Lunkheads

Garen Yegparian

BY GAREN YEGPARIAN

Over the last week, much foolishness has been spewed by otherwise intelligent people, and vice versa. Let’s start with the latter.

Texas Gov., and now former Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry actually got it right about Turkey when asked about it in the last presidential debate he attended. He called its leaders terrorists, recommended reviewing Turkey’s membership in NATO, and advocated reducing U.S. foreign aid to Turkey to zero. If a man who is cast in the bumbling, bungling, embarrassing mold of George W. Bush can understand Turkey’s essence, why can’t some of the others mentioned below? Here’s a dumb guy being smart.

Of course, right after Perry’s remarks, the ever sniveling, Turkey-loving State Department immediately rallied to crybaby-bully-Turkey’s defense with the usual drivel about how good an ally Turkey is. Here, it’s smart people being dumb.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, in two capitals, we have more examples of smart being dumb. In Paris, the French Senate is due to vote on a bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian Genocide. Yet a committee of the same body voted to reject it, presumably based on some of the free speech arguments one hears when this type of legislation comes up. I’ll take that argument more seriously when the same people succeed in reversing equivalent laws covering Holocaust denial. Besides, there’s a fundamental weakness in this position, the perpetrator is actively involved in denial and the rewriting of history. There is a political component to discussion of the Armenian Genocide which does not exist in other instances. So it no longer stands solely as a question of healthy academic (or other arena) debate, because the very academicians are being bought off.

Unsurprisingly, Timothy Garton Ash weighed in on this issue with an op-ed piece titled “Speech crimes” (LA Times, January 19) arguing against passage of the French legislation. He’s an Oxford professor and has other impressive credentials. Yet, he’s very “generous” about allowing people, in this case Turkey’s leaders, to say things at others’ expense. He had a similarly problematic piece in the LA Times a few years ago.

Fortunately, not everyone is acting perversely. Algeria’s Prime Minister, Ahmed Ouyahia, had the decency to tell Turkey to back off its exploitation of Algerians’ suffering at the hands of France’s colonial authorities half a century ago during its struggle for liberation. In its ongoing hissy-fit over passage of the denial criminalization bill, Turkey has been accusing France of having committed genocide in Algeria. While France acted despicably then, it was far from genocide. The most delicious part of Ouyahia’s chiding Turkey was his reminder that Turkey provided material support to France at the time!

Despite the unexpected lunkheaded behavior exhibited by some, your mind can be at peace. Some strange malady is not overcoming humanity. Not only do we have the Algerian example of normalcy, but the Turkish one, too. Their reaction to Perry and the French legislation is exactly what you’d expect of them after years of experience with their attempted (and sometimes successful, as with the U.S. Congress) bullying whenever the heat gets turned up on their genocidal history.

Let’s keep up the pressure. Once Turkey does right by us, then we can discuss the free speech concerns raised by some in an appropriate context.

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3 Comments

  1. Peter said:

    Most impressive was the question by asked by Fox News reporter Bret Baier:

    “Governor Perry, since the Islamist-oriented party took over in Turkey, the murder rate of women has increased 1,400 percent there. Press freedom has declined to the level of Russia. The prime minister of Turkey has embraced Hamas and Turkey has threatened military force against both Israel and Cyprus. Given Turkey’s turn, do you believe Turkey still belongs in NATO?”

    Wow.

  2. Harb said:

    Freedom of speech is fundamental to democracy. Freedom of speech must be expansively construed. Yes, denial of the Armenian Genocide is an untrue affirmation. However, the right to affirm should not be abridged because we are angered by the statement or it is untrue. Glad to see the continued affirmation of the Armenian Genocide by France but certainly would not want to see the converse criminalized. As to the position that freedom of speech should be suspended because people speaking to the opposite view are “bought off” is bogus.
    When Turkish interests endow an Academic Department or Chair we see it as buying their statements and assertions but when Armenian interests endow a Academic Department or Chair we see it as supporting the Armenian Cause. When Turkish lobbyists successfully influence a Congressman we see him as a corrupt and foolish. When Armenian interests successfully influence a Congressman we see him as intelligent and knowledgeable. Even if the spokesman has a conflict of interest his or her right to speak should not be abridged. If we divest people of freedom of speech based on biased beliefs or conflict of interest few would be free to speak or write. We would have to silence Garen because his strong support and beliefs around the Armenian Cause makes him very conflicted on the topic this French legislation.

    Otherwise, the day may come when Garen would not be able to tells who he thinks is dumb and who he thinks is smart. The world of intelligent discourse would be so much poorer if Garen was not free to apply pejorative labels to those who view things differently than him.

  3. Tatul Sonentz-Papazian said:

    Mr. Yegparian’s comments are to the point and timely. Obviously, the approaching 100th anniversary of the 1st Genocide of the 20th century makes the Turkish government and its allied powers, who have relied on lies and unabashed distortion of history, nervous. As Mr. Yegparian concludes his excellent analysis, “let’s keep up the pressure,” not only for the sake of the Armenians, but for the 99% of humanity who have been and continue to be victimized by a corrupt international establishment whose days are numbered.

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