Freedom to Lie?

To the Editor:

Fact: 1.5 million Armenians were murdered by the Ottoman Turks during World War I. In a letter to the BCN, Mr. Jaryno questioned my understanding of the 1st Amendment when he misquotes me and does not comprehend what my letter was about. He cherry-picked one part, ignored my point, and did not fully address the concerns that I brought up. I was asking if the BCN fact-checked and what their rules are for publishing genocide-denial material. Mr. Jaryno turned my question into a statement, and he stated that groups I disagree with are allowed to enjoy freedom of speech as well. Yes, they do. However, they are not allowed to openly lie.
Freedom of speech is based on the truth. And yes, I am well versed in our United States Constitution. It is part of my yearly and our sophomore curriculum. If you would like to come up for a visit to speak with my students about the application of it and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, please contact me and I can arrange a wonderful learning experience for you.
Since you never address the real issue I will continue with the purpose of my letter and address the inaccuracies of your retort. Contrary to your statement about the 1st Amendment in regard to the denial of the Armenian Genocide and my “views,” I will quote Gregory H. Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, “Scholarly agreement on the Armenian Genocide is overwhelming; and scholars of genocide are unequivocal about the reality and scope of the Armenian Genocide, in which the Ottoman Turkish government exterminated over one million Armenians, eliminating almost all of the Armenians in Turkey.
The International Association of Genocide Scholars (the definitive group of scholars on the subject), the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, and the Institute for the Study of Genocide have repeatedly affirmed the historical facts of the Armenian Genocide.” Furthermore, “…the killing of the Armenians is genocide as defined by the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention.” It is a fact that it did happen and to openly deny it calls into question the deniers’ ability to preach and promote its denialist propaganda.
The real way to destroy hatred and genocide is to allow the truth to be told and not allow lies to manipulate what has been proven as historical fact. In 2000 Deborah Lipstadt addressed Congress in regard to freedom of speech and denial: “Denial of genocide — whether that of the Turks against the Armenians, or the Nazis against the Jews — is not an act of historical reinterpretation . . . The deniers aim at convincing innocent third parties that there is ‘another side of the story,’ when there is not. Free speech does not guarantee the deniers the right to be treated as the ‘other side of a legitimate debate,’ when there is no credible ‘other side’; nor does it guarantee the deniers space in the classroom or curriculum, or in any other forum.” In short, free speech does not give people the right to deny what is historical fact.
Last, according to Elie Wiesel, “The First Amendment permits us to express anything, but is does not enable a foreign government’s falsification of history…”A true and realistic debate can only come about when both sides equally present facts, not half-truths or outright lies. Education is key, and if we allow people to cover up the truth, then we are doomed to continue the perpetual cycle of hate.


© 2000, Newspaper Media Group