Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Armenian Genocide

It is being reported today that Turkey is recalling its envoys to Canada and the France because they have decided to recognize the massacre of Armenian under the Ottoman Empire.

It goes without saying that this is a sensitive issue for Turks and Armenians alike. Without getting into the issue of whether or not the Armenian massacre should be recognized as a genocide or not, the more disturbing thing is the legislation currently sitting in the French National Assembly. The draft law would make denial of the Armenian genocide a crime subject to a one-year jail term and a 45,000 Euro fine.

It isn't unusual. People get jailed for denying the Holocaust as well, as was the case in Feb of British historian David Irving who is now sitting in an Austrian prison.

What do the Citizens think of such laws? Why are some genocides above denial while others go ignored?

12 comments:

Dr. Strangelove said...

Lying is not a crime. You are allowed to lie in civil society provided you do not lie "under oath." I understand that the First Amendment protects lying, even though I detest lying. I have written before on this blog about the crisis of truth in this country.

Lying is so commonplace that even our President believes it is his job to be the cheerleader-in-chief for Iraq--to express 100% confidence and deny anything is wrong. He believes it his job to try to build morale rather than to tell the truth. If you watch "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" you see that attitude in spades. Skilling and Lay were convinced it was right to continue to express 100% confidence in Enron, even while selling off their own shares, because as CEOs it was their duty to lie.

...Anyway, all that being said, when a private citizen denies the Armenian genocide or the Holocaust, that's just lying (or insanity). It is up to civil society--not the criminal justice system--to ensure that the truth prevails. (OK, I think you can make a fair argument that, in the years after WWII, it was important to criminalize the denial of the holocaust in conquered Germany... but it's been a couple of generations now so I think it is proper to revert to civil control of the truth now.)

It is long since time that the nations of the world recognized the Armenian genocide. I do not care that doing so upsets Turkey, and neither should anyone else. But it is wrongheaded to make denial of any genocide a crime. It actually undermines the truth to make it illegal to speak otherwise--because all such laws make suspect the "truths" they pretend to defend. Only through open analysis and debate can the truth of the Armenian genocide become manifest.

Anonymous said...

"I understand that the First Amendment protects lying, even though I detest lying."

Not quite. There is no First Amendment value in false speech, and it is not protected where it hurts someone. Truth is an absolute defense to defamation; falsehood is a prerequisite.  

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG: point well taken. But it would not be legal for the U.S. government throw a Holocaust-denier in jail, would it?

Anonymous said...

Jail, no. But a survivor could sue for emotional distress, and might win. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

There are two issues here. Private denial and denial as a matter of state policy.

I don't like laws like those in France.

But the Turkish government's actions are even worse. They use much stronger restrictions on speech to enforce their own nationalist lie than France does enforce a humanist truth. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

"Jail, no. But a survivor could sue for emotional distress, and might win."

Good point. The 1st amendment regulates government action, not civil suits by one private party against another.

I agree with RxR that the Turkish government actions are worse than those of the French... but why make the comparison? Both laws are bad. That one is worse does not justify the other, surely.

US West said...

For kicks, I went to the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism site to see what they say about that time in history. I read through most of the chapters presented. Not once does the site mention a massacre. There is a palatable gap in the story that is presented.

In terms of other nations jailing people, I agree with Stranglove. In this case, there is a political context. France does not want Turkey to join the EU. Human rights violations and Turkey's steadfast refusal to acknowledge its less glorious past are blocks to Turkish membership. So by making denial of an Armenian genocide a crime, France is perhaps trying to pressure Turkey.
 

// posted by USwest

Anonymous said...

France does not want Turkey to join the EU 

Interesting statement. Depends who you ask, I guess. If you ask their President or the French socialist party, they would say that they do want Turkey in the EU, with Chirac even calling it his dearest wish . But polls say that the French people as a whole are against it. 

// posted by Bell Curve

Anonymous said...

France, Turkey and the EU is a complicated question. Like Bell Curve says, "it depends who you ask." Actually the only current member state government that opposed setting a formal time table for Turkish accension was Austria's and they were bought off.

I don't mean to excuse France by pointing to Turkey. But I do mean to put it in perspective. If we are to discuss the Armenian Genocide and restrictions on freedom of speech we should be talking about Turkey really. They have actually jailed numerous academics and writers who dared to suggest that the Armenians were innocent civilians killed at the order of the Turkish state (and with the encouragement of the local Mullahs).

Turkey's government also has this little scheme whereby they donate large sums of money to universities to fund a Turkish and Ottoman Studies Professor who they then pressure to debunk "Armenian claims and accusations." 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I'm just disappointed in the US government. There is no reasonable doubt that the Ottoman government committed genocide against the Armenian people. None whatsoever. The US government would do well to make a public statement about the genocide, so that Turkey has to deal with it once and for all. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

The US is probably not in the mood to anger the Turks. We are secretly using their miltiary bases for access to Northern Iraq. And, Turkish new sources say that Turkish military is active along the Northern border. 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

Oh, USWest, believe me, I understand why we are toadying to the Turks. But it sickens me.  

// posted by LTG