Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Diana Johnstone Shows Her Cards

In the comments section of this post on this blog, an anonymous poster passed along the following link:

"Why the French Hate Chomsky" By DIANA JOHNSTONE"; he or she also suggested that "I think some of her criticism is driven by emotional issues." I rather glibly agreed with him/her, intending only to suggest that her "analysis" is neither honest nor serious.

Frequent reader Owen countered, quite rightly, that there is nothing "emotional" about this latest screed from the well-known genocide denier; her work on such issues is rather deliberate and self-aware. As I noted several times in my lengthy deconstruction of her truly awful work on the Bosnian War, Johnstone clearly knows enough about the facts and information which would obliterate her painstakingly crafted arguments to avoid them completely; nobody can negotiate the minefield of contrary information and eyewitness testimony as successfully as she does if they are actually unaware of those inconvenient complications. Johnstone knows what she is doing.

But what, exactly, is it that she is doing? This rambling, open letter-turned-editorial screed doesn't address Bosnia except in passing, but it does reveal some of the larger ideological agenda that Johnstone and other advocates of a Red-Brown/anti-liberal democracy coalition are crafting. I no longer believe that these people are unconsciously stumbling into the embrace of petty fascists such as Hamas and the Serbian Radical Party; Johnstone, Chomsky, and others have concluded that the far right are their best allies in a fight to undermine the liberal order. Johnstone set out merely to scold the French media and intelligensia for being insufficiently deferential to Chomsky, but the scope of this open letter soon widens greatly. In order to make her case that Chomsky was a "victim" of a concerted Western ideological campaign to discredit him, she chooses to elaborate what the ideological underpinings of this supposed campaign are.

First off, though, the obvious needs to be stated--Johnstone is a terrible writer. She veers between addressing Chomsky directly ("Dear Noam"; "to see you in person") to referring to him in third person ("deep geopolitical significance that Chomsky has") in the same paragraph! Of course, the reasons why Johnstone is such a poor writer are easy enough to ascertain--good writing is clear writing, and clear writing is a product of clear thinking, a reasonable mastery of the subject material, and most of all of intellectual honesty. Johnstone seeks not to illuminate but to obscure and obfusticate; she does so through tortured logic, selective use of decontextualized facts, and a disingenuous misrepresentation of opposing viewpoints and contrary information. If she were a more effective demagogue or a crudely emotional populist, she might be able to somewhat transcend the feeble foundations of her arguments, but Johnstone is a drearily pedestrian propagandist and therefore her rhetoric is thoroughly hampered by her decision to dissemble, deceive, and mislead. She cannot write clearly because her ideas would not withstand the scrutiny which direct presentation would subject them to.

But while Johnstone cannot bluntly state the collectivist/anti-liberal ideology she espouses without setting off alarm bells, it's all there in this letter. And not by accident--Johnstone has rather neatly laid out the underlying rationale for the far-Left embrace of, and advocacy for, genocide denial.

Her assertion that the "the animosity you have aroused in certain circles in France may have less to do with linguistics than with your role as the most prominent American critic of US foreign policy" might be attempt at humor, but is also a neat summation of how Johnstone, Chomsky, and their comrades deflect any and all criticism of their ridiculous claims and dissembling--by dismissing all specific criticism of specifics as merely general attacks on the general idea of a critique at all. Chomsky, in other words, is not attacked for supporting Hamas, or the Khmer Rouge, or for making any of his many inaccurate, misleading, and/or dishonest statements about American foreign policy and history--no, all attacks on him are clearly simply a reaction to his status as a critic of American foreign policy, period. Of course, Johnstone is a little too shrewd to actually say that; but this standard defense gets used with such regularity, there is little need to give her the benefit of the doubt.

The rest of the paragraph after the above quote is worth noting:

"My own opinion is that this role as virtual symbol of systematic moral criticism of American foreign policy is the fundamental cause of the campaign against you that began over thirty years ago. To my mind the uproar first over Cambodia and then over the defense of Professor Robert Faurisson’s right to express his views freely was essentially a means to the end of discrediting the leading American critic of United States imperialism."

And there we have it--there is a "campaign" against Noam Chomsky, and the issues at the core concern his statements on the genocide of the Khmer Rouge and the Holocaust denial of Robert Faurisson. Fine--at least she does not ignore the elephant in the middle of the room. So what to make of this?

First, though, Johnstone needs "to put this argument in context". No doubt. The context, then, is the Cold War--specifically, American hegemony over the West during that period. Johnstone is not entirely incorrect to describe Europe at this time as being split between "the two victorious nations" (United States and USSR), but her analysis seems to reduce the situation to nothing but a division of spoils, with nothing to choose between the two. Citizens who lived under the two different systems might beg to differ with that.

But that is another issue. What is of interest here is how Johnstone, as she so often does, dresses a simplistic dichotomy up in the guise of nuanced, sophisticated analysis. Not very well, but she tries--French intellectuals were split between the elite who were secretly anti-American and the more pubilc (and presumably less qualified) intellectuals who were either pro-American or, as she prefers, "anti-French."

That is really the crux of the matter--Johnstone is truly a statist and a collectivist, who can only conceive of people as being part of a group of some kind. What "French interests" are or might be is something she doesn't feel needs to be be addressed. What is important to her is that far too many of these French intellectuals don't feel that they need to be lectured to by Noam Chomsky; the reason for this, as it turns out, is that "Chomsky's criticism is laden with facts", a statement as bland as it is questionable. But she runs with this idea for a full paragraph; it is striking how self-evident she believes this to be. Chomsky deals in a large volume of facts and clear analysis--evidently this is not up for discussion. If you disagree with Noam Chomsky or object to his general critiques, then you are clearly uncomfortable with facts and clear thinking. End of discussion.

