Your RDA of Irony

On This Day in 1914: Great Moments in Public Relations

June 28, 1914: Belgrade

The Serbian Press Secretary opened the news conference with this statement.

“The Serbian government was sad to learn that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife the Archduchess Sophie shot each other today. We wish that they had found a more peaceful way to solve their marital problems.”

I will now answer your questions.

Reporter: Eyewitnesses report that the couple was assassinated by a terrorist linked to Serbia. Is the Serbian government denying any connection to this terrorist organization?

Spokesmanvic: There have been so many assassinations and it is just pointless and malicious to allege that this government had any knowledge, link or responsibility for the murder of President McKinley.

Reporter: The Austrian government is accusing Serbia of supporting terrorists.

Spokesmanvic: Look, this “event” probably was a carjacking that got out of hand. If the conspiracy-paranoids in Austria need a culprit, they should accuse Mexico. There is no question that the Mexicans killed the Archduke Maximilian, and a Chicano street gang may have killed Franz Ferdinand as a member initiation.

Reporter: I’m Clive Murdoch of the Melbourne Swagman. Got me a two part question. Is it possible that the assassination was the work of bolshevik-anarchists and do you got nude photos of the Archduchess for our page three?

Spokesmanvic: Yes and no. And those were excellent questions. Thank you.

Reporter: Do you feel that the controversial, iconoclastic studies of Freud and the provocative, scathing plays of Arthur Schnitzler offer any predicative insights into the psychology and actions of pre-post-modernist Vienna?

Spokesmanvic: You’re from The New York Times, aren’t you? Yes, the Austrians want to kill us. Interestingly enough, they also want to kill Freud and Schnitzler.

  1. Eugene Finerman says:

    If only Franz Ferdinand had the consideration to have been gunned down elsewhere, World War I could have been averted.

    The Emperor Franz Josef couldn’t stand his nephew. The archduke was crass, humorless and irritable; there was no Viennese charm about him. In fact, Franz Ferdinand hated Vienna: too intellectual, too artistic and–or is this redundant–too Jewish. The elderly Emperor may have kept living just to keep his repulsive nephew from the throne.

    And if Franz Ferdinand had been killed anywhere but Bosnia-Herzegovina, the old Emperor might have chuckled and shrugged. The Hapsburgs were inured to violent deaths. His brother Maximilian had been executed in Mexico. His wife Elizabeth had been assassinated in Switzerland. Yet Austria had not declared on Mexico or Switzerland, and Franz Josef actually liked his wife.

    Unfortunately, the assassination of Franz Ferdinand could not be rationalized or ignored. Bosnia-Herzegovina was Austrian territory (whether or not Bosnians liked it) and it really was a breach of etiquette for the Serbian secret service to be encouraging the murder of Hapsburgs there.

    So Austria-Hungary had to declare war on Serbia, so Russia had to declare war on Austria, so Germany had to declare war on Russia, and France was only too eager to declare war on Germany, so Germany had to declare war on Belgium (poor Belgium was in the way), so Britain had to declare war on Germany. Turkey hated Russia and didn’t want to feel left out.

    On the positive side, the next-in-line to the Hapsburg throne was the Archduke Karl, and the Emperor liked him.

  2. Bob Kincaid says:

    When you think about it, it just makes more sense for the other side to kill off one of their royals and call things even.

    Imagine the mess Britain could’ve avoided if, instead of declaring war, they’d taken one of their princelings out (say, perhaps, the one with the most fascistic leanings) and executed him. The UK could’ve saved itself the embarrassment of the Wallis Simpson affair, the embarrassment (not to mention the bloodshed) of WWI, and probably even Dunkirk.

    The Russians could’ve saved themselves from that disaffected lawyer, and Turkey would’ve still been run by Old Turks and not Young ones.

    Instead, European royalty wiped itself out, digging itself up by the roots, where a modest pruning might’ve allowed that inbred family tree to keep growing.

    • Eugene Finerman says:

      Bob, take the Nobel Peace Prize for 1914. As a matter of fact, the Serbian ruling family had an expendable prince. By the accident of birth, George was the heir to the throne but he was judged to be insane. (At the very least, kicking to death a servant is very bad manners.) His younger brother Alexander would become the next king.

      So the Serbians should have offered George as a reciprocal “guest” to Austria.


  3. Clara Berman says:

    Peace treaties and alliances

    The interesting historical point you raise is the differences in response to murder and assasination—

    So hard to really understand or predict human behavior

    With or without Freud

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