Genocide Deniers, Skeptics Beware!
BY DZOVAK KAZANDJIAN
Well, it’s week seven of the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship program; Just seven days until we return back to our communities, energized to work with our local teams to move the Armenian Cause forward. Our lectures throughout the internship program have focused on a broad range of topics ‘s each useful in their own way in our advocacy efforts. The week’s focus ‘s battling denial.
Working to gain the support of constituents and Members of Congress for the Armenian Genocide Resolution, you start to see a certain pattern and reoccurring theme in genocide denial. “Why should Turkey admit to something the Ottoman Empire did?” “There’s no true evidence it was a genocide.” “There were deaths on both sides.” “Why does this matter?” I had heard and seen it all prior coming to D.C: online clips of Turkish government officials denying such events ever occurred, random students asking me why the whole thing matters, etc. Although I knew how to respond, especially in the cases of my peers, I was sometimes stumped, due largely in part to my anger.
Luckily, the “Leo Sarkisian” interns were exposed to tools that would be useful in such situations. We were given two lectures this week, both focusing on different levels of denial and how to effectively counter-argue if we were put in that situation. The first lecture, given by Genocide Studies expert George Aghjayan of the ANC of Central Massachusetts, focused on general argumen’s often used in genocide denial. Aghjayan presented us with the common argumen’s put forth by skeptics and deniers and had each of us counter a claim, and in turn retaliate a second argument brought forth by him. The exercise was useful because Aghjayan took the place of a denier and had us argue our point as if we were really in that situation. He also had us prepare a videotaped speech about genocide recognition and the resolution and in turn, provided constructive criticism to help us better deliver a speech.
Our second lecture focused more on debunking specific argumen’s provided by State Department opponents of the Armenian Genocide Resolution would only hurt the U.S. The interns were presented with a handful of argumen’s and solutions and pointed out the ambiguity and shortcomings of various national security related argumen’s. While Aghjayan’s lecture was excellent in providing us with tools necessary to counter the views of the typical denier, the second lecture was more specific to relaying our concerns in meetings with Members of Congress and staff.
When we started this program, one of the unstated goals of the internship program was to help our team feel more confident in our abilities to advocate effectively for our community. Lectures, like the ones this week, help prepare us to tackle the muti-million dollar genocide denial industry ‘s and ultimately take them down.