Ted Bogosian is one of those uncommon journalists and filmmakers for whom the stark truth of the matter is all that counts. Truth at the far pole from truthiness. Emotional truth. Historical truth. Negotiable truth, which is to say: politically useful truth. Truth so awful sometimes that most of us — whether victims, perps or bystanders — would just as soon turn away.
In James Der Derian’s “global media” class at Brown, Ted Bogosian is speaking about the PBS documentary that made him famous in 1988: An Armenian Journey was the first, and almost the last, network television treatment in America of the Turkish slaughter of Armenians in 1915. We’re talking as well about the the suddenly hot pursuit of pedophile priests in the Catholic church. Also about Errol Morris’s “feel-bad masterpiece,” the almost unwatched S.O.P., a film search through interviews and reenactments for the truth of Abu Ghraib. And about Kathryn Bigelow’s best-picture Oscar winner The Hurt Locker, yet another box-office bomb about the American war in Iraq.
TB: Being Armenian requires a different standard of truth telling. What’s in your DNA is this business of overcoming denial… The first thing in my life I remember is standing in my backyard in New Jersey, watching my grandmother, who was a survivor of the genocide, making a pile of rocks and telling me, in her broken English, that “nothing mattered.” And for her to be saying that to a 3-year-old boy, based on what she had witnessed, started my journey toward making that film 30 years later, which was about all the apocryphal stories and all the real stories I had heard growing up. I had to decide for myself which ones were true. And when I did, I had to figure out a way to relate those truths to the world. So I think it’s different for Armenians and for other ethnic groups trying to overcome similar denials.
CL: In other words, truth hounds don’t just happen.
TB: There has to be a powerful momentum, an irresistible force, pushing you in that direction. Otherwise it’s too easy to take the path of least resistance.
Ted Bogosian’s story of his own motivation could be construed as ethnic determinism or something stranger: a rationale for ethnic revenge by journalism. But I think we’re scratching at a subtler puzzle that popped up as a surprise here: what are the journalistic motives that seem to be bred in the bone, or in the family histories that drive a lifetime of the most urgent professional curiosity?
14 Responses to “Ted Bogosian: Confessions of a Truth Hound”
- Kento Ikeda Says:
April 2nd, 2010 at 11:55 am Perhaps the first truth we have to acknowledge is that we are scared of the truth. I think most of us would reflectively say we want to find the truth, but how many of us are actually completely willing to give up denial? It in itself is a scary truth to acknowledge, the implications are, at the very least, unsettling.
When my white grandmother used to tell me about how, when my father first came to the United States from Japan, it was difficult to convince him that the United States had occupied Japan after World War II, it was easy for me, as someone who identifies myself far more as American than Japanese, to laugh. Denial like that seemed so silly, certainly not something we did in the United States! But now it seems like it’s impossible to find anyone in the United States that has much of a conception of our country’s history, or present circumstances. Truth is partisan, truth is deeply offensive. And I know that, while I don’t actively deny the truth, I still avoid it. When looking at the history of American-based internment camps, I try to find evidence of how America is a generous, special country, more than I look for truth.
Next week, I will be moving to the Philippines. (I really ought to be getting ready for that.) I’m going in part because I’m hoping to find a way to better understand the United States’s imperial history. And to better understand my discomfort with the truth.
- Dickran H. Manoogian Says:
April 5th, 2010 at 4:50 pm There is a true hopefulness in what Bogosian says. As an Armenian, I’d like to move forward without having to jettison the past, and it’s good to know other Armenians feel that way, too. I’d also like to think that, as an individual, I can impact the world around me; that what I say and do isn’t done in a vacuum. His comment “every single link in the chain is important” speaks to that perfectly.
- Gregory Says:
April 8th, 2010 at 3:00 pm An interesting interview with Bogosian, but for someone so keen on discovering the truth, his comments on Monte Melkonian are utterly erroneous. Melknoian was not an arms dealer, and was vehemently anti-drugs, to the point where some have wondered if his untimely death was a result of his burning a cannabis field that belonged to the Armenian mafia, just weeks before. The Armenian terrorist movement that Monte “started” according to Bogosian was formed way befopre Melkonian was on the scene, and was run by Hagop Hagopian. The incidents that Bogosian speaks of that led to the loss of innocent lives, actually led to a split between Hagopian and Melkonian over the former’s methods and the indiscrimianting nature of his attacks.
One only has to read the available literature on Melkonian, such as “My Brother’s Road” in order to get a more accurate picture of Monte Melkonian. Ted Bogosian has done him a huge dis-service with his shoddy comments.
- Ara Manoogian Says:
April 18th, 2010 at 4:22 am Ted Bogosian And His Untruths About Monte Melkonian
By Ara Manoogian
April 17, 2010
17 years following his martyrdom in Artsakh, Armenian national hero Monte Melkonian is once again a victim of defamation. I came across a very interesting interview on Radio Open Source with an Armenian decorated filmmaker and documentarian Ted Bogosian. The subject of the interview was Ted’s vocation – seeking the truth and telling it. Open Source host Christopher Lydon introduced Ted Bogosian as a truth hound and put the ‘what is truth’ question to him (see:
http://www.radioopensource.org/ted-bogosian-confessions-of-a-truth-hound/). What I heard in response less than halfway through the interview led me to think that Ted may have misheard Christopher, thinking he had been asked ‘what is a lie’ or, for that matter, how to present a lie as truth.
