Monday, March 03, 2008

Does Diana Johnstone Believe Her Own Bullshit?

In the interest of keeping up with one of my favorite Balkan revisionists, I read the latest installment of the ongoing saga of Diana Johnstone Versus Reality, and I found myself wondering--as I did frequently during my months-long slog through her delusional epic Fools' Crusade--to what extent she actually, sincerely believes the garbage she writes?

In her case, this question is a bit more interesting than it would be if it were applied to a clumsy propaganda tool like Michael Parenti; Johnstone actually seems to have done a little actual research in her work. Unlike some other revisionists, she occasionally throws some stray facts which would not be readily available to readers of nothing but mainstream news coverage of the Balkan wars. It goes without saying that her facts are very carefully and selectively chosen to match her argument, and usually taken very much out of context and presented out of proportion to their actual import in the grand scheme of things, but that is exactly the point. In her writings on Kosova, for example, she is obviously aware of the existence of the Kosovar Albanians underground parallel government and health care system from the 1990s, as well as the high numbers of students at the University of Pristina, and the use of Albanian-language texts from Hoxha's Albania.

But how does one acquire those facts and yet miss so much of the context surrounding them? How does one know that Albanian-language schools were importing textbooks from Albania without also learning that Serbian authorities had been clamping down on the production of Albanian-language texts--indeed, the teaching of or even the use of the Albanian language--for years before that? How does one know that the KLA had become a heavily-armed, popularly supported guerrilla army without knowing that Ibrahim Rugova had been leading a non-violent movement of resistance against a police state which responded with further repression and terror for years?

I am past wondering why a so-called "progressive" chose to side against an oppressed, impoverished minority against a well-armed and oppressive minority--Johnstone's bias is less understandable than Parenti's naked admiration for neo-Stalinist brutality, but it is so thorough and relentless as to be beyond discussion. While "Fools' Crusade" made her preferences clear, it did not explain them. She was forever twisting facts and data and random quotes in an effort to cast doubt on the generally accepted version of events in the former Yugoslavia, without ever producing a compelling reason to accept the need for such a convoluted re-reading of what seems quite obvious. Of course, there is a ready audience of gullible would-be leftists and knee-jerk anti-Americans eager to sop up any critique of Western hegemony as long as it sounds coherent and reasoned. True believers don't need to scratch the surface to see the logical inconsistencies and factual errors tied together with the weak thread of bogus "anti-imperialism".

I get that; I understand why there are people willing to believe this garbage, and why this kind of shoddy pseudo-scholarship can get published and read and even receive favorable reviews from people who desperately want to believe what she is saying. There are well-meaning who don't know enough to recognize the fraudulent hodgepodge of scattershot insinuations and mischaracterizations for what it is, and who have no motivation to do the very small amount of reading and critical analysis needed to blow the illusion of a cohesive oppositional critique to pieces.

And as noted above, I don't even question her motivations anymore--she is a collectivist at heart, a dogmatic leftist who has internalized the idea that nations can be 'progressive' or 'reactionary' as corporate entities; internalized this notion so much so that she slips into the language--and the mindset--of the implicitly racist ethno-nationalist without missing a beat. She is what she is.

But I still wonder--idly, perhaps, since I care nothing for the woman except so far as she continues to cloud the discourse on the Balkans--what goes on in her mind as she goes about her business. In place of honest inquiry and diligent research, instead she scours the recent historical record for the very few, select facts which--removed from the living texture of history, shorn of any relation to the other disparate tidbits of reality she has gathered, and forced into a predetermined narrative--serve to do little more than feed into paranoid tribal mythologies and further the bitterness and isolation of the Serbs she pretends to care so much about.

And then, I wonder how she and her ilk sleep at night.


Anonymous said...

Quote: "It goes without saying that her facts are very carefully and selectively chosen to match her argument."

True. I remember my e-mail exchanges with Diane Johnstone and let me tell you, whatever you read about her, she is worse. My first e-mail to her posed a question about her denials of Srebrenica genocide. Instead of answering my question, she went ballistic and attacked me, calling me names, referring to me as a Serb hater, etc. This lady is trully full of hatred. I am amazed that someone could sit down and actually write a propagandistic book full of garbage and out of context material wrapped into "irrefutable facts."

I had my discharges of anger, but I would never waste my time writing a book defending war criminals.

Quote:" I am past wondering why a so-called 'progressive' chose to side against an oppressed, impoverished minority against a well-armed and oppressive minority..."

