The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) -- joined by the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) and other concerned organizations -- have launched a landmark protest against Microsoft's electronic encyclopedia, "Encarta", in response to its editors' efforts to deny the Armenian Genocide. According to reports contained in a groundbreaking expose by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Encarta's actions were a response to threats by the Turkish government "to arrest local Microsoft officials and ban Microsoft products".
This landmark article, appended below, offers a rare glimpse into how mainstream media institutions such as Microsoft have been tainted by a wider effort to promote false historical revisionist views -- an effort that has seriously undermined the credibility and efficacy of our press and media establishment on these and other related issues.
In the past, Encarta's highly misleading entry on events surrounding the 1922 massacre of Turkey's Christian population earned its 1994 CD-Rom edition a place in the American Hellenic Media Project's Hall of Shame.
Please take a moment to share your concerns by e-mailing, calling and faxing the below contacts at Microsoft, keeping in mind that a mature and well-informed approach is the most effective way to get your message across.
In addition, please take a moment to send a note of appreciation to The Chronicle of Higher Education for having the courage and insight to publish its August 18 article The Other Side of Genocide:
E-MAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Attn: Scott Jaschik, Editor)
E-MAIL: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org (Attn: Bill Gates)
or SURF TO: http://encarta.msn.com/help/support/form.asp?src=
FAX: (425) 936-7329
TEL.: (425) 882-8080 (you may request Encarta editor Frank Manning at this number)
BRIEF FORM LETTER SUGGESTED BY THE ANCA:
I was troubled to learn in the August 18, 2000 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education that the Turkish government has pressured Microsoft Encarta to censor its documentation of the Armenian Genocide.
I encourage Encarta to resist these threats aimed at denying this crime against all humanity. I also would like to recommend that Encarta include the Armenian Genocide in its entry on Turkey. Clearly, no account of Turkish history can be complete without addressing the Armenian Genocide and the systematic destruction of the Greeks and other Christian communities in the final years of the Ottoman Empire.
August 18, 2000 (page 20)
"The Other Side of Genocide"
Covering up genocide is a tricky business. Probably the best place to start is with the word itself. Coined in 1944 to describe Nazi Germany's systematic murder of millions, it's since been disputed in nearly every other usage, from the U.S. government's early waffling on whether Rwanda's Hutu annihilation of the Tutsis qualified, to the Turkish government's continuing campaign to convince the world that several hundred thousand starved Armenians does not a genocide make.
That's where Microsoft's Encarta comes in. Helen Fein, Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Genocide, says the online encyclopedia almost helped deny the genocide.
In 1996, Encarta asked Ms. Fein to write an entry on genocide. Her short essay, which included a brief mention of the murder or deportation of at least 1.1 million Armenians by the Turkish Ottoman government during World War I, was accepted and published.
But this past June, Encarta called Ms. Fein and asked her to revise her entry, in response to "customer complaints." She learned that Ronald Grigor Suny, a political scientist at the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, had been asked to revise his entry on Armenia as well.
Ms. Fein says Encarta wanted her to include a few lines on the "other side of the story" - the Turkish government's side, that is Mr. Suny says an Encarta editor named Frank Manning explained to him that the revision would leave the facts in place, but remove the word "genocide."
"Their proposed changes suggested that all narratives are equal, that we can't know for sure whether or not the Armenians brought the massacres on themselves," says Ms. Fein.
According to Mr. Suny, Mr. Manning told him that the Turkish government had threatened to arrest local Microsoft officials and ban Microsoft products unless the who, what, and why of the massacres were presented as topics open to debate. Microsoft representatives would neither confirm nor deny the threats, but Namik Tan, a spokesman for the Turkish Embassy called the charge "so ridiculous I cannot speak."
He acknowledged that the embassy wrote at least two letters to Microsoft urging it to remove the term "genocide" from the two entries, and to cite Armenian rebellion as the cause of any suffering, but he insists that the Turkish government "does not make threats."
When Ms. Fein and Mr. Suny threatened to remove their names from the article and to publicize Microsoft's censorship, however, Encarta editors backed down. Ms. Fein and Mr. Suny agreed to add that the Turkish government denies the genocide, but held firm to the facts of its occurrence.
When the Chronicle attempted to reach Encarta's editors, a publicist from the company said they were all on vacation. A second publicist added that every story has two sides, even one about genocide.
Indeed, Ms. Fein notes that the Encarta entry on Turkey, which is unsigned, still does not mention the Armenian genocide at all.
American Hellenic Media Project
P.O. Box 1150
New York, N.Y. 10028-0008
The American Hellenic Media Project is a non-profit organization created to address inaccuracy and bias in the media and encourage independent, ethical and responsible journalism.
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