As someone committed to truth seeking, I was at first thrilled to learn about an alternative experience from a prominent Armenian until I heard the following statements made by him:
“In Armenian Journey there is a very important sequence which didn’t make the cut. And that is that I started to pursue an interview with a young man of my age and background named Monte Melkonian. And Monte was born in about the same year, in the central valley of California. And while I was at Duke, he was at Berkley, and when I went to graduate school, he went to graduate school in Beirut. And he was pursuing the truth about the Genocide in his own way and he became radicalized and he went underground and started selling arms and started selling drugs and started an Armenian terrorist movement. And so while I was making Armenian Journey, he was in jail in France, for having masterminded several bombings in Europe, at Orly Airport and at Turkish embassies and other businesses, where many innocent people were killed. And so, I went to see Monte in prison, and it was quite a moment, because he thought that I was there to kill him since he didn’t know who I was and wasn’t expecting a visitor that day. But I came to start corresponding with him and came to understand his manifesto, and I realized that what he was doing was similar to what I was doing except in a different theater. And so, my battle was against the media to try to tell the story one way, and his battle was more traditional. So, that didn’t make the cut because I wouldn’t have been able to get the film on television had I presented that manifesto. But I mention it because I want to say that I think this sort of thing is in the blood not only of Armenians but of people who want to tell the truth and, that is, they’re willing to go there no matter where it leads.” (The audio fragment is at 09:16-11:36).
Having devoted over a decade of my life researching Monte Melkonian’s brief and thorny path, it was especially saddening for me to hear such irresponsible and defaming statements coming out of a fellow truth seeker’s mouth. These statements manifest shoddiness of research, sweeping generalizations and a self-indulgent distortion of recent Armenian history. I would like to see one single piece of evidence that supports Mr. Ted Bogosian’s claim that Monte Melkonian was a drug dealer, arms dealer and a founder of a terrorist movement, who masterminded the Orly operation. These are the three major things against which Melkonian had been struggling with all his essence, endangering his life in the process. It was the Orly operation that catalyzed the split of Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA). To be more specific, below I have singled out each of Ted Bogosian’s inaccurate claims. Let’s start from the most innocent inaccuracies.
Ted Bogosian’s claim #1: “And Monte was born in about the same year.”
Ted Bogosian was born in 1951, whereas Monte Melkonian was born in 1957.
Ted Bogosian’s claim #2: “…and when I went to graduate school, he [Monte Melkonian] went to graduate school in Beirut.”
Monte Melkonian was admitted to a graduate school at Oxford, but chose to give up his academic career in favor of a trip to Beirut at the onset of the second phase of the civil war and joined the defense of Bourj Hammoud, the Armenian quarter of the city.
Ted Bogosian’s claim #3: “…and [Monte Melkonian] started selling arms and started selling drugs…”
All the accounts of people who knew him, whether interviewed by me or other researchers, including those who spoke up at their own initiative, indicate that Monte was adamantly opposed to drugs, be it for use or for sale. Throughout my research, I haven’t come across any evidence of Monte being involved in arms or drug dealing. According to one of Monte’s brothers-in-arms, once Monte, already a Commander of Martuni Defense Region, refused Samvel Babayan, Commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army, to promote an officer only because he smoked marijuana. He had even banned his soldiers from using alcohol, which was common practice in other detachments. More importantly, Monte earned himself highly influential enemies after burning lucrative cannabis fields in a noble attempt to shut down the local drug trade. This deed was followed by a few attempts on his life. One might assume that Monte could use the proceeds from supposed drug sales to feed and equip the poorly armed fighters under his command. All evidence indicates that he had ignored any such compromise.
Ted Bogosian’s claim #4: “…he [Monte Melkonian] started a terrorist movement.”
This is an outright false statement. ASALA, to which Ted Bogosian refers, was founded in 1975 in Beirut, Lebanon during the first phase of the Lebanese Civil War by Harutiun Takoshian, alias Hagop Hagopian. This was 3 years before Monte arrived in Lebanon for the first time. Monte was recruited by ASALA in 1980 after serving in an Armenian militia group in the Beirut suburb of Bourj Hammoud helping defend the Armenian population during the civil war. Furthermore, based on the accounts of both supporters and opponents of ASALA, Monte played a pivotal role in the violent split of the organization in 1983 into those who supported the despotic leader Hagop Hagopian and those who disapproved his methods of struggle exactly because it took innocent lives, as well as distracted the attention from the cause the attacks were supposed to raise awareness of.
Ted Bogosian’s claim #5: “…he [Monte Melkonian] was in jail in France, for having masterminded several bombings in Europe, at Orly Airport and at Turkish embassies and other businesses, where many innocent people were killed.”
