2006-08-29

A midsummer night's skinhead attack

A friend of East Ethnia sent along this little item about a recent violent attack by skinheads in Belgrade. I won’t go into the details here, you can read about them if you care to. While the violence and racism are predictable enough, it might be most interesting to note the complete failure of the police to prevent the attack or respond in any way. This is perhaps not so surprising either, considering a number of recent incidents that are well known. These would include the utter failure of prosecutors to respond to invitations to ethnic hatred on the part of a large political party which is only formally in the opposition, and would also include the participation of police in the same spirit as rioters in violent clashes at sporting events.

Some of the details of these incident might seem baffling to normal people: chanting “Auschwitz” at Jewish people, repeatedly addressing people of Croatian ethnicity as “Ustaše,” maybe bizarrest of all, throwing matches between police and sport hooligans involving urine-filled condoms. Some of these seem too vulgarly stupid to be true, like snippets of a compulsive belcher’s works of science fiction.

There is certainly something to be observed in the atmosphere of Belgrade which might be thought of as contributing to these sorts of incidents. Anybody could reply well, there are violent racist idiots everywhere, which would of course be true. There may be something telling about the most recent crop of global racist idiocy: when planes can be diverted and escorted by fighter plane because somebody on there thinks that another person is “acting strange,” or is dressed wrong, or is of a certain regional origin, then it looks like a certain licence is being renewed. All those people who were compelled by politeness or the fear of social isolation to keep their racist thoughts quiet can suddenly express them all they like, and fighter pilots will be ordered to supply the punctuation. This is observable over the course of a couple of weeks, when panic takes hold, order breaks down, and “security” types crawl out of their moleholes.

I doubt very much that people in Belgrade are any stupider or more filled with hate than anybody else on the planet. What makes the situation there unique is the degree to which the society and its values have been destroyed, leaving it with precious little to position against the skinheads. Watch any of the television talk shows and listen to the shouting and cheering. The only thing they have got that the skinheads do not is hair.

It is easy to dismiss the occasional outbursts of violence by violent racists as coming from the margins, the lumpish lumping of lumpen youth. Like the image of terrorists coming from the ranks of the most oppressed, this is not generally the case. The Boston youth who received a comically handwringing sentence for beating two young women is the son of the director of one of the city’s major arts centers; the “9/11” hijackers were educated sons of prominent families; the intellectual leaders of the Serbian skinheads are writers, artists, critics.

Like every other political fact, racism is about power – especially, about the fear of losing power. That is why groups of young violent people will be most active when they believe that what they are doing is supported, even if silently, by the more respectable members of their community. That is why seemingly unrelated parts of the atmosphere, like the media presence of extremists, the use of the Parliament for invitations to violence, the support of war criminals, and the general worthlessness of the police, contribute to the frequency of this type of event. If people in positions of authority begin to speak out, who will believe them?

Update: Two attackers have been arrested, after voluntarily going to police. One of them is "Predrag M," whose lawyer appears to have been told to acknowledge the facts of the case but not the motivation of the attackers. The other is an unnamed US citizen, who is for some reason being protected by the US Embassy. The police, who failed to respond, have spent the day denying that they failed to respond.

Update: Friend of East Ethnia AR points us to an article in today's Blic (no direct link to the article until it gets into the archive, majke im) from which we learn: 1) how the attackers identified their victims (by asking them), 2) the names and major fields of study of the attackers, and 3) the tonsorial similarities linking skinheads and their victims.

10 comments:

cãorafeiro said...

this is rather depressing...

Bg anon said...

The plot thickens. The US citizen is the one that carried out the attack - he admitted it apparantly.

The other Predrag guy was the one who inititally verbally insulted the Israeli shouting 'ausvitz, ausvitz'

There is something a bit odd about all of this that I wondered about it from the outset. Not that the attack couldnt happen in Serbia. It could, but skinhead types are usually too brainless to know a Jew or Israeli. So I felt there was something else. One report suggests that Predrag and his US buddy heard them speaking yiddish.

It appears that either Predrag or the US citizen are not skinheads after all. But the Israeli guy is still claiming to having been attacked by skinheads.

Maybe further light will be shed on the situation in the next few days.

Eric Gordy said...

Yes, the story is looking odder. I'll have to keep watching it.

Eric Gordy said...

The more I consider it, though, the more this scenario occurs to me: Predrag M's lawyer is calculating that the other person will probably be shielded by the US Embassy. This means that it is possible to transfer all the major blame onto the other person without consequence, and get a charge for a lesser offence against his client. This is just a projection, of course, but it may be plausible.

Seesaw said...

Zdravo Eric, could you please remove Balkan-Scissors from your blogroll. I deleted that blog and now have a new one with very strange name - Jugoslavija. The link is http://jugoslavijadruga.blogspot.com/
Who know, maybe you will like it even better!

Eric Gordy said...

Done! And welcome (back) in your new incarnation.

Bg anon said...

Ok more on this story.

The media (mainly the gutter press) in Serbia have published a photo of the US citizen. He's from LA but lives in Chicago - apparantly his father is Serb(ian?). They have published his name but I dont suppose there is much point putting it here.

Anyway the photo shows him sporting a bruised eye and he does have hair - short though it is.

He claims that this was an ordinary incident that took place in a bar at Tas and it had nothing to do with race or ethnic identity. It was to do with the fact that the Israeli allegedly pinched him on the 'rear quarters'. So disgusted was our US citizen that he got involved in a fight with the guy. In the interview the US citizen proudly tells us how he was arrested in 2001 for protesting the gay march in the centre of Belgrade. He claims his sister is living with a jew and that he shared a flat with a jew etc...

His message is clear and has been repeated by his lawyer. 'Ok I like giving gays a bit of a bashing, but who doesnt, I am not an anti semite'. My interpretation btw, not a quote.

He added that he didnt know that other Predrag guy until that evening and says the idea of him being part of a skinhead gang is ridiculous.

My conclusion is that the 'independent' media overreacted without checking the facts first.

I think what happened was an initial misunderstanding. Then the racial / religious and / or sexual based insults occured and the Israeli as the 'other' in the bar got the worst of it. Or maybe it did begin with the racial / religous insults.

Either way it looks like the Israeli guy was utterly outraged and went over the top on the skinhead angle.

Things like this always seem to happen in Serbia. Nothing is ever as it seems and things are hardly ever cleared up to anybodies satisfaction.

Eric Gordy said...

Keep in mind, though -- most of the new information is probably coming from the two accused people's lawyers. Their strategy seems to be not to deny the facts, but to cast doubt on the context.

Bez Komentara said...

OMG, and nobody writes about that in Croatia anymore... I really should be reading more news in region... d'oh... thanks for info... anyway... :)

Bg anon said...

Certainly Eric but if the facts had been more accurate in the first place (media's responsibility to check the facts) that wouldnt give ammunition to revisionist types or those that want to deny that there is a problem in Seriba.

Remember initial reports said that two Israelis were attacked in a park by a group of Serb skinheads wearing nazi symbols.

It turns out that one was attacked, the other victim wasnt Israeli - or at least has joint Serbian / Israeli citizenship, that they were attacked in the bar at Tas, that the 'group of men' who attacked were two men, that one of them was American, that one of the men was not a skinhead (the other I cant be sure of since I havent seen a picture). I have been in all sorts of places in Serbia but have yet to see somebody wearing nazi symbols.

OK the media only re-report initial statements by police and the victim but it seems to me a little like some sections of the media were almost relished reporting this.