- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

Washingtonians were reminded of the overthrow of another despot just as the escalating drumbeats of war hinted at a second assault on Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
More than 400 people gathered at the National Press Club on Monday for a sneak peek at "Bringing Down a Dictator," a WETA-TV documentary on the nonviolent revolution that toppled tyrannical Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.
Many of the documentary's driving forces both in front of and behind the camera attended the packed reception and screening along with WETA President Sharon Percy Rockefeller, U.S. Institute of Peace President Richard H. Solomon and other luminaries.
Spontanous applause erupted repeatedly when the pro-democratic forces gained their sweet victory.
Before the room darkened, however, the revolution's youthful founder shared his view that victory was never in doubt.
"Influence the common people and leave the dictator with little source of power at his command," said Srdja Popovic, the wavy-haired leader of the Serbian resistance, in his pleasingly accented English.
Executive producer Peter Ackerman said such a spirited protest "hammers away at the core support a totalitarian needs to stay in power."
The documentary also tells a historical tale that the mainstream media missed, said Steve York, who wrote, produced and directed it.
The overthrow of Milosevic "was presented as a spontaneous, one-day revolution," Mr. York said, blaming the television news business' slavish devotion to ratings for the misrepresentation.
"When it gets covered that way, it reinforces the false impression that change happens [only] when there is violence," he noted. A relatively peaceful overthrow, no matter how effective, makes far less compelling television than a series of bombings.
NATO's bombing campaign, meant to stop Milosevic's reign of terror, might have halted the region's ethnic cleansing, but it also rallied citizens around the dictator, thereby strengthening his grip on the region.
"I didn't know a single Serbian who didn't say Milosevic was in power longer because of the bombing," Mr. York reported.
While the Serbian resistance, known as Otpor (Serbian for "resistance"), stuck to its nonviolent creed, Milosevic's henchmen followed no such mantra.
Mr. Popovic and his countrymen withstood the batons and tear gas, clinging to their cause as their only shield.
"It only hurts when you're afraid," Mr. Popovic said.
The hourlong documentary, given gravitas by narrator Martin Sheen, is to air March 31 at 10 p.m. on PBS.


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