After years of denying the Armenian genocide, Cenk Uygur now says he doesn’t know enough about it to say anything

Cenk (pronounced “Jenk”) Uygur is the main host of the online news show The Young Turks (TYT), a popular leftist program that generally has a progressive political slant. I occasionally watched it, but gave up when Uygur started going after New Atheism and espousing a regressive line on Islam, excusing all the tenets of the faith in favor of excoriating those like Sam Harris. In fact, the show now instantiates the Regressive Left: it’s the liberal equivalent of Fox News.

However, Uygur is himself an atheist. If you want to see him go after New Atheism, here are two videos:

And Uygur’s three-hour interview with Sam Harris is here; you may remember Uygur trying without success to take Harris apart.

Now atheism should be (but isn’t always) evidence based; after all, the main reason for denying gods is that we see no evidence for them. Yet Uygur has repeatedly refused to look some important evidence in its face: the evidence for the genocide of Armenians conducted by the Ottomans (now the Turks), a massacre that began in 1915 with the arrest of Armenian intellectuals on April 24. That date is called “Bloody Sunday” and is now commemorated as Genocide Remembrance Day. Many of the arrested intellectuals were killed, and that was followed by death marches of Armenians, mass murders, the erection of concentration camps, confiscation of all Armenian property, and a general slaughter that resulted in the death of as many as 1.5 million Armenians. By any measure this was genocide (or “ethnic cleansing”): the deliberate attempt to extirpate an entire people.

Every open-minded person who has looked at the evidence agrees that this genocide happened—except for Turks. (To start reading about the evidence, go here, here, here, herehere, or look at the references in the Wikipedia article.) The notion that their country could commit such unspeakable crimes is completely unpalatable to them, and many (but not all!) Turks simply deny that the genocide happened. I’ve encountered this denial several times when visiting Turkey, and believe me, you don’t want to talk about the issue if you don’t know whom you’re talking to. The attitude of many Turks is the equivalent of those who deny the Nazi Holocaust despite insuperable evidence.

Curiously, one of the Armenian Genocide deniers has been Cenk Uygur. It may be relevant that he was born in Turkey, though his family moved to America when he was young. In 1991, while at the University of Pennsylvania, Uygur wrote an article for The Daily Pennsylvanian (the student newspaper) called “Historical Fact or Falsehood“,  which is straight-out genocide denialism, imputing false claims of genocide to Armenian demands for land and money. An excerpt:

Hence, once you really examine the history of the time it becomes apparent that the allegations of an Armenian Genocide are unfounded. So the question arises of why the Armenians would bother to conjure up such stories, and even go as far as, committing approximately 200 acts of terrorism since 1973 to further their cause, resulting in countless deaths and injuries to government officials and civilians. The answer is that they want their demands met. Their demands are that they receive close to one-half of the land of the Republic of Turkey for a new Greater Armenia, and that every Armenian claiming to be injured by the alleged genocide be compensated with cash reparations. That is why every year they push the U.S. Congress to pass a bill declaring the Armenian Genocide a historical fact. Fortunately, every year it is defeated because of the courage of people such as the 69 professors who wrote in to explain the truth of the matter.

In a letter to Salon in 1999, he again argued that there was no evidence for that genocide:

. . . every non-Armenian scholar in the field believes it is an open question whether this event was a genocide. Is it the claim of the article that all of these people are tainted by the tentacles of the Turkish government? If not, then why is it not pointed out that no one outside of the “Armenian position” believes it is a genocide? Why is it assumed that the “Turkish studies side” has the burden of proof in overturning the verdict of Turkish guilt? It is because of the underlying assumption that despite what these people in “Turkish studies” say, there must have been a genocide.

This is an embarrassing position for someone to take who’s an American progressive, and over the years Uygur has taken a lot of flak for it. When an ethnic minority is “cleansed”, and you’re supposed to be supportive of minorities, it doesn’t look good for you, or your online news show, to ignore one of the greatest massacres of the 20th century.  Yet ignore it Uygur did, refusing to mention it on the 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday last year, ignoring it this year, and ignoring the questions about it he was asked in a reddit “Ask me Anything” interview. Apparently “Anything” doesn’t include genocide.

