The Armenian Weekly Magazine
“It has allowed them to question and even to modify the past,
which nowadays is no less malleable or obedient than the future.”
—Jorge Luis Borges, ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’
It has long been clear—at least since 1950 and the publication of Esat Uras’ Tarihte Ermeniler ve Ermeni Meselesi,2 though, in fact, probably since 1915 itself3—that the Turkish state, with its allies and hirelings,4has sought to construct an alternative history in which, at various times, the Armenians have either not existed, or existed only as a tool of Western imperialist powers threatening the integrity of Turkey or the Ottoman Empire; a history in which the Armenian Genocide cannot be named independent of the words “alleged” or “so-called.” In this sense, the writing of history has served as a continuation of the genocidal process.
In the past decade, even as a few scholars from Turkey and Turkish citizens have begun to talk and write more openly about their history, including the Armenian Genocide, Ankara, perhaps concerned that it is losing the battle to erase and rewrite history, or, on the contrary, perhaps because it believes that victory is achievable, has raised its efforts to a new level. This article examines some of the ways Turkey creates and disseminates its perversion of history and how its narrative is (unknowingly or knowingly) passed along to mostly uninformed readers, with the end result of skewing the discussion towards a narrative acceptable to Turkey. A comprehensive history and analysis is well beyond the scope of this article and, in fact, calls for a book-length study.
Outside Turkey (and perhaps even inside the country) it is not too well known that there has existed since 2001 an entity called, in Turkish, Asılsız Soykırım ddiaları ile Mücadele Koordinasyon Kurulu (AS MKK) or, in English, the Committee to Coordinate the Struggle with the Baseless Genocide Claims.
According to Jennifer Dixon, a scholar who has researched the development of the official Turkish historical narrative on the “Armenian Question,” the committee is “[c]o-headed by the Foreign Minister and the general who heads the National Security Council” and “also includes high-level representatives from a number of key government ministries and organizations, including the Ministry of the Interior, the Turkish Historical Society and the archives.” Dixon further explains that “it appears that its main goals have been to coordinate and execute a centralized strategy for responding to international pressures on this issue, and to shape public opinion in Turkey and abroad on this issue.”5
Turkey is thus perhaps the only state with an official or semiofficial entity devoted exclusively to events that it maintains did not occur. The committee has not been idle, and the number of publications devoted to refuting the “Baseless Genocide Claims” has increased substantially since 2001.6
On June 10, 2010, Turkey’s state news outlet Anadolu Agency reported that in 2011, the Turkish Historical Society (Türk Tarih Kurumu) would publish a 20-volume encyclopedia that “aims to create the most comprehensive resource on Armenian problem [sic].” Project director Prof. Enis Sahin stated, “When we first started this project, we thought it would be comprised of 5,000-6,000 pages . . . Now it seems to be a set of books of nearly 20 volumes each with 600 or 700 pages. It will become an encyclopedia.”7 Although the encyclopedia has yet to appear, this author is informed that it is still in the works.
The creation of the 20-volume Un-cyclopedia of the Armenian Non-Genocide would likely represent a milestone of sorts in the state’s untiring efforts to negate history. Sahin wrote in 2003:
If Turkey wishes to become a global state or an influential power in its region, it should overcome the difficulties it faces in the Armenian Question just like in each issue and should formulate highly realizable policies in line with its geopolitics and put them in place. These policies should be adopted as imperatives for the country; never should there be any concessions from them… It is evident that Armenian allegations of genocide are a complete deception… There should be an abundant number of works translated into foreign languages supporting the Turkish thesis in libraries and research institutions in these countries.8
Sahin’s statements suggest that his agenda is to support and advance the state’s interests (as represented by its official thesis on the “Armenian Question”) by any means necessary. Such remarks might seem unusual coming from a professor of history, but they are less so when one remembers that the Turkish Historical Society was created in 1931 by Atatürk for the development and dissemination of Turkey’s official, state-generated history.9
A DIGRESSION BY WAY OF BORGES
The Turkish Historical Society’s uncyclopedic undertaking—as a part-for-whole representation of the entire monstrous apparatus dedicated to creating a fake history—strongly calls to mind Jorge Luis Borges’ uncanny, nightmarish ficción “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” Not a short story in the usual sense, it is, as the author points out in the foreword to the collection The Garden of Forking Paths (1941) in which it first appeared, an example of what he calls “notes upon imaginary books.”10
It is difficult to summarize a commentary on an imaginary book. The Borgesian narrator describes his dawning awareness of the land called “Uqbar” (which, as coincidence would have it, is supposed to be located near Armenia), which is mentioned in some copies of a certain encyclopaedia. Doubting the very existence of such a place, he reads that “the literature of Uqbar was fantastic in character, and that its epics and legends never referred to reality, but to the two imaginary realms of Mlejnas and Tlön…” (19).
