BY DR. VIKEN YACOUBIAN
The writing was on the wall. In fact, it has been for a while now, but people’s ability to see it was compromised thanks to an amazingly effective propaganda apparatus. As a new autocracy began to unfold in Armenia in 2018, more of a newly packaged perpetuation of the old rather than a revolution, people’s genuine hope for change osmosed into a fantasy that a change had indeed occurred.
This fantasy was fed by a well-oiled machine called seductive propaganda. Persuasion is the real aim of propaganda and not the seeking of truth. There is no unvarnished truth but only a success of certain ideas over others. In this sense, reality is socially constructed, and seductive propaganda ingeniously generates a unidirectional path to communications. Like the seducer, the effective propagandist constructs a fantasy in which we are all invited. Often, especially in the context of politics, this fantasy is constructed around the theme of enmity, dichotomizing and splitting the reality into good and evil. Even a cursory look at the post-2018 Pashinyan Armenia clearly indicates the engineering of such a split which also extended to the Diaspora and even to specific households.
While the critically inclined were being relentlessly attacked and symbolically lynched, the post-Artsakh capitulation is further crystallizing the fact that the country had been inching closer to an absolute autocracy, albeit not yet felt entirely by the populace.
The clash between the false narrative of victory and the reality of defeat is now being played out on the streets of Yerevan not because of the protesters’ outburst but because of the ruling autocracy’s hope to maintain power. If we continue down this path, Pashinyan will not only bear the responsibility for the catastrophic defeat of the war but also for turning brothers and sisters against each other, setting the scene for an unyielding strife. Pashinyan’s departure at this juncture is necessary not only to seek a path for a more favorable resolution of the Artsakh calamity but also because the country is devolving into a state of dictatorship in the guise of a popular democracy.
A telltale sign of dictators and autocrats is their refusal to accept reality. This is done through an intolerance of dissent within their immediate circle which naturally creates a dynamic of groupthink. This dynamic imposes an atmosphere of conformity whereby any information that contradicts the autocrat’s expectations is wittingly or unwittingly suppressed. Therefore, these leaders surround themselves with lackeys and govern as autocrats. History is replete with such examples. Once reliable information is cut off or withheld, the vacuum is filled with the autocrats’ delusions while terrified underlings continue to service the autocrats’ narcissistic needs by feeding messages that perpetuate the delusion.
At the time of this writing, Pashinyan had just posted that soldiers on the front line were supporting him unequivocally and that they were on their way to Yerevan to quell all voices of dissent. He then encouraged them to do so, in essence advocating civil unrest («վերջնականօրեն լուծելու պատերի տակ վնգստացողների հարցերը»). Ironically, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is well known for such actions, including arrest and torture of those who voice dissent from his beliefs.
Pashinyan’s state of mind and actions since the defeat of the war present a real threat of destruction in Armenia. A threat that is not less consequential than the agreement that was signed.
When Germany lost World War I, the high command deliberately disseminated a false narrative that left-leaning and democratic politicians at home had stabbed the army in the back which in turn had resulted in their embarrassing loss. They knew very well this was a lie. But this same lie was perpetuated for years until the vengeful right and Hitler himself came to power to “clean up the mess.”
An eerily similar narrative is being perpetuated in Armenia exactly 102 years later. Similarly, as Donald Trump is refusing to concede his obvious defeat to Biden, his autocratic instincts are much more clearly surfacing as are Pashinyan’s by way of contempt for the truth and a thirst for absolute power that cannot be quenched. Like Trump, it is becoming increasingly clear that for Pashinyan staying in power is more important than his earlier “quest for democracy” that brought him to power in the first place. As in the case of Trump, astonishingly and sadly, a significant number of individuals continue to stoke Pashinyan’s fragile ego by perpetuating false narratives that portray him as the victim (the whole war was a Russian plan all along to oust him -as if the Russians needed such a complicated path for his ouster-) or the hero (he saved the nation from bloodshed -one wonders why the «հաղթելու ենք» rhetoric continued for 45 days when, apparently, the fate of the war was pretty much clear after a few days).
Pashinyan’s “après moi, le déluge” (after me, the flood) attitude that has been emerging in the last several days poses a clear and present danger to Armenia. He must resign.
Dr. Viken Yacoubian is a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau.