Review: Circle In The Darkness By Diana Johnstone

Today I’m sharing my review of a book that’s not new but has new significance for our understanding of geopolitical realities unfolding in Europe today.

CIRCLE IN THE DARKNESS: Memoir of a World Watcher 

by Diana Johnstone Clarity Press, 2020

With German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock cheerleading the proxy war in Ukraine and telling reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin had better make a 360 degree turn or else, many of us wonder what happened to turn Green Party members in Europe toward supporting NATO’s wars. Now that I’ve read this rich memoir by Diana Johnstone, former press secretary for the Green Group in the European Parliament that preceded the EU, I can see how it happened. And probably why.

Paris, 1967 AFP/Getty Images

Johnstone’s story starts long before the current three party coalition government took power in Germany. When she found herself a divorced single mother in an era when the history department of her state university declared that they didn’t “give teaching positions to women,” she switched disciplines, moved to France, and still found time to join the vibrant expatriate antiwar movement of the Vietnam era. A self-described “timid militant,” Johnstone found herself studying French literature for a Ph.D. and French colonialism in “Indochina” for her own edification.

It wasn’t long before she found her true path: journalism. Reflecting on the conditions she describes for reporters in the mid 20th century compared with today’s harsh, even fatal consequences for authentic reporting shows how profoundly things have changed. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh once received a Pulitzer prize and was published in major outlets eager to share his exposé of events like the My Lai massacre coverup. He’s now spurned by his former publishers and must self-publish in order to report on “How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline.” Johnstone’s long career straddled this divide.

She identifies the moment when the Green Group in Europe lost its soul as occurring in 1995 during NATO’s war to break up the former Yugoslavia. “Something grave..happened to the Greens. They..allowed mass media choice of star personalities to determine a major policy issue.” As mainstream media today continues its shift toward infotainment requiring colorful personalities to cover in lieu of challenging government officials, her experiences seem prescient. A legion of photogenic performers like Foreign Minister Baerbock continue to entertain while the real decisions affecting the fate of the world are made in secret, deep behind the façade of elected personalities.

Nevada, 1951

A quote from Albert Einstein serves as Johnston’s epigram and the source of her title: “As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it.” Today, the circumference of darkness is ever widening; in Eurasia with proliferating nuclear weapons, and globally as war moves into outer space, darkness threatens to engulf us.

War On Palestine Requires War On Truth, Death To Journalists

Women in Jordan mourn Shireen Abu Akleh  photo source: Haaretz

With sadness I awoke to the news that Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh was shot in the head by Israeli forces (IDF) in the West Bank region of occupied Palestine. 

The journalist was wearing body armor with PRESS in bold letters on her flak vest; presumably a sniper aimed for her head?

Here’s the last known photo of Abu Akleh, doing her job:

Photo source: Arwa Ibrahim on Twitter

Israel has been violently evicting families in the West Bank while bombing Gaza and Damascus in recent days. Abu Akleh was covering an IDF raid on the Jenin refugee camp when she was murdered.

Rapper Lowkey took the Associated Press to task in a tweet about their reporting of the incident.

All the terror is not on one side. For the second Ramadan in a row the IDF targetted worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, wounding some and arresting others, while Palestinians repelled IDF soldiers by throwing rocks and petrol bombs. And an unusual event inside Israel this week resulted in three deaths by stabbing in a knife and ax attack near Tel Aviv. The two assailants were believed to be Palestinian young men from Jenin.

Also hard to see as coincidental was an act of terrorism (i.e. instilling fear) on a flight from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport where passengers were sent photos of various airline crashes while waiting to fly to Turkey. Twitter eerily reported these two news events consecutively in their “What’s Happening” section this morning.

A search of the Committee to Protect Journalists database revealed 17 other journalists killed by the IDF in either occupied Palestine or Israel itself:

War on journalists is not new but has ramped up in recent years especially as the poster boy for press freedom, Julian Assange, languishes in Belmarsh Prison awaiting word of his possible extradition to the U.S. to be charged as a spy. Assange is an Australian citizen whose wikileaks website published evidence of U.S. and Israeli war crimes, and he has been publicly tortured for practicing journalism in the years since.

RIP Shireen Abu Akleh and all who dare to report truth amid the fog of wars.