The camera lingered indiscriminately on the bodies of the victims examining their wounds in a depersonalised and dehumanised manner. It stopped only when resting on the complete body, like a surprise to find a boundary and the limit to what it can explore and disclose. The close-up style brought with it an unpleasant sense of intimacy.
As part of the audience I found myself harassed in bewilderment, apprehension, confusion and disquiet. The screening abruptly stopped, a man had fainted. A voice from somewhere in front of the hall announced that 'refreshments will be served now'. The lights came on. All around me were pale and tearful faces expressing the same harassment, bewilderment, apprehension, confusion and disquiet. There were a few minutes of silence. The only commotion at the back where some attempted to comfort the man who had fainted, a friend.
We were sitting in the Croatian Hall in Fremantle, Western Australia, watching the first videotape of the war in what quickly became known as the "former Yugoslavia". It was shown straight after the three "heroes" of the Croatian community had talked to the audience about their visit and experiences in Croatia. The guests were: Father Brian Morisson, well-known Catholic priest and charity worker who delivered to Croatia the first contingent of aid collected in Perth by Care Croatia; Paul Filing, Federal (Liberal) MP, the leader of Parliamentarians for Croatia, who was then actively lobbying federally for recognition of Croatia as an independent state; and Tony Ashby, the West Australian photo journalist, who captured some of the most compelling images of the war first in Croatia, and later in Bosnia. The hall was packed. There were at least 500 people present.
After their short reports on the success of their mission in delivering the aid containing medications and food, donated by the community in Perth, all three guests expressed hope that Croatia would be recognised internationally soon, which in turn would increase the chances for ending the conflict.
A video was to be shown to illustrate their reports. The lights were turned off and the tape began with showing the most recent news, obviously taped off HTV (Hrvatska Televizija - Croatian Television). Then, without warning, the camera started following an anonymous pair of hands measuring the wounds of bodies, inspecting and entering disintegrating human flesh. This was intercut with the images of destruction of the countryside and of bodies with slashed throats scattered all around. There was grass and soil saturated with blood. Then bodies naked and tagged lay on cement tables and floor. Then they were being washed - or rather hosed down - such washing revealing gaping wounds becoming clean of mud and blood.
When Marshall Blonsky wrote (xlvi) that 'image power is to be exercised over our souls', he could have been referring to this videotape. Instead he was referring to the images of the mutilated bodies and souls in Susan Meiselas' photographic essay "A portfolio on Central America" (43-53). Meiselas manages to sum up in twenty black and white photographs the whole history of violence and its consequences; pain, despair, the madness of war. Those same signs of despair, pain and madness were there in these videotapes of what was first called by the world press 'a civil war' and later 'ethnic cleansing' on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.
But the scene that came to symbolise this war was not a scene of the death of a person, a human being, but rather the destruction of a car. The first frames from Yugoslavia, were of an army tank crushing a red Fiat 500 (the car became a Balkan symbol for this 'western' war just as the pulling down of the Statue of Liberty on Tienanmen Square in Beijing became a symbol of the students' movement for democracy in China (Wark 39). The penetrating sounds of the crashing and splintering, the rumbling and the falling of the collapsing car make the viewer feel powerless to defend him or herself against the conquering violence of the tank. The tank, the symbolic instrument for the absolute claim of power, and the small red Fiat '500' the symbol of humble victims. Such a feeling of helplessness was not a surprise, but the recognition of the scene from some other time and other space was. Perhaps it was only through intertextuality that we grounded our recognition of the crushing sounds of steel from all the war films, all the television dramas and series and most of all from all the newscasts of armed conflicts around the world.
This scene is usually replayed in any "decent" documentary on the "conflict in the Balkans"; with the comment: 'This is how it began...'. It does not lose the power to shock each and every time. What we do not find in those documentaries, and very seldom even in information programmes, are the scenes of death screened in that community hall and which came to freely circulate on pirated videos in the Croatian Community of Western Australia. 1 They come without warning and they are obscene.
Such death tapes circulate as "information" in the community. If we accept the definition that Baudrillard (Ecstasy 21) gives us, these tapes are obscene:
Obscenity begins when there is no more spectacle, no more stage, no more theatre, no more illusion, when every-thing becomes immediately transparent, visible, exposed in the raw and inexorable light of information and communication.
Because 'obscenity is not confined to sexuality', what we have on these "tapes of death" is 'the all-too-visible' and 'more visible-than-visible' (22).
The heroes on these tapes are not fictional characters of yet another violent film; they are anonymous witnesses of their own death. The visual language of these videos is the oxymoron - as a limit of expression, as a paradox of the logical connection between events, as an auto-da-fe of all slick expressions - in order to create the silence of horror, in the same way showing death, creating and re-evoking memories of dying in some other time, some other space and playing with its obscenity on the innermost fears of the audience.
This is a visual language of death marked by the key "words" which are the images of human carcasses devoured by pigs in the idyllic countryside of fields golden with ripened wheat, now splattered with blood. This is an example of what Michel de Certeau calls 'the dispersal of narratives' (143). This is also a mixture of memories of the childhood dreams of running through those golden wheat fields (De Certeau argues that 'what is memorable is what we can dream about a site' and, 'to employ space, therefore, is to repeat the joyous and silent experience of childhood...' (144)). These flashes of childhood dreams mix freely with the flashes of other memories and slowly form into the sequences of the present and yet unreal world of hatred, madmen and war, which makes it difficult to distinguish what we see on the screen from the memories of Salvador Dali's surrealist paintings.
Shots of destruction and screams evocative of nightmares (or perhaps from a film we saw recently?) - and each and every one of us in the audience searches in the labyrinth of our consciousness, wanting to recognise or perhaps deny, or both at the same time. The audience is watching in disbelief and continues watching, waiting for something to happen...nothing happens. The camera follows the way in which death writes out the law of this war, of all wars, creating a new language for memory, a language whose function is an embrace of senseless death. We sit there as lost polyglots who have spoken a language we do not know.
It is almost impossible to identify signs which resemble the imaginary but depict the reality - because where is the line that separates our knowledge that we are human from the knowledge that we perform inhuman acts? Because "inhumanity" is already a rejection of reality. It is quite difficult to identify any reality even in these videotapes we have watched, so many of which in a fragmented but powerful way depict prison-camps, interviews with children who have been raped, beaten and exposed to every conceivable and even more inconceivable abuse, and then suddenly burst into a revolutionary song.