Later, much to his surprise, the narrator encounters one volume of A First Encyclopaedia of Tlön: “clearly stated, coherent, without any apparent dogmatic intention of parodic undertone” (22).
It emerges, finally, that this is all part of a vast intellectual conspiracy born in the 18th century: “A benevolent secret society.. . came together to invent a country. . . [and] in 1914, the society forwarded to its collaborators, three hundred in number, the final volume of the First Encyclopaedia of Tlön. The edition was secret; the forty volumes which comprised it (the work was vaster than any previously undertaken by men) were to be the basis for another work, more detailed, and this time written, not in English, but in some one of the languages of Tlön. That review of an illusory world was called, provisionally, Orbis Tertius11…” (31–32).
This might be the end of the story. Except that in a postscript written seven years later (that is, seven fictional years later), the narrator reveals, with quiet horror, that the “unreality” of Tlön begins to intrude into the “reality” of this world:
Contact with Tlön and the ways of Tlön have disintegrated this world […] Now, the conjectural ‘primitive language’ of Tlön has found its way into the schools. Now, the teaching of its harmonious history, full of stirring episodes, has obliterated the history that dominated my childhood. Now, in all memories, a fictitious past occupies the place of any other. We know nothing about it with any certainty, not even that it is false. Numismatics, pharmacology and archaeology have been revised. I gather that biology and mathematics are also awaiting their avatar. . . . A scattered dynasty of recluses has changed the face of the earth—and their work continues. If our foresight is not mistaken, a hundred years from now someone will discover the hundred volumes of The Second Encyclopaedia of Tlön. Then, English, French, and mere Spanish will disappear from this planet. The world will be Tlön (34–35).
For those who follow closely the historiography of the Armenian Genocide and the simultaneous anti-historiography of the Armenian Non-Genocide, much of this should sound less like fantasy than like grim realism. Because when it comes to the history of the Armenian Genocide, to an alarming extent, we are already living in Tlön.
But how does this process work? How does the unreality of genocide denial enter into and permeate our world? It is not by means of a secret society as in Borges’ fiction. Mainstream journalism and scholarship undertake the work—sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly—of constructing Turkey’s Tlön.
For the purposes of this article, one example must suffice: a work of journalism that swallows whole the idea that the discussion of the Armenian Genocide is a “debate” and the virtual unknowability of what is actually a rather well-documented historic event or series of events. The article by Jack Grove, which appeared last year in the (London) Times Higher Education, “Can We Ever Know the Truth About the Armenian ‘Genocide?’”12 serves as a good case study, as it is almost the apotheosis of a “neutral journalistic”13 approach to the Armenian Genocide that probably unwittingly serves to advance the cause of genocide denial and the dissemination of unreality.
