Friday, January 21, 2011

David Gibbs--Another Balkan Revisionist

Any readers of Greater Surbiton or Daniel Toljaga's excellent blog is already aware of the minor storm that was kicked up when Gibbs--who proved himself to be as thin-skinned in debate as he is confused or (more likely) dishonest about American intervention in Yugoslavia--took offense at Marko Attila Hoare's review of his perfectly awful book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia.

Gibbs' response to Hoare wastes no time in indulging in self-pitying hyperbole--the title "The Second Coming of Joe McCarthy" is evidently intended with irony or self-depreciating humor. Gibbs, seemingly, actually believes that he is a persecuted victim simply by virtue of having his horrid little book subjected to a negative review in a blog.

Gibbs' petulant tantrum speaks for itself--he lashes out without dealing in any meaningful way with the substance of Hoare's criticisms, while throwing out unsubstantiated innuendo about "ethnic partisanship" and other slights against his motives. Meanwhile, he actually makes the claim that while Hoare is fluent in Serbo-Croat and he is not, he is actually more qualified to write about the conflict because he is fluent in German! As if being able to read primary sources regarding German diplomacy is more important than Serbo-Croat documents from the region in question; it is astounding that the man was able to write that and not then realize how stupid it makes him sound. But again, I refer you to the hysterically pathetic title of his response. David Gibbs seems to lack both self-awareness and shame.

Those shortcomings come into play in the comments section below, particularly after Marko showed up to defend himself against the ridiculous charges. Gibbs--with an assist from his fanboy Louis Proyect, a hideous defender of the genocide in Bosnia who at one point seriously attacks the Modernity Blog by mocking its low readership (sounding very much like a preteen girl mocking the less popular crowd)--keeps throwing things at Hoare in an increasingly desperate attempt to hope something sticks, or at least distracts the less discerning participants in the argument from the substance of Hoare's arguments and the thinness of his own. At one point, he even throws in a veiled attack on Marko's parents--a loathsome and gutless tactic. Gibbs and Proyect reveal themselves as cowardly, passive-aggressive bullies who turn nasty and vindictive when exposed.

The weakness of Gibbs' book has been ably detailed by others, so for the time being I won't waste any more pixels dragging my poor readers through yet another piece of disengenuous dreck. However, the important thing to know about this book--and the reason that it potentially could be slightly more damaging to the historical record than Johnstone or Parenti's assaults on the truth is because Gibbs has learned a painful lesson that many of his fellow revisionists have yet to fully digest--the facts are in, and their cherished myths have wilted and died in the harsh light of reality. It is no longer possible to pretend that Srebrenica didn't happen or the Racak massacre was faked or the Bosnian Serb Army committed widespread crimes against humanity. That ship has sailed.

Instead, Gibbs hangs his hat on the equally-debunked (but less publicly so) myth that it was Western intervention, not domestic politics, economic insecurity, and constitutional instability, which destroyed Yugoslavia. In order to make this argument, he constructs a strawman caricature of humanitarian interventionism in the first chapter. In this chapter, he reveals the intellectual shallowness and crudeness of his method; despite the superficial improvement over Johnstone and Parenti, Gibbs ultimately makes an argument which requires the reader to accept a simplistic view of the Western/American handling of the Yugoslav wars. He claims a level of deliberate planning and centralized coordination that simply isn't there.

One example will hopefully suffice--while repeatedly dismissing the notion that Western powers were reacting to intense media coverage rather than quietly guiding events from behind the scenes, he often quotes media sources such as the New Republic by way of demonstrating what "the interventionists" believe. In other words--the media are part of the whole conspiracy when it suits his rhetorical purposes, and they are not when they aren't.

And that, really, just about sums it up--facts count when they fit his argument, they don't count when they don't. Context, intellectual honesty, using source material in a manner consistent with the argument and thesis of the source--such traits are absent here. Gibbs seems more reasonable than the rest, but ultimately underneath his sober facade is the same tune being played in a slightly different key.

6 comments:

Srebrenica Genocide said...

What David Gibbs does not understand is that in 1997 German courts sentenced Novislav Djajic to five years for complicity in murders committed in Foca. The judgement ruled that genocide took place in the Bosnian municipality of Foča, but they lacked evidence of his intent to commit it.

In 2001, the German courts sentenced another Bosnian Serb, Maksim Sokolovic, to nine years’ imprisonment for complicity in genocide committed in Kalesija. Now we see that, other than Srebrenica, genocide was proven to had happened in eastern Bosnian municipalities of Foca and Kalesija. But, there is more.

Meanwhile, Germany saw the first trial for genocide since the end of the World War Two when local courts sentenced Nikola Jorgic in 2000 to life imprisonment for genocide in the Doboj area. If you look at the map, Doboj is not in eastern Bosnia, it's very close to Derventa in the North.

Pronouncing the verdict, the German Federal Court said that German courts had the right “to try genocide indictees, no matter where the crime was committed”.

But, there is more.

German courts in 2001 meanwhile sentencted Djuradj Kuslic, a former police chief in Vrbanjci, near Kotor Varos, to life imprisonment for complicity in genocide.

If you look at the map, Kotor Varos is very close to Banja Luka. The town has great historic importance to Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs. During the Bosnian War numerous religious and cultural monuments and landmarks were destroyed by various armed groups, such as the Croatian Roman Catholic Church in the centre of the town. Also notable destruction was found in the southern "Čarsija" region of the town where nearly every single house was destroyed. Bosnian Serb-dominated parts of the town were mainly unaffected by the conflict. It is also important to note that due to the proximity (38 km) of Kotor Varoš to Banja Luka and that the city's post-war population demographic percentages were strongly impacted by this. Bosniaks and Croats virtually disappeared from this - and many other - municipalities.

ModernityBlog said...

Thanks for the assessment, I found it was very disappointing that Professor Gibbs couldn't put a better case, at least for the sake of the debate.

Kirk Johnson said...

Thanks for your comments.

Gibbs, like most Balkan revisionists, is only comfortable discussing his contrived arguments in a closed-loop echo chamber with other like-minded propagandists. Forced to come out in the open and defend his specious claims on their own merits, it's not surprising that he failed so miserably.

Marko Attila Hoare said...

Quite apart from Gibbs's deficiencies as a scholar, the reason why he and similar revisionists fail so badly is that - as I mentioned in my initial post about him - they don't treat the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a serious subject of scholarly enquiry, but merely as another battlefield for their ideological campaign against 'Western imperialism'.

Any attempt at open-minded research would force them to examine carefully then abandon as worthless the Serb-nationalist or 'anti-imperialist' myths about the wars, and to develop more objective interpretations. But since their priority is to uphold the myths, not to carry out open-minded research, they are stuck supporting the ridiculous.

In trying to write a book on that basis, Gibbs failed as soon as he began.

Owen said...

I just don't see why someone gets to be a professor of history who clearly doesn't do his research. Who gets to appoint someone like that?

Anonymous said...

What is genocide?