A sweeping generalization. Monte Melkonian was arrested for possession of a falsified passport and an illegal handgun in Paris on November 28, 1985. He was sentenced to six years but served only three and a half. The Orly airport attack, which took place on July 15, 1983, and did kill and wound many innocent people, was masterminded by his already archenemy Hagop Hagopian and carried out by the latter’s supporters in Paris. The only people tried for the Orly airport attack were Varadjian Garbidjian (also spelled as Varoujan Garabedian life sentence, released 17 years later), Soner Nayir (15 years), Ohannes Semerci (10 years). Parallel to the preparation of the Orly operation, inner turmoil was in progress within ASALA due to the widening gap between the members of the organization over the despotic leadership of Hagopian, the methods of struggle and, specifically, the implementation of the Orly attack. Monte was in the opposition wing. But despite his efforts to cancel the Orly operation, it was implemented, accelerating the final split of ASALA.
Who knows, the Karabagh war could have been a lost cause, had Monte Melkonian been the mastermind of the Orly airport attack and therefore gotten a life sentence? Melkonian was arrested twice. In his court documents there was neither evidence, nor allegations supporting Mr. Bogosian’s announcement regarding his participation in the attack in any form, as well as arms and/or drug dealing. It would have been convenient for the French authorities and to Monte’s enemies to find such evidence, but there was none. To support my claim, I suggest that interested individuals read The Right to Struggle, My Brother’s Road, Reality, A Self Criticism and a dozen other books.
Ted Bogosian’s claim #6: “I went to see Monte in prison, and it was quite a moment, because he thought that I was there to kill him…”
Okay, let me try to get this straight. Monte thought that Mr. Bogosian came to the prison to kill him? So, Mr. Bogosian is saying that Monte thought an Armenian-American filmmaker was going to walk into a high security prison, formerly a concentration camp, armed guards watching his every move, and kill him? What about checking for weapons before entering the highly guarded visiting room? Ted Bogosian makes it sound like Monte was in a health spa in the South of France.
I provided my arguments as accurately as I could and am willing to embrace supporting evidence that proves Mr. Bogosian’s claims. Otherwise, as a friend of mine put it, Mr. Bogosian’s interview is more like “Ted talking about Ted – not the truth.” I welcome facts, as they will enrich our knowledge about who Monte really was. With that said, I invite Ted Bogosian to set the record straight by exchanging his recollections with evidence and facts. Otherwise a public apology from Ted Bogosian is in order.
Ara Manoogian is a human rights activist representing the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation in Artsakh and Armenia, as well as a member of the Washington-based Policy Forum Armenia (PFA)
- Ani Bedian Says:
April 19th, 2010 at 5:23 am WOW. Mr Bogosian obviously has no clue whatsoever as to who Monte was. Even if you don’t know much about Monte, everyone knew one thing for sure. He was against drugs. BIG TIME. It’s a real shame that he would make suck slanderous remarks about Monte publicly and try to tarnish the deceased man’s image. I fear he may have opened Pandora’s box on himself by proclaiming these lies about Monte. Drug dealer, arms dealer, starting a terrorist movement…. it is so far from the truth that I am actually laughing in disbelief !!!
- Ara Manoogian Says:
April 19th, 2010 at 1:42 pm What bothers me most about the Monte comments are that for those who are not informed or don’t have a need to do further research on who Monte Melkonian was, these truths become facts, thus history is unjustly rewritten.
I have tried to make contact with Ted Bogosian in order to give him a chance to prove his claims that he made on this podcast, even by writing to James Der Derian to ask him to forward a message, but have not heard back from him or James for that matter. I would ask that until Ted can prove his claims this podcast be retracted so that not to spread inaccurate information and that a possible show be done to highlight who Monte Melkonian really was. For such a show, I would be happy to provide accurate facts about him. Feel free to contact me.
- carl zeytoonian Says:
April 23rd, 2010 at 2:23 am monte melkonian,aka commander apo,was a man imbued with a spirit.he was an armenian through and through.heloved his people,his nation and always expected to die for it.that is why the soil of artsakh are blessed with his skin and bones.this is where he belongs.ted ,you should know the person.love him and his principles.since you were not martyred with him,you can only pretend.but pretend with ferventpassion.
- Maro Badiguian-Shirvanian Says:
April 23rd, 2010 at 7:33 pm WHO MONTE MELKONIAN WAS?
Monte Melkonian was a thinker and a writer, as well as a man of deeds. He was not afraid to speak the truth as he saw it, despite the appearance of being out of touch with the intellectual fashions of the day. Some of his most controversial convictions–convictions for which he was castigated during the last years of his life–now appear in hindsight to have been well-taken, and even prophetic. On this page we reprint representative passages without further comment.
“There exists no Armenian ‘race.’ There is only an Armenian people, an Armenian nation. This is why we need to fight. The Armenian people in the diaspora are losing their identity as a cultural-national entity, succumbing to the centrifugal effects of cultural assimilation. If Armenians of the diaspora do not claim their right to live in their homeland they will gradually lose their common cultural identity. And if this happens, the white massacre of our nation will have succeeded.”
–“Our Origins: True and False,” article originally written in mid-1981, and later included in The Right to Struggle (San Francisco: Sardarabad Press, 1993) (henceforth RTS), pp. 3-6. The quoted passage appears on p.6.