You're not the only one struggling with this question. If you read Marko Hoare's blog, you will notice that he struggled with the same problem. I am Progressive: I vote Liberal, I think Liberal. But I am not part of leftists such as Diana Johnstone, Michael Parenti, etc. In fact, they are not "liberal", they are just bunch of "leftist socialists"; they are not one of us Kirk.

Don't they realize they are not even close to being "Progressive?"

Anonymous said...

She is still committed to the idea that it was the bombing that caused the exodus of the Kosovars but doesn't seem to consider that she might need to substantiate her opinion.

Anonymous said...

What's this? Another Marko Attila Hoare blog? Just what the world was waiting for. A decent left in the name of Henry "Scoop" Jackson, the Senator from Boeing.

Kirk Johnson said...

It would be easier to respond to Mr. Proyect if I it weren't for the (I assume) typo.

From the look of his blog, he's another hard-left Balkan revisionist. And a pretty clueless one, at that.

Anonymous said...

"Louis Proyect"? Oh God, another Communist, and he actually thinks he makes any sense... dude, get a life.

Anonymous said...

Here is another "Diane Johnstone". Her name is Svetlana Novko from Vancouver, BC Canada. You can read her hateful articles and Srebrenica genocide denial here:

Anonymous said...

Proyect's blog is interesting and it's not to be dismissed in the summary way Dan does. The problem isn't with his Marxist analytical approach as such as the way that he tries to make events in the Balkans fit his analysis rather than the other way round.

Whatever your analytical tool the reliability of your conclusions depends on the reliability of your input.

However sophisticated Proyect's analysis may be, if at the end of the day he thinks that Johnstone is to be trusted when Gutman is not, he's taken the fork in the road that leads away from the real world.

Kirk Johnson said...

That's exactly it, Owen. He seems to be a man of intelligence, but as you said, he chose to follow a path leading to a "correct" destination rather than letting messy reality lead him where it may.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you believe your own bullshit. Diana Johnstone is one of the few that write the truth.

She questioning the propaganda that's been blinding people for over a decade now.

I wonder what the world be like if people would know the real truth about Bosnia.

Truth like - How ''Bosniaks'' came to be, when Croats settled there & how the Serbs went from beeing the majority population of Bosnia to what it is today.

Kirk Johnson said...

OK, Goran, why don't you "enlighten" us all. This should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Todays bosniaks are Serbs converted to Islam & took on Turkish characteristics. At least if we believe Vatican & Austrian historians.

I could tell you a lot more but there are enough historic resources so enlighten yourselfs

Kirk Johnson said...

No, Goran, Bosniaks are the descendants of Slavs who converted to Islam. The fallacy in your assertion is that you assume there is a perfect continuity between the "Serbs" of the medieval period and the modern "Serb" national identity. Many Serbs of the 21 Century are descendants of Orthodox Christian Slavs who "became" Serbs as national identities were developed in the late 18th and 19th Centuries.

That's what's so comical about Johnstone's pretensions to serious, nuanced analysis--she bases her analysis on a simplistic, one-sided, and clumsy reading of history.

Anonymous said...

There were more then one Slav people that settled in the Balkans during the 6th century, but the largest group was the Serbs.

Tell me MR Johnson why Vatican, Austrian, Hungarian, Ottoman & Byzantine historians claim that the Slav people that settled in Bosnia were Serbs. Why certain Bosnian rulers called themselves Serbs or claimed to be rulers of Serb lands. Are u claiming their assertions to be wrong?

When the modern Serb identity was being formed many Muslims, Catholic & Orthodox Christians fought against the Ottoman Empire during the Serbian revolt of 1804. They considered themselves Serbs descendent from the Serbs that made up the different Serb lands of the then Serbian empire.

Maybe you should read materials written before the 20th century. Many of these new ‘’Bosniaks’’ are distorting history without anything substantial to back - up there claims.

Kirk Johnson said...

Goran, it's also known that Vatican historians referred to Bosnian Christians as Bogomils; that seems to have been an error.

No doubt many of the settlers in Bosnia WERE Serbs. That's not my point; my point is that between the original settlement and the modern period, identities and group membership shifted a lot for all peoples in the Balkans. Identities were fluid, and it's simply a fallacy to compare early medieval tribal loyalties to modern nationalities.

More to the point--so what? Even if I'm 100% wrong (and I've no doubt I'm oversimplifying) and you're 100% correct (and I've no doubt you have done some reading in this area), Diana Johnstone's analysis is still disingenuous, selective in its use of facts and sources, and biased to a remarkably transparent degree.

I wrote a very lengthy critique of "Fools' Crusade" by Ms. Johnstone over the course of several months. I would be honored if you would read at least some of it and come back with some specific criticisms of my analysis.

Anonymous said...

