Gossip: Guilty Pleasure or Social Ill?

Question: Is gossip inherently immoral?

David Hauslaib: I think for most folks, you know, it’s a guilty pleasure.  I don’t think . . .  You know most people wouldn’t necessarily admit to consuming all this information.  Maybe a little bit more so recently because it is so accepted.  But again, I don’t think gossip makes a . . .  you know a culture better.  I think it’s, you know, another form of expression and communication; but I don’t think we’re contributing to society as some other people are.

                            Question: Can one overindulge in gossip? 

David Hauslaib: I think the real debate there is the sort of . . . the degree or the lengths that people go for gossip now; where you have, you know, stars like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears who literally cannot leave their homes without 20 or 50 photographers following them and snapping photos as they walk to their car or walk to the gas station.  And honestly I think that’s a bit ridiculous.  I do . . .  I can’t fault people for being interested in them because these celebrities have traded part of their privacy for a paycheck and for that notoriety.  So I can’t fault them.  But I do think there are many instances where the chase of gossip has become so dangerous that in a sense it can be reprehensible.  I don’t think that’s stopping any American from going to the newsstand and picking up their tabloids or clicking on these web sites that, you know, are purchasing photos from paparazzi agencies that may not have the best ethics. 

                    Question: Where does responsibility for gossip lie?

David Hauslaib: I don’t think it’s so easy to separate.  I think every party to this cycle is in collusion.  The consumers are rabid fans of it, so they go to the media providers who will go to any lengths to sell a copy of their weekly.  And they go to the photo agencies who make a lot of money selling paparazzi pictures; and who also go to great lengths to get that shot to go back and feed the consumer who wants all of this information.  So while, you know, the average person can say, “You’re going too far,” and “Leave Britney alone,” these are the same people who are clicking on these web sites every single day.  And without that process and that machine behind it, there wouldn’t be any of that content to consume

Question: Does Jossip have a line it wont cross?

 

David Hauslaib: I think first and foremost it comes down to accuracy.  I mean we are guilty of, you know, shooting first and asking questions later.  Because the approach we take is if somebody is putting out this information; if somebody is trying to generate an item or a piece of gossip; to us that’s a story into itself – that somebody has an agenda that they’re trying to push.  Is there a specific instance where we’ve drawn the line?  I can’t recall any one particular time.  I think it’s something that egregiously personal without, you know, sort of warranting it.  We may use our discretion there.  But I think, you know . . .  And listen.  I’ll take as much responsibility as I can.  Our readers also are very interested, again, even in the smallest iota of information, and they’re expecting that.

Recorded on: Jan 23 2008

Sure, celebrities trade privacy for a paycheck, but does that make gossip ethical?

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Kosovo land swap could end conflict - or restart war

Best case: redrawing borders leads to peace, prosperity and EU membership. But there's also a worst case

Image: SRF
Strange Maps
  • The Yugoslav Wars started in 1991, but never really ended
  • Kosovo and Serbia are still enemies, and they're getting worse
  • A proposed land swap could create peace - or reignite the conflict

The death of Old Yugoslavia

Image: public domain

United Yugoslavia on a CIA map from 1990.

Wars are harder to finish than to start. Take for instance the Yugoslav Wars, which raged through most of the 1990s.

The first shot was fired at 2.30 pm on June 27th, 1991, when an officer in the Yugoslav People's Army took aim at Slovenian separatists. When the YPA retreated on July 7th, Slovenia was the first of Yugoslavia's republics to have won its independence.

After the wars

Image: Ijanderson977, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Map of former Yugoslavia in 2008, when Kosovo declared its independence. The geopolitical situation remains the same today.

The Ten-Day War cost less than 100 casualties. The other wars – in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo (1) – lasted much longer and were a lot bloodier. By early 1999, when NATO had forced Serbia to concede defeat in Kosovo, close to 140,000 people had been killed and four million civilians displaced.

