Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Nebojsa Malic and the Skull Tower

MalicSkullTower2Nebojsa Malic, the increasingly bitter and paranoid Balkans affairs columnist at, has a post on his blog, accusing me of having written an anonymous ‘character assassination’ of him, which was published by Palluxo [see below]. Why exactly he considers the article in question a ‘character assassination’ is unclear, since he does not seem to dispute almost any of the points it makes. For example, the article accuses Malic of being a denier of the Srebrenica genocide, which is something to which he readily admits. The article lists various factual errors that Malic has made in his writings about Srebrenica; Malic does not attempt to challenge any part of this refutation. And so on.

For the record, I did not write the article in question. If I had wanted to write an article exposing Malic’s genocide-denial and poor grasp of history, I would have done so under my own name, after which Palluxo or anyone else would have been free to republish it.

Having said that, I must confess that I have recently been tempted to write a post about Malic, after reading this absolute gem that he penned a couple of months ago, about the Skull Tower of Nis.  I strongly recommend reading the whole post, but for those who understandably can’t be bothered, Malic begins:

If there was just one thing I could show someone seeking to understand the Serbs, I would take them to a hill northeast of Niš (Ниш), and show them the Skull Tower.

Though Serbian medieval statehood was mortally wounded in the battle of Kosovo (1389), its last embers were smothered in 1459, as the conquering Ottoman Turks swept into Europe again following their conquest of Constantinople. For the next three centuries, Serbs lived under the Ottoman yoke. Some converted to save their lives and property. Some sough refuge in remote areas, or the Austrian and Hungarian borderlands. Others trudged on, bowed but not broken, all the while hoping for freedom.

And he concludes:

Today, their own government tells the Serbs they should value comfort over freedom, material goods over dignity, pleasure over honor. In just the last twenty years, over a million Serbs have been forced from their homes and dispossessed. First forced into Communist-imposed borders, Serbia itself is now being partitioned anew, as its province of Kosovo was occupied by NATO in 1999 and declared an “independent” Albanian state in 2008. The very real suffering of Serbs in Ottoman times, during two German occupations in the 20th century, and in the wars of the 1990s, is routinely dismissed or minimized, even as Serbs are accused of committing wholly fabricated “genocides” against their neighbors, who somehow always happened to serve the conquering outsiders.

The Skull Tower is not just a reminder of the steep but necessary price of freedom. It is also a monument to the brutality of the supposedly “tolerant” and “multicultural” Ottoman Empire, and the horrific institution of devşirme that produced psychopaths like Hurshid Ahmed Pasha.

Those who seek to conquer the Serbs ought to take a long, hard look at this monument. The Turks once believed their dominion would last forever. But in 1815 another uprising began. By 1830, Serbia was an autonomous principality. In 1878 it was recognized as independent. And in 1912, the Ottoman Empire was chased out of the Balkans at long last.

So long as a people value freedom, they can either prevail or perish, but can never be conquered.

For anyone with an appreciation for the comic side of Serb nationalism, it really doesn’t get any better than this. To criticise this masterpiece would be – as Punch said in relation to P.G. Wodehouse – like taking a spade to a souffle, and I’m not going to do it. I don’t want to be accused of being anti-Serb; for all I know, there may be Croats who get equally dewy-eyed when writing about the statue of Ban Jelacic in Zagreb’s central square, and Britons who get that way when writing about Nelson’s Column (‘If there was just one thing I could show someone seeking to understand the British, I would take them to a square in the middle of London, and show them Nelson’s Column. Or possibly the London Dungeon.’).


Still, I do find Malic’s abandonment of any lingering pretense at a libertarian anti-war philosophy, and retreat into outright romantic-nationalist narcissism and historical-mythological escapism, truly bizarre.

As for who really wrote the Palluxo article – Nebojsa could always adopt the traditional strategy of blaming it on the Vatican. Or possibly the Germans.

Update: Just in case anyone reading Malic’s post about the Skull Tower still does not appreciate the full extent of his intellectual and philosophical sophistication, I’d recommend the following post, in which he cites the blogger Vox Day‘s observation that ‘ far too many people go mad with tiny and insignificant bits of power over others to believe that anyone should be trusted with great amounts of it.’

Malic comments: ‘Don’t believe him? Watch The Return of the King, or better yet, read The Lord of the Rings yourself. If that doesn’t demonstrate beyond any doubt that a desire for power drives everyone to evil, nothing Vox or any other libertarian (myself included) can say will probably register.’

Hat tip: Doug Muir of A Fistful of Euros.

Update 2: Since the publication of this article, the Palluxo website has closed down; Palluxo’s article about Malic is however still available at the Srebrenica Genocide Blog, to which my article now links.

Thursday, 9 July 2009 - Posted by | Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, Serbia | , , , , , , ,

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