The Canine Scandal is spiralling out of control and the shitstorm spread from agriculture minister Milan Pogačnik to engulf interior minister Katarina Kresal as well. Specificially, the immediate reason for shit being dumped at doorstep is her partner and one of Slovenia’s stellar lawyers Miro Senica, who, it turns out, represented the late Saša Baričevič, M.D. , who two weeks ago was mauled to death by his own dogs. The thing is that Barivečič’s bull mastifs had a history of violence and were ordered to be put down after a nearly-fatal attack on a bystander way back in 2006. Baričevič, himself apparently a relatively influential individual, disputed the order to have the dogs put down and hired Senica to represent him in front of the Administrative Court. Senica won the case for him and the dogs were returned to Baričevič under certain conditions. To deadly effect, as it turned out. However, the plot thickens.
Several questions, some more relevant than others are overlapping in this case and the noise level is so high that only the loudest and the easiest of answers are being heard. The media are in a frenzy, the nation in a state of mass hysteria, various institutions are playing their own angles each, coalition politicians all but went underground, opposition is beating the drum and the list of people whom the vox populi connects to the scandal is becoming ever longer and more distinguished. It seems like everyone is acting like a pack of rabid dogs.
Regardless of everything, the most important question right now is whether pressure was brought to bear to secure return of the dogs to Baričevič. Did Baričevič, besides hiring Senica employ other, unlawful, methods to achieve the desired result and if so, who was in on it? On the outside and judging from the documents released by the ministry of agriculture things appear to be legal. But since everything went so badly wrong it is only right that this legal path be re-examined. But the legal aspect of the story interconnects with another, altogether more gruesome aspect.
Namely, at the moment authorities strongly suspect that dogs were (sexually) abused, possibly repeatedly so. I put “sexually” in brackets because sexual abuse (sodomy) is only inferred by the type of damage found on which were (finally) put down after the attack. The sexual aspect of the story puts the question of “who was in on it” in an entirely different context. No longer are the media and the public concerned with whether the pressure was brought to bear, but why was it brought to bear. All of a sudden pressure being brought to bear was taken for granted, speculation became fact and it all hell broke loose. Literally.
Initially mainstream media left the more sensationalist aspects of the story to Slovenian version of a particular song by Don Henley and focusing on the role of agriculture minister Pogačnik who apparently employed a PR agency to handle the fall-out but the latter fucked up immediately, giving ample material for media to go after the minister. But the moment the sexual abuse angle was taken, things followed started happening with lightning speed, and the rule of the day was “everything goes”. Unconfirmed reports, rumours, partial investigation results, sources close to the police, all of it “information acquired by [insert media]”, all of it identical, all of it probably from the same source.
It must be said at this point that most of the unofficial and off-the-record information that was circulated in Slovene media has so far been at least partially confirmed. But that don’t make it OK to act like a vampire. People inferred the most impossible things from media reports and media in turn acted upon those comments, fuelling the story even further. Late last week the difference between the media and comments on forums and blogs was gone. Some prime examples were left over at Drugi Dom and had.si, but the real gems were posted at all major news sites, with people re-posting comments from one site to another, claiming censorship and the aforementioned web-tabloid the hero of the day. Why? Because “it had the balls to print what we knew all along”. And it was probably at this point that mainstream media lost compass. Trying desperately not to come across as “in bed with the elite” they started howling with the wolves and joined the hysterical party.
Until then, Slovenian politics as a whole was fascinatingly quiet on the issue. Slovene People’s Party did file an interpelation against minsiter Pogačnik, but that was probably as much a self-defence move as anything else. Agriculture was traditionally SLS’ turf and at the moment it seems that Sonja Bukovec Pogačnik’s second in command (an SLS member) is involved as well. But other than that things were quiet, with most coalition politicians trying to put a daylight between themselves and the whole business. Some naively ran to the rescue, only see shit hit them as well (like Borut Sajovic, an LDS MP), but mostly ministers Pogačnik and Kresal and – by extention – PM Borut Pahor were left hanging dry.
But. When SDS president Janez Janša finally commented on the matter and focused on Miro Senica as “a power centre which controls executive, judicial and legislative branch”, this was interpreted as a green light for an all-out offensive. This has only just begun and yet it is already clear that no punches will be pulled and no holds barred. To illustrate, SDS chief whip Jože Tanko only day later made the connection between the canine scandal and the new Family Code, saying that Katarina Kresal’s LDS aims to radically change the society in order to satisfy wishes of the the elites and introduce unnatural possibilities to certain privileged groups . Or, as one comment somewhere put slightly less bluntly, “now sodomites are trying to tell us what family is“.
The problem this country is faced with right now is three-fold. First, unlike the original pack of bull mastiffs this particular pack of rabid dogs needs to be broken up. Instead the media, the masses and the politicians were tripping over one another in in making ever more juicy and scandalous statements, comparisons and assessments. Opposition is suppose to keep the coalition in check, media are suppose to keep in check both, while the people should at least keep tabs on all of the above. Call it a societal version of checks and balances, something at which all of the above failed miserably.