The strategy of denying the Armenian Genocide outright has mostly become the exception rather than the rule. This is not to suggest that what one might call classic, old-school denial14—“There was no Armenian Genocide and besides they deserved it” does not live on. Unfortunately, virulent and blatant denial and victimblaming—unlike analogous Holocaust denial, for instance—is readily available and often is authored by figures associated with one or more of the several Turkish-American groups one of the tasks of which is to import Turkey’s war on historical truth. More than 20 years ago, the pioneering genocide scholar Roger Smith wrote that “[t]he Turkish argument is elaborate and systematic and, though some of its surface details have changed over time, its basic structure has remained one of denial and justification.”15 This is still largely the case today, though one must qualify the phrase “Turkish argument” because not only, of course, is this not an argument made by all Turks, but also because denial and justification of the Armenian Genocide are not limited to Turks.16
Overall, since Smith wrote his important essay, the language and the content of Turkey’s denial have evolved,17 and this evolution has had its impact on the kind of genocide denial that the average person might encounter. The blunt instrument of old-school denial has been honed into a more precise dagger. In the U.S. and Europe, in particular, in order to advance its agenda of spreading mistruth, denial exploits cherished ideals such as freedom of speech and the belief that there must always be two sides to each story.
Instead of confronting the genocide head-on, deniers play upon widespread ignorance of the subject and seek to create doubt. By reframing well-documented history as a “controversy” with at least two legitimate “sides,” they engage in spurious, circular debates with the goal of indefinitely deferring genocide recognition and its consequences. Prof. Taner Akçam has formulated it well: “we can observe that on the subject of the Armenian Genocide, the Turkish government and entities that support its positions follow a very systematic and aggressive policy in the U.S. The essence of this policy is to make the idea that ‘1915 was not genocide’ be accepted as normal and as equivalent to the idea that ‘1915 was genocide.’”18 Consequently, if both “it was genocide” and “it was not genocide” are equally acceptable positions, then of course there can be no such thing as “genocide denial.”
This policy is being pursued in at least two related ways. The first is a campaign of legal intimidation. Examples include the failed effort in Massachusetts to sue the Commonwealth’s Board of Education for not including denial-supporting materials in its curriculum on genocide19 and the thus far dead-on-arrival defamation suit against the University of Minnesota and its Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies for identifying the Turkish Coalition of America’s website as one of many “unreliable” sources.20 This tactic seems intended to produce “a chilling effect on the ability of scholars and academic institutions to carry out their work freely.”21
Even when such lawsuits fail, they not only serve to intimidate scholars but also to advance the idea that the subject of the Armenian Genocide is inherently controversial and disputed, thus helping to re-frame the discussion in terms congenial to the agenda of new-style genocide denial. In competitive sports this is known as “working the refs.” If a coach complains constantly about penalties on his team, the beleaguered referee may unconsciously start balancing things out, if only to stop the complaints.
But, of course, the complaints never stop. Another form of this tactic is on display nearly every time a journalist writes anything about the Armenian Genocide and letters, emails, and phone calls follow from Turkish officials or domestic pressure groups, to say nothing of government and business entities seeking to assist a valued ally regarding a “sensitive” matter.22 It is understandable, though not excusable, that press outlets alter their coverage in a more “balanced” way that they think will make these complaints stop or will safeguard them against legal attacks.
Denial of the Armenian Genocide is only to be expected from advocates of Turkish state interests. More pernicious, arguably, is the conscious or unconscious adoption of denialist themes and rhetorical framing by academics and mainstream journalists. These issues of language and framing are familiar to anyone who follows media coverage of the Armenian Genocide. One is accustomed, when reading the arguments of advocates for the official Turkish position, to encounter leading questions, euphemisms, distortions, and false equivalences, all geared towards a certain “spin.” Denialist phrasing includes such old chestnuts as “so-called Armenian genocide,” “alleged massacres,” “Armenian relocation,” “civil war,” and “necessary wartime security measure.” It should be noted that this maximalist form of denial has been, if not replaced, then augmented by an ostensibly humane approach that takes note of Armenian suffering, even acknowledging massacres, but invariably stresses that the First World War was a time of great general suffering and that in no way was there a deliberate effort to eliminate the Armenians.
