there are and how influential they are. Recently, even the most popular media began to carry the voices of individuals who call both sides, and political leaders in particular, to take responsibility. An example is the text by Živojin Rakočević, a journalist from Kosovo, published on B2 portal (again in the meteo report style). 
The question that should be asked, though, is whether it is too late. The initial non-critical, general approach, sensationalism and subservience of the leading media created a convincing picture that the marginal media will find difficult to change. The damage has already been done, to bakeries and to the hearths of new generations who will inherit the hatred as part of their national identity. In the meantime, perhaps we should mention another normalization that has been unfolding in parallel. Many world media readily reported the latest events in the “bloody Balkans” reinforcing once more the old images of the evil Balkan spirits. The carousel keeps on turning. As Teodor Geškof writes, "news on the Balkans penetrate the outer world only at the times of horrors and troubles; otherwise, the Balkans is ignored with contempt.” These things are familiar, painfully familiar. Painfully because the quotation is 74 years old. 
Read more about the media coverage of the event in Albania by Agron Bajrami and Serbia by Branko Čečen in b-h-s languages on our partner portal MC Online.
Media Integrity