BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
What do tobacco (the industry), Turkey (the genocidal state), and Trump (the ConMan-in-Chief) have in common besides the first letter?
It is their expert use of doubt-seeding techniques.
Since the tobacco harvest ends in October, Turkey’s “republic” was declared on October 29, and Donald Trump got elected just over a year ago, it seemed like a good time to point out the commonality of these three terrible Ts.
We can probably fairly credit the tobacco industry with the perfection, if not the invention, of denialism. For decades, the tobacco companies claimed that stinking weed (as described by King James I of England) was not harmful. They hid their own research and documentation to the contrary. They hooked soldiers in service of their country by seeing to it they were well stocked with cancer-sticks. They tricked children into becoming addicts through “cute” advertising. They made a vile habit seem glamorous through what is, I’m guessing, one of the earliest examples of product placement in movies. Also, think of the Marlboro man and alluring women smoking in advertisements for cigarettes. With this deluge of “positive” images, it took roughly two generations, half a century, before the courts of law and public opinion finally caught up with Big Tobacco’s machinations.
Turkey and its denialists probably learned some of their craft from the more depraved sectors of the public relations industry which did the tobacco industry’s dirty work. It would come as no surprise, right? Turkey has been spending millions and millions of dollars (it would be interesting to compile all their expenditures reported in legally required filings from the beginning of when such data is available; a good intern project it seems to me!) hiring that type of vermin to work on its denial and other campaigns in the U.S. and elsewhere. Ankara used the same successive techniques as the cancer-dissemination industry. Outright denial was first, followed by some attenuation – in tobacco’s case advertising was banned on TV and radio, and later to young audiences, while Turkey moved on to saying, in one form or another “yeah, but it wasn’t genocide” – and later, fairly extensive capitulation when confronted with multipronged attacks and exposure of damning documents, a phase we are just starting to enter in the Armenian case against Turkey.
Here, a curious (but irrelevant to this piece) intersection of Turkey and tobacco is fun to convey. Assuming it is true, an article about historical smoking bans reports that the Ottoman Empire’s Sultan Mourad IV, ruling 1623-1640, banned tobacco (along with alcohol and coffee). Flouting this prohibition resulted in death! A contemporaneous Russian prohibition was much gentler… only repeat offenders earned a trip to the grave. Interesting imperial overlords we Armenians have had…
Now, on to the third T…
Trump with his lies, diversions, misrepresentations is on the same path as tobacco and Turkey. From lying about his inauguration attendance numbers, to falsely claiming (on his current Asia trip) that his predecessor, Barack Obama, was barred from landing in the Philippines, to claiming that football players, kneeling during the “Star Spangled Banner” is tantamount “dissing” the flag and country, or simply fudging every issue with 140-character outbursts, The current occupant of the White House has elevated denialism and obfuscation to unseen heights. He blurs and drags out the issue at hand, ad nauseam, until people forget the original question was or simply get disgusted. We can only hope that time will bring Trump the same tide of truth that it brought to tobacco and is bringing to Turkey.
Armenians have developed a nose for sniffing out this behavior, given our ongoing exposure to it. Be sure to keep your nose cued to the news to recognize future Trumps and alert friends and neighbors to the imminent dangers. It’s the least we can do for humanity.