Sometimes the maximalist approach and the quasi-humane approach rest cheek by jowl within the same article. For example, Turkish Coalition of America “resident scholar” Bruce Fein’s “Lies, Damn Lies, and Armenian Deaths” allows that “Armenians have a genuine tale of woe” but states that they have concocted an exaggerated number of deaths during the non-genocide to make a more convincing case as they seek “a ‘pound of flesh’ from the Republic of Turkey,” an eyebrow-raising comparison of Armenians to Shakespeare’s Shylock.23
One is accustomed, too, to the “he said/she said” treatment of the Armenian Genocide that has become the most frequent fallback position for many mainstream news media, particularly when (and this is almost always the case), the writer has no background in the subject matter. NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen provides a helpful guide to the hallmarks of he said/she said reporting:
—There’s a public dispute.
—The dispute makes news.
—No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story, even though they are in some sense the reason for the story. (Under the “conflict makes news” test.)
—The means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims, but for whatever reason the report declines to make use of them.
—The symmetry of two sides making opposite claims puts the reporter in the middle between polarized extremes.24
The effort to get influential mainstream newspapers such as the Boston Globe and New York Times to stop mandating such inane formulations as, “Armenians claim that as many as 1.5 million….” whereas “Turkey states that Armenians and a larger number of Turks and Muslims died as a result of wartime conditions…” met with success despite the deeply entrenched tendency to engage in false equivalences in the belief that this demonstrates a lack of bias and shows journalistic objectivity.25 As Rosen writes, “Journalists associate the middle with truth, when there may be no reason to…Writing the news so that it lands somewhere near the ‘halfway point between the best and the worst that might be said about someone’ is not a truthtelling impulse at all, but a refuge-seeking one, and it’s possible that this ritual will distort a given story.”26
The problems that Rosen identifies as endemic to he said/she said journalism are on display in Grove’s article “Can We Ever Know the Truth About the Armenian ‘Genocide?’” The problems start with the title.
The title is a good example of what is known as a loaded question—a question that is deployed for rhetorical purposes in order to frame the discussion that follows. To choose another example that has more current-day resonance that a journalist might ask innocently: “Which side do you take in the global warming controversy?” Such a question presupposes the existence of a “controversy,” and a controversy presupposes the existence of two or more opinions or sides with a more or less equal claim on truth.
To ask the question “Can We Ever Know the Truth About the Armenian ‘Genocide?’” is to adopt the language of the party that asserts the existence of a controversy in the face of overwhelming evidence—a party that desperately seeks to be recognized as half of a “heated dispute” rather than as a trafficker in fake history.
The quotation marks around “genocide” signal to readers that the word thus enclosed is somehow questionable. We cannot know the writer’s or editor’s motivation for using those scare quotes. If the “controversy” is the news, according to Rosen’s model, perhaps the scare quotes are meant to telegraph journalistic objectivity by positing the existence of a “debate”: i.e., was it a genocide or a “genocide”? They may be read as: “We are not saying it was a genocide, we are not saying it was not a genocide. We are just reporting on a controversy from a neutral position.” Nevertheless, the scare quotes within a loaded rhetorical question support the reading that is most congenial to genocide deniers. Far from staking out an already specious middle position, the scare quotes place Grove and Times Higher Education in apparent alignment with those who, “when not able to silence the question of genocide altogether, [attempt] to sow confusion and doubt among journalists, policy makers, and the general public.”27
The first sentence of the article proper states what appears to be a simple fact: “Few academic subjects are as politically explosive as the dispute over the mass killings in Armenia.” The writer has correctly stated that this is an academic subject with political repercussions. However, instead of proceeding to present an accurate assessment of the academic consensus28 and the reasons for the political controversy, which would clearly require a substantial exploration of the subject, the author follows the path of least resistance and presents “both sides” of the “dispute,” which, misleadingly, becomes located in the academic realm rather than in the political.
The second sentence virtually constitutes a statement of the locus classicus of genocide denial: “Almost 100 years after the alleged atrocities of 1915–16, arguments still rage over whether the deaths of between 600,000 and 1.5 million Armenian civilians constitute genocide.” “Alleged atrocities”: that is to say, even the fact of atrocities, whether as part of the execution of a genocide or not, is called into question. A wide range of estimated deaths reinforces the idea that even after “almost 100 years” we are no nearer to the truth. The already tenuous grip on logic is altogether lost in the sentences that follow. “Most historians agree that Ottoman Turks deported hundreds of thousands of Armenians from eastern Anatolia to the Syrian desert during the First World War, where they were killed or died of starvation and disease.” Actually all historians agree that hundreds of thousands of Armenians were deported from Anatolia to the Syrian desert and that large numbers of them died. Even the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledges the death of as many as 300,000 Armenians.29 Yet Grove cannot deign to present even this as a firmly established fact.