We can speak here of an aesthetics of fragments, a kind of a chain reaction in which, as in the game of billiards, one image sets another in motion. As the camera looks at the naked trees of the continental European winter, with the same intensity as it looks at the naked bodies laid out on the grey cement tables and on the dead grass around them, the nakedness of the trees and the deadness of the grass could symbolise the cycle of the seasons, the regeneration of the earth, but in fact they are all one world of death - united in their outmost "deadness" in their difference from one another by the eye of the camera, which finally rests for a moment on a wooden cross without an inscription. This nameless wooden cross returns all that we have seen to a kind of nonexistence, creating a nostalgia-like feeling for identity, any identity even if inscribed on the cross, creating cries for help (sobs in the audience), which if denied at this moment will become repressed with too many scenes of death - too many anonymous bodies lying on the cement tables, and dead grass and will be washed away with the same green hoses that are flushing out the bodies and washing away the reality of dying. The streams of clear water entering the wounds and every other opening on the human bodies and symbolically removing death and our responsibility for it. (Water, a symbol of baptism, new beginnings and a symbol of a cleansed soul.)
Baudrillard explains cleansing as:
Once everything will have been cleansed, once an end will have been put to all viral processes and to all social and bacillary contamination, then only the virus of sadness will remain, in this universe of deadly cleanliness and sophistication. (38)
Perhaps this is what the euphemism of "ethnic cleansing" means - just sadness.
The "Krajina" regions in first Dalmatia and Lika, then in Banija and Slavonija and Baranja have been under Serbian control since mid August 1990, but Serbian insurgents took over the government of the self-proclaimed autonomous regions between June and August 1991, establishing an illegal government which ran parallel to Croatia's newly elected democratic government (see Thompson 270-8; Magas 283-5). Armed patrols in the Krajina regions were set up and the world media increasingly referred to the 'unrest' in Yugoslavia or 'break-away republic of Croatia' showing columns of shoulder to shoulder refugees of Croatian civilians either exiled by Serbian militia or fleeing in fear from their villages. The Serbian militiamen who were referred to as 'Serbian rebels' (by the world media) robbed and ransacked Croatian houses and abused and humiliated the Croatian population that remained behind. Shooting and killing was also reported. 2
As the violence between the Serbian and Croatian population in the Krajinas escalated, stories of harassment, disappearances and horror killings started to circulate in the Croatian community in Perth. Even before the Serbian aggression on Slovenia and Croatia (see Magas, Thompson, Glenny), the audience I was working with started to consolidate and meet more often, either to watch videotapes that were still received regularly, or just to exchange information about "news from home".
M.M.'s family was at the centre of attention in this small community at this time (I am using pseudonyms to respect my informant's privacy). Their older daughter was trapped in the southern Croatian city of Split, too advanced in her pregnancy to undertake travel to Australia. As the tension in Yugoslavia mounted, M.M.'s family and friends gathered daily to watch news and to exchange information. Instead of the usual greeting of 'Hello' or 'How are you', the first words exchanged were 'Any news?' or 'Have you heard the news?' or 'Have you seen?'. The lives of members of my audience changed drastically. Everything was scheduled around getting more information about the "situation back home". (At this stage the families I was studying still used 'back home' or 'homeland' instead of Croatia. They were not used to referring freely to home as Croatia. This was the result of the negative connotations of the name. However, gradually they started to correct each other, and when one would say 'homeland' one would be corrected with 'You mean Croatia'. This showed a conscious effort on the part of these people to accept Croatian independence as reality.)
Watching and listening to the news, or, for that matter, reading newspapers, had only one purpose: to get as much information as was possible about what was "really happening" over there. The Australian media, including SBS (see O'Regan and Kolar-Panov), were suffering from an overload of news from Eastern Europe and the world in general, if we recall that this was the time of the great change, or as it was called then, the 'New World Order', a time of the demise of Communism, from the fall of the Berlin Wall to the army putsch against Mikhail Gorbachev in the former USSR. The events in Yugoslavia were reported among other world events and were perceived by the "families and friends" I studied as 'scant and inadequate'. In order to have a more complete overview of daily developments all news programmes were monitored, radio included. A ninety-two year old male member of the audience who was known to suffer from insomnia was supplied with a high quality short-wave receiver and he listened to all European radio stations: the BBC in Serbo-Croatian, the Deutche Welle in German and to Radio Moscow in Russian. He then reported to his son who would call friends and report on any new developments in Yugoslavia. 3
The other members of the audience monitored ABC Radio and Radio National, while all television news programmes were recorded on VCR. (Prior to this the family and friends were not great ABC listeners or viewers, preferring the commercial stations and SBS.) If there was someone at home at the time when the news was broadcast, they had a duty to monitor the news and record only those segments that pertained to Yugoslavia. In this way we often ended up with an hour of videotape containing a selection of news from ITN (6.30am), American ABC (10.30am), Channel Seven Eleven AM morning programme (11am), and then the evening news from the three commercial channels, (Channel Ten at 5pm,and Channels Seven and Nine at 6pm), and then the national broadcasters at 6.30pm (SBS news) and at 7pm (ABC news). The ABC's current affairs 7.30 Report and SBS's Dateline (7pm) were also monitored, and the ABC's Lateline (10.30pm) as well as the delayed telecast of the NBC Today show were becoming increasingly popular. American news programmes were always watched with special attention since the audience believed that if there was a segment on Croatia included in the news, this could signal the interest of the US administration in the region. And the interest of the US administration could signal a possible change in US policy.
This type of condensed news from Yugoslavia was watched regularly by the audience, most often after dinner, in prime time, thus affecting the viewing of prime time broadcast television. At first the films and television series were regularly time-shifted in order to watch them later, but this practice was soon abandoned since it was realised that they were not being watched at all because of the audience's total absorption with news or lack of time (or both). The tapes of news were watched most often in a group and the time before and after viewing was used for an exchange of information from other sources. Such tapes were kept only for a few days and often passed from one household to another in order to enable everyone to see "what was happening". After some time it became evident that most of the television news came from one or two sources and that often what was seen on one station would be repeated by others, or even the same footage used as archival material or shown again a day later. There was increased dissatisfaction among audiences - both the Croatian and Serbian ones I had access too - with Croatian audiences accusing the Australian media of 'being influenced by the Serbian lobby' (comment from audience), especially with the sudden absence from the screen of the popular television personality Vladimir Lusic who used to present the SBS multicultural current affairs programme, Vox Populi. The protests of Serbian audiences against what they perceived as Australian and world media bias against Serbia were partially the result of the successful campaign by Milosevic who insisted that the whole world was against Serbia as pointed out in The Economist (14/10/1992 33):
Mr Milosevic insists that his country is a victim of the world's plots and misunderstandings but even some Serb nationalists realise that the world's picture of a Serb patriot nowadays is of a vicious drunken killer.
