Monday, February 12, 2007

Mero's Review of Oberschall

“Before the war was super…my neighbors were Muslims, Croats. We celebrated our holidays together. A few months before war broke out, people started separating. It was after Bosnia’s independence was recognized. Our neighbors avoided us.” This quote, taken from Anthony Oberschall’s article, “The manipulation of ethnicity: from ethnic cooperation to violence and war in Yugoslavia", aims at explaining how ethnic violence and war could have erupted in Yugoslavia after over forty years of peace and cooperation. Oberschall explains how factors such as false media propaganda, hostile nationalist sentiment, and fear of security were all manipulated to breed distrust among neighbors of the former Yugoslavia. In his article, he combines aspects of four social theories for ethnic violence (primordial, instrumentalist, constructionist, and ethnic conflict) to support his own personal theory of latent nationalism. Under this theory he highlights how ethnic manipulation succeeded in a crisis framework and led to the slaughter of innocent civilians.
Oberschall’s latent nationalism theory is encompassed in two cognitive frameworks for Yugoslavs. First, a peaceful and cooperative lens in which Serbs, Croats, and Muslims all worked together politically and socially. The second lens is labeled as a crisis lens in which WWII sentiments and fears are used to perpetuate social insecurity and distrust among neighboring cultures. To highlight his first frame, Oberschall draws upon social studies and polls to show the peaceful coexistence of Serbians and Croatians in the workplace, schools, universities, law force even though Serbians maintained a slight majority population in neighboring countries.
The transition from peace to hostility begins to boil at the beginning of the early 90’s in the 91 election where the Muslim SDA won majority seats in government. Though the Muslims did not take advantage of the majority position and continued to engage in a power sharing relationship, extreme nationalists began to worry about a loss of political control among the nation. The Serb SDS in response quickly established, the “Crisis Committee”, a parallel Serb governance aimed at consolidating Serbian rule. However, the nationalist party did not just stop at the creation of a new political governance, small militias and police forces were created to kill and detain all non-Serbs in the region.
Many of the support for these hostile regimes came from false media propaganda being spread through local radio and television stations which were controlled by Serbian nationalist leaders. Rapes and massacres of Serbians were being reported in other countries and spread across the townspeople. Eventually, fear and hatred began to brew as the threat of another WWII attack on the Serbs was being created. It is through these repetitive strategies that the majority of Serbs were persuaded by a relatively small nationalist party to cooperate with the genocide of non-Serbs.
Of course, as with most Communication theories that try to explain social behaviors, there are many unaccounted factors that could have lead to the slaughter of all non-Serbs. However, Oberschall’s analysis is consistent with his use of the multiple social theories that he encompasses within his new framework. He highlights many of the key important aspects of how persuasion is implemented through the political and social level. Drawing upon key narratives and reports, his arguments are validated through his step by step analysis of a nationalist takeover.