When modern nationalities were being formed on the Balkans they were based on identities from the medieval period.


Germans today do not have the same culture or language as they did during the middle ages, but no one denies that today’s Germans are descendent from them & everyone calls them Germanic (German). There are divisions among Germans even today. Germany is a Federal republic of German states, Switzerland (confederation) is Germanic but divided into 26 mini-states & Austria is similar. Everyone there calls themselves German but because of circumstances they became divided.

The same is true about Serbs

In the time period that the modern Serb identity was being formed Serbs of all faiths fought to liberate Serb territory from Ottoman oppression.

Later the Vatican, Austria-Hungary, Germany, Bulgarians & Ottomans tried & succeeded in dividing Serbs even more into sub groups that became today’s modern nations / peoples of Croatia, Bosniaks, Macedonians & now Montenegrins.

Although Croatia & Montenegro have had a tradition of statehood only Croatia & to some degree Macedonians can claim some heritage other then Serbian.


Austrians used to state the numbers of ethnic minorities on their maps.
They used 3 terms for Serbs: Serbs – Orthodox faith, Romanized Serbs (Catholics) & Ilyroserbs (Undefined Serb tribes)

Later Romanized Serbs went into decline, and then they just disappeared from them.
They became modern day Croats. Like Ante Starčević said: There are no Croats, just Slavic peoples who took on the Spirit of Croatdom.

Diana Johnstone writes better articles then books. This book although DEFINITIFLY not perfect has a lot of true elements that show a different picture of the war in the former Yugoslavia. If you have read some of her articles, you would see that she blames Milošević for his role in the Yugoslav wars on more then one occasion.

Misha Glenny & Peter Brock are 2 journalist who reported about Serb crimes during those wars, but became ‘’biased’’ Serb reporters when they started reporting crimes against Serbs.

We can differ on terms of biased reporting, but the truth always remains the same.

islamabad66 said...

Daniel, I exchanged emails with Diane Johnstone and she was very friendly to me. Kirk,I wouldn't know where to start here with criticizing this blog but let me start with where all begins: language. One doesn't have to read all those deep thoughts when my attention is captured immediately by words/terms such as 'Bosniaks', 'Kosovars', 'Kosova' to know where persons is coming from. Are you aware that all these terms that never existed before are coined by NATO in the nineties? But here my advice for those who would like to know the truth: I would recommend reading some authors such as Tariq Ali and Noam Chomsky and see a movie by Michael Moore, people who actually deconstruct mainstream 'bullshit' served hot and consumed by the millions in whose ignorance that media actually lays all its hope.
Diane Johnstone is one of the few brave people who go against the current. And yes she uses only numbers confirmed by the international instances in her book. Could you please beat any of those numbers she quotes there before calling her book 'bullshit'?
Of course you can't.I already discussed with her how typical is that she gets blamed for distorting the truth by those who absolutely did not put any effort in figuring out the truth.
And you guys, don't waste your time.

Kirk Johnson said...

Anybody who thinks that a glib huckster like Michael Moore is a serious voice of dissent and analysis is hard to take seriously.

sackcloth and ashes said...

'Todays bosniaks are Serbs converted to Islam & took on Turkish characteristics.'

So if the Bosnian Moslems were really Serbs, Goran, why was it OK for Mladic's men to butcher and ethnically cleanse them?

Anonymous said...

Goran,you are so wrong man!Why u need to tell me about what Diane Johstone writes and says,when im a real example of what has happend in Kosova.Do u really want to know some little things?Let me tell u just something:My father and 4 of my uncles have been killed in one day in front of my own eyes from serbians(people who u call friendly)and they were just having dinner.Shame on u goran when u write things without knowing what has the true story of ballkan

Anonymous said...

Hi All, I hope you will forgive me if I join the discussion without making any statement. I do not mean to ignore any of you, I simply think the research for truth here is rather sterile.A mess happened there, well too complex for anybody, in my opinion, to claim they possess the truth.Anyway, I have tried as well to get in touch with Diana Johnstone and having been unsuccesfull, I was wondering if anybody could be gentle enough to let me have her contact details.
All the best


Anonymous said...

Diana Johnstone is a rare decent and honest person. She thinks with her head instead of soaking up prevailing mas-media poltrons, who do not have courage to question their bosses motives and interests.

Anonymous said...

Diana Johnstone has her own convictions and opinions.

She is an opionionist.

She selects facts that support her opinions and labels it "truth". There are like minded individuals that then subscribe to this "truth".

I have heard her make statements that are on the surface logically flawed. Unfortunately for Diana Johnstone, the world is more complex than can be accounted for by the "truth"