t byfield on Thu, 24 Jul 2008 22:54:00 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Karadzic's website digest [x3: Spaink, Wilson, Young]

It's good to see the diligence that's gone into 'debunking' the Dabic site,
but it isn't clear why anyone would assume the site was "real" -- or what
that would mean. That the HTML was hand-tweaked by a war criminal? Exciting
maybe, but sort of beside the point.

Anyone who grabbed (or wants to grab) the .zip archive I posted will find
an extra file that wasn't in the website's file structure -- a text file of
whois output for the domain. Since all the registration data is anonymized,
the record is interesting for one, and only one, thing: the registration
date. There's a reason I included it, and there's a reason (several,
actually) that I didn't advertise my skepticism about the site -- beyond
noting that archive.org had never heard of it. 

It's unfortunately that subsequent ~discussion got sucked directly into a
real!/fake! dichotomy, which isn't very well suited to navigating the
wilderness of mirrors that is Serbian politics -- especially in the context
of a public charade like the government trading the declining utility of a
war criminal for the inclining utility of EU membership.

OK, let's go through this. The question isn't whether the site is a hoax --
of course it is -- but, rather *whose* hoax?

The chronology so satisfying (I guess) to debunkers has to go something
like this: after the arrest, some wag on the internet (1) registered the
.com domain for his pseudonym, (2) hunted down remarkably high-res candid
snapshots of an obscure Serbian new ager, (3) copied facts and/or text
about him from sites that don't actually mention him (and hadn't yet been
reported), (4) translated them in order to make the site seem more
'credible,' and (5) sorted out hosting details etc. And all of this went so
quickly that the DNS entry for the brand-new domain propagated in time for
the site to make it into the next news cycle around the world.

The droll facts (domain registration, hosting) are hardly in dispute, but
the interesting issues get paved over in the zeal to show that someone's
been duped. Where did the images and bio factoids come from? The debunkers
assume (I guess) that the Dabic site laundered images available elsewhere,
but the chronology makes much more sense if you assume the opposite -- that
the media laundered images first distributed through the Dabic site. 

I did quite a bit of searching and certainly saw some of these images on
the Dabic site first; only later did they appear in mainstram outlets with
the laughable credits to "AP" and "AFP/Getty Images." 

(Hey, and where did AFP get this one?


It's in a series with one of the photos on the Dabic site, but aside from
that its provenance is unknown.)

It's good to be leery of post hoc ergo propter hoc arguments, but I'd be
equally leery -- moreso, even -- of assuming that the Serbian government
completely overlooked how to spin Karadzic's arrest. By which I mean: how
to establish a seemingly credible story. It's one thing to merely say that
he was hiding in plain sight, but how much more effective to *show* it:
here's his website (two, actually, the "fake" one and the "real" one --
says who? AP! -- registered just a few months before), here's a parade of
people duly swearing that if they passed him on the street they'd have NO
IDEA who he was, here's the bar where -- it's strongly suggested -- that 
everyone had a very good idea who he was, etc, etc. 

The official story is awfully hard to swallow: one of the most recognizable
people in the region grows a beard and kooky haircut, and suddenly no one
-- not even the his far-rightist neighbors -- recognizes him: not his
voice, not his mannerisms, not his posture. Pick your favorite political
bogey (Bush or Cheney in the US, for example): a beard would totally throw
you, right? 

When reports surfaced that foreign intelligence agencies (US and UK at
least) were involved in tracking Karadzic down, the Serbian authorities --
which had insisted for years they had no idea where he was -- were quick to
retort that they hadn't needed any help because "his whereabouts have been
known for some time." No doubt. His arrest has been in the works for a long
time now, and, like his hiding, many aspects of it were a hoax. 

DNS doesn't lie, but nor does it exactly tell the truth.


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