By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

More on the Armenian catastrophe

Media Nation is on semi-hiatus for the next week or two. But I did want to call your attention to this Yvonne Abraham article, in today’s Boston Globe, on the Armenian genocide dispute.

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  1. Anonymous

    I guess Abraham has answered the question in her own mind. Her own first sentence says that the topic is “disputed”. The quotes in the article do not advance the cause of seeking to prevent differing views of whether the term genocide should be used, from being made available to students. Aram Chobanian for example says, “It is a major insult to those who died, and for those survivors who are now listening to this being questioned…”. You cannot insult the dead, for one thing. That is a conceit of the living. And whether someone finds something insulting has no bearing on its validity.John Kasparian said he is living proof that the Turkish version of the genocide is false.””I am here,” he said. “It’s a genocide. We’ve got proof it happened, black and white.”The fact that he is living doesn’t prove anything about the Turkish version of the genocide, nor does his assertion that it is a genocide. And what is the “it” for which he has proof? No one is disputing that the deaths happened. The question is whether they were the result of an organized plan, sponsored by the state. Finally Armine Dedekian’s “I was 1 year old when they killed my father. I have never seen him. It happened. It has been decided.”Again, this is an appeal to emotion, and though painful to read, is not evidence of genocide.I am not denying that genocide is the right word for what happened. I am only saying that the existence of survivors, appeals to emotion, and assertions such as those printed in this article, do nothing to advance the cause.DOE lawyer Chemerinsky claims that if the government wants to teach X, people who deny X don’t get to go to court and dispute it. Oh no? Didn’t a certain Dover school board recently learn otherwise?I wonder what George Bush would think of this. He approved of “teaching the controversy” surrounding evolution. Would he not also then be in favor of “teaching” this controversy? If so, then strange bedfellows indeed. Is “teaching a controversy” ever a valid pedagogical technique?

  2. neil

    The Globe printed a letter today on this topic that brings up a good point, but mangles its logic somewhat.The writer says the Armenian community has a strong body of evidence supporting the case for genocide. And that the question of whether what happened should be called genocide can only be answered by looking into the archives of the Ottoman Empire held in Turkey, and by examining the definition of the word. He doesn’t know whether these archives are available or not, but suspects they are not. He said the media should look into this and he’s right.He concludes by saying that the Turkish response that it was not a genocide is an assertion, not supported by evidence.This is a contradiction I think. His own statement makes clear that the question cannot be answered unless the historical material is made available. This works both ways. Without access to these records, both sides can only make assertions. The Armenian case may be strong, but their evidence, according to the writer’s own logic, is not sufficient to answer the question.Obviously the historical records should be made available. It is not up to those who may question the use of the word genocide meanwhile to assert a negative. The Turkish government’s reluctance to allow access to historical records is suspicious and doubtless self serving. It is easy to conclude that they have something to hide. Even so, suspicious behavior is not in and of itself proof.I agree with the writer that evidence supporting a final conclusion for such a question must be found in the government’s own historical documents, rather than the personal memory of survivors. It is a question after all of whether the action was organized by the state. Perhaps the EU can force the archives open as a condition to Turkey’s entry into the union.

  3. Steve

    Yet another data point on this controversy – Orhan Pamuk, a (Turkish?) writer who is asserting the Armenian holocaust and is on trial in Turkey has had one of the charges against him dropped, according to this BBC article.”The charge that he had insulted Turkey’s armed forces was dropped, but he still faces the charge that he insulted “Turkishness”, lawyers said.”

  4. Artyom

    Although I totally agree about the logical inconsistencies as far as the science of the logic goes in appealing to the emotion to make a point and prove the incontrovertible fact of the Armenian Genocide, it is however the impression deliberately imposed by the writer of the article and not the fault of a survivor who may be in their late eighties and nineties. What else do you expect from a survivor, a cold and dispassioned logical chain of narration point by point? Read Wiesel’s Night! Instead of interviewing the survivors who lack the spohistication that is characteristic of the scholarly community, the writer could have done a better job in interviewing somebody from that very community and specifically from among those specializing in the studies of genocide and holocaust who neither lack logic nor sophistication nor are they obscurantist in formulating their arguments. Instead by the very article the writer manages to do 2 things at once, of which her introducing the “dispute” language maybe the cardinal one. She betrays her utter incompetence and unprofessionalism in discussing the topic, since it is not disputed by reputable academics and experts in the field, but by hired pens and the government of Turkey and all know that but that fact seems to have escaped the writer’s skewed attention.

  5. Anonymous

    “The Turkish government’s reluctance to allow access to historical records is suspicious and doubtless self serving”The Ottoman archives are open to historians – the Armenian archives are closed.”Orhan Pamuk, a writer who is asserting the Armenian holocaust”He is an novelist, not a historian, and he his argument was that there should be more discussion about the deaths, not that the deaths constitute genocide. He has made it clear several times that his point was about free speech and not history but his words have been convoluted and hijacked regardless.”Since it is not disputed by reputable academics and experts in the field”Elie Kedourie, Andrew Mango, Bernard Lewis, R.C. Hurewitz, Gilles Veinstein, Roderic Davison are names that would come up when discussing who the most respected scholars of Ottoman history are.I do not know of any historian who subscribes to the Armenian version that is of anywhere near the same standing in the field as these men.The list of reputable academics and experts who dispute this number far more than I would ever have the time to read. Armenian champions like Dadrian have ruined their reputation among fellow historians for the sake of convincing the layman. Accusations of willful mistranslations, inaccurate paraphrasing, misleading use of eclipses, assertions that the source does not allow for and use of discredited evidence such as the naim-andolian forgeries are well documented and can be researched with any search engine.Leaving the entire historical dispute aside – lobbies having government predetermine the study of history should not be a part of any free society. It is political book-burning.

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