“The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is, in the long run, going to hurt the USSR in immeasurable ways.”
–Letter to his folks dated February 12, 1980, in which Monte reflected on his August 1978 visit to Afghanistan.
“I don’t care whether someone has been born into a position of oppression or if he has “worked” his way there. If he oppresses, he oppresses. If he refuses to correct his behavior the easy way, then we’ll just have to do things the hard way. It’s as simple as that.”
–Personal correspondence with a friend, A.S., dated April 25, 1988.
“It is about time that we loudly repudiate the romantic conceit that ‘My pen is my gun.’ Pens are pens and guns are guns. There are more than enough ‘intellectuals’ in the diaspora. What we need are fighters, soldiers, fedaiis.”
–“A Critique of Past Notions,” The Right to Struggle, p. 194.
“We do not believe in benevolent friends, the inevitable triumph of justice, or covertly and cleverly manipulating the superpowers. If we are to achieve national self-determination, then we ourselves, the Armenian people, will have to fight for it. We believe in the power of organized masses and in the capacity of our people to determine their own future. We believe in revolution.”
–“The Question of Strategy,” a collectively written article, which originally appeared under the imprimatur of ASALA-Revolutionary Movement, in 1984. Later, in April 1987, it was published as a photocopied pamphlet by the Kaytzer group in London. It was included in RTS, pp. 53-72. Emphasis in the original.
“The momentum of the times is leading people from one mistake to another. We are witnessing this in our own ranks, too.”
–“A Word on the June 1990 Version of the FPLA’s Political Charter,” an unpublished draft document, dated August 1. 1990, p. 10.
“Our people have had the honor to be among those who founded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Despite the innumerable errors, both large and small, it is an undeniable fact that only as a part of the USSR have our people been able to survive Turkish invasion, live within secure borders, and progress economically and culturally. In spite of the current criticisms expressed from every quarter, it is a fact that the inhabitants of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic today enjoy a higher standard of living and more security than have Armenians at any other time in their three thousand year history. And all of this has taken place in the face of enormous challenges, including foreign invasion, economic isolation, civil war and an unimaginably costly World War.”
–“National Self-Determination or National Suicide?” p. 165. The article was originally written in Armenian, dated October 24, 1988, and posted form Poissy Prison, in France. It was first published in the first edition of The Right to Struggle, 1990.
“Mass starvation, rampant epidemics, enormous official corruption and incompetence, massive unemployment, exploitation, war and vulnerability to genocidal invasion—this was the wonderful Disneyland of ‘independent’ Armenia. And this is what the Tricolor symbolizes today. It is mind-boggling, then, to hear that this flag—this reminder of the most bitter period of our three thousand years of history—has now been hoisted above Opera Square. This action can only indicate an astounding ignorance of our history—ignorance or lack of comprehension, or both.”
–Ibid., p. 165.
“…it is the duty of progressive and revolutionary Armenians to lead and educate all patriots possible. In fact, this is an essential part of our struggle.”
–“A Word on the June 1990 Version of the FPLA’s Political Charter,” an unpublished, eleven pages, handwritten, dated August 1. 1990, p. 10.
“Exploitation and oppression are in themselves forms of violence, and to defend myself and others I will leave all my options open, including violent options. This is natural, and the way things go. I don’t care whether someone has been born into a position of oppression or if he has “worked” his way there. If he oppresses, he oppresses. If he refuses to correct his behavior the easy way, then we’ll just have to do things the hard way. It’s as simple as that.”
–Personal correspondence with a friend, A.S., dated April 25, 1988.
http://www.aramanoogian.blogspot.com (Monte Melkonian Foundation)
- rob thomas Says:
April 24th, 2010 at 7:58 pm Ted Bullshit Bagosian should be ashamed of himself after casually blurting out so much garbage about a real Armenian Hero. What is he trying to achieve by telling blatant, unsubstantiated lies which will unfortunately be believed as truth by anyone hearing about Monte for the first time. I don’t confess to know much myself but the small pieces I have read are enough to prove that Bagosian is just talking completely through his ass or he is on drugs. I would love to see him attempt to reply to Mr Manoogian’s comments and watch him squirm as no doubt he will already have done after reading these comments. Get this unfounded bullshit of the internet and replace it with a fully researched and confirmed factual assessment of Melkonian. Ted Bagosian you should be ashamed of yourself and I wonder how welcome you would be in Armenia now
- Nona Shahnazarian Says:
April 25th, 2010 at 4:55 pm Oops what on earth this person, Mr. Ted Pogosyan, knows about Monte Melkonian. It seems nothing. I am from Karabagh by origin and if one wants to collect an authentic information about Monte he/she can just travel to Martuni and ask people who lived with him side by side the last years of his short, bright life. Many people speak about him endless, missing and blessing him. Some people would call him A MAN LEGEND. Here are some evidences:
“There were rumors that Azeris move towards Martuni, and Avo was not in town, he went to Stepanakert, to the headquarter. There was a fear and diffidence in the people’s eyes, even a real panic; when Avo was not in the town and the rumors spread about the possible attack from the Azerbaijani, people were scared and uncertain. But as soon as they found out that Avo was coming back, the mood improved right away, and the people found strength to organize themselves. With him, we thought we would overcome anything. I personally felt it (Samvel Kasyan).
