Sat, 03 Apr 1999

The downed Stealth and other Serbian pranks

I read with much interest Roya*jakoby's posting about infowar, propaganda and, er, "communication guerrilla" by the Serbian regime. It is curious that, while many "skeptical" postings were dismissed as "paranoid rants", this apparent satire of anti-NATO positions on Nettime wasn't exposed as pro-Serbian "black" propaganda claiming to come from the other side while depicting a charming eulogy of Belgrade's almighty, ultra-clever ministry of information. Suggesting that *all* e-mail from Yugoslavia is being written by intelligence pros (I presume jakoby referred to Insomnia's diary) may be the most brilliant hoax ever pulled by these pros themselves.
If I were a Serbian "ratfucker", I'd flood list-servs and newsgroups precisely with this kind of messages.
Unfortunately, I'm afraid jakoby's isn't neither black propaganda nor subtle collaborationism, just flawed "white" stuff whose main sub-text is: NATO has the exclusive right to media manipulation in the West, no-one but Uncle Sam should be allowed to fuck with our minds.
I strongly disagree, I think that what goes around comes around: after almost ten years of bullshitting monopoly, the Pentagon had to face the rise of a highly sarcastic (as Ivo Skoric noticed) overt counter-disinformation. It's a karma thing, you know.

In one of my previous postings, I incidentally described Slobo (mind you, I still regard him as a fascist sleazebag) as a ' merry prankster'. On the same day, someone phoned the families of all German soldiers quartiered in Italian NATO bases, informing them that their beloved ones were just dead in the Balkan skies. Headquarters were flooded by desperate callers seeking confirmation.
Friends made me notice that such black humour was one of Blissett's trademarks in the Project's early years, so I tried to investigate among phone pranksters adopting the multi-use name, but my efforts were unsuccessful and I had to assume that, although it is a trivial example of zero-budget grassroots trashing, it was 100% a Serbian operation.
Another example: Yugoslavia let it be known that they aren't at war with nobody, as they're victims of a terrorist aggression, thereby Stone, Ramirez and Gonzales aren't prisoners of war and can't appeal to international conventions. This sounds both disturbing and bloody funny.
What did NATO expect, since they pig-headedly kept describing this war as "humanitarian peace-enforcing" and other euphemisms? No officially declared war, no conventions. Plain and simple. A while later, spokespersons for Slobo hinted at western judicial "guaranteeism", saying that the martial court is 'gathering evidence', implying that S, R & G will have a "fair" trial all the same. All the western media can't help but reporting this joke.

Besides this, it seems to me that, since the first day of bombings, Yugoslavia resorted to counter-manipulation of Western media as a "raspberry" response to NATO's muscle-flexing, often giving a paradoxical twist and acceleration to the whole game. The best strike is the story of the 'downed' Stealth. Given that no-one from the press was allowed to talk to the pilot (or even see him), the Italian media has started to doubt the official NATO version of that "crash". On March 31st Mr. Enrico Mentana, chief news-editor at Canale 5 television, said that 'the lack of "transparency" about this affair reverberates on the whole NATO operation'.
The day before, an activist of the Rome-based MIR [Men In Red] group had posted the following message on the Italian <> listserv:

'[...] An F-117's can be piloted from the base, with no man aboard. Since the beginning of this war Serbian sources announced at least 3 downings of F-117s before the case we know about, and a further one later. NATO always denied. The only difference between these reports and the confirmed one is footage of the downed plane.
Given Yugoslavia's permeability by foreign journalism, it wouldn't have made any sense to release fake reports on downed NATO aircraft, doomed to denial [...]
As a matter of fact, the only undisputable evidence that a plane was shot down, besides pictures, is the presence of a human pilot aboard. If he dies, it will be difficult to keep it hidden. It makes sense to think that Serbian anti-aircraft has really shot more aircraft down, which NATO could easily deny due to lack of serious consequences, since no pilot was dead. Perhaps the Serbs realized how to play the game: they hit the fourth plane, then not only made the images public, but also talked about two captured pilots.
Several years later, NATO confirmed the shooting down, but stated that the pilot (one) had been salvaged.
It is hard to believe that a NATO helicopter landed in the middle of Yugoslavian territory, 30 kms. from Belgrade, while the pride of US air force was knocked off at flying height. It is even harder to believe that the helicopter arrived before the Serbian "militias" controlling that territory [...] This is unconvincing fiction.
The shocking truth may be: there was no pilot aboard the Stealth, and if serbian reports are true and other planes were shot down, there may be no human being aboard the aircraft bombing Yugoslavia.
Think of it: while civilians are dying, no military man is really putting his life on the line; these "heroes" are simply playing some sort of cyiìnic videogame.'

Someday we'll find out the truth. If it coincides with MIR's supposition, historians will give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and regard this prank as a towering achievement of Milosevic's infowar, no matter if he is and will always be a filthy mind-fucker.