Re: "Nations and Their Past; The Uses and Abuses of History" December 21, 1996
To the Editor:
Your 12/21/96 article criticizing nations who have avoided confronting the skeletons of their past ("Nations and Their Past; The Uses and Abuses of History") omitted the most egregious example of this state-sponsored self-deception. As related by Stanley Cohen, Professor of Criminology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem:
"The nearest successful example [of "collective denial"] in the modern era is the 80 years of official denial by successive Turkish governments of the 1915-17 genocide against the Armenians in which some 1.5 million people lost their lives. This denial has been sustained by deliberate propaganda, lying and coverups, forging documents, suppression of archives, and bribing scholars. The West, especially the United States, has colluded by not referring to the massacres in the United Nations, ignoring memorial ceremonies, and surrendering to Turkish pressure in NATO and other strategic arenas of cooperation."1
Unlike the other nations mentioned in your article, what makes Turkey's brand of denial so insidious is that its false revisionism is not confined within its own borders but is being aggressively, yet stealthily, exported to the West--and particularly to the US--seriously undermining the integrity of America's press and academia.
As documented by exposes in periodicals such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Philadelphia Inquirer2, the Turkish Government is spending tens of millions of dollars for the purpose of genocide denial and in pursuit of a false, offensive and, above all, dangerous historical revisionism through the outright purchase of scholars and university chairs within the US's most prestigious universities. Professor Heath Lowry for example--Ankara's hired gun while director of the "Institute for Turkish Studies", and now at the center of a scandal involving the discovery of is confidential communications coaching the Turkish Government on how to deny the Armenian Genocide in academic circles--was appointed head of the "Ataturk Chair of Turkish Studies" at Princeton University following a $1.5 million endowment to Princeton by the Republic of Turkey.
As for Turkey's more obvious attempts at influencing American public opinion, an article by New York Post writer Colman McCarthy, entitled "The Torture That Turkey Fails to Advertise", chronicles Turkey's mammoth advertising campaign in US publications and, in his opinion, the "laughably inept efforts of the Turkish government to deny its policies of torture".
At a time when the Turks' highly successful strategies of false revisionism are being publicly exposed--strategies which range from the purchasing of American academia to an unholy alliance of US military contractors, highly-placed State Department and Pentagon officials, and mammoth public relations firms such as Hill & Knowlton--failure to include Turkey's well-orchestrated denials of its dark past and sordid present in an article focusing on this very subject constitutes nothing short of journalistic malpractice. The Economist owes a responsibility to its readers to bring this omission to their attention.
Very truly yours,
Phillip Spyropoulos, Esq.
1 Law and Social Inquiry, Stanley Cohen, Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter 1995, pp. 7-50 (quote from pp. 13-14), published by the American Bar Foundation, University of Chicago Press.
2 "Princeton Is Accused of Fronting For The Turkish Government", The New York Times, 5/22/96; "Turkish Largess Raises Questions", The Boston Globe, 11/25/95; "Critics Accuse Turkish Government of Manipulating Scholarship", Amy Magaro Rubin, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/27/95. ^Æ Law and Social Inquiry, Stanley Cohen, Vol. 20, No. 1, Winter 1995, pp. 7-50 (quote from pp. 13-14), published by the American Bar Foundation, University of Chicago Press.
Response from Economist:
Dear Mr. Spyropoulos:
Thank you for your letter about Turkey. I'm afraid we have not found room to publish it, but I have read it with interest. As for the Turkish government's alleged efforts to promote a rewriting of the history of the Armenian massacres, I'll try to look into the matter. Our article, though longer than many in The Economist, was not meant to be comprehensive.