As the world slowly understood that what was happening in Yugoslavia was not the result of 'centuries old ethnic hatred' (Magas 310-6) but a hegemonic quest for power and territory with the open aggression on the part of Serbia and the Yugoslav Federal Army, the peace movements and lobbying mainly by intellectuals from the West started to be organised. To no avail. Or as one of the members of the audience commented, on a news item referring to the then latest petition for peace in Yugoslavia organised by a group of Nobel prize winners ("An Appeal"):
It is useless for all those "smart" people to talk. While they talk Serbians kill. Every word another person is dead or injured or driven out from their village. It would be better if they gave us arms. Tanks. Then we can talk back to Serbians with the only language they know. The language of war.
The M.M. household became even more involved in the community information exchange process when M.M. decided to join her daughter in Croatia to help her with the child's birth and hasten their evacuation to Australia. The regular group gathered every night at M.M.'s husband's place, bringing audio and videotapes of news and videotapes received from Croatia. There was often a long discussion saturated with numerous popular narratives and emerging myths about the Serbian atrocities, usually washed down with a few bottles of wine. Often R.M. would call his wife while the friends waited to hear the "hottest" news.
When M.M. returned just a couple of days after the Serbian and Yugoslav army's (JNA - Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija) aggression on Slovenia and Croatia, she brought with her twelve three hour long videotapes containing mainly pirated programmes off HTV and only a few tapes with the family album type of material. I have heard of "video-binges" organised by younger members of the audience who would rent 4-5 commercial videotapes from the video shop and then watch them all evening and most of the night. I have also witnessed extensive viewing of videotapes containing a mixture of entertainment and news and/or family album material in the ethnic audience. But the extent to which this "video-binge" developed was something new. For the first week people were coming in and out mainly to talk to M.M. about her experiences, and ending up staying for hours watching the tapes. After approximately a week M.M., tired from lack of sleep, confided to me that she had not even unpacked her suitcases, and in order to escape from the constant congregation of people in her home, she started to lend the tapes out. 4
In the meantime the war in Yugoslavia intensified. It was the most difficult period of my research. The war had broken out in my own country and all my family was "back there". I virtually moved in with M.M. and her family who insisted on not letting me 'be alone in times like this'. I believe that hundreds of thousands of people of Croatian descent (as well as other Yugoslav nationalities) were glued to their radios and television sets unable to believe what they were seeing or hearing. Branka Magas writes:
As I write these lines the radio reports MIGs in action over Osijek, a city in north-eastern Croatia...Hard as I try, I am not yet ready to accept the break-up of Yugoslavia. Yes, the red star adorning the federal army uniform and the country's flag is now a cruel deception. (304)
Magas writes further (304) about her uncle who died in 1943 fighting with the Partisans, wondering if the fight joined for freedom has been forgotten so quickly. I could easily identify with these questions, since my father was wounded in 1944 fighting for the freedom of what was his and my country - Yugoslavia. Everyone calls "us" 'Yugonostalgics' more or less derogatively. (I increasingly have to be on my guard not to express my grief and sorrow for the disappearance of the life I have known.) Magas is I think right when she states:
Yugoslavia was not, as so many claim today, an artificial state. But its viability always depended upon political commitment to, and institutional arrangements for, the full equality of its constituent nationalities. (305)
Like many others, I had underestimated Serbian hegemonic aspirations and the scope of the Serbian campaign which successfully convinced first and foremost the Serbs and, I suspect (with regret), the rest of the world, that Croats are Ustasas, Moslems are 'fundamentalist', that Macedonians do not exist but are rather Southern Serbs or Greeks and finally that Slovenes are 'selfish exploiters of the Yugoslav South' (305). Only the Serbs could guarantee a "stable Balkans" in the greater Serbia called Yugoslavia. While my audience cheered the final steps towards Croatian independence, I cried. I also cried when I watched new borders being erected between Croatia and Slovenia, knowing that it will never be the same again, and when I read the lines by Magas two years later (but written about the same time), I realised that there were others who cried on the 25 June 1991, knowing that they had no country with which to identify any more.
What then about the future? I was certainly not alone in feeling pain as, on 25 June, I watched frontier posts being erected between Croatia and Slovenia for the first time since 1527. Vojvodina and Croatia were joined within a single state back in 1700, while the border between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina became an internal one de facto in 1878. (309)
Later that year, in early December (1991), I was held on the same border post for four hours, taking shelter outside the improvised barracks housing the soldiers and border guards, while waiting to be searched before being allowed to continue towards Zagreb. Yugoslavia had disintegrated, Croatia was at war, the flights were suspended in Zagreb long ago and everyone held me for a lunatic for wanting to go home for Christmas.
Standing in the freezing rain on the Slovenian-Croatian border, the countries separated by only two simple white wooden ramps less than two metres apart, on the side where I was standing the green uniforms of the Slovenian border guards, and on the Croatian side, the army fatigues of the Croatian Guard. In the middle, in "no man's land", I saw groups of people huddled together just a few feet away, people I immediately recognised as refugees of the war. They were easily identified by the empty look in their eyes, and by the numerous packages they clung on to, mainly ordinary plastic shopping bags filled with all that remained of their worldly possessions. 5 They had nowhere to go. Slovenia had closed its borders, the refugees could enter only in transit, and only if they had a valid visa for a visit or stay in one of the countries of Western Europe. Until now, for me and my audiences the refugees were only the silhouettes of endless rows of poorly dressed people clutching their plastic bags and baggage of all sorts, riding on the backs of trucks or on horse-drawn carts, pushing bicycles or just walking along the road with heads bowed as if in shame, children of all ages, the youngest ones often asleep in the arms of adults, old women trying to keep up the pace. This was one side of the face of war that we watched with the M.M. family and their audience of friends in Perth.
M.M.'s daughter with her new born baby and husband made it safely back to Australia on the very last flight from Split before the airport was closed (in September 1991). She was glad to be back and the endless stream of visitors to M.M.'s house started all over again. The young couple not only brought with them the first "real images" of the war in Croatia on videotapes but also brought back stories of first-hand experiences, of spending nights and days in air-raid shelters, and the description of Split swelling with thousands of refugees. The young couple had lots of friends in the community and often visitors from the "Slav" side of the Croatian community would meet with the Croatians. On such occasions the tension was almost unbearable. The "Slav" Croatians ready to start an argument in an attempt to prove that the war that was destroying the common "Homeland" was the result of the Croatian quest for independence. (This hypothesis was often repeated worldwide, not only by politicians justifying non-intervention, but also by the world media). 6 As the war intensified and the first rumours followed by images of atrocities in Croatia reached Perth, a new "breed" of videotapes like that shown in the Croatian hall emerged.
