“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Professor Gibbs, Failure To Address The Issues.

with 7 comments

I finally got around to reading all of the 339+ comments on David Gibbs’ guest post and I must say I am disappointed.

I like academic discussions normally.

I appreciate clever people making intelligent points and I confess to being a fan of Engage, where some witty or informative exchanges are to be found. I had hoped that this guest post would be equally sharp and illuminating, sadly it is not.

Professor Gibbs seems to have made a conscious choice not to address the criticism of his work in any significant way.

From the top of the thread, initially, what can be seen is him pointing to some previous work he’s written, but it doesn’t deflect from the criticism that he pushes a softer form of denial. The first piece is problematic.

These paragraphs show why:

“Without question, the Bosnian Serb army and their political and military leaders must bear the overwhelming burden of guilt for having orchestrated this calamity. However, the Muslim leader Alija Izetbegović must bear some of the blame as well. Contrary to popular belief, Bosnia’s Muslim-led government was in fact quite ruthless and some of its actions helped lay the groundwork for the massacre.

Once again, it is important to emphasize that the bulk of the guilt for the massacre must surely lay with the Serb forces that carried it out. However, we should not whitewash the Muslim government’s role in contributing to the conditions leading up to the massacre.

That lingering “However” is exceedingly unsatisfactory.

Later on Gibbs brings in a completely tangential point, concerning Dr. Hoare’s mother and father.

Further, when Gibbs does make a sizeable contribution (on 27/12/2010 at 06:54) once more he fails to address the criticism of his research methods and book in any thorough way. Instead he goes on the offensive talking about McCarthyism, denunciations and the UK libel laws.

That would be fascinating, in another thread, but it only seeks to confirm the notion that Gibbs does not want to discuss his own work, and is employing the age-old politicians tactic of attack-attack. It is all exceedingly disappointing.

When Gibbs does finally get around to discussing some of the questions, he takes it all personally, rather than looking at how his arguments follow a particular direction.

In his first effort, he argues that he quotes from the Yale Human Rights and Development Journal (without supplying a reference for those who don’t possess his book, rather sloppy):

“The quote criticises the 2003 Krstic decision by the international tribunal at The Hague, which had originally defined the Srebrenica massacre as a case of genocide. The cited article strongly implies that the court had erred in defining that massacre as genocide. Based on the evidence in the article, my endnote concluded that Srebrenica was closer to a war crime than to a genocide. This endnote became the basis of Hoare’s entire claim that I am a “genocide denier.””

However, as was pointed out earlier in the thread, the question hangs not on a single instance, but on the planning, the effort and the conscious desire by Serbian political and military leaders to carry out that mass murder. It’s not the incidental actions of a few, rather a very conscious action, part of a wider scheme, thus in any reasoned fashion could be classified as “genocide”, bearing in mind the historical context.

Still, others have done a far better job of dealing with Gibbs’ arguments and work, I would recommend reading Sarah Correia’s, Malach’s and Mark H’s contributions.

Also, even before any substantive exchange from Gibbs, he is talking of:

“I can see that this debate is winding down, since most of Mr. Hoare’s latest posting only repeats distortions that he has previously made, and which I have addressed and refuted. I have no intention of repeating myself, and interested persons can view my earlier postings. “

I can’t really see Gibbs providing any meaningful refutation on any of these issues. In fact, it appears that he didn’t even understand his interlocutors’ views, therefore could not really see what they were going on about.

Bob summed it up better than I could:

“They detract from the real substance of the argument which are about what happened in Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Similarly, the tendentious comparison of this conflict to other conflicts on the basis of some absolute moral calculus is an example of whataboutery. I personally think that America acted genocidally in Vietnam, but that does not have any bearing whatsoever on what the Serbian forces did or didn’t do in Srebernica.

The refusal to engage on that topic, but instead to insist on throwing around ridiculous comparisons to Pravda, Joe McCarthy and Goebells can be taken to indicate rather weak arguments.

