Alain Kessi on Mon, 5 Apr 1999 00:11:57 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> guess i'm not used to this machist talking

dear nettimers,

i've only joined nettime a few days ago, though some friends have
occasionally been forwarding me this or that post for quite some time.
and i must say the ambience of the venue has been something of a
surprise for me - quite different from what i expected. not that my
expectations were very specific. but somehow i had assumed that nettime
was a forum in which people generally reflect on their speaker position,
on the dynamic that a discussion may have especially in the specific
medium of electronic mail, on their own possible position of power and
privileges towards others on the list. what i have seen has been rather

i'm referring primarily to the posts i've been reading on nato bombings
in yugoslavia and yugoslav forces attacks against albanians in kosov@.
it seems to me that this is a topic which is difficult to speak about
without feeding one or another war propaganda. i am not even speaking
about actual political stances, like favoring or rejecting nato
bombings, each of which may (or may not, if we are careful?) fuel the
machinery of legitimizing war actions of either nato, kla or milosevic.
what i am shocked about is the tone, the aggressivity and the
detachedness of many of the messages.

i suppose that messages "from the ground" (incidentally, more likely to
come from novi sad and belgrad than from pristina, for reasons which
cannot be ignored) can, even if their authors have always been against
the milosevic government, and possibly even if the very same message
condemns milosevic, have an unwanted side effect of being useful for
milosevic' unity propaganda aiming at monopolizing the individual
rejections of nato bombings. (this sis what many of the pro-nato
messages seem to boil down to after i've evaporated the testosterone in
which they bathed.) it seems to me, however, that the answer to this
cannot be to tell someone whose neighbor building is just being bombed
and who is telling you about it and about their feelings and fears and
helplessness, that they should be silent about it, or "stop whining".

the response could rather be to contextualize what these people "on the
ground" are saying, to see that this is one aspect of what is happening,
that these are people who have been fighting milosevic' regime all their
lives but in this very situation have become unable to continue with it,
at least in the previous open form, and also very personally have
worries of a different kind imposed on them by both nato bombs and
milosevic taking advantage of the "covering fire" offered to him by
nato. it seems to me especially cynical for someone to make dry remarks
about "milosevic" or even "the serbs" from their comfortable office or
home in the usa or western europe.

i don't see myself as a great expert in matters of yugoslav politics and
recent history, or in how it feels to be bombed. i suppose most of those
who coolly and detachedly drop hostile slogans at the diary-writers are
no more familiar with such a situation as i am, and i am not sure if
they would keep to a politically correct and balanced reporting
condemning violence "on both sides" if they found themselves in the
middle of it. it would seem arrogant of me to assume that when i have
fears for my life and that of many of my friends around me, and not
least about the future of living in my country after the war has
destroyed everything, my first reflex might not be to speak more
directly about what i see, feel, hear, fear, and disconnect that to some
extent from another reality which is also horrible, and on a more
massive scale, some hundred kilometers away, but which at this very
moment is just not precisely my reality, or my doing.

it seems that a number of contributors to nettime do not wish to
acknowledge that there might be human feelings and sensibilities
involved in reporting about being bombed, which cannot just be ignored
because another tragedy is also taking place at the same time, linked to
this one in complex ways. the detached posts remind me of the rhetoric
of military analysts of all camps, for whom power interests, tactics and
strategies are the key to their analysis, and human lives are but a
figure, casualties, which are inevitable though maybe regrettable if the
cause is to be won. i get the creeps when i read a paper by such
military strategists, or hear them on tv - but i can brace myself, since
that is their job, and i expect them to speak with unwavering logic
about how people need to be killed. this is different when i see such
machist discourse on nettime (sado-machist, i think to myself when i
read some of the self-satisfied posts in which the author makes a show
of his [gender-selective formulation intended] verbal power and indulges
in turning the knife around in the wound).

i cannot help but see a parallel between discussing such things over
e-mail, in which you do not see the facial expression and reaction
(disappointment, anger, frustration or on the contrary happiness, being
moved, smiling) of the person receiving your message (but also the other
way around, you do not always know how to interpret the tone of a
message that reaches you), and the post-Iraq type of war in which there
is not even a pilot in the planes, and high-tech soldiers are basically
playing a video game in which they have no contact whatsoever with the
people they are bombing, and no danger to their lives. in both cases,
there is a potential dynamic of reducing the threshold for attacks, of
considering, once feelings, once actual lives, as "collateral damage".

i think we should reflect on such dynamics of the e-mail medium, and
accordingly be very careful about how we write about things. especially
when these things involve feelings of enormous force, in a context in
which the strategies of legitimizing war on all sides are based on
manipulating those feelings.

let us try to find ways of speaking about the conflict which put the
people first; see the horror that albanians in kosov@ are going through
as they have the impossible choice between staying in their home (or,
for the men, go into hiding somewhere around - where?) or leaving and
being exposed to the rain and the cold, waiting for weeks near the
macedonian border, with no proper food or medical supply; see the
humiliation of all those who have been fighting against milosevic' power
and now under nato bombings have become sitting ducks for the regime's
hegemonizing backlash; see the fears of people who are witnessing how
all prospects of living together in a society not seperated along
"ethnic" lines are being drowned in blood; see the anger and fears of
those who are being bombed in place of the regime that ostentatiously is
the target.

let us find a way to speak about this conflict which delegitimizes war
in all its aspects, breaks through the legitimizing strategies of nato,
kla and milosevic, and exposes war and violence as a patriarchal pattern
of power interests in which the parties to the conflict need each other
for the legitimation of their respective strategies of destruction of
contexts of living.

hoping this message is not seen as a flame. and wishing good luck and
much patience to the moderator(s).


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