Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Letter: It Is Delusional to Think One Can Convince a Denier

Dear Editor,
I wish to thank Ara Khachatourian for his timely article exposing an alarming trend in academia. While there are many layers to the question of when and how to engage genocide deniers, it appears those who participated in this case have oversimplified the issue in order to avoid the difficult questions. It is delusional to think that one can “convince” scholars who are deniers of genocide as if they are somehow lacking access to information that is convincing. The Armenian Genocide is so well documented, that any denier, in this day and age, has an agenda that diverges widely from academic integrity. Those that have shifted their position from denial to acceptance have done so because to do otherwise undermines their scholarly credibility. Participating in these conferences, in this way, only removes that stigma and thus allows for the denial to continue. It seems some amnesia has set in and these academics should reacquaint themselves with the available scholarly research on genocide denial.
The views expressed in the recent interview with Jirair Libaridian on the Groong Armenian News Network would appear to be indicative of those scholars (note that I do not limit this simply to ethnic Armenian scholars, ethnicity is irrelevant to this discussion) that choose to participate in such conferences. Libaridian, in part, states that he has something important to say on the subject of the conference. Apparently he feels this particular conference is not simply the best outlet for his scholarship, but the only outlet. Implicitly, he feels his work will gain the greatest credibility by inclusion with papers presented at a conference organized by Hakun Yavuz.
Those who have dealt with genocide denial over the past 25-plus years are well aware of the pitfalls. Much has changed over that period. What is disturbing to me is the concept that change for the sake of change is necessary for progress to be achieved, as if no progress has been made over the past 50 years in regards to acceptance of the Armenian Genocide as historical fact. Sometimes, tried and true methods that have been successful over a long period of time require no adjustment or dramatic shift.
George Aghjayan
Needham, Mass.

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