Melkonian quickly became very popular, in particular among the local women, who noticed that he was a sweet tooth and baked cakes and cookies for him in the most maladjusted conditions.
“He liked sweets, everybody knew that. I baked cakes for him. He liked “Keksoviy” and ”King’s Cake” with walnuts. I wrote notes and hid them in the cake so that he’d necessarily find them. First time, he didn’t understand the plan, and quietly set the piece of paper aside. The note said, “To eat a cake without Avo is a crime from now on.” Next time, I wrote poems about Mother. While listening to them, he put his left hand on his chest over his heart, as a sign of respect” (Flora, b. 1951).
Some of the interlocutors tell about a number of instances when careless attitude to work and communal property of Soviet Armenians made Monte and other field commanders angry. For instance, they tell how once he literally burst into tears at the sight of gasoline, spilled because of somebody’s negligence. He collected that gasoline by milligrams, spending a long time convincing every old woman to sacrifice the gasoline from their gas lamps for the sake of “our” victory. He also announced severe combat to alcohol-abuse at posts; he would confiscate bottles with moonshine mulberry vodka and pouring it onto the ground in front of the men on point-duty . At first, local youths sabotaged military orders out of trivial slovenliness, in spite of Melkonyan’s huge authority. At that, their secret language was Russian (they swore in Russian, if the violation of military subordination was fraught with consequences), although, at first, foreign Armenians could hardly understand anything in dialectal Karabagh Armenian. At the same time, foreigners-Armenians often seemed eccentric to the local population; they were oddly remote from real life, their were odd even in the scope of their self-sacrifice (it was clear why we went to face the bullets, we had no option, but they?! To come here from so far away specially to dye…?) In the daily life, there emerged even more questions. Representatives of Western-Armenian Diaspora were sincerely indignant at the excessive care of women in the families of their stay; they declined the offered care. According to the word of the mouth, Monte Melkonyan at first begged not to clean his footwear, and then simply started to hide his dirty boots. “My brother was his companion-in-arms, so he bathes at out place. When Avo first got out of the shower, he didn’t find his boots, because he could recognize them. When I showed him polished boots, he started to express his indignation loudly. And this happened every time. Then he started to take them with him into the shower. I explained to him, that this is the custom here: if my guest walks out of the house wearing dirty boots, it’s a shame and disgrace to the hostess. “You don’t want people to think ill of my mother and myself, do you?” Somehow, I managed to convince him. My mother and I, as if on a military post, patched up, mended, washed, ironed his clothes. He didn’t have many – just one change. It was very inconvenient in the winter: it wasn’t easy to dry the clothes. He forbad me to wash his padde jacket; he said, I’d spoil my hands. Of course, we didn’t listen to him. I often told him, “I am also a warrior; a person in guard of your clothes” (Es el’ kho shori zinvorn em)” (Flora Arutyunyan, born 1951, interview of 06.11.2001).
Heated discussions were initiated by “excessively simple” clothing style of the foreigners. The locals were completely put out of countenance by this: it was impossible to determine the “status” of the foreigners and model their behavior towards them accordingly. “At first, we even laughed at him a little. He was so simple; one can’t be like that. He would fix his glasses with a piece of cloth, so that they do not slip off during operations. Here, people with status (pashtonavor) don’t act like this. Now I think, wear whatever, if only you were alive. And I am not the only one who thinks that…” (S. Kas’yan, born 1974).
Today Monte Melkonian is a national hero of Karabakh, awarded posthumous (he died on 12 June 1993) by the highest orders and medals. On the main square of Martuni, on the very spot where Lenin’s monument used to be, Melkonian’s bust stands today. In the town’s club, concerts were held to celebrate his birthday (November 25) and the day of his death. In each classroom of every school in the town, there is Avo’s corner with his big portrait and other materials about his life. On formal occasions, children recite poems about his heroic deeds. In cabinets of high-rank government officials, along with the portrait of the republic’s President, there is always a portrait of Monte Melkonian. And grateful people continue to tell stories about him. Some unknown admirers put a new sign, “Monteaberd” [Monte’s fortress] at the entrance of the town (instead of the old name, Martuni).
- Ted Bogosian Says:
April 25th, 2010 at 5:00 pm CORRECTIONS & AMPLIFICATIONS: Everything I told Open Source about Monte Melkonian related to the period ending in April 1988, when “An Armenian Journey” premiered on PBS. I did not reference Monte’s exploits after he left prison. While I still consider Monte and myself to be the “same age”, he was, in fact, 6 years younger. Monte was an undergraduate at UC-Berkeley, not a graduate student there. I could have named the terrorist movement he started: ASALA-Revolutionary Movement. Finally, while Monte was convicted of illegal weapons possession, he was not charged with selling arms or illegal drugs. (I knew him to practice healthful living habits during his imprisonment.) I stand corrected and regret these errors and omissions.
