M E D I A W A T C H    S E R I E S
Marko Zajc, Janez Polajnar
Ours and Yours
Tanja Petrović
A long way home
Brankica Petković, Marko Prpič, Neva Nahtigal, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin
Media Preferences and Perceptions
Mitja Velikonja
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Brankica Petković
You call this a media market?
Brankica Petković, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić, Iztok Jurančič, Marko Prpič, Roman Kuhar
Media for Citizens
Mitja Velikonja
Jernej Rovšek
The Private and the Public in the Media
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić, Brankica Petković
Media Ownership
Roman Kuhar
Media Representations of Homosexuality
Dragan Petrovec
Violence in the Media
Majda Hrženjak, Ksenija H. Vidmar, Zalka Drglin, Valerija Vendramin, Jerca Legan
Making Her Up
Gojko Bervar
Freedom of Non-accountability
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin
Serving the State or the Public
Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Marko Milosavljević
Media Policy in Slovenia in the 1990s
Breda Luthar, Tonči Kuzmanić, Srečo Dragoš, Mitja Velikonja, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić
The Victory of the Imaginary Left
Matevž Krivic, Simona Zatler
Freedom of the Press and Personal Rights
Karmen Erjavec, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Barbara Kelbl
We About the Roma
Tonči Kuzmanić
Hate-speech in Slovenia
Darren Purcell
The Slovenian State on the Internet
Breda Luthar
The Politics of Tele-tabloids
Marjeta Doupona Horvat, Jef Verschueren, Igor Ž. Žagar
The Pragmatics of Legitimation

Breda Luthar, Tonči Kuzmanić, Srečo Dragoš, Mitja Velikonja, Sandra Bašić-Hrvatin, Lenart J. Kučić
The Victory of the Imaginary Left
The Relationship of the Media and Politics in the 2000 Parliamentary Elections in Slovenia

eBook (1.249kB, pdf)

The seventh book in the MediaWatch series comprises five essays on the election campaign for the 2000 parliamentary elections in Slovenia. We chose subjects which in our opinion demonstrate the role and importance of the media in this election campaign and consequently influence political situation and social circumstances following the elections.

In the essay entitled Crippled and Blinded by Neutrality Breda Luthar argues that in studying the media coverage of elections, most authors focus on the deviations from the professional standards of journalism, particularly the standard of the objective treatment of individual candidates or political parties, while the professional standards themselves are not questioned. The fetishization of objectivity is still the main feature of the journalist's self-image. In this essay the author explains how the professional mythology of journalistic objectivity affects the 'bias' of elections and the independence of the media from politically constructed 'problems'. She thinks that this is made possible thanks to the assumption that underlies the myth of
objectivity, namely that a story may be neutral and related without bias. This implies that it can be told from no one's viewpoint, and that the truth lies somewhere between two (three, five or more) opposing statements.
Since in our example politicians found it more important to control what people thought about than to influence how they thought about significant issues, the author analyzed the pre-election debates on the Slovenian national TV station and POP TV in light of the agenda that was publicly discussed, while leaving out other significant aspects (iconography, rhetorical conditions and the like). She attempted to show that journalitsí thematization of reality was almost completely dependent on politics and its turning of 'issues' into 'problems'. She points out that what is important is not only which social problems are defined as crucial, or who defines the central social problems, but also the language, concepts and conceptual framework within which these issues are treated.

Tonči A. Kuzmanić opens his essay The Extremism of the Center with the observation that analyzing political extremism has become much more demanding than it used to be, because extremism has become concealed and is no longer readily discernible. The author concentrates on certain less obvious but more firmly embedded forms of extremism which in his opinion could prove fateful for the future of democracy in Slovenia. Since nothing is any longer as it used to be, also nationalism, chauvinism, cultural racism (which is crucial for the understanding of the situation in Slovenia), and various kinds of extremism are different from those of yesterday. They have 'adapted' themselves, become 'modernized', actually 'post-modernized' and 'post-politicized'.
The author establishes that the entire corpus of Slovenian politics incessantly drifts towards the right, and is now much more to the right than it had ever been during the past ten years. The Right he speaks of is no longer traditional and should not be sought among the supporters of Andrej Bajuk or Janez Janša only. It is post-modernized, lofty and arrogant, and above all anti-political. It is to be found among manager-style Drnovšek's clique, in phenomena such as the mixture of racism and postmodernism entertained by Zmago Jelinčič, and even in such an anti-political event as was the entrance into the parliament of the Party of Youth.

