Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Outsourcing Fake Outrage

It's often taken as a given in America that no one does fake outrage like our politicians and punditocracy. All the bluster over how someone's actions are emboldening terrorists or destroying marriage or sending your job to India or turning America into North Mexico has convinced many Americans that we had a monopoly on the stuff (or if we didn't, we were in a cartel with Iran).

Well, this week Turkey and China decided to try their hands at fake outrage. The Turks are all up in arms over a bill wandering around Congress that would declare the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians a "genocide" (itself an exercise in fake outrage - I don't see why Congress is more keen to call a spade a spade now than it has been in the 90 intervening years). And the Chinese have decided to throw a hissy fit over President Bush's honoring of the Dalai Lama.

The Armenian genocide occurred in the aftermath of the First World War, when Ottoman Turkish leaders decided that the Armenian minority, which sided with the Russians against the Ottomans, was a threat to the security of their (moribund) state. The Turkish government seized Armenian property and shipped Armenians off to work camps, where hundreds of thousands of Armenians died of starvation. The modern preferred Turkish response to the mention of the Armenian genocide is to stick fingers in their collective ears and say "we can't hear you." (There are some Turks who still believe that the Armenians had it coming.) It's illegal to talk about the Armenian genocide in Turkey. This, despite the fact that when the Ottoman Empire dissolved, those responsible were sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Istanbul. And despite the fact that Kemal Ataturk's secular republic was founded partially as a response to the excesses of the Ottoman government, including the Armenian genocide.

One wonders how the Turkish government can continue to insist that one of its country's darkest hours - which occurred under a previous government, no less - never happened. Germany has made great strides in coming to terms with both its Nazi past and the Communist oppression of its eastern half. Americans are constantly lamenting the cruel things our government has done, from black slavery to Indian removal to Japanese internment camps. Why is it a point of national pride in Turkey to not admit your government did something really, really bad in the past? No one is suggesting that the current government is responsible for the genocide. Why fight it? Why not recognize that it happened? And is it such an important point that you have to mollify your nationalists by pretending to be outraged when another country recognizes it?

As bizarre as the Turkish rage over Armenia is, the Chinese anger over the Dalai Lama receiving honors in America is superbly odd. The Dalai Lama has long sought autonomy for Tibet, the Himalayan region currently controlled by China. However, the Dalai Lama has done so peacefully - there is no "Tibetan rebellion" to speak of. The Dalai Lama is also much more than the leader of a separatist movement - he is a spiritual guide to millions and an advocate for dissidents' rights in numerous other places, most notably Burma. Moreover, the Lama constitutes no threat to the Chinese state. The Chinese "outrage" over the Lama's honors seem to me to be nothing more than an exceptionally transparent effort to boost Chinese nationalism and draw their people closer to their government.

I suppose the land of diplomacy is filled with fake outrage - I just never noticed it until now. But at any rate, let's not let Turkey or China's windbaggery keep us from doing what's right. They'll get over themselves eventually; bullshit decays after all.

(Bush is already opposing the Armenian genocide resolution on the grounds that the Turkish government doesn't like it. The Turks are an important staging area for troops headed to Iraq... which makes me question everyone's motives in this little episode...)


Mandi and Ror said...

Hey Jeffrey. I can't wait for you to come out here and then I can meet your beautiful wife. Lindi sent me the pictures from your wedding and I must say, She is very pretty. Give me a call and we can set something up when you get here!!

Mike said...

This is really good post Jeff, but I'm confused about one thing: how can something I rest my feet on have an "empire" or "government"? I think you're confusing "Ottoman" with something else, though I can't imagine what.