Helen Crompton, a Perth journalist, recently wrote a feature article for the West Australian's "West Magazine" quoting a survey on screen violence and its effects which 'discovered that about 65 percent of people thought there was a link between violence in society and violence shown on television - despite the lack of evidence' (18). She interviewed a number of 'academics and students' in order to present different perspectives on the effects of screen violence. What is interesting and significant here is that of the three academics interviewed, two found reportage of the war in Croatia and Bosnia disturbing. The question these two people, Peter Gibbon (a psychologist); and John Hartley (a media/cultural studies analyst) were asked by Crompton was 'Have you ever witnessed something violent on film that has affected you deeply? (16)'. Gibbon replied:
Fictional depictions of violence no longer have much of an impact on me (desensitisation?). However, many of the scenes of conflict in Yugoslavia have disturbed me because of the inhumanity, hatred and brutality to which they bear witness.
For his part Hartley answered:
Yes. Most recently the SBS presentation of Henrik Gorecki's Third Symphony intercut with war footage from Bosnia, Somalia, Nazi death camps and the like. The effect it had on me was not only emotional but also political. (16)
The significance of the two answers singling out the events in 'Yugoslavia' and 'Bosnia' as 'disturbing' and having an 'emotional and political effect' lies in the fact that both academics live and work in Perth, the very location of my audience research. We can presume that they have been exposed to the same media reporting from the war in Croatia and Bosnia, minus, of course, the videotapes described in this work which have circulated almost exclusively in the fragments of the former Yugoslav community. (I say "almost" because occasionally friends and visitors from outside the community were present at the viewings.)
The question arising from the above is obvious: if the exposure to war reporting from Croatia and Bosnia has such an effect on the members of the mainstream audience, what are the possible effects that a continuous exposure to concentrated images of death and destruction could have on the ethnic audiences? The question is almost impossible to answer, especially because the violence we were watching in M.M.'s living room (or in the Croatian Hall) was violence of a different kind than that which typically attacts violence controversies. The new type of "atrocity" videotapes which started to appear more often in the community were similar to the tape described at the beginning of this article, the one shown in the Croatian Hall which had to be interrupted. In these tapes there was no unfolding of the cause/effect linkage between sequences and events we have learned to expect from the news and current affairs programmes (See Hartley, Jensen, cf. Lewis 123-58). There were only recurrent images of destruction and death and an occasional interview with victims. There was often small artillery fire in the background, with distant sounds of explosions and sounds of combat woven into the strange textual logic of still burning houses and eye-witness accounts from the few survivors weeping over the dead bodies of loved ones. These videotapes had no intention of establishing any relationship between us as viewers and characters and situations (Nichols 43). They were just there, silent witnesses to pain.
The cumulative effect of such images of emotional pain and violence presented in the nakedness of its silence produced in audiences just that: silence. The audience which used to engage in commentary - if nothing else, the usual "Serb bashing", repeating for who knows which time all the popular myths around the war - on the occasions of such viewings, kept silent. I noticed people frequently getting up and leaving the room: 'to get a drink', 'to go to the bathroom', 'to check on the baby', until finally the video would be stopped, usually with an excuse that there was another one 'which is really more interesting, and we should watch it since it has to be returned' or 'it is time for the news', which would have to be taped if we were watching a videotape. No-one, including myself, was ready to admit that we were sickened by such tapes, that they disturbed us. Much later, in June 1992 when I mentioned a particular tape to M.M. asking if I could borrow it for purposes of analysis, she confided that they don't retape such tapes, and that:
Such images of continuous death caused nightmares for weeks after viewing them. I couldn't sleep, all those dead people looking at me!
Her friend added:
Imagine, people working all their lives, and then they come and burn down, destroy everything. Destroy what they can't steal. You remember [talking to me] when we watched the tape that showed us those houses in the village where Serbs had their war headquarters? They lived like animals. They ate, slept and defecated in the same room. Just like animals. ['They' of course being Serbs.]
She then went on to compare the images of clean-shaven Croatian soldiers seen marching to the music on the video-spot of the song "Croatian Guard" with the bearded, drunken Serbian irregulars devouring lamb on a spit 'which they stole from the villagers'. 7 (The latter was one of the favourite shots of the world media to illustrate the siege of Sarajevo.) She obviously did not make any distinctions between genres, moving freely in what John Fiske (84) refers to as 'extra generic' reference, between video-spots, news and popular mythology. I was talking to the group of women seated around the kitchen table without men present, and the women expressed their emotions more openly away from the men. M.M.'s mother-in-law added:
You remember when we watched the tape that showed us dead people that had been put into orange plastic bags, you know the kind that we use for rubbish from the garden? Those people, a number of them, were at least put in plastic bags. Perhaps the UN soldiers did that. But, anyway, I was praying all the time that they would not open any of those bags. Imagine if they opened them. Those people were dead over a year. At least they will be buried now. But if they would have shown any opened bag I think I would have been sick in my stomach.
It was obvious from the announcement of the hostess that 'we should really have some coffee' and the change in the subject to the next fund-raising dinner, that she felt uneasy about feelings expressed towards death and dying. But the conversation was continued as we drew up a plan for organising a charity foundation that would support the orphans left by the war. 8 I could sense a need by these women to find something positive to hold on to, to feel that something was being done, and 'since the rest of the world was just watching' as A. put it, 'they had to do something', of course to an extent which was achievable from such a small community.
At least we are doing something, we collected another container of medication and surgical material, and we will send it soon. Now when the world is helping Bosnia, most of the aid is going there. They forget about Croatia, and we have all the refugees.
The conversation continued about the grim outlook of another winter and the hope that 'something will be done' before another cold European continental winter 'helps Serbs to kill off the people they have not killed or exiled so far'.
The men came in from outside and on hearing what we were talking about, one of them commented:
They are all afraid of the bloody Serbs. They think that Serbs are all heroes, like they were all Tito's partisans. They [the Americans] would have to do some real fighting, not like in Iraq where they fought with the computers.
And then pausing for a few seconds added one of the most repeated cliches about this war: 'Anyway, they have no interest. Croatia is not Kuwait, we don't have oil'.
Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to continue the discussion as I was leaving Perth for six months to spend time in Croatia and Macedonia collecting research materials and visiting family there. On my return in early 1993 the invitations to view 'videotapes from home' were coming less frequently. Those invitations were replaced by an increased number of invitations to contribute to different charity drives, attend fund-raising dinners and contribute to letter-writing campaigns. It was almost as if the audience was relieved at being so busy organising help for the homeland. Or perhaps just disillusionment and fatigue had set in.
