The Los Angeles Times and Other Censors
The Armenian Weekly
May 26, 2007
The Los Angeles Times and Other Censors
By David Boyajian
The Los Angeles Times’ refusal to publish an article on the Armenian genocide by its own noted Armenian American reporter, Mark Arax, appears to be another example of the mainstream media’s habit of not reporting, or underreporting, certain politically taboo subjects. It’s as if freedom of the press meant the freedom to keep people in the dark rather than enlighten them.
The taboo subject in this case was apparently the Jewish lobby (the “Lobby”), in particular its opposition to Armenian genocide resolutions in Congress.
According to a source outside the LA Times, Arax’s piece had two themes. First, Turkey’s denials have backfired by generating greater public awareness of the genocide. Second, genocide resolutions have divided the Jewish community between those, such as the Lobby, that support Turkey, and those that support genocide affirmation.
Managing Editor Douglas Frantz, supported by his superiors, killed Arax’s story. He then assigned staff writer Richard Simon to fashion from it a very different, and watered down, version.
Frantz and Turkey
Frantz, reportedly a genocide denier, defended his actions. Arax was biased, claimed Frantz, because he and other Times journalists had sent management a letter in 2005. The letter pointed out that the paper’s reports from Turkey violated the Time’s formal policy of using the word genocide, rather than milder terms, when referring to the 1915 exterminations.
Times editors had actually agreed with the letter and had run corrections. Significantly, Frantz was the paper’s Istanbul bureau chief in 2005 and thus ultimately responsible for mischaracterizations of the genocide. Previously, he headed the NY Times office in Turkey.
That Frantz is a Turkophile is perhaps not surprising. Fellow correspondents Hugh Pope of the Wall Street Journal and Stephen Kinzer of the NY Times, both of whom have done stints in Istanbul, are also outspokenly pro-Turkish.
In a memo to Times colleagues that found its way onto the Internet, Arax has said he believes his article was axed because Frantz is biased in favor of Turkey and against Armenians. California Courier publisher Harut Sassounian, who broke the scandal, agrees.
Might Frantz also be holding a grudge against Arax because of the 2005 letter? And what role has the reportedly close relationship between Frantz and the local Turkish Consul General played?
It is apparent that, particularly in detailing how the Lobby has worked arm in arm with Turkey to kill Armenian resolutions, Arax’s investigative reporting was simply too good and too on-target. That and pro-Turkish bias help explain why the newspaper killed the Arax piece.
The Times will argue that it had no qualms about investigating the Lobby’s denialist machinations. Were that so, however, the paper would itself have been reporting on the Lobby’s genocide hypocrisy, one of the most outrageous double standards in American politics today.
Let’s be clear: we are critiquing only mainstream media and the denialists within the Jewish lobby. Indeed, Armenians value, and perhaps insufficiently, the many principled Jews and Israelis – scholars, public officials, writers, clergy, lawyers, and organizations - who support affirmation of the Armenian genocide. Moreover, we recognize that the US State Department and various other parties also support genocide denial.
The Times apparently didn’t dare discard all of Arax’s research. Simon’s article quotes Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), as acknowledging that his group opposes Armenian genocide resolutions.
However, in answering a question of mine at a taped presentation at Clark University’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies three years ago, Foxman – with scholars Deborah Dwork and Simon Payaslian sitting right behind him – sang a different tune. The ADL, he crooned, “did not oppose” Armenian genocide resolutions.
Was Foxman telling the truth? That seems unlikely. A prominent Jewish American leader in Washington, DC had, just days before, confided in me that the ADL had indeed worked against Armenian resolutions.
The spineless mainstream media seem to think Foxman is some kind of demigod. He reportedly pressured Fox TV into removing from its web site an investigative report on another largely taboo story: Israeli intelligence agents in the US, posing as “art students,” may have been tailing the 9/11 hijackers.
Then there’s Sibel Edmonds, the courageous FBI whistleblower (Justacitizen.org). She translated wiretaps that she says revealed, among other illegalities, that Turks and highly placed Jewish American neo-conservatives were involved in such activities as illicit international weapons transfers. Mainstream media, not surprisingly, consider the Edmonds case too hot to handle.
Similarly, most media have vastly underreported the story of Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, former officers of the Lobby’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who will be tried for espionage: passing classified documents to Israel.
For over a year, the Boston Globe has reported on, and opposed, plans to break ground for an Armenian Heritage Park on the city’s Rose Kennedy Greenway. I have repeatedly informed the Globe that Greenway Conservancy chairman Peter Meade, the park’s main opponent and an outspokenly pro-Israeli Catholic, has a serious conflict of interest: he sits on the New England board of the genocide-denying ADL. The Globe has concealed that fact and, incredibly, continues to tell me that Meade’s ADL background is not relevant.
Yet even non-mainstream media are capable of suppressing unwelcome facts.
Antiwar.com, whose chief political analyst is Justin Raimondo, may be the Lobby’s most relentless and intelligent critic.
Imagine my surprise, therefore, when an Antiwar editor recently rejected my tactful, well-documented letter on the Lobby’s opposition to genocide affirmation. He repeatedly castigated me for using the term “Jewish lobby” rather than “Israel lobby.”
Yet even leading Lobby member Yolanda Habif Johnston, whom my letter quoted, used that term: “The Jewish lobby has prevented the Armenian genocide resolution from passing.”
Though I offered to revise my letter, the editor, who happens to be half Jewish, informed me that Antiwar.com “is run by Jews.” Though he quickly apologized for his “rant,” it’s clear that even critics of the Lobby may balk at scrutinizing its genocide hypocrisy.
Finally, we would be remiss if we did not also criticize those Christian organizations – including the so-called fundamentalists who have aligned themselves with the Lobby – that ignore the past and present fate of Christians on their ancestral lands in Turkey. But that’s a subject for another time.
- The author is a freelance writer based in Massachusetts