On The Listening Post this week: It has been nearly three years into the Trump era and United States media finally use the “R” word to describe him: “Racist”. Plus, the war criminals turned best-selling authors in Serbia.
Trump’s tweets and the ‘racist’ debate
The coverage of the Trump White House is caught up over one word, “racist”, and whether or not it should be used to describe the US president.
After Donald Trump told four Congresswomen of colour to “go back” to the countries they came from – even though three of them are American born – some media outlets are still stopping short of using the “R” word.
Ahead of the 2020 elections, the US is a nation of opposing political narratives, where Trump’s white nativist message is facing push-back from a new progressive force on the political left.
Ryan Devereaux – immigration reporter, The Intercept
Suketu Mehta – author, This Land is Our Land
Mary Frances Berry – professor of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania
Crystal Fleming – associate professor of sociology, Stony Brook University and author of How to Be Less Stupid About Race
On our radar
Richard Gizbert speaks to producer Tariq Nafi about the BBC’s decision to accept Iran’s demand not to broadcast its coverage on BBC Persian.
Serbian war criminals turned authors rewriting Yugoslav history
It hasb been roughly 20 years since the war finally came to an end in the region once known as Yugoslavia. The important narrative of Serbia’s role in the decades-long conflict – Europe’s deadliest war since World War II – is hotly contested.
The evidence, as per the United Nations and multiple other investigative bodies tells a tale of disproportionate Serbian aggression, brutality and ethnic cleansing.
The alternative version of that history is now being told in book form by men convicted of crimes including genocide, and whose rewriting of history serves the nationalistic narrative favoured by today’s Serbian elites.
The Listening Post’s Johanna Hoes explores the historical revisionism in former Yugoslavia and the inmates who have gone from convicted war criminals to published authors.
Aleksandar Brezar – journalist
Emir Suljagic – professor, International University of Sarajevo
Vladimir Petrovic – historian
Natasa Kandic – founder, Humanitarian Law Center
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speaking out against president Trump's racist tweets about four Democratic congressmen mr. Trump's claim that for women of color should go back to where they came from the vice president Mike passages toured a forum facility in McAllen deliberate policy hello I'm Richard gisbert and you're at the listening post here are some of the media stories that we're covering this week that's what I said in a tweet which I guess some people think is controversial Donald Trump and the touchy question of when does political rhetoric becomes straight-up racism there are lessons to be learned and not just for journalists and news outlets the BBC Iran and a case of selective distribution and Serbian war criminals turned authors rewriting history from behind bars politics often comes down to a war of words and these days the coverage of the Trump White House is caught up over one word racist and whether or not it should be used to describe the American president after Donald Trump told for Congress women of color to go back to the countries they came from even though three of them are american-born some US media outlets are still stopping shy of using the r-word the four Democratic congresswoman in question two of whom are Muslim do not mince their words when talking about Trump's border control policies and what they call concentration camps they were as outraged in describing their visits to those camps as the vice president Mike Pence was indifferent during his the juxtaposed imagery and rhetoric that the two visits produced the war of words that followed are all reflective of the place in which the US finds itself ahead of the 2020 elections a nation of opposing political narratives were Trump's white nativist messages facing more and more pushback from a new progressive force on the political left our starting point this week is Donald Trump's Twitter account where does one even begin when tweets like these come out of the White House had those four progressive Democratic Congress women actually taken president Trump's advice left Washington and gone back to the crime infested places from which they came Alexandria Ocasio Cortez would jump on a train to New York City Rasheeda Talib would catch a flight to Detroit and I Anna Presley would buy a ticket for Cincinnati of the four only ill Han Omar was born outside the country making her just as American as the first lady of the United States if not as white or is Christian surprise to anybody that the most powerful person in the free world the President of the United States if the racist to his core we knew he was a racist when he openly announced that he thought that Obama was born in Kenya why doesn't he show the birth certificate I believe this incredibly racist conspiracy theory we knew him a very fast when he said that Muslims were cheering the burning of the twin towers during 9/11 which was manifestly untrue I saw people fairly large numbers celebrating as the World Trade Center was coming down killing who I now are more people calling him racist I think it's particularly a view of this time which if go back to where you come from and that of course is something that has been said over over in American culture to people I know when I was a kid as a black person walking down the street in my hometown every now and then white kids would yell oh why don't you go back where you came from and in his base they're probably numerous people who