By Ante Horvat
While much has been written about the various phases and techniques about the endless information war being waged against Croatia and Croats – the most seminal works being from Admiral Davor Domazet Loso, Dr. Miroslav Tudjman, and the late and extremely great Dr. Jerry Blaskovich and Michael McAdams, with Dr. Philip J. Cohen receiving a highly honorable mention – there are many aspects of this topic that still need more intensive examination, most importantly, the post-war to ongoing operations against Croatia and Croats.
Propaganda – the backbone of psychological operations and information warfare – itself has several definitions, the most applicable to Croatia’s case is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement institution, nation, etc.
While examples of negative anti-Croat propaganda date back even to the Thirty Years War, the first (and still ongoing) anti-Croat propaganda campaign originates from the racist and imperialist Nacertanije (Outline) by Ilija Garasanin, Serbia’s then Interior Minister, which made the creation of Greater Serbia state policy.
This policy was supported by the continuation of propaganda against Croatia and Croats for the following century and a half in official, civic, academic, media and diaspora publications, statements, and media in Serbia and amongst Serb communities outside of it, as well as by sympathetic governments, academic, politicians, political movements and media professionals in Europe and across the globe – to and include in and from Croatia. The role of foreign actors in this psychological war and information war is entrenched in geopolitical interests of outside actors in shaping coverage inside and outside of Croatia and the wider region, and the world regarding information on Croatia.
The revelations regarding the Serbian Academy of Arts and Science’s (SANU) Memorandum II, in addition to Serbia’s obscene, revisionist counter-suit at the International Court of Justice is a clinical case study example of ongoing anti-Croat propaganda – and a compilation of the state-academia-media-Church-judiciary inculcation of Serbian neurotic and psychotic syndromes as a peacetime (and wartime) long-term strategy.
In addition to grasping Croatia’s long history, the key to understanding – and debunking – anti-Croat propaganda is the understanding techniques of its utilization in print, radio, TV, film and online texts.
To do so, one must familiarize themselves with logical fallacies, as they are the foundation of and method for propaganda dissemination; the reason is that every government since 2000 in Croatia has shown themselves to be unwilling to challenge the psychological and information warfare campaign against Croatia and Croats.
The Five Phases of Information Warfare Against Croatia and Croats
There were five major phases of the information war against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) Croats: from Nacertanije to the so-called Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (or “Yugoslav” kingdom), the SCS / “Yugoslav” kingdom phase, WWII, Communist Yugoslavia phase, the Homeland War phase, and post-Homeland War phase, which is ongoing.
The first phase focused on mobilizing all pillars of Serbia’s statehood and the general Serbian population to support such an endeavor, while mobilizing international support at the diplomatic and political playing fields, to do so. Croats were, according to the greater Serbian narrative, not a state-building people if they could even be considered Croats and not “Catholic Serbs.” The fact that Croats fought for the Austro-Hungarians in WWI meant that they needed to be punished (that Serbs West of the Drina also fought for Austria Hungary as they were mobilized along with their Croat and other non-Serb neighbors, was ignored). The creation of the first “Yugoslavia” was the fruit of their endeavor.
To ensure Serbian supremacy and to see through the military and cultural imperialism (subsidized by land, bank, business and factory seizures in Croatia, as well as the economically devastating farcial Crown to Dinar exchange rate, all enforced through Serbian state-sponsored terrorism), the Karadjordjevic regime saw to it to sack journalists and editors who would not tout the Yugoslav (code for Serbian) line – culminating with the banning of what little was left of any free press with the declaration of the ‘royal’ dictatorship in 1929. With no free media inside of Yugoslavia, that meant that there was no, or very little, critical coverage of greater Serbian imperialism outside of Yugoslavia that could lead to any change in state or international policies towards it.
Croats should have been, according to the Belgrade narrative, happy that they were with fellow Southern Slavs and never forget their siding with the “Huns.” Those who weren’t happy were separatists and terrorists.
Following the German invasion (and the Army of Yugoslavia, Serbian Gendarme and Chetnik massacres that preceded, coincided with, and followed the German invasion, which lasted until the end of WWII) Croatia found itself on the side of the Axis, as no Western democratic power offered Croats any independence outside of a “Yugoslav” framework.
By ending up in the Axis camp, Croatia found itself in a information vacuum – one controlled by the exiled Serbian regime through its network of diplomats and agents in the West, in particular the UK and US, engaged in a frenzied (many times, beyond science fiction) propaganda campaign against Croatia and Croats (until war’s end). This was coupled with the role of some within the international left, including the massive web of Soviet agents and or sympathizers, particularly in the West in academia and media, who continued the negative framing of anything and everything Croatian as being for a free Croatia meant that one was against any Yugoslavia, in particular, Tito’s Communist Yugoslavia.
WWII’s end did not change the situation. Anything and everything Croat was equated with the Ustasha regime and its crimes (both real, exaggerated and entirely imagined) inside and outside of Tito’s Yugoslavia, which the post-WWII international order was pleased with – especially after the Tito-Stalin rift and the creation of the Non-Aligned Movement. Bleiburg massacre was repressed, and the repressions of the Communists were covered as if a necessary matter-of-fact issue necessitated by security. Yugoslavia was multiethnic and the Communism there was allegedly “softer” than in the USSR and Eastern Bloc, so it wasn’t all that bad and should have been left to go on according to the media and diplomatic master narrative of Western democracies.
The simple truth is that Croatia was not viewed as anything important enough to defend, even rhetorically, by the West during the Cold War due to geopolitical realities. Croats were yet again conspiratorial separatists if not genocidal Ustasha maniacs hell bent on exterminating all Serbs if they raised their voice – and not what they really were: people who wanted a free, democratic nation as promised by Wilson’s Fourteen Points, simply opposed to a criminal one-party Communist dictatorship that systematically repressed and robbed them in a dystopian police state. This of course, was not only the narrative reserved for Croats within Tito’s fantasy state, but also for those living and residing in the West.
Next Post: Psychological Operations and Information Warfare Against Croatia and Croats – PART II
About the author: Ante Horvat was born in the USA in 1970’s. He has recently moved to live permanently in Croatia and although spending most of his life in the USA he had made several temporary residence visits to Croatia during that time. His education and professional development in history and international relations also spans across the two continents. He is an active observer of and participant in the development of democracy in Croatia since the early 1990’s and its correlation with the developed Western democracies.