Sunday, July 23, 2006

"Fools' Crusade" part xi


This next section of the Introduction tackles the Mother Of All Strawmen. Johnstone dismisses the idea of humanitarian intervention in the former Yugslavia by creating a ridiculously oversimplified facsimile of it. She calls it the "fictional saga of Yugoslavia in the 1990s", and it goes on for a full page. I don't feel like quoting it in its entirety; suffice it to say that she sneeringly throws in lots of hyperbolic adjectives and adverbs in order to make the humanitarian interventionist arguement appear simplistic; creating a false black-and-white dichotomy (she has already referenced the "classic Western movie" motif) that will be much easier to dismiss than a more nuanced, complex arguement would be.

Furthermore, her imagined scenario has the proponants of intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo claiming a bright, sunny happy ending--a peaceful, multi-ethnic and democratic Bosnia, and a joyously liberated Kosovo. Most of us who supported NATO and U.S. actions in the former Yugoslavia--and who called for even more robust measures much earlier--know that nothing could be further from the truth. If I believed that Bosnia today was an untroubled nation, fully healed from the scars of war and happily integrating all its constituent peoples (Bosnian Serbs are Bosnians, too), I would not have started this blog.

Johnstone, after creating this Godzilla of a strawman, dismisses it:

"Almost everything about this tale is false. Unfortunately, disproving falsehoods, especially established falsehood, is a hard task. What has been repeated over and over becomes "obviously true". "

Well, in a sense the first sentence is correct--almost everything in her paranoid fantasy IS false; the lies, however, are hers, not 'Western propaganda.'

As for her assertion that disproving falsehood is a hard task; to be literal about it--that's just wrong. The way to disprove falsehood is with facts and reason. It might be hard for a controversial or unpopular truth to challenge conventional thinking and widely held media and governmental assumptions, but that is not what Johnstone says. Here we see a key to her imperviosness to the mountains of evidence that contradict her thesis--the rest of us are so brainwashed by Western propaganda we cannot see past mere 'facts' to the real truth only a select few can discern. This cavalier disregard for first-hand reporting, eyewitness accounts, and even body counts will continue to 'inform' her thesis throughout the book.

The fact is--the reason it is so hard for Johnstone and her fellow Balkan genocide revisionists to disprove the dominant discourse on Yugoslavia is because, whatever flaws, oversimplifications, and lack of nuance that narrative might possess (and there were, and continue to be, flaws, oversimplifications, and a lack of nuance in reporting and analysis of the issue, no doubt), it is still closer to the truth than the hysterical, paranoid, myopic, anti-Western, pro-ethnic nationalism, incoherent jumble of distortion, disingenuous analysis, and outright lies Johnstone is peddling.

She follows the above quote with this fascinating bit of information:

"Very many facts challening the dominant myth have been reported by news agencies. But such reports are not the ones that major mainstream media highlight. They mostly end up in the wastebaskets of editorial rooms or deleted from computer screens."

That first sentence illustrates the usefulness of her strawman arguement--having created a pseudo-arguement for humantarian intervention in Yugoslavia that grossly oversimplified the issue, it is easy to point out that there are facts which contradict this imagined narrative. Reality is nuanced and messy--Johnstone seems to imagine that the rest of us will be stunned to learn this.

And I'm quite interested in how Johnstone knows the contents of thousands of pressroom wastebaskets, not the mention what thousands of reporters and editors are deleting from their word processors and PCs.

The section ends with Johnstone nailing at least one arm to a cross of her own imagination; the plight of the Balkan genocide denier is not an easy one. You get called lots of nasty names, and even get compared to Nazi apologists.

Poor thing. It's not easy telling the world that black is white and right is left; how dare we heap such scorn and abuse on her and her allies?

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