Thursday, February 19, 2009

AW post in praise of decency shock

Marko Attila Hoare is an odd bloke. His espousal of the HJS worldview and his penchant for absurd diagrams sometimes invited ridicule. Likewise, his insistence on interpreting every event in world politics through the prism of the Balkans leads to bizarre conclusions: such as backing McCain over Obama. However, though highly-partisan, it is undeniable that he knows his stuff when it comes to the former Yugoslavia. I'm not sure that other writers at AW will agree with me about this, but I found his review (HP Sauce version) of a section of Richard Seymour's The Liberal Defence of Murder rather convincing. True, I think Marko (here and elsewhere) presents Seymour as being more pro-Milosevic than he really is. But Marko does establish that Seymour's sources are unreliable and that his emphases are perverse.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just so that there is no misunderstanding, I am not at all "pro-Milosevic", and never have been. Hoare's review, as I discuss on my blog, is packed with misrepresentations. You're better off reading the book to find out.

2/19/2009 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very ambivalent about Seymour's stuff- some of it is good, some of it is terrible- but I do wonder if his book contained anything as ridiculous as this:

Broadly speaking, this book is a critique of liberal and left-wing supporters of humanitarian military intervention, as in the cases of Bosnia, Kosova, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Anyone who think Iraq and Afghanistan were humanitarian intervenions is an idiot, however extensive their knowledge of Balkan history.

2/19/2009 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger The Rioja Kid said...


Greater Surbiton: Richard reports an amazingly one-sided view of things and takes the views of nutters and cranks as gospel.

Lenin's Tomb: Marko reports an amazingly one-sided view of things and takes the views of nutters and cranks as gospel.

I am reminded of the startlingly accurate assessments made by Malcolm McLaren and Johnny Rotten of each other's shortcomings.

2/19/2009 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, but, Bruschettaboy, it's not that MAH is 'one-sided', whereas I am somehow sublimely dispensing a View From Nowhere. I make no bones about the fact that I am engaging in a polemic rather than a rounded history of the Balkans. And I'm not going to hide the fact that I deeply disagree with some of the views of Johnstone and Parenti, for example. But a) they aren't 'nutters' and b) it was inevitable given the politics of this that much of the critical commentary in the West would come from people with a more or less Stalinist background. That doesn't mean everything they say is rubbish. Continuing with the 'nutters' business, I would also make the point that it is a bit ridiculous for Hoare to dismiss people like Philip Corwin for contributing to the Srebrenica Research Group. Corwin was the UN's chief political officer in Bosnia and the memoir I cite is a serious engagement written for a university press. It was evidently because of his bruising experiences with the Bosnian political elite - including death threats - that he adopted a more critical approach. And it was his personal experiences and their contrast with a media narrative that more or less deified the Bosnian government that led him to contribute a foreword to Herman et al's collective efforts, unconvincing as their conclusions are by my lights.

2/19/2009 01:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another difference is that MAH, whatever you think of him, knows what he is talking about. He even speaks Serbo-Croat. Lenin doesn't know what he is talking about, and only really speaks student.

2/19/2009 02:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lenin doesn't know what he is talking about, and only really speaks student.

How sweet. Look, I can just side-step the logic of blogging cat-fights, let me say that I freely admit that I don't have the in-depth knowledge of this topic that MAH has, and don't speak Serbo-Croat (although perhaps you are being a little bit unfair in expecting that). He is a trained historian, and I am a writer relying mainly on secondary sources.

That being the case, though, why does he find it necessary to invent things? Shouldn't it be a relatively simple matter for him engage with the relatively brief (22 pages) discussion in a wholly honest way? He gives himself almost 4k words to do so, almost half the length of the passage he is discussing (much of which he actually ignores), and he still has to pad it out with obvious misdirection and gauche errors. How can that be given his estimable expertise of the subject?

2/19/2009 03:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking a language does not disqualify ot qualify some one from being an expert, MAH to my knowledge does not speak Albanian, Greek or Russian and he still seems to think he is a an expert on these countries his recent artical on the Greek protests is testiment to how ignorant or diluded he is on the subject. As a trained historian be it a highly dishonest and biast one MAH simply produces highly dishonest & biast propgandistic misrepresentations of history that certain people in high placese are happy to spread around as being factual. One would not regard Andrew Roberts a speaker of english to produce an accurate and unbiast acount of the British Raj for example.

2/19/2009 07:20:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I'm away for a few days (well away from the internet, her relatives are visiting) but a couple of brief points:

a. I tend to think the description "pro-Milosevic" should be reserved for people who actually support Milosevic, who say he's a good thing, as opposed to people who don't think he's done everything he's accused of. I think (and have said so before) that this particular trope isn't just damaging to discussion, but in the particular context of the Balkan conflict it was where the peculiar nastiness of the Decent style kicked off.

b. one problem with the Balkan conflict is that nearly all sources tend to be partisan and therefore it's always possible to paint one's opponents' sources as tainted.

Must go. Good weekends to all.