“But was this a systematic attempt to destroy the Christian Armenian people?” Grove asks, “[o]r was it merely part of the widespread bloodshed—including the deaths of innocent Turkish Muslims—in the collapsing Ottoman empire?”
A false choice is presented here, because the extermination of the Armenians was both a systematic attempt to destroy them—a genocide—as well as part of the overall bloody collapse of the Ottoman Empire during a world war in which many Turks and Muslims also died. Likewise: Was the Holocaust a systematic attempt to destroy the Jewish people? Or was it part of the widespread bloodshed—including the deaths of innocent German civilians—in the war-torn Nazi empire? Clearly it was both. Such false opposition, which masquerades as objectivity in its pretense of emphasizing the tragedy of all loss of life, is a staple of genocide denial—any genocide denial.30
Our suggestion is not that Grove knowingly drew on the rhetorical tools of genocide denial or deliberately trivialized the extermination of the Ottoman Armenians. However, he made no attempt to answer the questions he posed or to provide any factual information that a reader could use to formulate a response. In short, he failed to do his job.
The fog of doubt hovering over the author’s references to the “alleged atrocities” and quote-genocide-unquote obscures other facts as well. Having noted that “Hrant Dink was assassinated by a 17-year-old nationalist in 2007 after criticizing the country’s denialist stance,” he then retreats and states that “[b]efore Dink’s death, such claims had resulted in his being prosecuted for ‘denigrating Turkishness.’ The Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was also prosecuted for making similar claims.” Claims? Did they make claims or did they make factual statements that brought them into conflict with Turkey’s “denialist stance”? And what, for that matter, is Turkey’s denialist stance? Who formulates it and how is it disseminated? Surely these are questions whose answers a reader of this article would find relevant, but Grove either doesn’t know or doesn’t think this is important enough to share with readers.
The bulk of the story consists of a collection of quotes from “both sides” of the spurious “debate.” Jeremy Salt of Bilkent University takes up the classic “Yes, Armenians died, but…” position, emphasizing “the scale of the catastrophe that overwhelmed the Ottoman Empire.” All peoples of the dying empire suffered and died from “massacre, malnutrition, disease, and exposure. Armenians were the perpetrators as well as the victims of largescale violence…These are the facts that any historian worth his salt will come across,” declares Salt.
Salt’s statements call to mind part of Roger Smith’s enumeration of the rhetorical tropes of Turkish denial in 1989: “Armenians suffered and died, but this was due to wartime conditions and to elements beyond the control of the government—Kurds, criminals, officials who disobeyed orders” but “the number of Turks who died was far greater.”31 Since Grove makes no effort to explore the reliability of Salt’s account, the questions need to be asked: What is the purpose of the article and what is Grove’s responsibility towards his readers?
The comments of Hakan Yavuz of the University of Utah department of political science32 shift the discussion away from history itself and towards a “debate.” He identifies “the Armenian diaspora” as “the key obstacle to advancing the debate over the causes and consequences of the events of 1915.” The diaspora promotes what he calls “the genocide thesis” and works towards “silencing those who question their version” of history.
That is, these are simply two “narratives” of history and neither can be privileged over the other. Such an approach again calls to mind Akçam’s assessment: “The essence of this policy is to make the idea that ‘1915 was not genocide’ be accepted as normal and as equivalent to the idea that ‘1915 was genocide.’”