Dr. Hoare details his criticism of Gibbs, again, in his comment of 05/01/2011 at 19:08.

The thread falls away after that.

So it seems to me that whilst Professor Gibbs was given a splendid opportunity to deal with the criticism of his work, he didn’t.

Whilst he could have engaged with the issues in the Balkans, he found other matters more pressing.

All in all, Professor Gibbs showed a failure to address the issues, not a sparkling performance as you might expect. A missed opportunity.

7 Responses

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  1. I too was slightly dissapointed by Prof. Gibbs responce, he didn’t do him self justice, and alowed to him self to be side tracked by posters who resorted to name calling, emotional blackmail, tu quoque and faux rightious moralism. He should of responded by writing subsequent responces like he did the first time, but he is dissadvantaged by not having his own blog to respond properly.


    14/01/2011 at 18:10

  2. I told David that he made a mistake by responding to Hoare here. For one thing hardly anybody reads this blog, which according to Alexa has about 50 percent of my own blog’s traffic and about 25 percent of Lenin’s Tomb. People are just not into checking out “decent left” outlets the way they used to when it was a novelty. I used to check in on Harry’s Place everyday but haven’t looked at it in over 2 years or so. David should have posted his response to Hoare on MRZine or Counterpunch, where the left could get some pleasure out of seeing Hoare exposed. I doubt that with the exception of Asteri and a couple of other leftist opponents of Hoare that anybody pays much attention to what is written here. I myself had never heard of this blog but did have some recollection of Mr. Modernity posting to Harry’s Place.


    14/01/2011 at 22:52

  3. Asteri,

    The issue really is, does he deal with the arguments or provide any new insights into the evidence, that’s what a professional historian should do.

    Sadly, Professor Gibbs didn’t.

    The rest is not terribly relevant.


    15/01/2011 at 02:01

  4. Louis Proyect’s comments are telling–it’s all about ratings, I guess. That, and “exposing” Hoare, although tellingly we aren’t told what he would be exposed FOR.

    Kirk Johnson

    20/01/2011 at 20:44

  5. Reply to the Anonymous and Unaccountable Moderator

    A consistent problem in addressing the substantive issues on Yugoslavia has been the conduct of the moderator, who has slanted the entire discussion in Hoare’s favor, and has violated his own rules of conduct in doing so.

    One example will suffice: On January 11, 2011, the moderator demanded that I “clarify” my views of the Srebrenica massacre, and answer a series of questions regarding the massacre. In reality, I had already addressed all of these points, not once but several times, throughout the course of the debate. In badgering me to repeat myself again and again on this issue, the moderator was in essence posing the classic courtroom question: “When did you stop beating your wife?” I am not interested in playing these games.

    Given the moderator’s conduct, I can well understand why he wishes to remain anonymous.

    Another problem has been the venomous often fanatical tone adopted by many of the posters to Modernityblog. This tone reminds me of the rhetoric I see emanating from right-wing extremist groups in the United States. I have had ample opportunity to view the latter at close range, from where I live in Tucson, Arizona.

    It is for the above reasons that I have dropped out of the debate on Modernityblog some time ago. However, I shortly will be writing a detailed response to the always error-prone Mr. Hoare, which will be posted to Louis Proyect’s website,

    On my book, the anonymous moderator makes the following comment:

    “I suspect that over time Professor Gibbs’ book will be liberally torn apart, for its doubtful use of sources, misrepresentation of data, and speculative interpretations.”

    This certainly sounds like a courageous criticism – until you realize that the “critic” is not even willing to reveal his name.

    David Gibbs

    22/01/2011 at 14:56

  6. For anyone interested, here is the third part of my critique of Gibbs’s book, concerning the myth that Germany encouraged Croatia to secede from Yugoslavia:

    Marko Attila Hoare

    24/01/2011 at 13:45

  7. […] Professor Gibbs, Failure To Address The Issues. […]

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