My wife, who is a talent manager in Hollywood, has 84,000 followers on Instagram.
This is mostly because of her client Selena Gomez.
Selena fans, or Selenators as they are known, skew toward the teen and pre-teen. They are big users of social media.
When my wife posts an image of Selena, or even just a photo of our family dog, the love and emoji-kisses pour in from around the world. Japan, Sweden, Brazil, everywhere. It’s kind of random, but awesome nonetheless.
But the love dried up on April 26.
My wife posted a photo of an Armenian Genocide memorial event two days earlier in Los Angeles.
A few words about the Genocide. No reputable historian disputes it happened. An estimated 1.2 to 2 million Armenians were murdered or starved to death during forced relocations by the Turkish government during World War I.
As with the Holocaust, there are thousands of hours of recorded testimony from survivors. There is an entire book by Henry Morgenthau Sr., then U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, detailing not only the daily slaughter, but also Morgenthau’s conversations with the genocide’s architect, Talat Pasha.
Contemporary accounts from American and British missionaries described public hangings, rapes, mutilation, and the deadly march of hundreds of thousands of Armenian refugees into the Syrian desert.
Hitler himself took encouragement from the Turkish example as he contemplated his own race-based extermination.
“Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” Hitler said.
In the United States, many were at least dimly aware of the tragedy.
When my parents were growing up in Nebraska, if they left food on their plate, they were told to eat it up. Think of the starving Armenians.
Today, countries such as Germany and Rwanda publicly acknowledge the famous genocides which took place within their borders.
Germany, in particular, sets the gold standard for coming to grips with historical atrocity.
However, Turkey has taken the opposite approach. The government aggressively denies the Armenian Genocide occurred. Denial is a staple of public education and a basic criteria for doing business with other countries.
The United States and Israel, which should lead the way, instead refuse to recognize the Armenian Genocide as a genocide (even though the word itself was created by human rights lawyer Raphael Lemkin in specific reference to both Armenians and Jews).
The U.S. and Israel don’t want to alienate Turkey, an important strategic partner in a chaotic region.
On the other hand, countries such as France, Italy, Greece, Germany, Poland, Russia, Sweden and dozens of others have all done the right thing. They recognize the Armenian Genocide as the first mass kill-off, by race, in the 20th century.
Back to the young Selenators.
My wife’s words about the Armenian Genocide unleashed an absolute torrent of abuse from Turkish Selenators.
Why are you so stupid
FUCK YOU! SHUT UP BITCH ARMENIANS
MOTHERFUCKER aleen YOU SHOULD BUY A BRAIN AND USE IT
ASSHOLE SHUT THE FUCK UP BITCH
We hate u
Go and buy a brain racist
Oh, baby, you make me laugh. Am i wrong? Can you show me proof ’bout ‘Ottoman Turks killed 2 million Armenians in 1915″? You can’t. Bc this never happened. You don’t know your “great” grandparents’ history. Ironic.
You should read a book
hate makes you ugly, you’re selena’s manager and i’m sure that selena isn’t a racist. stop lying about us, we didn’t kill Armenians. YOU killed our people, and we made your parents go to another place. we did it with respect, please read history.
i hope you die
You don’t know anything about history
You should read history Aleen. I don’t want to be rude but you shouldn’t judge people by ‘wrong’ history information. Don’t be racist and vengeful. God bless you
Aleen keshishian you are writing this article for what. Yes we understood you are a fuckin disgusting human. Sorry I said human. You can’t be human if you think this about us
This single post by my wife triggered more than 14,000 comments. Nearly all of them said similar things, either in English or Turkish.
By now, the hatred has migrated onto all of my wife’s other pictures on Instagram, too, including family ones.
For a while I would comb through these comments and report them to Instagram, one by one.
But for every comment I reported, ten more would pop up.
Finally, I decided to leave it alone. The comments speak for themselves. They are testament to the Turkish government’s 100 years of aggressively denying what happened.
Most comments are from teen and pre-teen girls.
You can get cancer ‘kay?
All the usual disclaimers apply. The above comments do not reflect the views of all Turks. There are plenty of honest, fair-minded Turks who acknowledge not only the genocide, but also the wholesale expropriation of Armenian lands and property.
But the Instagram comments do illustrate, at least anecdotally, the results of extreme, aggressive denial.
So, for people who DO want to ‘read a book,’ as the Turkish Selenators helpfully suggested, I recommend four:
- The Murder of a Nation, Henry Morgenthau Sr., 1918
- Black Dog of Fate, Peter Balakian, 1997
- There Was and There Was Not, Meline Toumani, 2014
- Orhan’s Inheritance, Aline Ohanesian, 2015
Also worth reading is A Century of Silence, which appeared in the New Yorker on Jan. 5, 2015.
Or go to the Wikipedia page about Hrant Dink, the courageous journalist in Istanbul who kept writing about the Genocide despite multiple prosecutions by the state for ‘denigrating Turkishness.’
“There are Turks who don’t admit that their ancestors committed genocide,” Dink said in an interview. “If you look at it, though, they seem to be nice people …. So why don’t they admit it? Because they think that genocide is a bad thing which they would never want to commit, and because they can’t believe their ancestors would do such a thing either.”
One of Dink’s prosecutions stemmed from this public remark: “Of course I’m saying it’s a genocide, because its consequences show it to be true and label it so. We see that people who had lived on this soil for 4,000 years were exterminated by these events.”
I wish there were a happy end to Dink’s heroism. But as you might guess (based on the venom unleashed by a simple Instagram post), his courage ended up killing him. Dink was shot to death in 2007 outside the newspaper office where he worked.