use expressions like that to people of color so it resonated the four progressives who have been nicknamed the squad have been the thorn in the president's side ever since their election to Congress in 2018 the conflict escalated on June 30th when three of the Congress women Talib Ocasio Cortes and Presley visited two migrant detention centers in Texas although the cameras following them were not allowed in the women emerged with stories of overcrowding and squalid conditions they compared the facilities to concentration camps and then reported their findings to Congress Mr Speaker we do have a crisis at our border it is one of morality cruelly created by the Trump administration dead set on sending a hateful message that those seeking refuge are not welcome in America in our America the Trump administration countered last week sending the Vice President on a similar visit it was an alternative photo op and it was no accident that Mike Pence appeared unmoved by what he saw what they promised coming into office was that they were gonna crack down that they were gonna stem the tide of migrants coming across the border I would build a great wall and nobody builds walls better than me believe me and so every day since then has been an exercise in trying to show the base that they're doing exactly what they said they were going to do so what we saw was vice-president pence standing outside of these pens where men were gathered wearing the clothes across it screaming that they needed basics and we also saw a vice president who didn't seem particularly moved by any of this in terms of the intentionality of the optics I think what we can say is that unfortunately there is a segment of trumps base that actually like seeing people of color being detained or being policed being mistreated even unfortunately that's what I said in a tweet which I guess some people think is controversial a lot of people love it by the way after tweeting his go back where you came from message the president was accused of playing the race card he reacted the way he often does when challenged over his choice of words he doubled down they can leave they can stay but they should love our country covering the story created a dilemma for American news outlets in the same way that many of them are hesitant to call Donald Trump a liar when he constantly misleads Americans there has been a reluctance to call the author of what are clearly racist statements a racist there is a history in this country in debates about race to tell people who call someone a racist that you shouldn't do that because being a racist is something that is psychological that is inside a person it is their personal attitude and since you can't read their mind you can talk in terms of their behavior and you can talk in terms of the words that they use or whatever but you can't say that person is a racist because you don't know exactly what they really inside believe in so that is why everybody was tiptoeing around being careful and using the language in that way because they didn't want somebody to come back and say well how do you know I'm a racist this president has made it pretty clear what's in his heart from the very beginning and even if not we can look at his actions in office we can look at what he's doing on the border those actions speak for themselves okay the comments from the president are just the latest in a long list of racially and send iary remarks there been a number of journalists from the very beginning of call out this administration for exactly what it was maybe other legacy institutions or journalists are slower to come to these realizations but it's not been a secret so part of it is how racism works within the media racism isn't just an issue that journalists cover it's also part of the environment in which they work eighty six point five percent of all editors in the United States are white three-fourths of news organizations have no people of color amongst their top editors is what that often means is a lack of sensitivity to the coverage of racism as well as a lack of training and if you don't have diversity in the newsroom then you're going to be in an echo chamber and and not have a really effective coverage of the problem especially if you're Fox News where the lack of diversity on the screen and the lack of sensitivity in the news output are both by design Fox has not and would not call President Trump a racist the politician and America's most watched news channel feed off each other and it is likely no coincidence that Fox anchor Tucker Carlson was laying into Somali born congresswoman Ilhan Omar calling her a racist who hates America just before Trump was four days later the president sent out those tweets three days after that there was Trump at a rally in North Carolina serenaded by a crowd chanting send her back a script effectively co-authored by Fox News and the White House Donald Trump if not have never been President of the United States of America he's President of the United States of Fox News Watchers 94% of the people that watch Fox News are right it really doesn't care if people call him racist he can manipulate the media like no one I have seen something like most populous an intra-day guest editorial and like to tear tail like a dome on like Modi you know populist is someone who can tell a false story well and the only way you can fight this kind of person is by telling a true story better [Applause] we're discussing other media stories that are on our radar with one of our producers tariff NASA Tariq the British broadcaster BBC sends a news team into Iran gets what it calls rare access puts out a series of reports on its UK domestic and world news channels but not on its Persian language service why not because the