Don't drink the poison

If the world we live in was a TV show, it's safe to say this would be the point where the different plot lines would come together because the show has dragged on for far too long already, it's getting ridiculous at times, and the writers need to find a way to wrap it all up.

Two absolutely stunning stories today, for instance. The first one involved Slobodan Praljak, one of 6 former Bosnian Croat leaders to face charges from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. In 2013 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the Bosnian War of 92-95. Today, the judges upheld the sentence. As they announced it, Praljak stood up, declared he was not a war criminal, that he rejects the court's ruling, and then proceeded to drink from a small glass which he then said was poison. He was carried out to the hospital and was later pronounced dead. 

The second story involved everyone's favorite reality TV show host, Donald Trump. Acting in character for someone allegedly called a "fucking moron" by his Secretary of State, Trump retweeted unverified anti-Muslim videos from a known UK fascist leader from Britain First. 

Now what strenuous connection am I about to make between the two, you ask?

In the 1990's Yugoslavia descended into all-out ethnic war, but in the 1980's no one truly saw it coming. Tito, everything else about him aside, worked to paper over ethnic divisions and grievances during his presidency as a means of solidifying his rule, while Milosevic did the exact opposite and exacerbated these grievances in order to take power. The latter's use of the media was a key element which helped produce disaster.

The author of a key piece of expert evidence in the Milosevic trial stated at the time that "without the media, and especially without television, war in the former Yugoslavia is inconceivable," specifically Milosevic's use of the Serbian state media to create an atmosphere of fear and hatred among Serbs by spreading "exaggerated and false messages of ethnically based attacks by Bosnian Muslims and Croats against Serb people." [source

Milosevic began his efforts to control media in 1986-87, finishing the process in the summer of 1991: "The media offensive launched by Belgrade contributed to the appearance of equally detestable propaganda in other Yugoslav republics and its after-effects would be felt for years," according to the report which quoted former Reuters Sarajevo correspondent Daniel Deluce. "In Serbia specifically, the use of media for nationalist ends and objectives formed part of a well-thought through plan - itself part of a strategy of conquest and affirmation of identity," said the report. [source]

Today, far too many people (most notably pundits and analysts) ignore just how dangerous the Trump effect on American society is. White resentment is what propelled him to the White House. To this day he has not carried out any of his major campaign promises such as starting a trade war with China or pulling out of NATO or any of the other stupid ideas he spewed, because his base does not particularly care about those. That's how he was able to put bankers in charge of the economy and get away with it. His only accomplishments have been playing the media (something at which he is admittedly VERY good) and exploiting his most ardent followers' sense of grievance. Everything he says or tweets suggests (or shouts) that white America is under siege, that the system is rigged in favor of black people, that Mexicans and Muslims pose an existential threat to the country. A presidential bid which arguably started when Trump began questioning the first black president's nationality has turned into a dangerous presidency predicated almost exclusively on race baiting and dog whistles. (more on this in Adam Serwer's excellent long essay in The Atlantic - The Nationalist's Delusion)

The damage Trump is doing to American society will not go away after he's out of the office. The US is not Yugoslavia, but it's hard to see anything good coming out of the current president's flirting with white nationalism.

Put me down as one of the pessimists if you must. But these days we commemorate Srebrenica and take note of Ratko Mladic's sentence, we see Slobodan Praljak evade justice, and America is drinking the poison that Trump is feeding it. At least let's draw the right lessons from one of the most horrid episodes in our history. For whatever good that will do us.