Yavuz presents another common talking point: “One may conclude that the Armenian diaspora seeks to use the genocide issue as the ‘societal glue’ to keep the community together.” Such a statement deftly avoids addressing what actually occurred historically, and shifts the discussion away from a discussion of facts and toward the realm of identity politics.33
While Salt along with Yavuz handle the role of “he said,” Akçam is forced into “she said.” His presence in the article appears to result not from his authorship of numerous significant books and articles on the Armenian Genocide but because he “told a conference at Glendale Public Library, Arizona [sic, the event took place in Glendale, Calif.], in June that he had been informed by a source in Istanbul, who wished to remain anonymous, that hefty sums have been given to academics willing to counter Armenian genocide claims.”
“Beyond the legal writs, however, the episode has raised questions of whether free historical investigation of the genocide claims can ever take place amid the frenzied Turkish-Armenian political climate,” writes Grove, making use of the doubt-raising term “claims.” Akçam is quoted making no such statement.
Grove writes that Akçam “believes pressure from Ankara has made it impossible for Turks to look into the subject at home.” That assertion is certainly supportable. But the fact that researchers in Turkey feel real pressure not to address the Armenian Genocide does not mean that there is no “free historical investigation of the genocide,” since Akçam is himself engaged in such work—but not inside Turkey.
Giving the impression that such work is impossible suits the purposes of those promoting denial, however, inasmuch as it questions the validity of the large body of scholarship on the Armenian Genocide. Grove’s readers are given no real opportunity to understand the actual state of “historical investigation” or who actually creates obstacles and how. A great many readers will come away from it knowing only of the existence of a somewhat nebulous “debate” that might be historical, might be political, or might be legal, but the true facts of which are either unknowable or not important. Or, in Jay Rosen’s formulation: “No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story, even though they are in some sense the reason for the story.”
Words written more than 25 years ago by Richard Hovannisian are perhaps even more applicable today:
As the number of persons who lived through World War I and who have direct knowledge of the events diminishes, the rationalizers and debasers of history become all the more audacious . . . At the time of the deportations and massacres, no reputable publication would have described the genocide as ‘alleged.’ The clouding of the past, however, and the years of Turkish denials, diplomatic and political pressures, and programs of image improvement have had their impact on some publishers, correspondents, scholars, and public officials. In an increasingly skeptical world, the survivors and descendants of the victims have been thrust into a defensive position from which they are required to prove time and again that they have indeed been wronged, individually and collectively.34
The Times Higher Education coverage shows how genocide denial has evolved a more effective model that seeks to establish itself as the legitimate “other side of the story.” A journalist who can write without irony of “the alleged atrocities of 1915–16” clearly has fallen for this tactic. The “competing narratives” approach to the Armenian (scare-quotes please) “genocide” is the wolf of denial in the sheep’s clothing of “objective reporting.” Journalists who fail to see beyond the trap of “reporting the controversy” have effectively ceased to engage in journalism and are merely serving as conduits for genocide denial. Which brings us back to Borges. Each time an “objective, neutral” outlet uncritically passes along the Turkish state’s historical fictions, the world is that much closer to becoming Tlön.
1. The author would like to thank Dr. Lou Ann Matossian for many helpful suggestions and comments during the writing of this article.
2. The English translation, The Armenians in History and the Armenian Question, appeared in 1988 with substantial additions and was widely distributed to libraries. Uras, aka Ahmed Esat, was a former Young Turk official and a participant in the organization of the Armenian Genocide. See Hilmar Kaiser, “From Empire to Republic: The Continuities of Turkish Denial,” in Armenian Review 48.3-4 (Fall-Winter 2003), pp. 1–24.
3. Official Ottoman publications were issued concurrently with the genocide in order to offer justification of the process then unfolding. See, for example, The Armenian Aspirations and Revolutionary Movements (Istanbul, 1916; in English, French, and German) with its copious photographs of menacing-looking Dashnaks and Hnchaks and heaps of “confiscated weapons.” Taner Akçam has observed that Talaat Pasha himself “laid the groundwork for the ‘official Turkish version’ of the deportation and killings” at the Union and Progress Party’s final congress in November 1918 (A Shameful Act [New York: Metropolitan Books, 2006] p. 184). For a succinct account of the importance of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in “the consolidation of Turkish denial within official Turkish history” see Fatma Ulgen, “Reading Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on the Armenian Genocide of 1915,” in Patterns of Prejudice 44.4 (2010).
