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Articles > Subjects for discussion > Deconstructing the defense of the Protocols

 

By Aram Hamparian

Listed below are 12 of the more common rhetorical devices being used by those seeking to overcome the growing grassroots opposition to the Turkey-Armenia Protocols.
 
1)  “How dare you!”
 
This approach, very often seen in undemocratic settings, seeks to silence criticism because it represents an inappropriate challenge to those in authority.  This is somewhat akin to an “ad lapidem” argument, which dismisses a position outright as absurd without providing any reasoning.  Indignance is obviously a convenient approach for those in charge, but just as clearly not a sound basis for reasoned discourse.
 
2)  “You are living a comfortable life so you don’t have a say.”
 
This attack sets the standard that those who don’t suffer along with the Armenian population should not comment on issues affecting Armenia’s welfare.  This ignores the fact that Armenia’s leaders certainly do not share these material hardships, and, more importantly, disenfranchises 2/3 of the Armenian nation, perhaps Armenia’s greatest natural resource, from any meaningful role in the future of the Armenian people.
 
3)  “We must live for the future, not the past.”
 
The is a classic “false choice” argument, that posits that you can either embrace one of two distinct values, but not both.  Other variations of this black-or-white approach include, you can care about the genocide or the republic, the diaspora or the homeland, etc.  All are equally false.  Armenians should chart the wisest path forward, not allow themselves to be herded down intellectual cattle-chutes created by others.
 
4)  “Opponents of the Protocols are against relations with Turkey.”
 
This is a common “strawman argument” that seeks to bolster its own position by defining the opposing side in the most extreme and irrational terms.
 
Supporters who are either unable or unwilling to make their case based on facts and analysis often try to take this shortcut.  With regard to the Protocols, this involves attacking the supposed radical views of protocol opponents, who they describe as being mindlessly opposed to any relations with Turkey.  This is, of course, both inaccurate and intellectually lazy.  The core opposition to the Protocols is based on the desire to first remove from the present document provisions that represent a threat to Armenia and a surrender of Armenian rights, and then to see Armenia-Turkey relations normalized on a fair, constructive, and respectful basis.
 
5)  “Trust me.”
 
This approach runs against the basic precepts of Western democracy, which places sovereign power in the people, fosters a sense of active citizenship, and establishes systems of limited, constitutional government.
 
This complete delegation of decision-making power presupposes a hierarchical relationship, in which those in power make decisions for everyone else, and the average person lacks either the confidence or the ability to take a meaningful part in charting the future of their nation.  Those who utilize this approach in the Armenian context are typically seeking to cynically take advantage of the cultural and political habits that have come about as a result of Armenians having been subjects of others for far longer than they have been citizens of free societies.
 
6)  “Protocol critics don’t care about Armenia.”
 
This type of “ad hominem” argument is made against the person making a point, not against the point itself.  The President and some of his supporters have used this rhetorical device to seek to silence dissent both in Armenia and the Diaspora.
 
7)  “Let’s set these Protocol detractors straight, once and for all.”
 
The “argumentum ad odium” is used by some supporters of the Protocols who clearly have an axe to grind against some of the document’s detractors, for sins real or imagined.  They seek to strengthen their stand by appealing to existing prejudices, and, at times, seem to use the excuse of this controversy to settle old scores.
 
8)  “The people support the Protocols.”
 
Some advocates of the Protocols seek to bolster their position by citing support for this document among the populations of the homeland and diaspora, but without any basis in fact or reliance upon objective data.  In fact, the only polling, both in Armenia and the Armenian American community, shows that majorities in both places opposed the adoption of the Protocols.
 
9)  “You are leading Armenia to ruin!”
 
This represents an appeal to fear, or “argumentum in terrorem.”  It seeks to make its case by sparking fear and anxiety, not by making an intellectual case.
 
10)  “Mr. President, you are so wise and visionary.”
 
This type of flattery was on full display in several of the meetings the President of Armenia held around the world.  Some supporters of the Protocols framed their support within the context of their public devotion to the President’s leadership and respect for his rightful place as the “decider” on Armenian issues.  They sought to simultaneously both win his favor, and to use their subservience to his authority as an example for others to follow.
 
11)  “Those who are the most successful know best.”
 
This represents a particularly offensive use of the appeal to the purse, “argumentum ad crumenam,” which, sadly, is not uncommon in Armenia or the Armenian American community.  It holds that a point of view is true because the speaker is rich.
 
12)  “I know what’s right (even if I really don’t know anything).”
 
“Argumentum ad ignorantiam,” or an argument from ignorance, was on full display during the New York City community meeting with the October 3rd meeting with the President of Armenia.  At this event, one of the most vocal supporters of the Protocols, a noted benefactor, admitted before all in attendance that he had not read the Protocols, but supported them fully.

Source: "The Armenian Weekly", 08 October 2009
http://www.hairenik.com/weekly/2009/10/08/hamparian-deconstructing-the-defense-of-the-protocols/


Added: Friday, October 09, 2009
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