- Gregory Says:
April 28th, 2010 at 5:17 pm Is that an apology from Ted Bogosian? If so it is somewhat mealy mouthed and raises far more questions than answers.
“Everything I told Open Source about Monte Melkonian related to the period ending in April 1988, when “An Armenian Journey” premiered on PBS. I did not reference Monte’s exploits after he left prison”.
Perhaps this should have been made clear by yourself, and regardless of which, it does not take into account the further mistruths you presented in the radio broadcast.
“While I still consider Monte and myself to be the “same age”, he was, in fact, 6 years younger. Monte was an undergraduate at UC-Berkeley, not a graduate student there.”
I really fail to understand how you can consider yourself to be the same age as someone when you are clearly not, and then to defend such a statement is quite bizarre.
“I could have named the terrorist movement he started: ASALA-Revolutionary Movement”.
What if you had? Everyone who knows anything about Monte Melkonian knows who you were referring to, and given that they have not been engaged in any activity since 1991, why the need to keep their anonimity? In doing so, it certainly does not justify your comments about Monte Melkonian, which is what everyone seems to be aggrieved about on here.
“Finally, while Monte was convicted of illegal weapons possession, he was not charged with selling arms or illegal drugs. (I knew him to practice healthful living habits during his imprisonment.)”
If this is the case, why suggest he was involed with drugs when the evidence you had up until 1988 was that this was not the case? Where is the evidence for your suggestion that he was? And if you have none, why make out that it was the case?
“I stand corrected and regret these errors and omissions.”
Is that it? Hardly a heartfelt apology from a ‘truth hound’. More like a begrudging admission that your ‘journalism’ in this case, and therefore one might presume in others, is extremely shoddy.
It is a shame you were not man enough to simply say I was wrong and ill informed.
Even more appropriate might have been something along the lines of “I APOLOGISE for any hurt this might have caused people”. But then, perhaps that would not be the truth either.
- Ara Manoogian Says:
May 1st, 2010 at 1:05 am Ted Bogosian Loyal To His Untruths About Monte Melkonian
By Ara Manoogian
“Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute,” Josh Billings, a 19th century popular American humorist, once famously said. But no matter how hard it appears to be, I have no other choice but to start a dialogue with a wall of silence, behind which Ted Bogosian the Truth Seeker has opted to hide. One circumstance, however, plays in my favor: the more garrulous your interlocutor has been preceding his avowed silence, the more vulnerable the latter becomes. This point was brilliantly proven by Ted Bogosian himself just a few days ago in what appeared to be a desperate attempt to stand corrected… by silencing the truth.
It’s been roughly a month since Radio Open Source host Christopher Lydon’s infamous interview with Ted Bogosian, an award-winning Armenian-American director, documentarian and journalist, was aired online and reposted throughout the web. The dissemination of the radio interview served the noble agenda of spreading the word about the heart of the Armenian cause – the Armenian Genocide and the Turkish denialism. However, his headlong pursuit of big truths was regrettably marred with loads of misinformation dishonoring Armenian national hero Monte Melkonian, one of the most revered martyrs of modern Armenian history who put his life at stake for the defense of fellow Armenians and their victory in an unequal war. Mr. Bogosian spoke from the viewpoint of a Truth Hound as he was presented at the onset of the interview. He made a number of serious unsupported claims that Monte Melkonian started a terrorist movement, selling arms and drugs, masterminding the Orly Airport attack of July 15, 1983 in Paris, as well as Turkish embassies in Europe and other businesses.
When the dead cannot stand up for their own defense, someone alive has to. Having spent over a decade researching the life and death of Monte Melkonian but never once coming across evidence that would support any such claim, I wrote Ted Bogosian an email on April 13, 2010. In my heartfelt message, I kindly asked him to share the supporting evidence I assumed he would have for the claims regarding Monte Melkonian he made in the interview. In expectation of never-before-seen evidence I refrained from repudiating any of his claims based on my own research.
Four days of Ted Bogosian’s absolute silence and/or complete indifference – thus, lack of supporting evidence for his claims – compelled me to set the record straight based on existing evidence. I wrote an article and submitted it to Hetq, a leading newspaper of investigative journalism in Armenia. At the same time, I wrote Mr. Bogosian another email as a reminder for a response to my previous letter. But no reply followed. As a next step, I posted the whole article as a comment under his interview at Radio Open Source website and Huffington post to make sure he receives my message. Then I embarked on a mission to make sure my refutation of Ted Bogosian’s untruths catches up with the speed at which his interview with dubious truths was spreading online.
Although a couple of people had already voiced their discontent with Bogosian’s inaccurate claims about Monte Melkonian’s pre-Artsakh past prior to the posting of my article, it is a bitter truth that the presentation of someone as a Truth Hound is for the majority of people sufficient evidence of the veracity of any statement uttered by him or her. For many people these “truths” become facts, and thus history is unjustly rewritten.
