In recent days, I have continued to comb the coverage of the Radovan Karadzic arrest, looking for clues that might indicate where reporters were getting the tips that this monster had spent parts of the past few decades hiding in Eastern Orthodox monasteries and churches. No real clues, so far. Most journalists continue to mention those theories, always in passive voice or in some other vague way. But the main theme now is that Karadzic was using his skills as a psychologist to transition into a new identity -- that of a expert in alternative medicine, delivered with a kind of mystical, guru style that fit his new appearance. Yes, some journalists are using that "New Age" label.
But the strangest religious reference I have found is in an ABC News online story by Dragana Jovanovic, which ran with the colorful headline: "Double Life of the Butcher of Bosnia -- War Criminal Radovan Karadzic Was on Facebook, Had Own Web Site, Even a Girlfriend."
But check out the lede:
For 13 years, investigators combed the mountainous regions of eastern Bosnia, looking for Radovan Karadzic. A popular theory for much of that time was that the fugitive Bosnian-Serb leader was hidden away in a monastery, protected by Orthodox monks.
But it turned out to be the colorless boulevards of New Belgrade that provided a hiding place for Europe's most wanted man. He found an effective alter ego, in the guise of an Orthodox mystic.
Say what? As you would imagine, I read on through the piece -- looking for some kind of factual material to justify adding the word "Orthodox" to the very unorthodox profile that was emerging about Karadzic's life as a freelance mystic. This is all you get:
People who live on Juri Gagarin Street, a street of gray Communist-era apartment buildings across the Sava River, felt certain that their new neighbor was some kind of mystical guru.
"He moved to our neighborhood early last year. I thought he was a spiritual man," said Danica Jankovic, a sixth floor neighbor of the man who assumed the alias Dr. Dragan or David Dabic. "His dense white beard and distinctive long hair, his long periods of complete silence, and the fact that he was into meditation left me with no doubt. I still cannot believe his true identity."
Unrecognizable, with long white hair, a long beard and 40 pounds lighter, Karadzic, under the new name, appears to have led a very different life than one would have expected from one of the world's most wanted fugitives.
That's it. The word "Orthodox" just came out of nowhere. I have not seen that angle in any other mainstream coverage.
If you are looking for a nasty slam at Orthodoxy in the Karadzic coverage, far and away the worst I have seen is in a Globe and Mail piece by columnist Doug Saunders. Once again, it seems that the goal is to blame the hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church -- which actively joined with other religious groups to oppose the Milosevic regime's use of violence -- for the actions of the ethnic cleansing monsters, or at least some of them.
What does the word "fundamentalist" mean in this context?
The man who drew on Serbian Orthodox religious piety to build his movement in the early 1990s, using fundamentalist religious imagery to make speeches calling for the extermination of Bosnia's Muslim population, appears to have spent the past few years living in sin with a much younger mistress, whose existence was unknown to his wife.
I know it is easy to blur the line between Serbian nationalism and the land's Orthodox heritage, but that is simply going way too far.