Fiske has argued (9) that inside the narrative structure of a televisual story where heroes are more attractive and more successful than villains, 'heroes and villains are equally likely to use violence and to initiate it'. However, at the end 'heroes are successful in their violence, whereas villains are finally not'. This could be applied to the story lines of most film and television productions depicting wars, especially the films dealing with the Second World War. The negative stereotyping of the Nazis and the celebration of the Allied victory are even more exaggerated in this direction in the post-war film production in former Yugoslavia (see Ostojic) and the only experience of the war that the majority of M.M.'s audience of family and friends had as a reference (apart from a few veterans of the war) was from such films and current television reports.
The most recent of the wars of global importance, the Gulf War, had left little or no impact on the audience and the surgical precision of the 'smart bombs' which were shown worldwide, courtesy of CNN, only reinforced the belief in the strength, righteousness and swift and effective action by 'the West' in order to put in place anyone who might 'step out of line'. (For analysis of media reporting on the Gulf War, see Hodge and Kress Language as Ideology 153-201.) When the world did not react according to these expectations, first in Croatia, and later in Bosnia, the narrative structure whereby the violence is a means for the heroes' victory was disrupted. Nevertheless, we still expected something to happen or, as it was put to me on numerous occasions by the audience I was researching: 'the world will not let this go on', 'something is going to be done', 'the world can't allow this to happen'. These statements were echoed by the journalists reporting the war, by intellectuals organising peace action groups and most of the people I know. The assumption of the Perth Croatian audience that 'something has to happen' was expressed in their feverish search for information of any kind, in almost obsessive expectations which were expressed by one of the members of the audience most clearly while explaining why he taped all the news programmes:
Just at that time when I will not watch the news the Americans will decide to intervene...because I wouldn't want to miss for anything in the world seeing the Serbian bastards being bombed and having a taste of their own medicine, just for that I am taping the news when we are not at home!
Behind this statement lies the desire to re-establish equilibrium and to mend the disrupted narrative structure, just as much as any desire to end the war and solve the conflict. Fiske argues that '(t)he convention that every story must reach a point of closure' (307) and that: 'The differences between news and fiction are only ones of modality. Both are discursive means of making meanings of social relations' (308).
In addition, of course, war is seen as the domain of men and as such demands closure. Moreover, it is necessary to 'impose a masculine closure and sense of achievement' and the above statement by the male member of the audience only proves the validity of Fiske's statement that news could be seen as a form of "masculine soap opera".
These audience dynamics in meaning making, together with the genuine desire for information about the unfolding events in the homeland, kept ethnic audiences watching, listening, reading, always searching for more, disregarding the fear, the horror and the disturbing scenes of excessive violence that had affected the two academics mentioned above. And, that "more" was provided by a new "breed" of videotapes which reached Perth in late 1991. These tapes were different to any tapes that I had encountered in my research on video use in the Croatian communitiy up to that point in that they provided unedited images without commentary, or scant comment evidently present to help identify destroyed villages and mutilated bodies. The images were often accompanied by music, which was a noticeable montage of sound, often leaving a few seconds between the scores and sometimes repeating the same song more than once, as if the editor had run out of musical material. 9 The musical background to the images consisted of mainly popular music, most often newly composed war ballads and marches, sometimes using the Croatian anthem and the popularised musical scores from historical dramas and operas which could be linked to wars, battles or sacrifice for the homeland. Paul Virilio's definition of the revolutionary song as 'a kinetic energy that pushes the masses towards the battlefield, toward the kind of assault that Shakespeare had already described as "death killing death"' and his definition of the national anthem as 'only a road song, regulating the mechanics of the march' (Virilio Speed and Politics 21), are the most appropriate descriptions of the music accompanying the images of the war on such videotapes.
The absence of any commentary (with the exception of a few interviews and of the above mentioned identifications) made the impact of such videotapes even more powerful. It could be argued that videotapes of this kind (I have no generic category by which to label them) utilised the advantage of the visual over the verbal, creating a special semiosic relationship (Hodge and Kress Social Semiotics 130, 131) in which the 'realism' in the visual code corresponds to the 'truth' in the verbal code. 10 Thus, a realistic visual representation of the destroyed countryside, desecrated grave yards and churches and the continuous flow of images of human remains is most likely to be seen as true.'
In an attempt to find the sources of such videos, I have questioned most of the members of the community and always received the same answers. The first was: 'I got it from a friend' and the second was: 'I borrowed it from the parish priest'. I did not find anything unusual about the parish priest being the source for the videotapes, since by then the absence of official institutions (the Yugoslav Consulate was closed and Croatia was not yet recognised) meant there was no official representative. Consequently the Croatian (Catholic) church in Perth had taken on a semi-official role of providing the only link with Croatia to the diaspora.
Much later, in early 1993, I met and interviewed the producer of Opuzen Television while he visited Perth and learnt the source of most of the very disturbing videotapes that were being watched by the community. But before I describe the interview, I would like to include the only explanation I could find for the origins of such unedited horror images at the time I watched them with the audience.
The logical explanation for the origins of these atrocity tapes suggested itself during a visit in late 1992 to Germany, where satellite television was going through its massification phase. A Croatian couple who live in Germany and who have relatives in Perth asked me to take a videotape back to Perth to their cousin, explaining that 'now when they can receive the HTV satellite programme they could tape the news and did not have to rely on their sources of news in Croatia'. Apparently, the "German connection" was the most reliable one for sending and receiving anything, from letters to food packages, to and from Croatia since the Croatian Caritas owned trucks which ran on a regular route, Frankfurt-Zagreb, twice a week. The disrupted communications and inadequate postal services that have remained unreliable even until now (late 1993) saw Caritas truck drivers accepting personal letters and packages to and from Croatia. Lots of amateur videotapes found their way out from the occupied territories courtesy of grass-root charity workers. Some of them were used by the world's media, and a lot of them were viewed only by Croatian audiences.
I viewed one such tape received through German connections from Sarajevo in the home of a Bosnian Muslim friend, and for the first time I noticed a computer-typed message at the beginning and end of the tape that was in three languages, French, German and English. The message was:
Please re-tape and pass on this tape to your friends, so the world would know how we suffer in Sarajevo.
The tape contained interviews with witnesses and victims of the atrocities and rapes, with interviewees talking directly into the camera showing what Nichols (44) characterises as 'a sense of partialness of situated presence and local knowledge'. The camera often moved away from the person interviewed and showed added footage of scenes of massacres and destruction of the city.
But, clearly this was not one of the horror tapes that circulated in the Croatian audience.
