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How the Serbs became fascists

How did the Serbs come to be viewed as fascists in this conflict? This
characterization has now become an accepted fact, an issue beyond
debate. It makes U.S. motives seem unimpeachable and on the side of
good against evil. 

In April 1993 Jacques Merlino, associate director of French TV 2,
interviewed James Harff director of Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs,
a Washington, D.C-based public relations firm. The interview shows the
role of the corporate media in shaping a political issue. 

Harff bragged of his services to his clients--the Republic of Croatia,
the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the parliamentary opposition
in Kosovo, an autonomous region of Serbia. Merlino described how Harff
uses a file of several hundred journalists, politicians,
representatives of humanitarian associations, and academics to create
public opinion. Harff explained: "Speed is vital . . . it is the first
assertion that really counts. All denials are entirely ineffective." 

In the interview, Merlino asked Harff what his proudest public
relations endeavor was. Harff responded:

"To have managed to put Jewish opinion on our side. This was a
sensitive matter, as the dossier was dangerous looked at from this
angle. President Tudjman was very careless in his book, Wastelands of
Historical Reality. Reading his writings one could accuse him of
anti-Semitism. [Tudjman claimed the Holocaust never happened.] In
Bosnia the situation was no better: President Izetbegovic strongly
supported the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in his book,
The Islamic Declaration. 

"Besides, the Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by real and cruel
anti-Semitism. Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps,
so there was every reason for intellectuals and Jewish organizations
to be hostile toward the Croats and the Bosnians. Our challenge was to
reverse this attitude and we succeeded masterfully. 

"At the beginning of July 1992, New York Newsday came out with the
article on Serb camps. We jumped at the opportunity immediately. We
outwitted three big Jewish organizations--the B'nai B'rith
Anti-Defamation League, The American Jewish Committee and the American
Jewish Congress. In August, we suggested that they publish an
advertisement in the New York Times and organize demonstrations
outside the United Nations. 

"That was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the
game on the side of the [Muslim] Bosnians, we could promptly equate
the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind. Nobody understood what
was happening in Yugoslavia. The great majority of Americans were
probably asking themselves in which African country Bosnia was

"By a single move we were able to present a simple story of good guys
and bad guys which would hereafter play itself We won by targeting the
Jewish audience. Almost immediately there was a clear change of
language in the press, with use of words with high emotional content
such as ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, etc., which evoke
images of Nazi Germany and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. No one could
go against it without being accused of revisionism. We really batted a
thousand in full." 

Merlino replied, "But between 2 and 5 August 1992, when you did this,
you had no proof that what you said was true. All you had were two
Newsday articles." "Our work is not to verify information," said
Harff. "We are not equipped for that. Our work is to accelerate the
circulation of information favorable to us, to aim at judiciously
chosen targets. We did not confirm the existence of death camps in
Bosnia, we just made it widely known that Newsday affirmed it.... We
are professionals. We had a job to do and we did it. We are not paid
to moralize."

(Sara Flounders, "Nato in the Balkans", can be ordered from

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