So when was the last shot fired? Perhaps it wasn't: it's debatable whether the Yugoslav Wars are actually over. That's because Kosovo is a special case. Although inhabited by an overwhelming ethnic-Albanian majority, Serbians are historically very attached to it. More importantly, from a legalistic point of view: Kosovo was never a separate republic within Yugoslavia but rather a (nominally) autonomous province within Serbia.

Kosovo divides the world

Image: public domain

In red: states that recognise the independence of Kosovo (most EU member states – with the notable exceptions of Spain, Greece, Romania and Slovakia; and the U.S., Japan, Turkey and Egypt, among many others). In blue: states that recognise Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo (most notably Russia and China, but also other major countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Iran).

The government of Serbia has made its peace and established diplomatic relations with all other former Yugoslav countries, but not with Kosovo. In Serbian eyes, Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 was a unilateral and therefore legally invalid change of state borders. Belgrade officially still considers Kosovo a 'renegade province', and it actually has a lot of international support for that position (2).

The irony is that on the longer term, both Kosovo and Serbia want the same thing: EU membership. Ironically, that wish could lead to Yugoslav reunification some years down the road – within the EU. Slovenia and Croatia have already joined, and all other ex-Yugoslav states would like to follow their example. Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have already submitted an official application. The EU considers Bosnia and Kosovo 'potential candidates'.

Kosovo is the main stumbling block on Serbia's road to EU membership. Even after the end of hostilities, skirmishes continued, between the ethnically Albanian majority and the ethnically Serbian minority within Kosovo, and vice versa in Serbian territories directly adjacent. Tensions are dormant at best. A renewed outbreak of armed conflict is not unthinkable.

Land for peace?

Image: BBC

Mitrovica isn't the only area majority-Serb area in Kosovo, but the others are enclaved and fear being abandoned in a land swap.

In fact, relations between Kosovo and Serbia have deteriorated spectacularly in the past few months. At the end of November, Kosovo was refused membership of Interpol, mainly on the insistence of Serbia. In retaliation, Kosovo imposed a 100% tariff on all imports from Serbia. After which Serbia's prime minister Ana Brnabic refused to exclude her country's "option" to intervene militarily in Kosovo. Upon which Kosovo's government decided to start setting up its own army – despite its prohibition to do so as one of the conditions of its continued NATO-protected independence.

The protracted death of Yugoslavia will be over only when this conflict is finally resolved. The best way to do that, politicians on both sides have suggested, is for the borders reflect the ethnic makeup of the frontier between Kosovo and Serbia.

The biggest and most obvious pieces of the puzzle are the Serbian-majority district of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, and the Albanian-majority Presevo Valley, in southwestern Serbia. That land swap was suggested previous summer by Hashim Thaci and Aleksandar Vucic, presidents of Kosovo and Serbia respectively. Best-case scenario: that would eliminate the main obstacle to mutual recognition, joint EU membership and future prosperity.

If others can do it...

Image: Ruland Kolen

Belgium and the Netherlands recently adjusted out their common border to conform to the straightened Meuse River.

Sceptics and not a few locals warn that there also is a worst-case scenario: the swap could rekindle animosities and restart the war. A deal along those lines would almost certainly exclude six Serbian-majority municipalities enclaved deep within Kosovo. While Serbian Mitrovica, which borders Serbia proper, is home to some 40,000 inhabitants, those enclaves represent a further 80,000 ethnic Serbs – who fear being totally abandoned in a land swap, and eventually forced out of their homes.

Western powers, which sponsored Kosovar independence, are divided over the plan. U.S. officials back the idea, as do some within the EU. But the Germans are against – they are concerned about the plan's potential to fire up regional tensions rather than eliminate them.

In principle, countries consider their borders inviolate and unchanging, but land swaps are not unheard of. Quite recently, Belgium and the Netherlands exchanged territories so their joint border would again match up with the straightened course of the Meuse river (3). But those bits of land were tiny, and uninhabited. And as the past has amply shown, borders carry a lot more weight in the Balkans.

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