It is quite tiresome to follow her plodding thought process by which she repeats Chomsky's standard defense of his activity on behalf of the Khmer Rogue and Robert Faurisson's Holocaust denial--that his activities did not constitute support for either, but rather for the rather vague notion of "free speech." This allows her to avoid the necessity to clearly state what she or Chomsky actually think about either "issue"; the notion that there is any validity to the charges in question is simply irrelvent to her. Yet she goes on to speak of the Holocaust ("Shoah myth" as she soon comes to refer to it as) as "dogma."

Now, I have serious objections to laws which criminalize such garbage as genocide denial, and if that was truly all that Chomsky and Johnstone are concerned with, there would be no argument. But that has never been the case; neither one of them has ever had the moral honesty to discriminate between Faurisson's right to spread his dishonest filth versus the legitimacy of his claims, which are of course complete nonsense.

Johnstone moves right along to the larger claim that the "Shoah cult" has had a sinister effect:

"Initially, Nazi crimes were taught as contrary to humanity in general, but as identification of victims has been increasingly centered on Jews, the effect is to implicitly divide school children between potential victims, namely the Jews, and everyone else, whose innocence is less assured."

This is complete garbage; the Holocaust was an actual historic event which actually happened at a certain time and place, and was carried out by actual people against actual people; it was not an abstraction which imposes a template on all people at all places and times.

Johnstone, however, assures the reader that this very template is now applied to situations which, she states without explanation, do not qualify as "genocide" (where have seen from the review of "Fools' Crusade" that Johnstone is in no position to lecture anyone on the meaning of the term). And yes, one of those places was Bosnia, where the Muslims eagerly accepted the role of "Victim" in order to play the proper role in order to curry American favor. Srebrenica, it turns out, was nothing more than a shrewd act of foreign policy.

There is really nothing more to be said. The rest of the article treats Chomsky's visit as if it were an event of immense geopolitical significance; Johnstone seems genuinely mystified that the entire French media didn't simply turn over their cameras and microphones to the cranky America-hating linguist to let him lecture the entire nation. As for her argument tying the Cold War to her implication that "genocide" is little more than an ideological tool by the West to divide and conquer the rest of the world, all that remains to note is this--many have noted that Bosnian genocide denial is incredibly similar to Holocaust denial. Yet it is no coincidence that so many of the people involved in the the former have also dabbled in the latter. Bosnian genocide denial is not, as it turns out, like Holocaust denial--it is Holocaust denial. We can thank Diana Johnstone for spelling that out.

Update on the Angelina Jolie Film

Well, I feel like an ass for falling for what seems to have been a propaganda campaign to discredit a well-intentioned effort to bring international attention back to Bosnia and the aftereffects of the war. In short--the rumors were false; the movie is not about a Bosnian woman falling in love with her Serb rapist (and even if it were, it should not have been censored), and once again the cynacism of apologists for the Greater Serb nationalist project knows no bounds.

Rather than rehashing the story, I will simply redirect readers to this excellent analysis from the always-excellent "Greater Surbiton" blog.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation" by Silber and Little [11]


This section takes up the bulk of the remaining text; indeed, it makes up over a third of the book in total. By this point in the narrative, it is clear that the war which was brought to Bosnia was driven by forces outside the republic; by the time the fighting broke out, whatever chances there had been to avert it had long since been squandered by the republic's political leadership.

Chapter 15: Before the Deluge July 1990-March 1992

This chapter essentially catches the reader "up to speed" on events in Bosnia while first Slovenia and then Croatia were engulfed by radical nationalism, paramilitary intimidation, and finally full-fledged war.

Much of the chapter is taken up with the political developments in Bosnia after multiparty elections were held; as in the other republics, nationalist parties easily dominated the election returns--a situation only exacerbated by the republic's constitution, which dictated that representation was by nation, not individuals. The chapter also discusses Muslim intellectual, SDA leader, and eventual Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, who turned out to be a mostly ineffectual leader who did little more than provide ammunition for his nationalist opponents such as Radovan Karadzic. Izetbegovic was more "Islamic" than most of his people; this would create drawbacks for the Bosnian Muslims and precious few benefits.

It was obvious almost from the start that the Serb leadership in the SDS had no interest in a unified independent Bosnia; the Croat leadership in the HDZ made a tactical alliance with the Muslims but it was purely a temporary marriage of convenience; the Croats were in no position to take on either of the larger groups politically but at least the nationalist Croats of Herzegovina had a longer-term goal of union with Croatia proper. While the Serbs quietly armed and radicalized their civilian population, Izetbegovic stumbled closer and closer towards a war he made no significant preparations for. It is true that his hands were largely tied, and that his options were few and mostly dictated by others; but his failure to recognize what was coming and to make better preparations would soon cost his government, his about-to-be-independent state, and the Muslims of Bosnia dearly.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Angelina Jolie Film Project Meets Opposition in Bosnia

I hope to return to regular blogging in the next few days; in the meantime, here's an update on actress Angelina Jolie's controversial film:

Jolie: People should 'hold judgment' until they see Bosnian film

I don't know enough about the project to have an opinion yet.