Juxtaposed Bannings

19 June 06

First of all, spectator sports make people more passive, because you're not doing them — you're watching somebody doing them. Secondly, they engender jingoist and chauvinist attitudes, sometimes to quite an extreme degree. — Noam Chomsky

It is almost ironic how prematurely the World Cup ended for a country which lived on life support for so long. Losing 6:0 to Argentina is the perfect red herring, but let's recap Serbian recent history:
  1. Serbian Radical Party, a far right Serbian political party (their leader pictured on right) entered the Parliament.
  2. Wolf's Hunger, a Serbian black metal band, was invited to play at Exit Fest 2006 (a music festival in Novi Sad, famous for their quality, size and ideology).
  3. Serbian Radical Party members insulted another member of the parliament, calling her all kinds of names on ethnic ground.
  4. An anti-fascist organization from Novi Sad announced Wolf's Hunger is a neo-fascist band.

After the initial hype about the incidents in the parliament, one of the Government parties organized protests and collected signatures to ban the Serbian Radical Party for their repeated hate speech. Their efforts turned out fruitless, but it did make me wonder what it takes to ban a party from participating in the government, or a band from playing at a festival which receives some governmental help and is kind of sanctioned by the local government.

On one hand, I won't stand for curbing the freedom of speech, and if you asked me what I thought of the Serbian minister of justice, Zoran Stojković, I would go into detail about how he convicted some dissidents for verbal misdemeanor back in the 1980s.

On the other hand, war mongering and promotion of hate and discrimination on ethnic grounds is certainly not productive, and I am not sure it can go by without serious consequences in a country such as Serbia. The country lacks a substantial level of democratization, and the government needs to start functioning through political parties, not in them. I think we still have a long way to go before we institutionalize democracy.

So, proposal to ban the Radicals is now water under the bridge, but it probably wouldn't be too feasible to try anyway, as they have a solid following.

On the other hand, just the mistake of getting Wolf's Hunger to play at Exit disappoints me, although I think they won't play after all. Last year they pussied out of commemorating the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. This year, they almost let a guy who thinks that "national socialism has good aspects" play with his band…


  1. Daniel
    Jun 27, 07:23 AM #

    I never heard that Exit was famous for ideology. Could you tell me more about that?
  2. serbianmess
    Jun 27, 03:50 PM #


    Let me make a short story long :)

    In the late 1990s, anti-Milošević sentiment culminated in everyday life. Opinions were very polarized and the driving force (perhaps that's an overstatement) behind the opposition were people who stood for modernization. A rather vague goal, but people wanted democracy, liberty in movement/speech and an end to cultural isolation.

    So, in the summer of 2000, a couple of students from Novi Sad managed to organize a 100 day long festival in Novi Sad. It was not uncommon for concerts to be organized in protest to Milošević's regime (many of them were organized by Otpor) and Exit had the same, anti-regime theme.

    After 2000, it grew into an annual event, got commercialized etc. The organizers always still try to promote progressive values, and many NGOs get their stands at the festival. Also, just having festival with latest&greatest bands is a huge thing for young people in Serbia, especially those of us who grew up in the 1990s, when we had to go to Budapest to see our favorite bands, and almost completely forgot the feeling of cultural internationationalism.

  3. bganon
    Jun 30, 08:24 AM #

    Your point about Zoran Stojkovic is well taken. Have you noticed the way that he always denies that it was him whenever asked. And didnt he take some kind of court process against those who accused him of sentencing dissidents.

    If that is true I'll pay the bus ticket for one of those dissidents (who still abides by former principles) to come and testify against the dear minister.

    Then again Stojkovic looks like a voice of reason and democracy compared with most other ministers - not saying much really is it?
  4. serbianmess
    Jun 30, 10:23 PM #

    The trial happened in 1984. If I am not mistaken, 3 of them were sentenced, but the Supreme Court reduced sentences for all of them (meaning Stojković was really engaged in the process).

    NY Times reported about this: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506E6D81738F934A3575BC0A962948260 (there are several more articles about that, just search for names of accused).

    Also, I know that at least one of the dissidents is still living in Belgrade, but I never followed up on what was born out of all that fuss in 2004. I'm not even sure if any kind of legal action can be taken against Stojković.

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