The Second Coming of Joe McCarthy: David Gibbs Responds to Hoare’s Criticisms
I am very happy for any debate to take place in the comments pages below, but anyone tempted to contribute should first read my comments policy, make an effort to understand it and realise that their first post on this blog will need to be approved.
I don’t implement political censorship, but I do get a lot of spam from neo-Nazis, Far Right headbangers and some pretty nasty antisemites. So I hope that readers will be understanding. MB]
A guest post by David N. Gibbs.
“I see that Marko Atilla Hoare has been busy attacking my book, First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia
(Vanderbilt University Press, 2009). His attacks have appeared on his own blog site, Greater Surbiton, as well as on Modernityblog.
In undertaking these attacks, however, Hoare has omitted important
information, which readers have a right to know: That the book
presented an extended critique of Hoare’s own publications on this
topic, and so he is not a disinterested party. To be specific, my book criticized Hoare’s work for shoddy scholarship, which included mischaracterizing the ethnic makeup of the Yugoslav National Army (p. 252), omitting information that the US sabotaged Bosnian peace talks (262), providing an inaccurate account of testimonies before the Hague tribunal (274), and neglecting evidence of Al Qaeda involvement in Bosnia (280). I understand Hoare’s anger that I have criticized his work, but he really should let readers know when he has a vested interest in a book that he is reviewing.
And Hoare’s recent attacks contain major factual errors. For example,
Hoare claims that my book “suppresses the history of Serb mass killings of Bosniaks in east Bosnia in 1992.” Wrong. Here is what my book actually says (122):
As war began [in 1992], Serb forces launched a major offensive in
northeast Bosnia, taking over a series of villages of mixed
ethnicity, and then expelling most of the non-Serb inhabitants by
force. By the end of 1992, Serb forces had overrun large portions of
Bosnia-Herzegovina, and they controlled approximately 70 percent of the whole area of the country. The process of ethnic cleansing, for
which the war became famous, had begun… The Bosnia conflict
quickly became notorious for the scale of atrocities, especially
those perpetrated by Serb forces against Muslim civilians. The
widespread practice of ethnic cleansing was often associated with
the killing of noncombatants, and also the raping of women and girls.
Thus Hoare’s claim – that I suppressed information on Serb atrocities in 1992 – is baseless. Hoare is of course entitled to criticize my book, but he is not entitled to do so on the basis of fiction.
Hoare also claims that Gibbs “hasn’t bothered to engage with the
existing literature, but simply ignored all the existing works that
undermine his thesis.” He then lists five specific authors that I
supposedly failed to cite (Michael Libal, Richard Caplan, Daniele
Corversi, Brendan Simms, and Hoare himself). Wrong again. In fact I
cited four of these authors, each several times, and also included them in the bibliography. Hoare’s own writings were cited in four separate endnotes. His claim that I have ignored these authors is thus baseless.
I am unsure whether I should be more impressed by the extravagance of
Hoare’s misstatements, or by the sloppiness of his fact checking.
And there is yet more sloppiness: Hoare writes that the research for my book entailed “regurgitating English-language sources,” previously used by others. This claim is ridiculous, a point that will be evident to anyone who glances at the extensive list of primary sources in my 26-page bibliography. Finally Hoare implies that my book relies too heavily on the writings of University of Ottawa economist Michel Chossudovsky, someone that Hoare does not like. In reality I cited Chossudovsky exactly once (out of more than a thousand separate endnotes).
As is typical of his writing, Hoare grandiosely overstates his own
accomplishments and presents himself as a leading authority on the
topic of my book; he is not. In reality, my book was a study of the
international relations of the Yugoslav wars, a topic on which Hoare
has no qualifications. He also lacks access to German-language sources, which are crucial to understanding the diplomacy of this period. And given Hoare’s numerous factual errors, the scholarly content of his work is thin.
Throughout, Hoare creates the impression that my book was an extended
apologia for Serb conduct. This is wildly inaccurate. In fact, my book extensively described Serb atrocities in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo, and noted that Serb atrocities were much larger than those undertaken by other ethnic groups. I also discussed at length the nefarious role of Slobodan Milosevic in helping to make all of this possible, a fact that again runs contrary to the impressions created in Hoare’s review.