After an extensive search for the origins and producers of those videotapes I thought I had found it when I came across an article in a British magazine catering to satellite "buffs", What Satellite TV. In its October 1992 issue Richard Dunnett (59-65) explains to readers what are the advantages of a multi-satellite system and a 'motorised dish' and presents the troubles in former Yugoslavia as its example:
Multi-satellite television offers a wider window on the world. The recent broadcasts from Yugoslavia were subject to heavy censorship, with many of the world-exclusive reports on Sky News cut to prevent showing distressing scenes of war.
Some of these were sent to the channels' editing suites by satellite and could be picked up unedited by motorised viewers tuned to Eutelsat 1F4. Scenes included people with their heads blown off...The motorised dish has allowed viewers to watch the news from both sides. On Eutelsat 1F5 HTV has been reporting with a Croatian Slant, but RTB on 1F4 gave access to the Serbian point of view. (61)
In the full-blown propaganda war and the beginning of the "real" war between Yugoslavia's (or what used to be Yugoslavia's) first Radio Television Belgrade (RTV) (now called Radio Television Serbia, RTS) and Hrvatska Televizija (HTV) - Croatian Television purchased 6 hours of satellite broadcasting on the Eutelsat (from 6pm to 12pm Central European time). The "footprint" of that satellite covers all of Europe, part of the Middle East and, most importantly, North America. It is not possible to receive a signal from it in Australia.
With the imposition of UN sanctions on Yugoslavia which included the termination of JAT (Yugoslav Airlines) flights to Australia, travel in both directions was brought almost to a standstill, to say nothing of the near impossibility of travel inside the "occupied territories" (the war zone). Given these and the general difficulties over any form of communication, it was indeed surprising to find videotapes containing, among others, regular HTV programmes, most of the time less than a week old, circulating in the Croatian community in Perth. The Croatian ethnic audience, especially in this time of social and political change (and war), actively sought alternative ways of obtaining information and entertainment from the homeland due to the scarcity of both in the Australian press and television. (Radio has different dynamics - as described in Kolar-Panov and Miller.)
The development of solidarity and the cohesiveness of the Croatian diaspora all over the world and their increased communication has made it possible for pirated satellite programmes of HTV, RTB (RTS), SKY NEWS, Channel 5, CNN International (to list just a few) to enter the homes of the Croatian Community in Perth and, presumably, amongst similar communities in the rest of Australia due to the conditions described above. Thus, VCR, being easily accessible and also suitable for community use (on a large screen) could be seen as changing the pattern of information dissemination regulated by the prevailing communication policy in Australia, to some extent bringing satellite television programmes into Australia unofficially. 11
The videotapes, which are put together from fragments of different pirated satellite broadcasts, depend mainly on the "creativity" of the person(s) taping the programmes and the decisions are often made randomly. The tapes mainly consist of various pieces of news and information concerning Croatia and it is often the case that news recorded from other than HTV gets cut off in the middle. The lack of sophistication and often the poor quality of the tapes is seldom complained about since the importance of "any news" for the audience takes priority.
The consolidation of the Croatian Community and the increased call on the diaspora by the Government of the homeland saw an increase in the quantity and later in the quality of such tapes reaching Perth. There is also an increasing tendency towards amateur editing of such videotapes. The English language material, a summary of the world media reporting on Croatia, which is shown with Croatian sub-titles in the daily information programme Slikom na Sliku (Picture on Picture or Image on Image) broadcast in the late evening on HTV (approximately 11pm), and repeated on satellite HTV every afternoon, is often favoured. This programme is very popular in Croatia itself, where the freedom of the press is at least questionable (Helsinki Watch "War Crimes" 299, 303), and any programme which shows news items concerning Croatia from foreign countries is welcome. The other feature of the programme is the regular interview with a person "in focus" or "in the news", and these interviews also serve as a contact between the government and the audience.
However, besides the pirated tapes of HTV, there is a large number of tapes, which at the time I thought could be recorded by television and satellite buffs, besides the regular satellite broadcasts containing the various "news feeds" to home stations by the foreign journalists reporting from Yugoslavia. I thought these were "news feeds" mainly due to the fact that the videotapes often contained images without sound or with completely inadequate music which I thought was due to the practice by some television stations of broadcasting the image only and adding sound later, or broadcasting the sound on a different frequency. The audiences watching the tapes or with such "news feeds" who are used to watching structured news, when presented with the unedited horrors of the war from news feeds, containing often what I thought were "home movies" recorded by amateurs after a massacre, often raised the question whether what we were seeing was 'really' going on 'over there'. Thus most of the people watching the tapes (including myself at first) did not realise that the images of obscene death never made the news and have not been seen by television audiences anywhere. Without a knowledge of the sources for the fragments of the videotapes, most of us assumed that the material came from HTV or related studios.
I described earlier viewing with a large audience in the Croatian Hall a fragment of one such tape, which with the precision of a coroner's report describes each victim, stating age and sex and including the size of the wound inflicted, the damage to the tissue, etc. What I had not realised at the time of the screening, since the previous frame was a news item from HTV, was that this was indeed a copy of the coroner's report of the victims of the war in Croatia. This report had obviously been taken out of archives and by chance, or deliberately, found its way to the videotape which was supposed to be a "newsreel" tape of the first report from the war in Croatia. For a propaganda tape this was a very unusual way of presenting the war.
The dominant ideology of Croatian nationalism which rests on the rejection of Pan-slavist ideologies and the revival of nationalist ideologies (and both are present in the collective and individual consciousness), which was now knitting together the audience, but was not present on the screen. But the iconography of Croatian flags, the Croatian coat of arms and the photograph of President Tudjman were all around us decorating the walls of the hall.
The first time I heard of Opuzen Television was in late 1991 when M.M.'s older daughter returned from Croatia. Some of the videotapes they brought contained a logo (in the upper right hand corner of the screen) of OTV which I assumed belonged to the experimental Omladinska Televizija (Youth Television) from Zagreb (the Croatian capital). Most of the OTV footage was popular musical scores and when I commented that the OTV I watched in Zagreb used to broadcast more satellite MTV and that I didn't recall seeing these much more popular Croatian video-spots, I was quickly corrected that this OTV was a local illegal television station operating only for several hours a day on a hijacked frequency, transmitting mainly to southern Croatia and eastern parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. I recalled the mushroooming Italian illegal television stations which used to appropriate the RAI (Radio Televizione Italia) frequency to broadcast explicit material in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the VCR made narrowcasting very easy and wondered if OTV was operating the same way.
However, OTV soon became more than a local television station, providing the only television services to those parts of Croatia which were cut off from all communication with the outside world since the communication infrastructure was the first one to be either destroyed or occupied by the Serbian forces. Apparently, the government in Zagreb, which exercised more or less power over the media in Croatia (Helsinki Watch "War Crimes" 345-54), did not like OTV but had to tolerate it, since with the HTV buying time on the European satellite, OTV had taken to narrowcasting news and the current affair programmes, which, of course, were extremely significant for the Croatian government which could not organise broadcasting in the 30% of the country held by Serbs.