It got so bad that Uguyr’s cohost Ana Kasparian, of Armenian descent, put up her own video about the genocide on its anniversary in 2015, making no bones about its reality. Of course she didn’t get to mention it on TYT. Here it is:

I suppose the pressure on Uygur got so bad, and its potential effects on his reputation and show so damaging, that he finally said something about the genocide. Did he admit it happened? No—he simply said that he didn’t know the facts well enough to pass judgment on it. Have a look at the most disingenuous notapology ever, “Rescinding the statements in my Daily Pennsylvanian article“, published four days ago on the TYT site (the genocide was, by the way, committed by the government instituted by reformers called “The Young Turks”). Here’s Uygur’s “retraction” in its entirety:

Today, I rescind the statements I made in my Daily Pennsylvanian article from 1991 entitled, “Historical Fact of Falsehood? When I wrote that piece, I was a 21 year-old kid, who had a lot of opinions that I have since changed. Back then I had many political positions that were not well researched. For example, back in those days I held a pro-war rally for the Persian Gulf War. Anyone who knows me now knows that I am a very different person today.

I also rescind the statements I made in a letter to the editor I wrote in 1999 on the same issue. Back then I had a very different perspective and there were many things that I did not give due weight. On this issue, I should have been far, far more respectful of so many people who had lost family members. Their pain is heart-wrenching and should be acknowledged by all.

My mistake at the time was confusing myself for a scholar of history, which I most certainly am not. I don’t want to make the same mistake again, so I am going to refrain from commenting on the topic of the Armenian Genocide, which I do not know nearly enough about.

Thank you for being patient with me on this issue, though I might not have always merited it.

One might think that, after 25 years, it was finally time for Uygur to admit the existence of that genocide. Did he do that? Not that I can see. All he says is that he’s a “very different person,” doesn’t stand by his denialism of the past, and henceforth is going to shut up about the issue. After all, he was not a “scholar of history”. (If he used that excuse all the time, he couldn’t say anything about history.)

Well, imagine if he showed similar behavior with respect to the Nazi Holocaust and, after denying it for a quarter of a century, issued something like the statement above: “I am not a scholar of history and so can’t determine whether the Nazis killed six million Jews and another six million non-Jews. I do respect the pain of those who may have lost family members in this claimed Holocaust. But since I don’t know all the facts (and can’t be arsed to look them up), I’ll just refrain from mentioning the Holocaust again.”

This is reprehensible.  In 25 years Uygur could have acquainted himself with the facts, for crying out loud! It’s not that they’re hard to find, and although a few denialists still exist—just as there are Holocaust denialists—the consensus of scholars and historians is that yes, the Armenians were exterminated en masse by the Turks.

I would like to have praised Uygur for his late admission, as few are willing to admit they were wrong, but somehow I can’t think of him as a mensch. His treatment of New Atheists, his distortion of their claims, and now this notapology—all this shows that he’s disingenuous.  That is the conclusion that Dave Rubin, once a friend and protégée of Uygar, arrived at last November when he and The Godless Spellchecker discussed Uygur’s attitudes toward New Atheism:

My conclusion is that Uygur’s statement wasn’t made in good faith. If he had good faith, he’d look at the evidence for the Armenian genocide and then render his opinion rather than saying, “I’m not a scholar.” Such an evasion is laughable. As it is, I can only imagine what Kasparian thinks of him. What I think of him is that he’s an insufferably pompous and disingenuous man, not worthy of attention, and I won’t be listening to his show. He is neither an honest Leftist nor an honest atheist.

For a longer take on Uygur and this issue, see the article by Lalo Dagach at Unsafe Speech.



Update: I missed the Godless Spellchecker’s post on this from Sunday. As Stephen Knight notes:

Were it the case that I wanted people to be certain that I wasn’t denying a historically established genocide, I’d be sure to confirm my acknowledgement of said atrocity in a released statement intended to put the matter to bed. Something like: ‘Of course I now accept the Armenian genocide happened’ would do it for instance.

The above simply reads as someone who just doesn’t want to talk about it and is hoping it will all go away, rather than someone who wishes to set the record straight.

But unfortunately, Cenk can only manage to concede he was mistaken for ‘confusing’ himself for a ‘scholar of history’ rather than being mistaken about historical fact.

Also, ‘I don’t know enough about this, I’m not a scholar’ is an odd defence to take for a talk show host. Cenk is not a ‘scholar’ on any topic as far as I’m aware.