4. As early as 1924, Edward Hale Bierdstadt would assert, “So far as I have been able to ascertain, the direct propaganda in which Turkey indulges is comparatively small…because Turkey has evolved an even better method of concealing truth and spreading untruth. She makes her friends work for her” (The Great Betrayal: A Survey of the Near East Problem [New York: R. M. McBride & Company, 1924], p. 84).
5. Jennifer Dixon, “Defending the Nation? Maintaining Turkey’s Narrative of the Armenian Genocide,” in South European Society and Politics, 15:3, p. 478. Dixon’s 2011 UC Berkeley dissertation, “Changing the State’s Story: Continuity and Change in Official Narratives of Dark Pasts,” is by far the most informative source to date on the production, dissemination, and evolution of Turkey’s official narrative of genocide denial.
6. ibid., pp. 478-479.
7. Original link (no longer operative): www.armenialive.com/armeniannews/ANKARA—Turkish-Historical-Society-launches-project-on-
Armenian-issue. See www.armeniandiaspora.com/showthread.php?244763-ANKARA-Turkish-Historical-Society-launches-project-on-Armenian-issu#.T2yH89m1Vw4.
8. “Armenian Question and Turkey: What Hasn’t Been Done and What Should Be Done?” See http://www.stradigma.com/english/april2003/articles_02.html.
9. Jennifer Dixon describes the Turkish Historical Society as “quasi-official” and a “nominally an independent foundation” whose “publications frequently reproduce and advance official ideologies on a range of topics, including the Armenian question” (“Changing the State’s Story,” p. 77 and p. 56, note 140). See also Fatma Müge Göçek’s observation that “[i]n an attempt to place the blame for the past as well as present violence squarely on the Armenians, the Turkish state then drew upon its retired diplomats and ‘official scholars’ to reconstruct a mythic version of 1915. Through the selective use of archival documentation, the official Turkish Historical Society in particular started to build a large body of literature around the imagined narrative of past events” (The Transformation of Turkey: Redefining State and Society from the Ottoman Empire to the Modern Era [London: I.B. Tauris, 2010], p. 152).
10. Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones, edited and with an introduction by Anthony Kerrigan (New York: Grove Press, 1962), pp. 15-16. The translation of “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” is by Alastair Reid. Further citations given in the text parenthetically.
11. Borges’ “Orbis Tertius”(Latin: Third World) is undoubtedly intended to suggest the Nazi Third Reich. Connections between Orbis Tertius and Karl Popper’s World 3 are worth exploring.
12. The article appeared on Sept. 22, 2011. See www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=417484.
13. That is to say, one cannot and should not assume that Grove has any nefarious agenda. On the contrary, it is the very assumption that he is coming to the topic from an “unbiased” perspective that makes the article significant.
14. A very partial list of earlier analyses of the evolution of denial of the Armenian Genocide includes: Rouben Adalian, “The Armenian Genocide: Revisionism and Denial,” in Michael N. Dobkowski and Isidor Wallimann. eds., Genocide in Our Time: An Annotated Bibliography with Analytical Introductions (Ann Arbor. Michigan: Pierian Press, 1992); Roger Smith, “Genocide and Denial: The Armenian Case and Its Implications” (Armenian Review, 42.1 1989) and Richard Hovannisian, “The Critic’s View: Beyond Revisionism” (International Journal of Middle East Studies, 9.3, Oct., 1978); “The Armenian Genocide and Patterns of Denial,” in The Armenian Genocide in Perspective, ed. Richard G. Hovannisian (New Brunswick and Oxford: Transaction Books, 1986); “Denial of the Armenian Genocide in Comparison with Holocaust Denial,” in Remembrance and Denial: The Case of the Armenian Genocide, ed. Richard G. Hovannisian (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1999).