Part of the OTV's services 'for the Homeland' included packaging and delivering news to Perth Croatian (ethnic) radio programmes. It was not surprising then that when the executive producer and director of OTV, Miro Vidovic, came to Perth in early 1993 the Croatian community publicised and used his visit to organise numerous fund-raising functions where he was the guest of honour. I interviewed him during his stay in Perth and it was during this interview that the complete picture of the origins - the production and distribution of the horror videotapes discussed earlier - emerged. The unstructured interview given by Vidovic was more of a monologue since I asked only a few questions in order to clarify some points, and to give an account of the interview that is relevant to the present work I have to leave out a lot of valuable information until the completion of the present research (see Kolar-Panov "Opuzen TV"). The interview was conducted in the office of one of my supervisors at Murdoch University and before we commenced the interview Vidovic had a chance to meet some academics from media studies.
Vidovic did not want to talk about himself at all which we found unusual for a television producer. The only time he became personal was when he described the death of his brother. A thin man, chain smoking and with sadness in his eyes. Vidovic did not laugh or smile...not once. He paused often, to think or to light another cigarette and I did not interrupt the silence. The description and translation of the interview cannot do justice to Vidovic's intensity and passion.
Finally the story behind OTV emerged and with it the origins of the horror tapes of war that were circulating in the Croatian community. I will attempt to put into chronological order the story of OTV, adhering to the information given to me in the interview which was very fragmented and mixed with descriptions of the war, the political situation and the functioning of the black market. Only when it is of special significance will I translate and quote Vidovic.
OTV started out as a Video Klub Informatika renting videos and providing video services for regular ceremonies like weddings, christenings and funerals. As the equipment for narrowcasting from satellite television became available Video Klub started to transmit 4 channels (from the ASTRA satellite) to audiences that could be reached by a 10 watt transmitter. This sounds similar to the usual practices of suburb-based cable television that were mushrooming in countries which did not have regulation and policies in place regarding satellite and cable television. 12 The ingenuity shown by the staff of OTV in hacking the Eurosport channel (turning it off and playing their own programme) was the only difference between OTV and dozens of similar installations in the area. At first they hacked the channel only after 9.00 pm twice a week, showing a programme titled Magazine which was a mixture of music and human interest stories.
Later, towards the end of 1990, the increased politicisation of everyday life saw OTV broadcasting election campaigns and talk shows concerned with the processes of the Croatian quest for democracy and the disintegration of Yugoslavia. With the ethnic unrest and finally war, OTV turned towards war reporting, producing some of the most compelling and disturbing images to have come out of this war. In addition, as a service to HTV, OTV served as a transmitter for the area, transmitting the HTV's satellite programme, but continued to hack the Eurosport channel after 9.00pm every day to broadcast their own productions. The first images of Dubrovnik in flames seen world wide, were the product of OTV. Vidovic proudly stated that it was their footage that was seen for months on ITN, CNN, and all European television stations. I asked him if they sold the footage to those stations and he was surprised by my question, answering 'Surely not, we were guides to foreign correspondents and often did most of the on-spot filming, supplying them with footage without sound. We wanted the world to see what was happening'. Vidovic indicated that a number of local cameramen were killed in their desire to 'show the truth' with a comment 'they just went too close, too close'.
OTV's crew was usually the first to enter every liberated village or town and as such was asked by the civil defense to do some intelligence in reporting enemy positions. As the story slowly unfolded, it turned out that with the start of the war Vidovic and his chief cameraman were recruited by the Croatian government agencies to tape all the places liberated by the Croatian army and produce footage and accurate reports for archival purposes and perhaps future war-crime trials. Some of the footage was allowed to be shown on OTV as information for refugees and the rest of the population, or as information about the state of the war, but M.V. stated that: 'I am sure that the Americans aboard their aircraft carriers in the Adriatic sea monitored our programmes very carefully'.
The OTV was operated continuously, illegally transmitting from a make-shift studio in a one-bedroom fifth floor apartment in Opuzen (Croatia) which served as an office, editing suite, news room, and, often, lodging place for the crew. The headquarters of OTV has also served as an oasis for radio-amateurs working night and day to keep in touch by short wave radio (as only available means of communication) with the Croatian and Bosnian territory occupied by Serbs. This fifth floor make-shift studio was the source of the tapes that had such an impact on audiences in Perth and on myself. Vidovic told the story of how they hid their video equipment under mandarins in the back of the trucks, when posing as aid workers while crossing to Slavonia (in the fall of 1991) to capture on tape the battle for Vukovar. He said:
It was so strange, we were waiting to cross the bridge between Bosnia and Croatia. The life on the Bosnian side was still normal. The soldiers of JNA (Jugoslav army) were checking every vehicle for arms. We could hear the thunder of the battle from the other side. I was very nervous trying to hide it...when we crossed to the other side, there was only ordinary police, you know in the old blue uniforms. We couldn't distinguish if they were Croats or Serbs. My driver, fooled by the appearance of normality, said out loud 'I am sure glad that those bastards let us pass' talking to the policeman coming to check our documents. That was very close, but nothing happened. We unloaded the mandarins to people who needed medications, food and arms, but mandarins were the only thing we had to offer. It was a good harvest. We spent over a week in Slavonia and filmed such horrors that I would not like to show any of that on television. As a matter of fact not much of what we filmed could be shown on television.
At this point I interrupted, asking him if he was aware that some of the tapes showing video footage which he classified as 'not for television' were circulating in Perth. He sighed and added thoughtfully: 'I know. But our people have a right to know...they do have a right to know'.
I asked him how the distribution of tapes started in Australia and he told me that it started before the war, when people visiting Croatia brought back the local OTV Magazine programmes. With the inception of the war he was approached by one of the leaders in the community to contribute to the Croatian radio programme on a weekly basis and later he was approached to provide some video information, so he started to send tapes. Vidovic was very cautious with the information about those tapes, hiding the fact that he was most probably supplying footage never intended to be seen by the general audience, and was doing so either without the knowledge of his superiors or acting on some silent agreement. I asked him again, did he realise the effects of those tapes, to which he answered quietly:
I know. I have seen the fear and frozen expressions on the faces of the most seasoned soldiers who accompanied us on those missions when we recorded massacres. And I have experienced all the grief and pain when, on one of those missions, I found the dismembered parts of my younger brother whom I saw off to a patrol only that very morning. He complained to me again that morning that he did not have a uniform, but it was good that he did not have a uniform. That way I could recognise which parts of the bodies lying around us were his. By his shoes, his jumper, and his jeans. The only thought I had then was to collect all the parts of his body to be able to give him a decent Christian burial. I never did find all of one of his legs. You see, he stepped on the mine that those bastards [the Serbs] left behind when withdrawing from their positions.
