Two recent television events epitomize the emerging and unique blend of nationalism and pop culture that characterizes the post-political form of what I want to call ‘commercial nationalism’ in Balkan broadcasting. The ﬁrst is the ratings success of the 2007-8 trial of Serbian Radical Party leader Vojislav Seselj, accused of inciting the ethnic tensions that led to atrocities carried out by Serb paramilitaries in Bosnia and Croatia. Far from encouraging Serbs to reﬂect on their role in the wars of the 1990s, the trial was an entertainment spectacle, thanks in part to the antics of Seselj who, in defending himself, mocked the court and the entire judicial process, earning for the programme the nickname of ‘Big Brother in the Hague’. Seselj successfully turned the Hague trial into a campaign spectacle for the Serbian Radical Party (Zarkovic 2008). Some of the television highlights included scenes in which Seselj told judges to remove their robes because they reminded him of medieval inquisitors, and mocked his court-appointed lawyer: ‘You falsely presented this man with a bird’s nest on the top of his head as my defense lawyer. He will never be my defense lawyer. You brought actors here to act as my defense lawyers but they will never be my defense lawyers. They are your spies’ (Mladina 2008). The second incident is the success of Serbia’s entrant to the Eurovision
Song Contest. The victory of the song ‘Molitva’ (Prayer), performed by Marija Serifovic, won Serbia the right to host the popular international contest in 2008. The result was greeted as a victory for pop-culture diplomacy at a time when Serbia continued to receive a bad press both for its behaviour in the 1990s and for its subsequent refusal to confront its actions. During the same period that Serbian television was eﬀectively ridiculing the justice being meted out for the wars of the 1990s, the Eurovision victory served as a means of improving the nation’s image – even in the eyes of its former enemies. Croatian radio journalist Kruno Vidic acknowledged the diplomatic clout of the Eurovision victory: ‘Popular culture is the best kind of diplomacy. Light notes are what we all understand. It is a bridge that helps people leave politics behind’ (Jovanovic 2008).