As published by Strike! magazine
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OCCUPYING THE MEDIA
By Daniel Simpson
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro…”
- Hunter S. Thompson
Life’s too short to waste in a dead-end job. When that dawned on me this time last decade, I was working for The New York Times as a foreign correspondent, and my colleagues were enabling the invasion of Iraq. I was naive enough to be shocked by their propaganda, and too ambitious and too junior to challenge it. The only way ahead was to resign, and try to start a revolution.
The form this took was determined by my circumstances. Since I’d been hired to report on the Balkans, I was stationed in Serbia, which ignited the wars that had killed off Yugoslavia. My brief was to ask if “The Serbs” had accepted guilt. This got me ridiculed as a hypocrite: young Serbs were resisting their leaders all along, whereas I was employed by a paper that whitewashed warmongers.
I didn’t have an answer to that, except to get stoned. My editors showed minimal interest in Balkan news, so I had plenty of time to dream up other plans. I’d met a man who suggested we organise a music festival, on an island in the Danube in Belgrade. We convinced ourselves we’d start a Summer of Love, drawing crowds from the neighbouring countries Serbs attacked. We could also revive a dormant student protest movement, which helped topple a Serbian president two years earlier. We’d even lure some tourists from afar, by promoting ourselves as Ibiza crossed with Glastonbury. All told, it was “constructive ethnic cleansing”, a way of reclaiming Serbia from its past. Hell, The New York Times might even cover it.