There was a long period of silence, another cigarette, and I felt that I had intruded on something private, not certain whether I had any moral right to ask this man more about OTV or the production of videotapes, let alone to make any judgements, conclusions, or even to present this interview as part of the present research. I questioned my position as a researcher and asked myself how should I know when to stop, when not to proceed and when to continue? Who sets the limits?
As I remember the video camera's menacing intrusion into human flesh now, I seek out my own emotions realising that the fear I feel is the result of the convoluted play of all the death and destruction I watched for over a year, sometimes day in day out. The concentrated doses of death and death again (making by now no distinction between death of country and death of people) have caused more stress than I had realised, and as I lie awake night after night the pair of anonymous hands measuring gaping wounds, pigs devouring childrens' corpses, and old people huddled together in their final embrace, appear out of the darkness of my room. The images of the "silent witnesses of the war" joined together with other images that surrounded us, and the words of the clinical report, for which even the sterile morgue of the popular television drama Quincy did not prepare us, stating the age, sex, and the nature of the wounds, when joined, strung together with fragments of news, formed a powerful representation of the war. Thus the seemingly incomprehensible part of the videotape, the coroner's report, when presented as a part of a supposed "newsreel" and framed by a news item from HTV, turned the disjointed images of death into something larger, into a very powerful cultural text.
Together with the tissue of contradictory stories about massacres that have been circulating in the Croatian Community for some time, the videotape we watched that afternoon in the Croatian Hall in Fremantle has displaced all previous images of death for a long time. For those of us who watched it, those images will remain the dominant factor in the iconography of the war in Croatia and later in Bosnia. For me it will also mean Miro Vidovic talking about the reality of producing such images.
This research began as a study of the role of entertainment video in the cultural maintenance strategies of the diverse Yugoslav communities in the Australian context. I expected it to centre on the Australian host (Anglo) and immigrant minority (ethnic, Non-English-Speaking) dynamic; and I anticipated making a case for the ongoing importance of the homeland-diaspora relation in the triangular relation of diaspora-homeland-host country. But it was not to be so. Instead the research was overtaken by the disintegration of former Yugoslavia and the ensuing and continuing war there.
This war reconfigured all of these relationships. It especially prioritised the homeland-diaspora relationship; and it did so largely at the expense of the immigrant-host relationship which was largely in abeyance during the period of this research. Additionally, the anticipated kind of video - video entertainment - itself changed towards information and propaganda video. With this the relationship of the ethnic audiences - particularly in the Croatian community studied here - towards video and broadcasting was transformed. This article draws on research developed for my PhD, "Video as a Cultural Practice: Ethnicity, Technology and War", undertaken at Murdoch University.
1. Similar videotapes circulate in the Serbian community in Perth. However, the tapes I have had a chance to view were all professionally produced as propaganda tapes by Serbian Television. Due to my limited access to the Serbian community I do not have sufficient evidence to make any further comments.
2. Helsinki Watch has extensively reported on such incidences in its Report 'Yugoslavia: Human Rights Abused in the Croatian Conflict', September 1991. The Report contains eyewitness accounts as well as descriptions of summary executions, disappearances, arbitrary detention and forcible displacement of inhabitants from what Croatia refers to as 'occupied regions', but what are more often known as Serbian enclaves or Krajinas.
3. The political and historical unfolding of events at that time has been recorded superbly by Branka Magas in her book The Destruction of Yugoslavia: Tracking the Break-Up. A more descriptive and socio-cultural assessment of the disintegration of Yugoslavia is given by Misha Glenny and Mark Thompson. A review of the three books was written by Glenda Sluga (90-91). I do not find it necessary to enter into an historical account of events described by the three above-mentioned authors, but will rather refer to their work when appropriate. since much of my own position is similar to the position taken by Magas and Thompson.
4. M.M. did not like to lend her videotapes. She was very possessive and proud of her first-hand knowledge of the situation in Croatia which could be seen in Bourdieu's terms as claim on symbolic power. Bourdieu argues that symbols of power are merely objectified symbolic capital.
5. Plastic shopping bags, a throw-away item of consumer society became a potent symbol of the exile, regardless of the nationality of the refugees from former Yugoslavia. See UNHCR publication Refugees (December 1992) which contains the descriptions of the plight of such refugees and the increased difficulties encountered in accommodating the ever-increasing numbers of refugees from former Yugoslavia.
6. For discussion of some reasons behind non-intervention in the conflict, see Harries.
7. The song Hrvatska Garda (Croatian Guard) is one of the first military folk songs which I call New Composed Folk Music and is very popular with Croatian audiences in Perth. Regarding the image of Serbian irregulars see the excellent essay by Lance Morrow.
8. The plan was carried out later, when the Australian-Croatian Women's Association of Western Australia (ACWA) organised several charity balls in order to raise funds for orphans left behind by Croatian soldiers killed in the war.
9. It was revealed later in the research that the producers of the videotapes indeed used music as a powerful background for the scenes of destruction. To quote the producer of Opuzen Television (OTV), Miro Vidovic: 'We would play "Cavoglave" (the most popular song by the rock singer Thompson) sometimes 50 to 60 times a night just to keep up morale'. Marko Perkovic-Thompson is a popular rock singer who caused a controversy with his hit song Cavoglave (see Ivanisevic and Kuzmanovic). Vidovic was describing the OTV direct broadcasts for audiences in Croatian, but the tapes we were watching were often put together from fragments of such broadcasts.
10. Hodge and Kress argue the correspondence of verbal and visual codes as showing 'the higher status of television news coverage over that of newspapers' (Social Semiotics 130).
11. TV Asia (on SKY Channel) and TCC (carrying Chinese news and other programmes from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan on ASTRA, 1B, 1A) and the availability of satellite technology for the general population - one can get a full ASTRA satellite system from approximately 700DM in Germany - probably has brought to Australia's Indian, Chinese and other communities, in the form of a videotape, pirated satellite television which in Australia has not been made available mainly because of the protectionist policies of the Australian Governnment. Obviously STAR television out of Hong Kong is making this even more likely.
12. My family in Skopje, Macedonia installed a satellite antenna in 1988 without any problems or need for licence. However with the gradual scrambling of satellite channels like Sky Movies it is now necessary to purchase a decoder and a monthly subscription in order to receive the encrypted programmes.
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