The Year in Bad Reporting About the Balkans

Unfortunately, people continued to get paid to write pieces in “prestigious” newspapers that were utterly nonsensical or factually incorrect in the year 2013. We apologize in advance for the following list. 

1) Kati Marton, “Bosnia, in Peril Once More”, op-ed in the New York Times

Kati Marton, author of Paris: A Love Story, wife of the late Richard Holbrooke (and therefore a Balkan expert), tells us that Bosnia is about to return to 1992 any day now. She provides a vivid description of traumatizing events taken from the Bosnian War and then cruelly warns readers that it’s all going to happen again. Bosnia can’t help itself from slipping back into its natural state of tribal warfare. The only thing that can save Bosnia now is the United States of America, because Europe is fucking useless. The EU or the UN (or whatever) is an incompetent, inefficient institution of lazy horse-riding European socialists, who’ve unfortunately lost whatever ability they once had to manage colonies.

2) Matthew Parris, “I Don’t Think it’s Over in the Balkans”, in the Spectator

Matthew Parris took a brief trip to the Balkans and believes another war is imminent because young men on a train were smoking cigarettes and ignoring the “no smoking” sign. They also kept closing the train’s windows, undoubtedly destroying what might have been a pleasant, smoke-free breeze on a summery day. These young men didn’t care that Parris had kindly ventured to their obscure little statelets for his summer holiday. One youth even shouted that he hated Tony Blair — a sentiment unheard of anywhere else in the world. With teenagers ignoring basic manners and the “no smoking” sign, soon they may be ignoring moral precepts like “thou shalt not kill”.

3) Nearly Everyone, Almost Everything, the Daily Mail

The Daily Mail expects “hordes” of Romanians and Bulgarians to “swarm” Britain when EU restrictions on freedom of movement are lifted on January 1st. We’ll let their worst fear-mongering headlines speak for themselves:

Shocking video shows Romanian thief laughing and DANCING after being arrested

Britain’s new ‘no go’ areas… How proposed exclusion zone targets epicentre of Romanian and Bulgarian influx”

Cut migration or I’ll block Serbia and Albania from joining EU, warns Cameron”

‘We’re importing a crime wave from Romania and Bulgaria’

Now police fly out to tell Romanians: Don’t come to Britain and commit crime!

Influx of Roma migrants could spark city riots

Undercover film exposes ‘Fagin school’ teaching Bulgarians to pick YOUR pocket

Polish women who move to the UK become more promiscuous, new study shows”

4) Elizabeth Pond, “Serbia Enters Europe: The End of the Bloody Balkan Wars”, in World Policy

Elizabeth Pond apparently located Serbia on a map this summer and discovered the country is actually in Europe. She thinks “a miracle has happened” because the “centuries-long” war between the Kosovar Albanians and Serbs is over. This is a miracle to Pond because both nations are naturally prone to participating in violence and wars, unlike people from the United States of America. Naturally the hero here is Aleksandar Vucic, a former ultranationalist who learned to be a soft-spoken statesman and decided “to make peace with Kosovo”. Serbia’s mindset is becoming (in Vucic’s words) “normal”. If normal means slowly shifting oppression from neighbors to internal enemies, then “normal” is quite right. A stunning transformation indeed.

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Lily Lynch

Lily is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Balkanist Magazine. She lives in Belgrade, Serbia.