15 Jul 2010
‘Thanks to the Armenian People…’
According to my observations, when watching news in Armenia you hear more words related to “Azerbaijan” and “Turkey” than “Armenia” sometimes, practically always in a negative sense, and—most problematically—practically always having the effect of deepening the enemy image within society. The ever-present enemy image does not, however, confine itself to news programs or state-run media. These last months on Armenian public TV a strange advertisement has been showing every day (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHUj7596Qz4&feature=related). The aim of this ad is to convince people to buy milk products from a certain company. This would not be unusual, if it were not for how they’re doing it.
Imagine that on your TV screen you see a young official with symbols of Turkey on the wall behind him, with subtitles noting that he’s an official representative of one of the regions in Turkey. Can you guess what he says? He says he is grateful to the Armenian people, who buy Turkish products and with these purchases support Turkey in overcoming the financial crisis and empower their military.
I would like to reflect on the messages in this ad for Armenian milk products. I’ve started to ask my Armenian friends and colleagues what they think about this advertisement. Most of them think that it is quite funny. Then I asked if they think that this is a real person representing Turkey who is speaking to Armenian society, and here the opinions differ. Some people think that this is a real government official, but not a very “important” one, who is authorized to speak to Armenian society. Others think that this is an actor, but probably he represents the official position of Turkey. Another group thinks that this is just a funny ad. Finally, the last group tells me, “Oh, I watched it. What’s an insolent Turkish guy doing teasing Armenians for supporting Turkey’s military? They’re sneering at us.” Knowing my friends and colleagues, I wouldn’t say that they are foolish; most of them are very well educated and quite open minded, but for them it was not so clear who this man is in reality. Here is the trick! Few people will try to analyze or go deeper to understand if it’s a real person from Turkey or just an actor playing his role.
The main thing that is shocking is that the “official representative” started to talk to the Armenian people about the empowerment of the Turkish military. Friends told me that there is another in this series of ads, with a Chinese representative this time. I’ve never seen it, but I asked if the Chinese representative also talked about the Chinese military, and the answer was no. So what does this mean? For me, the message is “Armenians, you buy Turkish products and support your enemy to strengthen its military to fight against you.” Maybe I am simplifying things, but for me, there is no difference if instead it said to buy Armenian products in order to strengthen the Armenian military to fight against Turkey, because in both cases the ad would be exploiting militaristic propaganda and the enemy image in order to sell the product.
For me this example shows how our media and business participates in the exploitation and in the deepening of the enemy image. It’s one thing when they’re presenting all the international news from the perspective of the conflicts in which Armenia is involved. I find it dangerous for our society when the media participates in the exploitation and deepening of the enemy image by making fun of Turkey by using the stereotypical enemy image. I see real danger in how easy it is for the state-created enemy image to be deepened without any serious effort, through its exploitation by private companies, and no one objects to it.
Usually we complain about why society doesn’t support peace, and then you see that society is actually living with such “advertisements,” and really enjoys them because they are so funny!