15. Smith, p. 6.
16. Nonetheless, because deniers frame the issue as an argument about (judgment of, accusation of, attack on) Turks, Turkey, or Turkishness—and, hence, increasingly play the “anti-Turkish” or “anti-Muslim” card—as opposed to a matter of historical truth, the “defenders of Turkey” respond by attacking the ethnic/national identity of their opponents. Hence the tu quoque counterassaults on Armenians, Armenia, or Armenianness; Western “colonialists,” “genocidaires,” “religious bigots,” or “racists,” etc.
17. See Dixon, “Changing the State’s Story,” esp. chapters 3-5.
18. As stated in lecture at the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), May 2011.
19. See Memorandum and Order, C. A. No. 05-12147-MLW, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, June 10, 2009. http://pacer.mad.uscourts.gov/dc/opinions/wolf/pdf/griswold%20opinion%20june%2010%202009.pdf.
20. See http://www.mndaily.com/sites/default/files/Cingilli%20v%20U%20of%20MN.pdf for Judge Donovan W. Frank’s 3/30/11 dismissal of the case. The dismissal has been appealed.
21. The quote is from a Jan. 18, 2011 letter from the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) Committee on Academic Freedom to Turkish Coalition of America President G. Lincoln McCurdy. See http://mesa.arizona.edu/committees/academic-freedom/intervention/lettersnorthamerica.html#US20110118.
22. This is not to say, of course, that individual Armenians and Armenian groups do not also attempt to achieve influence; but the fact is that the Republic of Armenia cannot be compared as a global player to Turkey, nor are Armenians able to draw on the considerable influence of international corporations, ex-government officials, and lobbyists that support Turkey. See, for example, Luke Rosiak, “Defense contractors join Turkish lobbying effort in pursuit of arms deals,” http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/
2009/defense-contractors-join-turkish-lobbying-effort-in-pursuit-of-/. In 2008, Turkey was ranked fifth among foreign governments in total money spent on lobbying activity and first in the number of contacts with members of Congress. See http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2009/adding-it-top-players-foreign-agent-lobbying/.
23. See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-fein/lies-damn-lies-and-armeni_b_211408.html. Fein is also one of the two attorneys at Turkish American Legal Defense Fund, a project of the Turkish Coalition of America.
24 See http://archive.pressthink.org/2009/04/12/hesaid_shesaid.html.
25. See, for example, Christine Chinlund, “Should We Call It a Massacre or a Genocide?” Boston Globe, May 5, 2003. The Globe would announce its change in policy in July 2003.
26. Rosen, “He Said, She Said Journalism.”
27. Smith, p. 18.
28. The repeated statements of unanimous affirmation by the International Association of Genocide Scholars, for instance, go unmentioned.
29. See “Armenian Claims and Historical Facts,” http://www.mfa.gov.tr/data/DISPOLITIKA/ErmeniIddialari/ArmenianClaimsandHistoricalFacts.pdf. This document is part of the Ministry’s treatment of the “Controversy between Turkey and Armenia about the Events of 1915.”
30. See, for example, Richard J. Evans, Lying About Hitler (New York: Basic Books, 2001), for a discussion of David Irving’s willingness to acknowledge large numbers of Jewish deaths but not a systematic policy of genocide.
31. Smith, p. 19.
32. Yavuz is also the director of the Turkish Coalition of America-funded program “The Origins of Modern Ethnic Cleansing: Collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the Emergence of Nation States in the Balkans and Caucasus” at the University of Utah. For Utah’s announcement of the program, see http://unews.utah.edu/old/p/031009-1.html. The university’s Middle East Center announced in its June 2009 Newsletter (29.2, p. 11) that “TCA has provided a gift of over $900,000.00 to be used towards research and scholarship.” Online at http://www.humis.utah.edu/humis/docs/organization_302_1249062720.pdf.
33. This does not necessarily mean that the quest for justice for the victims of the genocide and their descendants is not an important force in Armenian Diasporan identity, of course. Obviously one can—and many do—examine the prominence of the genocide in diasporan identity without fostering doubts about the historical facts themselves. See, for example, Anny Bakalian, Armenian-Americans: From Being to Feeling Armenian (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1993).
34. “Patterns of Denial,” p. 131.
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