I contacted Markar Melkonian, Monte Melkonian’s brother, the co-author of My Brother’s Road, a biography of Monte Melkonian, to get his commentary regarding Ted Bogosian’s latest interview. He had this to say: “By far the most scurrilous of Bogosian’s claims is his contention that Monte masterminded attacks such as Orly. Not only was Monte not involved in this attack in any way, but as you [Ara Manoogian - A.M.] quite correctly noted, Orly and similar attacks drove Monte into desperate plans to kill Hagopian [Hagop Hagopian, founder of ASALA - A.M.] and any of his henchmen who got in the way, in order to stop such operations. With each outrage Monte became more desperate, until he resolved to take steps against Hagopian, with the full expectation that he would be killed in the process. Monte abhorred Orly, the Istanbul bazaar attack and the Ankara Airport attack, both because they took innocent lives, and because he believed such attacks harmed the cause to which he had pledged his life.”
As Ted Bogosian’s silence grew more deafening, and I received no confirmation that he had, in fact, received my emails, I implemented a tactic I was certain would repudiate an old Italian proverb: “Silence was never written down.” It was, in fact, on April 20, 2010. The tactic was to register tedbogosian.com and tedbogosian.blogspot.com, then upload my article debunking Ted Bogosian’s untruths about Monte Melkonian. Immediately after that I sent an email to the address I still believed belonged to Ted Bogosian, notifying him of the registration of tedbogosian.com for exposing his lies about Monte Melkonian. Silence was finally and immediately written down, as mentioned above, on April 20, 2010, as frugal as it was. Ted Bogosian wrote: “I will respond tomorrow, Ara.”
The next day I received an email from Jeffrey K. Techentin of Adler Pollock & Sheehan P.C. engaged to represent Ted Bogosian with respect to my registration and use of http://www.tedbogosian.com and http://www.tedbogosian.blogspot.com. The content of his email revealed utilization of a more traditional tactic: when you can’t answer the core question, you have to cloud the issue. To this effect Mr. Techentin had this to say: “Mr. Bogosian has forwarded me the communications received from you. Please refer any further communications directly to me. Additionally, please note that Mr. Bogosian takes your threats very seriously, and objects to your appropriation of his name for your own purposes.” The latter of the concerns is understandable and expected, however, I was baffled by the respectable Truth Hound’s perception of my pursuit of truth as a threat. I honestly expected his cooperation in finding the truth wherever it leads. I must have been misled by Mr. Bogosian’s bold statement in the same interview in question: “Every single truth that gets revealed leads to another and other and other, and we may never arrive at truth. But we’re obligated to try. That’s my view.”
Having had them serve their purpose – making Ted Bogosian speak out – I parked the domains. When it became clear that Bogosian was unwilling to address the issue as seriously as he had taken the non-existent threats his attorney had referred to, I decided to issue a press release uncovering Ted Bogosian’s untruths on April 22, 2010. As I had hoped, many media outlets responded to the cause by publishing it. I should also note that I received scores of emails encouraging my efforts. I’ll take advantage of this platform and say a big “thank you.”
Nonetheless, one thing that the launch of the press release revealed for me was the justification of my apprehension that there will never be a shortage of people falling short of transcending stereotypical judgment, such as this: if you are a terrorist, then you kill innocent people, sell drugs and arms. How many people will question this? With this stereotype, one will perhaps be right nine times out of ten. However, Monte Melkonian, an exceptionally gifted person who preferred standing up and dying for the rights of his nation at any cost over a brilliant academic career awaiting him at one of the most prestigious European universities, deserves to be more than just a negligible statistical error differing from the expected value. This is my chief concern that has been fueling my active stance on inhibiting public dissemination of Ted Bogosian’s inaccuracies purported to be facts.
Later that day, Ted Bogosian, as confirmed by Radio Open Source host Christopher Lydon, his friend of 35 years, posted a comment under the interview on Huffington Post: “I am pleased that my conversation with Christopher Lydon has inspired such informed comments. […] Finally, I pledge to correct any inadvertent errors and omissions I may have made at Brown, as always. That is a Truth Hound’s obligation. Thanks to everyone for listening.”
Mr. Bogosian fulfilled his promise the next day by posting “corrections and amplifications” in the form of a comment at the Radio Open Source and, with some minor difference, at Huffington Post, which reads as follows:
“CORRECTIONS & AMPLIFICATIONS: Everything I told Open Source about Monte Melkonian related to the period ending in April 1988, when “An Armenian Journey” premiered on PBS. I did not reference Monte’s exploits after he left prison. While I still consider Monte and myself to be the “same age”, he was, in fact, 6 years younger. Monte was an undergraduate at UC-Berkeley, not a graduate student there. I could have named the terrorist movement he started: ASALA-Revolutionary Movement. Finally, while Monte was convicted of illegal weapons possession, he was not charged with selling arms or illegal drugs. (I knew him to practice healthful living habits during his imprisonment.) I stand corrected and regret these errors and omissions.”
How can Ted Bogosian “stand corrected” if he has provided elusive responses to most of my questions and ignored the others. Isn’t there anything to correct in the following statement he made in the interview to Radio Open Source: “[Monte Melkonian] having masterminded several bombings in Europe, at Orly Airport”? I wrote as many as five paragraphs to tell the story behind this bombing as I know it in an attempt to set the record straight that Monte Melkonian not only was not involved in that attack but also did his utmost to prevent it (for more details read claim #5 in “Ted Bogosian And His Untruths About Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian”). At the same time, I requested evidence from Mr. Bogosian to back up that claim. But instead of providing supporting evidence or retracting the false statement, he has shrouded the issue with silence. However, I’ll try to analyze each of Ted Bogosian’s responses pertaining to the matter.
