Last month, The Boston Globe’s editorial board delivered a 366-word piece calling on the U.S. government to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide. The article, published in print on April 24, notes that 100 years ago to the day, “Armenian intellectuals and public figures were detained and summarily executed in Constantinople—the beginning of the systematic purge of the Armenian population at the hands of the Ottoman government. By 1917, 1.5 million Armenians were murdered.”
Yet just a few pages over from the Globe’s evocative editorial sat a full-page advertisement for FactCheckArmenia.com, a controversial website that claims there never was an Armenian Genocide. The website accuses a “well-funded Armenian diaspora” of pushing propaganda aimed at implicating Turkey in a genocide of the Armenian people. “There was no massacre or bloodshed on April 24, 1915,” the website states, standing in stark contrast to the Globe’s argument.
The advertisement in the Globe was one component of a national marketing campaign for FactCheckArmenia, which includes at least one billboard in Boston that is nearly identical to the print ad. A key difference is that the billboard notes that it was “Proudly paid for by the Turkic Platform, Istanbul.” No such funding attribution appears on the newspaper ad.
In response to inquires from Boston to Outfront Media, the company that owns several of the billboards in question, spokeswoman Carly Zipp said the FactCheckArmenia ads would be pulled this week from all cities they are presently running in. According to the Turkic Platform’s website, they have billboards in Boston, New York, New Jersey, and Dallas, though it’s unclear if Outfront owns all of them.
“We have decided to take them down early,” Zipp told Boston, adding that the billboards have drawn numerous complaints.
As for the Globe, the damage appears to be done. But is it a great hypocrisy to run a full-page promotion for a genocide denial website the same day the Editorial Board is calling for a national policy shift on the very issue? Or is it the ultimate proof of just how separate church and state are at John Henry’s newspaper?
The Globe wasn’t the only outlet facing this dilemma. The New York Times rejected an ad promoting a similar Armenian Genocide denial website called Let History Decide.
“We only accept ads that adhere to our advertising acceptability standards,” Linda Zebian, director of corporate communications for The New York Times, wrote in an email to Boston.
The Times‘ policy makes specific reference to the Armenian Genocide. Zebian shared a portion of the paper’s advertising policy that reads: “We do not accept advertising that denies great human tragedies. Events such as the World Trade Center bombings, or the Holocaust, or slavery in the United States, or the Armenian Genocide or Irish Famine cannot be denied or trivialized in an advertisement.”
A member of the Globe‘s advertising department who is involved with sales did not respond to requests for comment about whether the ad was reviewed before publication. The Globe did not immediately respond to additional inquiries. An advertising manual that is linked to from the Globe’s 2014 rate card states: “The Boston Globe Newspaper may decline to accept advertising that is misleading, inaccurate or fraudulent; that makes unfair competitive claims; or that fails to comply with its standards of decency or dignity.”
For those that pay close attention to the information wars around the Armenian Genocide, the billboards and the newspaper ads are cause for concern, but they are not a surprise.
“Over the past 30 years, but especially over the last 10 to 15 years, there has been an effort to use tools of scholarship and academia to manufacture controversy around the Armenian Genocide in the same way that tobacco companies and other entities have used this strategy to cast doubt on the dangers of cigarette smoking or global warming or other scientific phenomena,” says Marc Mamigonian, director of academic affairs for the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research, a Belmont-based organization.
FactCheckArmenia and the Turkic Platform did not reply to multiple requests for comments. Searches of whois.com show that both sites were registered through a proxy, concealing the creators’ identities.
Mamigonian says that with 2015 marking the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, he expected an onslaught of advertising and media campaigns intended to engender doubt over the historic tragedy.
“The tide has shifted, and increasingly the denial of the Armenian Genocide is recognized as a desperate effort to rewrite the historical record,” he says. “It’s discouraging that it continues and is going to continue. It’s certainly discouraging that there are billboards in our own backyard here in Boston.”
The Globe’s editorial board seems like it couldn’t agree more. The April op-ed closed with the following sentiment: “Considering the monstrous threat genocide poses to the values that the United States holds most dear — a threat that continues into the 21st century — there is a clear responsibility to step up to the historical moment, call this crime by its rightful name, and declare it intolerable.”
Whether the Globe‘s business side agrees is another question.
"Boston Magazine," May 14, 2015
Updated Friday, May 15, 2015, 9:10 a.m.:
On Thursday evening, the Globe’s John Gates confirmed that the ad was reviewed and met the paper’s current advertising standards.
“There is a very thick wall between Globe Advertising and the Globe’s Editorial Board which is by design. This situation happens from time to time. It isn’t the first time and won’t be the last,” he wrote in an email.