Monday, March 13, 2006

Enjoying the BBC

I was having dinner last night at a friend's place, when, while channel-surfing, we came across a BBC documentary on Serbian war criminal Slobodan Milosevic. He was recently found dead a few days ago; just today it was reported that he actually died from a heart attack rather than from suicide or assassination. (For another good British sum-up of Milosevic's bloody career, check out The Guardian.)

My friend, who earlier had accompanied me to the mall to help me choose new eyeglass frames, said that there were times he preferred watching the BBC over CNN. It was more calm and laid-back, and encouraged him to think. CNN, he said, is at its best for breaking news, but its programming is sometimes too adrenaline-charged, and therefore more tiring to watch.

The documentary was interesting. Apart from the usual biographical information it showed the evolution of Slobodan Milosevic and sociology professor wife Mira Markovich as Serbia's power couple, tracing their political affiliations from one extreme to another, and how the couple fed off each other's ambitions as they grabbed power and sought to remain there. The documentary also showed how they manipulated mass media to reposition Milosevic as a nationalist strongman despite having been indicted for ethnic cleansing and other war crimes at The Hague. Upon Marshal Tito's death, as Yugoslavia broke into smaller republics (talk about the term "balkanization"), the nationalist Serbs lapped up exactly what Milosevic had intended. The BBC documented every instance of individual and national betrayal. Biting stuff.

"Shades of Marcos and Imelda," I mumbled over a bite of brownies. "Mismo!", my friend said.

Now if they turn it into a biographical potboiler, I'd buy it to read in the farm. I'm into historical nonfiction in a big way -- countries, cultures, wars, biographies. When there's no television, and no new dvds, that's what sustains my imagination.