Name And Shame

Since this is a hot topic, it would not do for pengovsky not to chip in his two eurocents: Zlovenija.

A rather smart logo of Zlovenija

The wave after wave of refugees washed up something even more disturbing. A deluge of racist, xenophobic, hateful and whathaveyou comments regarding the refugees which would not abate. Things like “a bullet’s too good for them”, “get my gun”, “where’s Hitler when you need him”, “those trains should go straight to Auschwitz” and so forth. Just lovely. :/

Soon enough, a Tumblr appeared, collecting the pick of the crop of the couch-Nazis and putting their comment to their (more or less) hi-res photos, thus creating a striking contrast between people holding their puppies, spouses or children and their comments, most of which, to put it mildly, could provide grounds for criminal charges.

And yet, there is something inherently wrong with Zlovenija (a wordplay on Slovenia and Zlo (=Evil)). People smarter than pengovsky have weighed in, both in favour (here, here and here) and against (here and here to give a couple of links almost at random), but no-one touched on what in pengovsky’s views is the most crucial takeaway of the entire enterprise. Namely, that with this the bad guys actually won.

You see, whatever noble intentions led the creator(s) of Zlovenija, they are defeated by the very form chosen. Name-and-shame lists were, in what little experience Slovenia has with democracy, mainly tool of the political right. Think, a list of allegedly collaborators of UDBA, the Yugoslav secret police. The list that was used time an again to name-and-shame people who held public office at various levels. Or various “who’s-who” lists allegedly detailing networks of communist/gay mafia that supposedly runs Slovenia. Or various lists of journos who reported things the right-wing was unhappy with. Pengovsky was added to such a list. A bullshit scare tactic, but still, not something to be liked or wished for.

But wait, I hear you say, Zlovenija is exposing hate-speech! Surely, that can’t be the same as putting together lists of undesirable journalists? In substance, no. But in form, there is no discernible difference. And when the next list is made, pointing that out will be useless.

With Zlovenia choosing a similar name-and-shame silencing technique, lists of undesirables are one step closer to becoming fair game. Which is all that the reactionary side ever wanted. Not to win, but to call it a tie, to muddle the field so much that everyone looks equally dirty. Whenever the progressives pick up tools of the reactionaries, they lose. Twice. First, because they allowed themselves to drop to the reactionary level and second, because they can’t play that game well.

Just take a look at all those removed photos which were replaced by “apologies” by the authors of the comments. Only that precious few of them are actual apologies. When it all began, the blog set out some very harsh requirements for getting the offending picture and comment removed. It included posting a more or less groveling message with the author stating that he/she is aware of how wrong their actions were and to promise never to do it again. The requirements have since been loosened to disowning the comment via a short explanation. And now you’ve got everything, from “I was drunk” to “I’ve no job” to “I was afraid for my family” to “I’m angry there’s so much social injustice in Slovenia”… It’s quite an impressive list of non-apologies. Everyone’s got an excuse for being an asshole. And suddenly, that’s alright.

Well, fuck it. It’s not alright. And it goes to show that naming and shaming, while silencing some people does precious little to change people’s hearts. Because these people are going to get drunk again. They are still going to be afraid (no matter how baseless their fears are), they are still going to look for someone to blame for the situation (social or otherwise) they’re in. And since they can’t take it out on refugees, they’ll take it out on someone else. Women. The Roma. Socialists. LGBT community (there’s a nice one, with the referendum on same-sex marriage coming up and all). People with brown eyes. You name it. The list (sic!) is endless.

Just how bad an idea Zlovenija was, is aptly demonstrated by the fact that it has jumped into the offline world, with pictures being printed in large format and plastered in public venues. Seriously? How is that suppose to be educational? Not to mention that the author(s) of the blog remain anonymous, while the authors of hate-speech comments are up there with their names and pictures. I mean, if you’re going to out people, at least have the decency to put your own name to it.

How to go about hate-speech, then? Tricky. But as a journo colleague Lenart Kučić tweeted, there are no shortcuts. First and foremost, there’s the legal framework. Hate-speech is a punishable offence. Therefore, reporting it to the authorities is a must. Blogs like Zlovenija are nothing but a form of digital vigilantism that can only end in tears. Sure, Facebook is being an asshole and is often refusing to remove plainly abusive comments. But fuck Facebook. Use Slovenian Criminal Code instead.

But it does not stop there. What is needed is compassion. Despite plenty of hate speech on social media, there were a lot of good deeds in real life. People volunteered to help with the Civil Defence and Red Cross. Other people donated food, clothes, basic shelter. The police and the army are earnestly trying to keep the situation in balance the best they can. In short, there seems to be not a bad guy in the field. All of which makes the couch-Nazis look despicable, irrelevant and sad.

Point out the good thigs and you’ll see there is more than enough to counter the bad things.

But trying to “teach them a lesson” is not a good thing. Because rest assured that lessons will not be learned. Or rather, lessons that will be learned will be on avoiding detection and plausible deniability, they will not be on compassion. In that respect, Zlovenija only compounds the problem, it does not help solve it one tiny bit.

Alenka Bratušek To Mount PM Bid Againts Janša Amid Row Over Sexist Tweet, “Left-Wing Fascism”

Demokracija weekly, the semi-official Party magazine (think Pravda or People’s Daily) ran a lovely cover today featuring Adolf Hitler and captioned “I’m a socialist”. Now, truth be told, a magazine cover featuring or alluding to der Führer is all too an often occurrence in Slovenia and the left-wing press is no exception. Really, someone should explain the finer points of Godwin’s law to them (yes, I’m looking at you, Mladina). However, this particular cover comes on top a PR and media frenzy over “left-wing fascism” launched by PM Janez “Ivan” Janša who labelled the protest movement as such when addressing the faithful on a pro-government rally two weeks ago.

