PBS’s Armenian Genocide Roundtable

Posted on April 12, 2017

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About a third of the country’s PBS stations did not air the roundtable discussion that we will view in class. The roundtable was protested by many Armenian groups because it gave a platform for those who deny that a genocide took place.

The New York Times published an article regarding the cancellation, which you guys can read here. I’ve selected a part to include in this post that I think you will enjoy.

It turns out that there is only one articulate voice arguing that Armenians died not in a genocide but in a civil war between Christians and Muslims — that of Justin A. McCarthy, a history professor at the University of Louisville. His Turkish counterpart, Omer Turan, an associate professor at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, tries ardently to back him up, but his English is not good enough to make a dent. And the two other experts, Peter Balakian, a humanities professor at Colgate University, and Taner Akcam, a visiting professor of history at the University of Minnesota and a well-known defender of human rights in Turkey, lucidly pick Mr. McCarthy’s points apart.

Mr. Balakian, who is one of the experts cited in the documentary, gets the last word. “If we are going to pretend that a stateless Christian minority population, unarmed, is somehow in a capacity to kill people in an aggressive way that is tantamount to war, or civil war,” Mr. Balakian says, “we’re living in the realm of the absurd.”

Tone and appearance on television can be as persuasive as talk. Mr. McCarthy mostly sounds condescending and defensive, while Mr. Balakian is smooth and keeps his cool.

Balakian’s book The Burning Tigris is one that I strongly, strongly suggest if you are interested in learning more about this topic, which many consider to be the modern era’s first genocide. Also, the documentary Grandma’s Tattoos is highly recommended (warning – some of the imagery/accounts are traumatic).

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