• “Monte was an undergraduate at UC-Berkeley, not a graduate student there.
What Mr. Bogosian had stated in the original interview was as follows: “And while I was at Duke, he was at Berkley, and when I went to graduate school, he went to graduate school in Beirut.” Monte never went to graduate school in Beirut, he was admitted to graduate school at Oxford but he never went there. Mr. Bogosian’s latest response is simply inadequate.
• “I could have named the terrorist movement he started: ASALA-Revolutionary Movement.”
This correction refers to the following statement in the original interview: “[Monte Melkonian]
started an Armenian terrorist movement.” I had identified this terrorist movement with ASALA, which was founded by Hagop Hagopian in 1975 and Monte Melkonian was recruited in 1980 (for more details read claim #4 in “Ted Bogosian And His Untruths About Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian”). In his attempt to clarify this statement, Mr. Bogosian identified that terrorist movement as ASALA-Revolutionary Movement (ASALA-RM). I wonder what exactly made him conclude that ASALA-RM is a terrorist movement.
ASALA fell apart at Monte Melkonian’s initiative exactly because of the murderous deviation of Hagop Hagopian. The Orly Airport attack masterminded by Hagopian was the final blow to the unity of ASALA and the finishing touch to the split spearheaded by Monte Melkonian. ASALA-RM, the resulting splinter, in its early stage is best represented through the following collectively written statement: “We do not believe in benevolent friends, the inevitable triumph of justice, or covertly and cleverly manipulating the superpowers. If we are to achieve national self-determination, then we ourselves, the Armenian people, will have to fight for it. We believe in the power of organized masses and in the capacity of our people to determine their own future. We believe in revolution.” This movement that had no real members but quite a few sympathizers became the personification of Monte Melkonian who concentrated on raising awareness about the Armenian cause mainly through writing.
In the times when there’s no definitive international consensus on a legally binding definition of terrorism and terrorist organizations, Mr. Bogosian is making hasty conclusions. Personally, I am more inclined towards this viewpoint of a terrorist and counter-insurgency expert Bruce Hoffman: “Terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one’s enemies and opponents, or to those with whom one disagrees and would otherwise prefer to ignore.” Labeling a revolutionary movement as terrorist, while it seeks to unite the nation to struggle for self-determination, is usually the signature of governments targeted by such movements.
• “Finally, while Monte was convicted of illegal weapons possession, he was not charged with selling arms or illegal drugs.”
This correction refers to my criticism targeting the following passage in his original interview: “…and [Monte Melkonian] started selling arms and started selling drugs…” None of the abundant evidence I have researched about Monte Melkonian maintains this claim. On the contrary, there are plenty of stories about Monte Melkonian being a fierce opponent to drug use or sale (for more details read claim #3 in “Ted Bogosian And His Untruths About Armenian National Hero Monte Melkonian”).
Ted Bogosian’s response to my question is a cunning way to steer away from the main point. His statement clearly implies that not being charged with selling arms or illegal drugs does not necessarily exclude the possibility of being involved in such activity. It is neither a retraction nor a clarification, but rather a fragile exit strategy due to lack of supporting evidence. I was not questioning only the validity of the charges Mr. Bogosian ascribed to Monte Melkonian’s case in the interview, but also his assertion that Monte Melkonian was involved in such activity. I’m still waiting for supporting evidence or unconditional retraction of these false statements.
Silence is a text easy to misread, as science-fiction writer Alfred Attanasio once said. Nevertheless, I want to believe that Mr. Bogosian had no malice in ascribing all of the aforementioned inaccuracies to Monte Melkonian, and I believe that his good will may well be manifested by a full-fledged direct response to each of the questions I singled out and any others he might be enthused to enlarge on. If Ted Bogosian is a man of his word and believes “we’re obligated to try” to “arrive at truth,” he must then fulfill his “pledge to correct any inadvertent errors and omissions” more elaborately with the following options as guidelines: a) present evidence to support his claims; b) retract the claims, for which he cannot provide supporting evidence; c) make corresponding arrangements to have the parts of radio interview that include the abovementioned misinformation about Monte Melkonian removed.
Ara Manoogian is a human rights activist representing the Shahan Natalie Family Foundation in Artsakh and Armenia, as well as a member of the Washington-based Policy Forum Armenia (PFA)
- Hellen Martirosyan Says:
May 1st, 2010 at 12:15 pm I am from Martuni too and I knew Monte personally and absolutely agree with everything mentioned above. I was lucky to meet such a Great Person and would like to add that he had the best human characteristics and had an ideal way of living and encouraged people to follow his example.
My father, Saribek Martirosyan, has sacrificed his life for Monte, and, if need be each and every karabakh Armenian would do so without regret. I am writing this on behalf of all the youth in Karabakh.
At the end I would like to say that all Great people are always surrounded by shallow ones who make PR on their account.