For someone trying to pull the country back from the brink of economic collapse, prime minister Janša gives remarkably few fucks about the well-being of various enterprises around the country. With biking protests taking place every Friday evening and with recovery efforts becoming increasingly complex and hard to manage, the level of discontent in the country is increasing.
Not surprisingly, Janša, his SDS party and the base in general are not taking kindly to that and are proving remarkably thin-skinned for people who are quick to claim that hate speech doesn’t exist and that freedom of expression is paramount. Well, it seems like some freedoms of expression are more paramount than others.
This is not to say there is no rhyme nor reason Janša’s actions, or that of his minions, or the Party itself. Their Hungarian-bankrolled propaganda machine keeps spewing out hatred, dog-whistles and talking points and does so effectively, but is mostly preaching to the choir.
Outside of that, Janša’s media strategy seems to have boiled down to being a mini-Trump, where tries to solve the shit he lands in by stirring up some other, even more egregious shit. Rinse, repeat.
Which is why almost no-one talks about the PPE/masks procurement scandal anymore. Not that the issue went away completely but in the mean time the Glorious Leader and his ilk have managed to lash out at famous and less famous Slovenians alike for failure to praise the leader and his infallible policies. That, and lack of patriotism.
Hir ar kam, hir aj go
So it happened that in the middle of trying to restart the economy after the epidemic and being faced with a budget hole the size of a large asteroid, the PM found time to tweet on a marketing campaign by one of the largest retailers in Muddy Hollows.
Somehow Janša managed to invent a claim that the campaign for a grand opening of the newest Spar shopping centre in Ljubljana is unconstitutional for supposedly not using Slovenian language.
This doesn’t really pass the smell test, as even a perfunctory look at the relevant legislation shows that is not the case. Most likely the issue here was that the campaign features Magnifico, a hyper-popular Slovenian musician of partly Serbian descent.
Which still begs the question why the fuck would a PM pass opinion on something as insignificant as a retailer’s marketing ploy (and not a very complex one at that).
The answer is that few things are as effective as a well-placed dog-whistle for the nationalist and xenophobic element of the populace. These people in turn obviously understood the message and went on to bash both the retailer and the musician on social media, vowing never to shop there again. Which is what the PM alluded at in his tweet, thereby setting the narrative from the get-go.
What he didn’t take into account, however, was the fact that by doing that he gave Spar exposure no money can buy. People who were only marginally aware of the chain’s latest shopping centre opening will now probably flock there in droves.
Come to think of it, maybe the marketing ploy was a little more complex than it seemed. Naturally, people noticed that.
Nine million bicycles
When it comes to the weekly bike protests, the party and the base are eager to paint the protesters as “spoilt anti-capitalist malcontents brandishing iPhones”. Thus, one would think the government would welcome a wholly capitalist instinct to try and profit off of the movement.
Which, for all intents and purposes, is what Mladinska knjiga, the largest publishing house in Muddy Hollows tried to do yesterday.
In a slightly tongue-in-cheek tweet, published just a couple of hours before the latest iteration of the bike protest, they noted that their flagship store is now selling lovely bicycle-themed brooches.
What they didn’t say, but had been implied by the tweet was that the store is conveniently located along the protesters’ route. You know – while you’re protesting, hop in and spend a little. Make an evening of it.
Predictably, the right-wing twitter missed the point by a country mile.
Instead they swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker and went on a full-throated online rampage against the company, not only threatening never to shop there again but also called on fellow travelers to boycott the store. Predictably, PM Janša joining in on the fun and retweeted at least one such tweet.
While we’re at it, pengovsky strongly suspects that upon seeing this tweet, irony died of laughter. The author, a fairly known former journalist of right-wing persuasion noted that “the moment publishing companies start doing politics means their demise.” And goes on to label them as idiots.
Bob knows how the people behind Nova Revija publishing house feel about this. Their company was one of the corner stones of Slovenian independence movement (especially its non-socialist component). They published highly political texts, including Issue 57, which was basically an independence manifesto.
Two decades later the company indeed went under, but not because kept publishing political texts but because they played ball in June 2004 and picked up the tab for rushing Dimitrij Rupel, then-foreign minister in a centre-left government, from London in 2004 to partake in an event of a coalition that would bring about the first Janša government months later. The plane ticked cost a small fortune and the company was never reimbursed, as a result being unable to pay for other projects and finally went bankrupt.
The lesson here being, that publishing houses can of course do politics. It’s just that they are better advised taking money in on transport issues rather than giving it away.
In that respect Mladinska knjiga is doing everything right. Rather than being livid, the Glorious Leader should be happy for them.
That said, this was not Janša’s only excursion into aggressive economic recovery approaches. Days before, the faithful lit into the celebrity-chef Ana Roš of Hiša Franko who had some choice words for the government approach to restarting tourism. Or the lack thereof.
Roš’s “crime”, besides accusing the government of prioritising their personal needs (a claim not entirely without merit), was of course using the first verse of Bandiera Rossa, an century-old Italian labour movement song. Seeing as the tune is mostly seen as a popular communist and socialist anthem, right-wing Twitter had a hissy fit, repeating and retweeting the slurs against one of the world’s greatest chefs. Even Janša retweeted at least one call to boycott her establishment, even though she was one of the caterers for his wedding to Urška Bačovnik back in the day. Awkward.
Speaking of calls to boycott, the Glorious Leader has been using his Twitter bully pulpit to join or amplify chorus of attacks against business as well.
Sunglasses At Night
Notably, against a small Slovenian eye-wear startup Della Spina whose founder Marin Medak endorsed the Friday-evening protests after the government disenfranchised environmental NGOs and made it all but impossible for them to weigh in on infrastructure project.
Medak, whose claim to fame includes rowing across the Atlantic, did not take kindly to that and joined the bike-protest after having staged his own, kayaking down the Ljubljanica river and collecting trash. As a result, he was subject to some serious vitriol which included calls to boycott his business while the PM retweeted at least two tweets that mocked and ridiculed Medak and his business
This sort of social media shenanigans and tacit approval of online bullying is par for the course for PM Janša. Not unlike back in 2018, when he singled out another young entrepreneur dared to have an unflattering opinion on his incendiary online posts over a couple of artists and instantly made her a target of some serious online harassment.
Hate-signaling and letting the trolls do the rest seems to be the MO here. But while this works in terms of diverting attention and throwing red meat to the base, it has had exactly the opposite effect on the businesses the PM helped target.
Sure, a market leader like Spar retail chain couldn’t really care less if a few hundred chauvinists refused to shop with them, though probably these people most likely still flock to the said store on Discount Tuesday.
But unpleasant as the experience may have been for small entrepreneurs in this story, they are still here and have seen an outpouring of support and often even an increase in business.
As it happens, it was precisely due to, well, aggressive economic recovery approaches by the prime minister pengovsky decided that it was high time to get a new pair of shades (see above). So, there.
Another Brick In The Wall
The pattern here is quite obvious: The Glorious Leader sets the direction and the base happily follows.
And whenever he runs into trouble politically, be it – to give an example at random – by ways of a bad public opinion poll or a defecting MP (both of which have happened on more than one occasion over the last few days, the prime minister heats up the already inflammatory rhetoric of his base and adds more bricks in the wall dividing the (broadly speaking) two sides in this debate.