Kuzmanić concludes that that which is in Slovenia taken as being the left or 'really the left' is something radical, fundamentalist, robust and stalwart above all. He argues that fundamentalism has not only assumed the position of the Left, but that the Left is almost non-existent. Any anti-Church or anti-Catholic standpoint is equated a priori with the left-wing. In his opinion the manner in which the media treated the apparent 'shift leftwards' of the electoral body is in fact a non-interpretation. It is an appraisal made from a radical and centrist viewpoint, and its purpose is to frighten. Rather than being an 'objective assessment of events' it is a political stance.

The author further asserts that in Slovenia it is not possible to find an interpretation which would call a spade a spade and say out loud a very simple fact: at the present undeveloped stage of democracy, Slovenians have no other religion apart from Slovenianness, which is similar to what has happened in Albania, Serbia, and Poland. The developments in post-socialist Slovenia and particularly the 2000 parliamentary elections cannot be fully understood without first saying openly that voters opted for Drnovšek's way among the choice of non-differences and non-differentiations that were entangled in Sonderweg-style neo-conservative neo-Slovenianness. Slovenia thus ended up with a situation in which Janšaism may become implemented in a 'soft' Drnovšek way, which would be tantamount to the victory of Janšaism.

In Kuzmanić's view, the 'real' problem Slovenians have to cope with is not at home either on the left or on the right. The 2000 elections should be considered as a 'settling of accounts' with nationalism, but this was not done with the intention to 'escape' from nationalism as such or to find 'other', for example political cues for future development. Nationalism has been defeated, but from the positions and in the name of a new nationalism i.e. postpolitical neo-Slovenianness.

The essay Religion and Politics by Srečo Dragoš looks into the presence of the Roman-Catholic Church in the media coverage of the election campaign. Dragoš concludes that the topics that received the most attention (thanks both to the Church and certain political parties) were: the relationship between religion and politics, the provision of spiritual services to the army, the issue of public schools, and the attitude of the Church towards the electronic and print media. He draws attention to three areas, namely the strategy of the Church, the conduct of political parties and the political culture in Slovenia, within which the trends culminated that have been present, to a greater or lesser degree, ever since Slovenia gained independence ten years ago. The author argues that throughout the 20th century the political culture in Slovenia was significantly influenced by the culture war and clericalism. He concludes that the 2000 election campaign revealed a significant shift towards the blending of religion and politics, which was induced by both political parties and the Church. Should this trend continue, it may have negative consequences for the political culture and Christian religion in Slovenia.

In his essay The Inexpressiveness of Election Posters Mitja Velikonja analyzes the visual language of the election posters for the 2000 parliamentary elections in Slovenia. In addition to the motives, composition, slogans and symbols used on these posters, he also considers their aesthetical features and messages communicated through political propaganda. In his opinion, the basic traits of these posters were the 'calmness' of both propaganda and slogans (which befits the relatively untroubled political situation in Slovenia), the similarity of motives (their large inexpressiveness), the lack of distinct political symbols, and the domination of the portraits of notable party members (the personalization of the party's image). The author points out three things: firstly, that there were many more similarities than differences between the posters - rather than stressing and detailing differences between parties, the posters blurred them; secondly, the posters were exceptionally monotone, boring and uninventive - inexpressive in short; and finally, many aesthetical and propaganda options that are usually employed in the design of political posters were not exploited.

In the essay The Election Campaign on the Internet, Sandra B. Hrvatin and Lenart J. Kučić attempt to answer the question whether the web campaign formed an important part of the election campaign. They conclude that most parties simply posted propaganda materials on their web pages and somewhat adapted them to suit the requirements of the medium. Web sites were thus prevailingly used for selfpresentation and as an electronic extension of the party's profile. The obvious lack of a web strategy reveals that the campaign on the Internet was just a formal necessity. The analysis of the pre-election web polls featured on the SLS+SKD and SDS web pages showed that those who voted in these polls were mostly the supporters of these parties. This shows that Slovenians are not yet active web voters and that the significance of the Internet in this election campaign was negligible even with respect to negative propaganda. The authors further analyzed the participation of Janez Drnovšek, the leader of the LDS, in on-line chats during the election campaign. The analysis showed that even though the public had direct access to the leader of the party, the larger part of the debate did not touch on politics, or the voters did not have relevant questions for the leader. The authors thus conclude that the web portion of the election campaign was probably just one evolutionary step towards the stage at which the Internet will become the main channel for the exchange of data when the content of the messages will finally become adapted to the medium.