broadcaster reportedly agreed to those conditions set out by the Iranian government that's according to internal emails obtained by journalist Rashad Ali for HuffPost in order to get their correspondent Martin patients into Iran the BBC had to agree that none of the material he gathered footage interviews stories would go out on any of BBC Persians platforms now or in the future and that includes even retweeting or forwarding the coverage both in the reports and in a tweet the BBC acknowledges that their team's movements were controlled by official minders but since Iranian authorities did not restrict what was reported viewers however would have had no idea the entire assignment was conditioned on those reports not reaching an Iranian audience and Tehran has got a history of censoring BBC Persian and targeting some of its journalists does it not exactly BBC Persian is effectively banned in Iran but it has a big viewership there according to the broadcaster a weekly audience of 12 million and BBC Persian staff based outside Iran have paid a price for their journalism for years they face threats and intimidation by the government some have had their assets frozen most are unable to return to Iran for fear of arrest and their family members in the country have been harassed and sometimes interrogated so understandably some of them are not happy about the deal the broadcaster made with Tehran that's for the BBC it says that all international media are subject to restrictions in Iran and they're not wrong al Jazeera screws also grapple with certain rules the BBC also said we accepted some limit on this occasion in order to provide our audiences with rare insights from inside the country and this is signposted in our coverage as ever the BBC maintains full editorial control over what we broadcast just not it appears where it is ver cuffed okay thanks tarick it's been roughly 20 years now since the war finally came to an end in what was once known as Yugoslavia the historical narrative of Serbia's role in that decade-long conflict Europe's deadliest since world war ii is hotly contested and it really shouldn't be the evidence as per the united nations and multiple other investigative bodies tells a tale of disproportionate Serbian aggression brutality and ethnic cleansing the alternative version of that history is now being told in book form by authors who have been convicted of war crimes that include genocide the convicts turned writers former Serbian generals and politicians aren't just out for exoneration in the minds of many Serbian nationalists they already have that they want to rewrite the historical record while feeding into nationalistic narratives favoured by Serbian elites including TV channels which might explain the popularity of the books among those who hold political power in Belgrade the listening-posts Johanna who snow on historical revisionism in the former Yugoslavia and the inmates who have gone from convicted war criminals to published authors autobiographies war memoirs novels even poetry a total of 119 books written from behind bars by 22 alleged and convicted war criminals this literary output has been coming out of the detention center of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia the ICTY since 1993 the scope of literature coming from the ICTY is astounding given that the ICTY indicted one hundred and sixty one person as a whole out of it about one hundred and forty actually went into the Yemen engine which is a detention unit of The Hague Tribunal you can say that every one in six prisoners of the ICTY turned out to be an author of some kind many of those people are writing for purely political reasons or propaganda reasons there is a certain insistence on exonerating yourself some of it is obviously also creating a parallel narrative which is only a part of a systematic approach in which actual facts actual events that have taken place are now being questioned [Applause] and they don't care about facts and they don't care what you or I think about it this is tailor-made for the Serbs and it's made in a way that would fit with the pre-existing narratives of what Yugoslavia was of what and who deserves our it's about stories stories make nations Adama Karadzic is not going to be remembered as a murdering genocide or maniac but as a great Serbian hero who actually made the first Serb state on the left bank of the deena river never Shabaab which is going to be remembered by future generations of Serbs not as a murderer of Albanian children in Kosovo but as a great war hero who stood up to NATO end of story revisionist books written by convicted war criminals are commonly available hinder Serbian capital belgrade's including the bookstore behind me which belongs to the Ministry of Defense these books don't just do well with average served the country's politicians including those in governments are big fans too in October last year the publishing arm of Serbia's defense ministry took to Belgrade yearly Book Fair to promote its newest release merciful angels embrace the multi-volume wartime diary written by former Army General and a bush up of Kovac who is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity details his experiences in the Kosovo war another prominent spot that the fair was reserved for alleged war criminal full of shell after 11 years in detention sheshu has returned to Serbian politics and going by the name of his publishing house Greater Serbia there's little question as to what his books are about puff Kovich and shells presence at the prestigious fair doesn't speak to the quality of their literary work rather it speaks to the popularity of their Sheila's message a narrative that eighteen years after the end of the war is still actively endorsed