BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Since we live, unfortunately, in the golden age of propaganda, it’s worth addressing one technique that practitioners of that black art use to support their efforts. When reality and facts are simply too powerful to overcome through misdirection, incomplete information, and outright falsehoods, they will take to outright attacks designed to undermine the credibility of individuals or groups who do stand for truth.
A prime example that came to my attention a few months ago is an article titled “Robert Fisk And Legitimizing Terror” by one Aslan Yavuz Sir. You probably recognized Fisk’s name. He is a journalist who has been working the Middle East beat for decades and is known for exposing a lot of uncomfortable truths. He has also written about Armenians and the Genocide. This seems to have nettled Sir enough that he took to the pages of a Turkish newspaper to smear Fisk. He accuses Fisk of legitimizing Armenian terrorism and “hatred” of Turks by creating categories (“good” and “bad” Turks), as if we need help from anyone to understand what Turks and their behavior are all about. Sir is a doctoral candidate and “analyst” at AVIM (Avrasya Incelemeleri Merkezi – Eurasian Studies Center) which seems to be an entity that dedicates a lot of its efforts towards spewing anti-Armenian publications. He seems to be quite prolific and his writings are presented bilingually in English and Turkish. If this doesn’t arouse suspicions as to Sir’s own competence and credibility to speak to Armenian issues, and thereby about Robert Fisk, I don’t know what does. Sir may be someone we’ll have to watch over the coming years.
Another favorite target, this time of some misguided and overly cynical Armenians, is Rep. Adam Schiff of California. These overly critical compatriots of ours take to all manner of media to denigrate Schiff. They cannot seem to fathom that someone could genuinely be interested in serving a just cause and being its advocate. They see only devious pandering on the congressman’s part and go to great lengths question his motives and to manufacture linkages between other positions of his they disagree with and negative effects on Armenians of those positions they perceive. I happen to have had the honor and pleasure of meeting and working with Schiff over the last two decades and can vouch for the fact the smears directed at him are utterly unfounded. Do I agree with his every action/policy? Of course I don’t. But neither do I find it even slightly constructive to tear down a man who has been a friend and supporter of Armenians and our issues. The fact that he advocates on behalf of his constituents ought to be recognized as a positive, him doing his job.
Since we’ve entered the electoral-political arena, it’s worth noting another ridiculous target of bad-mouthing. Some people see nothing but evil in that arena. As a result, they legitimize their laziness and do not even vote. For them the electoral-political arena is overwhelmingly corrupt, dominated by crooks who say what constituents want to hear to get elected and continue their alleged self-serving ways while in office. Are there such people who win elections? Of course, but the significant majority are not of that ilk. I don’t agree with the right-wing politicians who have dominated American politics for the last two or three decades. I think most of them fools, and often of very low intelligence. But I do believe that most of them entered the electoral in pursuit of their (in my opinion utterly misguided) ideals and agenda. So if you are one of those anti-election cynics, please, reenter that part of the civic arena and stop sneering at those who already do their electoral-civic duty. Otherwise, YOU are the most responsible for the evils you loathe most since your vote is absent when such lowlifes run for office.
Another favorite target of propagandists (in this case those acting for the far-right and corporatist sectors of civic/political life) is the environmental movement. Motivated by blind greed and a hefty dose of scientific ignorance, they like to portray as “crazy” or “unreasonable” or “extreme” those who speak and act to ensure that we continue to have a planet that is hospitable to human life. A simple example is that of tailpipe emissions. Half a century ago, when cities were being struck by killer smog days, legislative action forced car companies to improve the number of miles cars could travel on a gallon of gas. There was much nay-saying and wailing coming from the automobile industry and its hacks. They said it couldn’t be done, at least as quickly as the government wanted, and yet, it was achieved. And, it was NECESSARY. This “flavor” of nonsensical propaganda is often heard when protecting endangered species (supposedly it hurts the local economy, while the opposite is true since many people want to see those same animals and travel to, and spend money in, the places where those critters can be found). Of course the big issue today is climate change (global warming) and the havoc it is wreaking already. Denialists, much like their Armenian-Genocide-denying Turkish counterparts, play fast and loose with the temporal aspect of facts. Where the Turks might point to the few instances of Armenians taking up arms to defend themselves AFTER massacres had started, neglecting this causality, climate denialists play a slightly different chronological game. They argue that Earth’s climate has always fluctuated. That’s true. But it has never changed AS FAST as it is now. We are the cause of that speed and the damage that such rapid change is causing. Here again, the overwhelming weight of reality forces climate denialists to resort to name calling and attempts to discredit those fighting for our well-being.
Finally, there’s the anti-ARF contingent. Whether motivated by jealousy of the ARF’s accomplishments, hidden agendas I cannot fathom, or sheer ignorance, these folks seem incapable of ever acknowledging that this organization did something good, or right. They always gin up some conspiracy theory, attacking the organization’s current activists. Otherwise rational people in Yerevan still believe that the ARF leadership carried out a hoard of gold when the Soviets took over the country. The ARF’s role in the Artsakh movement is downplayed or denied. The worldwide lobbying efforts of the ARF and its outreach arm, the ANC, are never acknowledged for the benefit they bring to the homeland by helping keep Turkey at bay internationally and securing much needed aid for development in our homeland. Even something as obvious and intense as the ARF’s role in fighting Serzh Sarkissian’s ill-considered, ill-fated, and utterly destructive Protocols is conveniently disregarded and instead other, admittedly less flattering, doings by the party are repeatedly touted. This is an example of the propaganda of incomplete information coupled with smearing individuals.
Let’s all call out these pointless propagandists for the vile creatures they are and have a civilized, fact-based, discourse on whatever issues confront us.