PM-hopeful Alenka Bratušek (source)

Interestingly enough, the Hitler-was-a-socialist line comes from a blogpost on The Telegraph’s website by Daniel Hannan MEP, a member of the splinter conservative AECR group. You will also note the visuals are the same in the said blogpost and on the cover of Demokracija.

Super-minister Turk and left-wing fascism

Additionally, Hannan’s post showed up on Slovenian radars last weekend when super-minister Žiga Turk tweeted about it (and was, curiously, RT’d by Jos Douma, Dutch ambassador to Slovenia). But the phrase itself, that is to say “left-wing fascism”, entered the political orbit some months ago, via Alan Johnson in – you’ve guessed it – a blogpost on the Telegraph’s website.

Slightly off-topic: Hannan’s silly litte post was picked apart quite thoroughly over at Zero Street blog, but for the sake of historical clarity it must be written that Hitler said he was a socialist to Otto Strasser mainly to ensure the loyalty of Otto’s brother, the able Gregor Strasser, who was tasked with organising the Nazi party in Northern Germany and who indeed was a left-wing revolutionary and who was instrumental in the party’s rise to the top. But as soon as Hitler won the power, he got rid of the Strassers, with Otto in exile and Gregor murdered in the Night of the Long Knives. Just so you know.

Yay, sexism!

Speaking of which, the issue seems to have ignited furore over in the UK as well. But you see what I’m getting at? In this day and age, when these things are easily googlable, the Party takes whatever it can from wherever it can find it, not bothering to do even the most basic of checks to avoid embarrassment (not unlike what happened with some of their MPs, mind you). Indeed, it’s a sad day, when a ruling party (let alone The Party) picks its defamatory talking points from the blogging section of a conservative newspaper. Nor is this good reference for the newspaper in question.

It seems that left to their own devices, the Party and Ivan himself have run out of steam and can do little more than insult everyone who crosses their path, demand obedience and indulge in conspiracy theories. Case in point being yesterday’s tete-a-tete Ivan had on state television where he basically repeated what he told the crowds on 8 February, only in a slightly more civilised manner. But the odds were evened by the Party’s official Twitter account with an overtly sexist tweet against acting president of Positive Slovenia Alenka Bratušek who only hours ago was nominated challenger to PM Janša in a no confidence vote.

The sexist tweet (source)

Tweeting that Bratušek will last as PM only as long as her skirt is and her memory of [the ill stricken] NKMB bank activities are (Bratušek was member of the supervisory board for a time), the Party dug a new low in an already decrepit political environment. But the no-holds-barred approach probably signalises increasing frustration by the SDS leadership in pretending to be in control of the situation.


Which they are not. In the last week or so we’ve seen a heightened level of activities in searching for a challenger to PM Janez Janša. Positive Slovenia took the lead in searching for such a person and at one point Bratušek came up with Miro Cerar, jr. But he turned the offer down, citing lack of a clear majority. In the mean time, however, DL, DeSUS, SD and PS held their respective pow-vows and decided to support a no-confidence vote against Janša with Bratušek as a challenger.

Now, it has to be said this agreement was achieved after much political wrangling, with each party more or less issuing a particular set of demands. The winners this time around seem to be Igor Lukšič‘s Social Democrats, who managed to coax Gregor Virant into ditching Janez Šušteršič from being re-nominated as finance minister, citing major differences over issues of bad bank and state sovereign holding. This apparently opened up a rift within the party pengovsky wrote about some time ago and a break-up of the party can not be excluded at this point (or, rather, a massive defection over to SDS camp).

Also a winner is – how does he do it? – Karl Erjavec, who is capitalising on his recent row with Janša over solving Ljubljanska banka issue and ratifying Croatian EU entry. But Teflon Karl is still up for his major battle as he is facing serious leadership challenges within the party and his recent anti-Ivan stance can and should be viewed from this perspective.

Janković “re-resigns” with a sunrise clause

This left us with Positive Slovenia, where both DL and SD (and to an extent DeSUS as well) demanded Zoran Janković officially and unequivocally quits leadership of the party. This already was a marked softening of positions, as these parties initially demanded Zoki quit as Ljubljana mayor as well. This put quite some pressure on Positive Slovenia, as Janković maintained he only “froze” his leadership position, while unofficially senior party people conceded Janković had for all intents and purposes resigned. Regardless, the would-be coalition wanted to cover all the bases and after a long session Jay-Z did indeed produce a hand-written letter of resignation, but left the date blank, saying that he’ll date it when Alenka Bratušek sees her government sworn in.

Photo by Roman Jakič (source)

In pengovsky’s opinion this was yet another awkward move by Janković, not unlike the initial “freezing”. Would it really be so hard to simply say “I’m resigning effective swearing-in of Bratušek-led government”? You see, with “official” resignation Janković lost nothing. He had indeed removed himself from state politics and by giving the SD and DL what they in fact already had (although unofficially) he could have landed a sweet little parting shot and see Bratušek off to a better start. Bob know’s she’ll need all the help she can get.

Instead, he fumbled with blank-dated-but-signed letter of resignation, which was seen as a farce by many. Not to mention the fact that what we have here is a signed letter of resignation and a know date of its creation, so one could argue this entire hubbub is horse-shit and that we have a valid letter of resignation which has a perfectly valid sunrise clause. And the “sunrise”, that is to say swearing in of the new government can become a reality as soon as early March.

Turk gets away with it

One side effect of this is that Žiga Turk, the super-minister who conveniently dug up the silly blogpost on left-wing fascism may not even see his interpelation proceedings take off as the government may fall before that. Lucky escape for him if it did.


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