2/20/2009 09:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Justin, and I have some sympathy for Lenin in being subjected to Marko's "death by footnote" procedure. Yes, in the early 90s it was rather aggravating that some people, if you politely disagreed with them, would start accusing you of being an apologist for all sorts of unspeakable things that you didn't remotely support. Marko's dad was rather energetic along those lines, and the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

By the way, Misha Glenny speaks Serbo-Croat reasonably well, as do I. On the other hand, neither I nor (I presume) Misha set ourselves up as Grand Inquisitor and Guardian of All That's True. Marko does have an extensive knowledge of the sources, particularly in the areas that he's studied academically. But he needs to realise that he's not a superhero with the fate of the world in his hands. He's a junior academic with a blog. All this Titus Oates stuff just pisses people off and makes them less inclined to pay attention to whatever valid points he has to make.

By the way, I've read Richard's book and enjoyed it. My review copy of Marko's mum's book is staring up at me as we speak...

2/20/2009 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'My review copy of Marko's mum's book is staring up at me as we speak...'

I'm sure she's shitting herself, just like I was after you threatened to feed me my socks.

2/20/2009 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this is fair enough, but it seems a bit beside the point, given that the review nowhere accuses Richard Seymour of being "pro-Milosevic".

What it does say is

he attempts to argue that military intervention was wrong because 1) Serb atrocities, and Milosevic’s regime, were not as bad as liberal interventionists made them out to be; and 2) that the Croatians and Bosnians were not worthy of being defended by Western military intervention, because their governments were just as bad as Milosevic’s - possibly worse - and were guilty of the same atrocities

Or in summary

what Seymour has written is a defence of the Milosevic regime and Serb ethnic-cleansing from their liberal critics

I won't comment any further just yet; I've read MAH's review (with Updates!!1!) but not Seymour's reply (let alone the book).

2/20/2009 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Marko, stop googling yourself. It's embarassing.

2/20/2009 03:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Oh Marko, stop googling yourself. It's embarassing.'

It's particularly embarrassing when half the results turn out to be links to Aaronovitch Watch.

2/20/2009 04:36:00 PM  
Blogger cian said...

oooooooh, look at her!

2/20/2009 05:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this is fair enough, but it seems a bit beside the point, given that the review nowhere accuses Richard Seymour of being "pro-Milosevic"

But what you quote from him, what he does actually write, is tantamount to the same thing. And he has, of course, made similar, equally preposterous accusations elsewhere, based on equally disingenuous exegeses from my comments boxes.

I just want to point out what a contemptuous attitude to the truth is entailed in Hoare's inquisition, for all the scholarly pretensions. By his logic, disputing the manifestly absurd mobilisation of Holocaust memory in supporting one of the gangsters in the civil war - not merely absurd, but morally grotesque if you think about it - makes you a effectively a 'defender' of one of the other gangsters. By which logic, his disputing my use of Hudson's 300k figure for the number ethnically cleansed during Operation Storm constitutes a "a defence of the Tudjman regime and Croatian ethnic-cleansing from their critics".

Note that there is a sort of legal precedent, established by Hoare's parents, that to straightforwardly falsify the record on a state leader in his favour in no sense makes one an "apologist", and anyone who says it does can be prosecuted and end up oweing a lot of money. Now, at no point in my book did I say anything as barbarous as Hoare senior and Magas did during their period as - well, we may not say "apologists" on pain of litigation - but as supporters of Croatian nationalism. So, if I were a brittle bully with a lot of time and resources, I would surely have ample grounds for suing Hoare jr.

2/20/2009 07:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, dear.

2/20/2009 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

given that the review nowhere accuses Richard Seymour of being "pro-Milosevic".

Ah, the term came from the post above which these comments are made...

2/22/2009 09:29:00 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Sane review from Phillippe "Torture Lawyers" Sands in this weekend's Grauniad.

2/22/2009 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger StuartA said...

I don't know if I'd describe this as entirely sane:

Over the long term, the real critique of those who supported the latest Iraq war is that they killed off any hope, for now at least, of garnering support to use force where massive violations of fundamental human rights are taking place.

I also don't quite understand how a review that quotes Seymour as talking of the US as "the chief inheritor of the legacy of violent white supremacy" can shift immediately to calling this "what Seymour perceives as US excess".

2/22/2009 09:18:00 PM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

Balkan footnotes maybe just as much a quagmire as the politics. For those with access through academic sites, this paper may be of interest:

Democracy and Propaganda: NATO's War in Kosovo
Mark A. Wolfgram
European Journal of Communication, Jun 2008; vol. 23: pp. 153 - 171.

From the abstract: The article shows the construction of two illusions: the illusion of multiple sources and the illusion of independent confirmation. In the end, these ‘truths’ and frameworks filter into scholarship, as many scholars begin to base their interpretations on these ‘facts’

I'm sure that Marko will have a suitable riposte, backed up by er. copious footnotes.

2/24/2009 09:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, Wile E. Coyote sets his cunning and elaborate trap for Road Runner...

2/24/2009 03:47:00 PM  
Blogger frunobulax said...

"Road Runner" -- well you are fleet of foot(note)!

(f'lax groans at lameness of own wit).

2/24/2009 04:41:00 PM  

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