michael.benson on Fri, 7 May 1999 15:12:31 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> tricky, tricky

     [orig to syndicate]

Yeah! Very good! But I say it admiringly! Very devious!

What am I talking about? What I'm talking about is that the last
syndicate message signed by "me" was a monkey-wrench, a cracked mirror
in the Balkan funhouse, a veritable misnomer, literally! In other
words, I didn't write it, and I didn't sign it, and it didn't
originate with me. But it sure as hell *looked* like it came from me.
So, hats off -- it was very well done,  and makes me suspect that I
have a secret sharer, a devious double, a joker in the deck with a
keyboard, vial of crack and a serious attitude problem. As they say in
Ljubljana: 'full cool.' It almost doesn't matter that such a person is
probably directly employed by Mirjana Markovic (see article attached

Ha ha, and ho ho. I suppose part of the kick of it for my alter ego is
that (1) I have to respond, presumably, to the list, so he/she gets to
feel like he/she is yanking my chain, and (2) this person is
completely anonymous, kicked back no doubt with a full beaker of slivo
and enjoying a deep dark tobacco-stained chuckle, something like the
sound a toilet makes when it flushes (or at least, that's what I
imagine -- only in this case the toilet would have to have brown

'Course, it also leaves me with a little bit of a problem, which is
that I suppose from now on nobody will have any idea (not that anyone
need give a shit, just to continue the toilet metaphor for a minute)
if a message signed by me is actually *from* me... Hmm. (Thoughtful
pause.) But then again, why the hell not? As Walt Whitman said, "I am
large enough to contain contradictions". Or was that Dobrica Cosic?
(Second thoughtful pause.) And who the hell's asking, anyway? 

I'm curious, though, if this kind of thing has happened on syndicate
before. Yeah -- curiouser and curiouser. [& don't forget to read the
interesting text attached below.]

Michael Benson

                        Captain Dragan's Serbian
                        How Milosevic took the Internet

                        BY MICHAEL SATCHELL

                        Both sides in the Kosovo conflict are locked
                        in a fierce information war. Besides atrocity
                        accounts and combat by press briefing, this
                        "soft war" campaign includes a cyberspace
                        clickskrieg by the Serbians and World War
                        II-style leaflet drops by NATO planes.

                        So far, Slobodan Milosevic seems to be
                        winning. "The vast majority of war coverage
                        that is getting into Serbia is not believed,"
                        concedes Ann Pincus of the U.S. Information
                        Agency. Retired Army Col. and information
                        warfare expert C. Kenneth Allard says that
                        NATO's indoctrination effort is "the most
                        remarkably bad performance that I've ever

                        The greatest irony is that the Serbs have
                        seized the Internet initiative from the
                        wired-up Americans. On the 13th floor of
                        Belgrade's tallest building, a drab pile of
                        brown steel called the Beogradjanka, young
                        volunteers-mainly students whose high schools
                        and universities have been closed by the
                        war-tap away at two dozen battered old
                        computers souped up with new hardware. The
                        electronic boiler-room operation is linked
                        with more than 1,000 computer volunteers
                        working at six other centers in Belgrade. 

                        Polite. They debate in chat rooms, translate
                        articles into English, update their
                        technically sophisticated, politically
                        strident Web site (www.yu), network with other
                        anti-NATO groups around the world, and
                        encourage Serb expatriates to become
                        politically active. Signs emphasize three
                        rules: No swearing. Be polite. Always leave
                        room for negotiation. Hacking is theoretically
                        forbidden, although unclassified computer
                        systems at NATO headquarters, the U.S.
                        Information Agency, and U.S. Navy facilities
                        have been disrupted by barrages of E-mail
                        (spamming) or computer-generated pulses
                        (pinging). To a person, the volunteers dismiss
                        American accounts of mass deportations,
                        killings, rapes, and other atrocities. Says
                        Ceda Rajacic, 23, his voice dripping with
                        disdain: "That's part of their propaganda

                        Serbia's cyberoffensive is led by Dragan
                        Vasiljkovic, widely known as Captain Dragan,
                        who ran unsuccessfully for Serbian president
                        in 1992 against the incumbent Milosevic.
                        Dragan is a war hero to the Serbs-and a war
                        criminal to other Balkan ethnic groups. The
                        silver-haired 44-year-old led a paramilitary
                        unit accused of "ethnic cleansing" in Croatia
                        and Bosnia. He later established a fund for
                        Serbian veterans. The day after NATO bombs
                        began falling, he turned the fund's offices
                        into a computer center to wage psychological
                        warfare. Says Dragan: "The average American
                        doesn't hate us. They are being manipulated by
                        the media."

                        Meanwhile, the U.S. side relies on programming
                        by Voice of America and Radio Free
                        Europe/Radio Liberty, augmented by broadcasts
                        from EC-130 "Commando Solo" planes. These
                        flying radio stations transmit one-hour
                        programs four times daily of wire-service news
                        and NATO messages, interspersed with European
                        pop music. But a Pentagon official admits that
                        their 10,000-watt signal is so weak "they are
                        blanketing an area the size of my desk."

                        NATO aircraft also have dropped 19 million
                        leaflets. Some are warnings to Serbian troops:
                        "Remain in Kosovo and face certain death."
                        Others explain NATO's action to the Serbian
                        people: "Hundreds of thousands of refugees are
                        fleeing Milosevic's pogrom. Do not allow
                        misguided patriotism to bind you to his
                        atrocities." But one leaflet was so badly
                        translated that it sounded stilted to younger
                        Serbs and reminded older ones of Nazi
                        propaganda. And because the planes stay
                        outside Yugoslav air space, crews must
                        calculate altitude, wind direction, and target
                        distance, then hope the leaflets float to
                        their destination. A few days ago in the
                        province of Vojvodina, an elderly man named
                        Dusan recalled that World War II leaflets were
                        valuable for cigarette rolling paper. "These
                        aren't even good for that," he grumbled.

                        With Alex Todorovic in Belgrade, Warren
                        Strobel, and Richard J. Newman

                        (from US News and World Report)

Michael Benson  <michael.benson@pristop.si>
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