A Critical U.S. Perspective on the Ordfront Controversy
I entered the Ordfront controversy as a critical student of propaganda and the manufacture of consent, and as a dissident analyst of the media's treatment of the Balkan wars. In the latter connection, I was very familiar with
As regards the matter of propaganda and the manufacture of consent, I have long been impressed with the ease, speed and uniformity with which the
The extreme gullibility of the media in this case, their refusal to investigate and even think about logic and plausible deniability, and the marginalization and discrediting of the few who tried to challenge the party line, was remarkable, and demonstrated the capability of a legally free press to swallow a narrative built on selective evidence and lies, under the discipline of official need and propaganda and ideological and institutional forces making for ready gullibility. This case is hardly unique,  and this process has almost surely become more common and more widespread with
The treatment of the Balkans wars in the Western media, and the negative reception in
The establishment narrative is built on avoiding context, such as Jasenovac, a misreading of the important EU and U.S. role in preparing the ground for ethnic cleansing and preventing a negotiated settlement (notoriously, in the U.S.-Izetbegovic sabotaging of the Lisbon accord in 1992), and a huge inflation of and one-sided focus on Serb crimes, helped along by the work of the ICTY which has served as a thoroughly politicized propaganda arm of NATO.  The crucial point, however, is that there is an alternative narrative, that does not deny Serb crimes in a vicious civil war, but argues that the NATO role was highly negative, helping to bring about ethnic conflict, giving their favored sides (Bosnian Muslim, Croatian, and Kosovo Albanian) not only military and diplomatic support but an incentive to behave and propagandize so as to bring NATO in to fight their civil war for them; that ethnic cleansing was carried out on a large scale on all sides (the Croatian ethnic cleansing of Serbs from Krajina in August 1995, with U.S. aid, was the single largest cleansing operation in the Balkan wars; the Kosovo Albanian cleansing of Serbs, Roma, et al. under NATO rule was the largest proportionate ethnic cleansing in these wars); that the ICTY was a PR instrument designed to help NATO fight and crush Serbia; and that the huge western media bias on these issues contributed notably to the disaster from beginning to end.
This alternative view was supported in whole or part by a number of former UN and
Johnstone's book offers a very coherent statement of an alternative narrative, and it does this in measured language, with historical and geopolitical context, giving due consideration to facts that conflict with or qualify the main lines of argument, without rhetoric or emotional appeals. She evaluates sources carefully. All this is in contrast with the writings of mainstream authors like David Rieff, Michael Ignatieff, Christopher Hitchens, David Rohde, and Ed Vulliamy, who depend heavily and even proudly on official sources (including Bosnian Muslim officials) and openly admit to being protagonists. None of this qualifies their reception, because they expound the establishment narrative and side with the good guys. Gullibility is acceptable. Johnstone, on the other hand, has been ignored or dismissed, a priori and without debate, because she is allegedly siding with the forces of evil. This is of course unfair but, more importantly, it is incompatible with honest journalism and the search for truth. Time and again unquestionable truths are belatedly revealed to be false, as in the case of the 1981 papal assassination attempt, or Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction, and the failure of journalism to call the lies early can be very costly.
It has been disappointing to see the Swedish political and media establishment swallowing the NATO party line on the Balkans wars, shockingly evident in the biased and propagandistic Kosovo Report, partly underwritten by the Swedish government, and with Carl Tham one of the signatories. Its most widely quoted words, that "The Commission concludes that the NATO military intervention was illegal but legitimate," was a direct repudiation of international law and helped provide the legal environment for the Bush policies in Iraq and elsewhere, allegedly also "legitimate" even if "illegal." The Report suffered from other defects in its apologia for a
This impelled me to write a letter to the Chairman and CEO of Ordfront (Dec. 3, 2003), with a copy to Ericsson, analyzing Ericsson's Dagens Nyheter letter and complaining about his abysmal performance. I received a token and non-substantive reply from Chairman Christina Hagner, but none from Ericsson. Ericsson did write a quasi-reply in Ordfront Magazine of January 2004, "Denying Guilt," to which I made a further reply, published in a shortened version in the March 2004 issue (along with an abridged Johnstone reply), with a further evasive and misleading Ericsson answer in which he announced the debate closed.
Readers of my letters  will understand why the debate was quickly closed: they give detailed evidence that Ericsson could not sustain a single charge against Johnstone based on fact, that in his short critique of Johnstone he himself makes a series of errors and misrepresentations, and that in this area he is an uninformed ideologue who mimics Soviet-style party line argumentation in his critiques by relying heavily on "a common narrative" from which deviationism is not permissible. For Ericsson even discussing the possibility of inflated counts of his preferred victims is not allowed, although he is perfectly free to ignore the numbers and plight of other victims (they are outside of the "common narrative"). On the Racak massacre he relies on (and misrepresents) Helen Ranta, who was selected by OSCE as a lead investigator and was put under intense pressure (which she has repeatedly acknowledged) to say something serviceable to the NATO plans, but Ericsson ignores important equally or better qualified sources and even fails to record Ranta's increasing and belated discomfort with her earlier pressured testimony. His apologia for the work of the Yugoslav Tribunal is complete, along with misrepresentations of Johnstone's (and my own) comments on its work, although its complete subordination to NATO's policies and war plans and laughable judicial qualities are widely recognized. 
In sum, Ericsson's apology to readers of Dagens Nyeter for publishing "grossly mistaken descriptions of serious events where facts are known" was based on a series of errors, evasions, displays of ignorance, and misrepresentations, all in service to a party line. As I said in my followup letter, "Ericsson's ‘Denying Guilt' is a journalistic disaster and disgrace, that repeatedly misrepresents what Johnstone and I have said, continues to produce new factual errors, and while accusing us of ideological bias and selectivity, displays his own ideological bias and selectivity to a degree that would be hard to match. He is a crude apologist for the NATO war against
---- Endnotes ----
 Edward S. Herman, "
 For more details on this and other similar cases, and the process involved, see Edward Herman and
 For an early and effective critical analysis of this bias, Peter Brock, "Dateline
 For an account of the history of the huge Jasenovac massacres: http://www.antiwar.com/malic/?articleid=5751
 This is compellingly demonstrated by Canadian law professor Michael Mandel in his How America Gets Away With Murder (Pluto: 2004).
 Satish Nambiar, "The fatal flaws underlying NATO's intervention in Yugoslavia," USI, New Delhi, April 6, 1999; Cedric Thornberry, "Saving the War Crimes Tribunal," Foreign Policy, Sept. 1996; Charles Boyd, "Making Bosnia Work," Foreign Affairs, Jan./Feb.1998; LTC John E. Sray, "Selling the Bosnian Myth to America: Buyer Beware," Foreign Military Studies Office, Oct. 1995; Phillip Corwin, Dubious Mandate: A Memoir of the UN in Bosnia, Summer 1995 (Duke University Press, 1999); David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (Harcourt Brace & Co., 1995); George Kenney, "Kosovo: On Ends and Means, The Nation, Dec. 27, 1999; Lewis Mackenzie, Peacekeeper: The Road to Sarajevo (Douglas & Macintyre: 1993).
 Kirsten Sellars,, The Rise and Rise of Human Rights (Sutton Publishing: 2002);
 The Independent International Commission on
 I would be happy to supply copies of these letters to interested readers. Request them at: email@example.com
 An excellent discussion is given in Mandel's, How America Gets Away With Murder; see also, Kirsten Sellars, Rise and Rise of Human Rights, and Edward Herman, "The Milosevic Trial, part 1," Z Magazine (April/2002): http://www.zmag.org/zmag/articles/april02herman.htm .