To state my position: I have no particular sympathy or hostility toward any of the ethnic groups in the Balkans, and present the facts as objectively as possible. Such is not the case for Dr. Hoare, however, whose work is heavily slanted against the Serbs, and in favor of their adversaries, especially the Croats. In making this point, I do not reference Dr. Hoares own ethnic background or his motives, since these are irrelevant. Instead, I refer to the content of Hoare’s writings, which represent an extended exercise in ethnic partisanship.
Let us now turn to Dr. Hoare’s “style” of argumentation. One his main
techniques is to attack the motives of his opponents. He does this in
recent postings on Modernityblog, during an argument with an anonymous blogger called Asteri. Hoare attacks Asteri as “a self confessed Greek nationalist” – as if this refutes his/her arguments. The response is obvious: Even if the blogger is a Greek nationalist, why should anyone care?
The blogger’s ethnic background and politics have no bearing on whether the substantive claims are right or wrong, and Hoare’s ad hominem attacks only serve to distract. Yet, ad hominem attacks remain a staple feature of Hoare’s writing style. All of this is not the mark of the objective scholar but of the polemicist – which is exactly what Hoare really is. Hoare’s ad hominem attacks would be perfectly acceptable on the talk radio shows. But they are discrediting for someone who poses as a scholar.
Another of Dr. Hoare’s techniques is to threaten writers who might
disagree with his opinions. In a recent posting to Greater Surbiton, he boasts:
A couple of years ago I sacrificed a couple of days of my life to writing a review that cataloged the numerous falsehoods and
distortions contained in the sensationalist anti-Muslim propaganda
tracts about the Bosnian war written by Christopher Deliso and John Schindler. Since then, I have never seen either of those books cited by any reputable author. If my review contributed to this happy state of affairs, then writing it was a worthwhile use of my time.
He also states that writers who disagree with his positions are “like
lambs to the slaughter,” who will surely “sacrifice any reputations
they might have.”
It is very unusual to see a professor boast publicly – in writing no
less – that he will destroy the reputations and presumably the careers of those who dare to disagree. Note also the venomous tone of his statements. Apparently, Hoare is not interested in refuting arguments through reasoned debate, since reason has no place in his method. Instead, he destroys reputations; and he seems to do so recklessly, without regard for the facts.
Now, I am a tenured full professor and am unimpressed by his threats.
And in truth, I plan to use some of Hoare’s more hysterical accusations as a blurb for future printings of my book; it will no doubt sell copies. However, I can well imagine the chilling effect that these attacks have on younger writers, who will feel constrained by the poisonous atmosphere that Hoare has helped to create. The overall effect has been to stifle free debate, by intimidating potential debaters.
In essence, Dr. Hoare and his network of neocon friends at the Bosnian Institute and the Henry Jackson Society have designated themselves as the new Thought Police, while conducting their own little witch hunt.
Anyone who wants evidence of this witch hunt can just click on Hoare’s website, which is pretty self incriminating.
If Hoare has a sense of fair play, he will attach this reply to his
website, along with his attack on me. He will also correct his more
egregious factual errors.
David N. Gibbs
Professor of History and Government
University of Arizona ”
Update 1: [From one of Santa’s helpers], Dr. Hoare has replied at Greater Surbiton, in a post entitled: First Check Their Sources: On David N. Gibbs and ‘shoddy scholarship’. Here’s a small extract:
I shall deal shortly with the specific points Gibbs raises, but let us first make this clear: it is wholly untrue that Gibbs’s book has ‘presented an extended critique’ of my own publications. Anyone reading Gibbs’s book without examining carefully the endnotes would not even notice that I had been criticised at all: my name does not appear in the text itself, nor in the index. Gibbs has four trivial quibbles with me, buried in his endnotes. Gibbs does not, as he now claims, accuse me in his book of ‘shoddy scholarship’, and has made this accusation only in his subsequent reply to me. I cannot help but suspect that he has only decided I am guilty of ‘shoddy scholarship’ after reading my critique of his book.
If my own mum, dad, best friend, girlfriend or granny had reviewed my work, and come up with nothing more substantial than Gibbs’s four quibbles, I’d feel I was getting off lightly and that they were being too soft on me. If all four of his quibbles were entirely justified, I hardly think they would mark me down as a ‘shoddy scholar’. “