by those in power hostage indeed those who were convicted in the hague tribunal are widely seen as heroes in their communities and in serbia many of those who participated in making decisions during the war and now in power and they benefit from promoting these kinds of false messages and narratives for instance have Kovach's books that are promoted by the ministry of defense offer blow-by-blow accounts of the nato bombing during the Kosovo all however they omit the crimes committed by the serbs these books are an attempt to completely ignore the Albanian victims to keep war crimes silent and to present the NATO bombing as a hostile attack by international forces in which only innocent Serbs were killed when it comes to some of the books that she has published we know that for instance Alexander moochers the current president of Serbia wrote a couple of forwards to some of the editions now if you have a legitimate representative of a country you know write a foreword for books of an alleged war criminal that is a huge issue but I think that tells you a lot about just how far you know the current political structures will go in order to push this narrative on to the public at optimum issues much is cut corners to the cars Serbian media play a significant role in bolstering revisionist narratives in the country in November last year former Bosnian Serb army commander Rutger melodic who's serving a life sentence for war crimes and genocide dialed into a morning breakfast show on Serbia's privately-owned entertainment channel happy TV sending his love to the nation from prison [Laughter] and finish the conversation by saying you most of the media see themselves as organized of state they see themselves as being part of the serbian cause and contributing to the serbian cause which is the only way you can explain having got Kamali's phone and into a morning talk so having just been found guilty of genocide speak of normalization huh the shredder needs a genocide which took place here in 1995 is by far the most popular topic for historical revisionists the execution of at least 8,000 Muslim men and boys at the hands of the Bosnian Serb security forces the worst mass killing on European soil since the Second World War is a huge stain on Bosnian Serb history and numerous books have been written about it quite those wanting to recast the facts of that Massacre appearance is by far the tourist issue among all discussed the grace is also by far the best prosecuted crime among all the crimes in the 90s it's proven beyond reasonable doubt that the culprits are the leadership of our meal of Posner Serbs and I didn't wonder how come that judicial facts which had been so well established are facing the Stonewall what does it take actually it's a question that those pushing back against these revisionist narratives whether about Schreber Nitza or any other brutal episode in the Yugoslav wars have been asking themselves for years but as long as these rewrites of history are not only condoned but actively endorsed by those in power attempts to tell the facts as they are are falling on deaf ears me warm to the north who named amor right now we don't have a young generation politically mature enough to ask important questions or inquire about facts that are being hidden my generation which was trying to create a consciousness about these crimes and the people behind them while we have been defeated we weren't able to win back the narrative we couldn't make the media follow this up and the crimes those responsible for them the peace agreements these have been completely removed from the agenda in its place we have this populism on the rise and there seems no space for push the post oh yes the little man would say as a survivor serving for the survivor of one genocidal episode the first emotion that comes is anger then disbelief and then resolve to fight that we're dealing with regimes that don't have a problem explaining to their own electorate why they are spending millions in genocide in Iowa people arm actually manage student bond from their own experience of amenities and that's the experience of being shot at being killed losing your relative losing your father losing a brother mother sister whatever but the people who did that to them have not moved an inch denying a past genocide is never just about denying genocide in the past it's about planning and hoping for the next one otherwise why dude why glorify genocidal maniacs why glorify mass murderers unless you're prepared to repeat it and finally back to Donald Trump's America his latest attacks on those for Congress women of color telling them to go back to where they came from on the race issue it's like Trump has replaced his dog whistle with a megaphone he's not even trying to be subtle anymore but for news outlets the struggle continues the internal one in which they cannot quite bring themselves to call this what it is racism from the American commander in chief imagine being a schoolteacher and having to explain to a child what's coming out of their presidents mouth these days that's the theme of this new animation from political cartoonist Marc Fiore a children's play book explaining just what it means to be American in 2019 we'll see you next time here at The Listening Post gather round children it's time to learn to spell letter so very American that send us all to hell r is for racist in all his nationalist glory r is also for rapists that's a different story a is for asylum and keeping kids from getting it while c is for the Congress and a party so complicit I is for what else the thing the founders thought of s is Curt pull those countries all around us and if you hate America and want to see her doom stick with T for Trump a racist through and through