Will Cenk refrain from being opinionated on topics he is not a scholar on from now on? Surely he would need to find a new job then. Or does this credential humility only apply where inconvenient topics such as the Armenian genocide are concerned?




  1. Dermot C
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Jerry, you wrote, ‘By any measure this was genocide (or “ethnic cleansing”): the deliberate attempt to extirpate an entire people.’

    The Office of the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide does not set such a high bar. It notes:

    ‘Legal definition of genocide

    Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”’

    So by these lights, you can count for instance Saddam’s killing of the Kurds (difficult to count but reckoned to be 180,000): the genocide of the Marsh Arabs (a population of 500,000 in the 1950s, reckoned to be 20,000 now): and Bashar al-Assad’s 2011-16 murder of Syrians (figures between 250,000 and 500,000).

    • Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Agreed. I was using my own definition of the act.

    • Thanny
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      That’s a too broad definition. By those standards, a white supremacist who burns down a black church has committed genocide.

      The correct meaning of the word (according to the laws of language, which are what count when it comes to words) is the deliberate extermination of an entire demographic.

      So what the Turks did was (apparently) attempted genocide. Same for the Nazis.

      The event closest to actual genocide that I know of was what the Maori did to the Morori.

      I prefer to avoid the term to describe mass murders because, as the UN definition demonstrates beyond any doubt, that leads to the term being watered down.

      • Dermot C
        Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        I know what you mean, Thanny, but the problem is this. The UN was setting out a legal framework with which to prevent future genocides. If you define it (as we all do in common parlance) as the extermination of an entire group then you will have no criterion by which to prevent it happening again. There would be no framework for you to intervene in order to stop the murder of the remaining members of the group.

        It’s difficult enough anyway to get the UN to stand by its requirement to prevent genocide: as Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire in Rwanda found to his cost when he warned the UN of the coming massacre. When he suggested that UNAMIR seize the weapons of the murderers, the UN told him that he was exceeding his mandate.

        Another example: a proportion of the genocide of the Marsh Arabs was caused by the draining of their land, in other words, ‘deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part…’

        If we use the popular definition of genocide, you could argue that no genocide has ever taken place. That would not be satisfactory obviously.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Here’s a book review by Edward Luttwak where he discusses the genocide, and whether it is, technically, a genocide. He reviews a much larger, and still on-going, pattern of discrimination against Armenians by Turkey before ending with this:

      …I find today’s official Turkish position (‘there were killings on both sides’) downright absurd, though too sinister to be laughable. As for the Genocide Convention, I spit on it, given all the difference it has made to the fate of the Cambodians, Rwandan Tutsis, Sarajevo Bosnians and indeed every beleaguered ex-Yugoslav population.

      • Dermot C
        Posted April 27, 2016 at 6:09 am | Permalink

        As if to remind us of the era before my tribe, the left, apologized for genocidal maniacs, and when the UN had the motivation to spot and occasionally disarm the necrophiles, along comes a Republican to remind you of the good old days of Kissinger backing mass-murdering maniacs across the world.

        It says something for the degeneration of the left that is genuinely surprising to read yesterday’s piece on US right-winger Dick Black (if this report is to be trusted) declaring, “I will be Syria’s voice,” after pointing out ‘that as soon as he returns to the United States, he will work towards organizing discussions in the Congress in order to change the prevailing view about what is happening in Syria, and that he will seek to reopen the Syrian Embassy there…’

  2. Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Denialism is the flip side of faith. The faithful think if they believe something, despite the absence of evidence, it will be real. Deniers think if they deny something, despite the evidence, it will go away.

  3. kieran
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Is there a video of him discussing the republicans and climate change and the, “I’m not a scientist” canard?

    Just wondering as the I’m not a historian one sounds an awful lot like that one.

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Exactly what I thought.

      The line…not worthy of attention, pretty much says it all. How Dave Rubin ever had anything to do with this guy is a puzzle.

      • kieran
        Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        The show has gone after the “I’m not a scientist”

        • Randy Schenck
          Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

          Yes and even there, they seem to have a hard time getting to the point of it. It is always hard to find your own faults and the Turk has plenty.

      • Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        “How Dave Rubin ever had anything to do with this guy is a puzzle.”

        In Dave’s defense and mine I was a fan of Cenk, and the show until my eyes were opened by the Sam Harris affair.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted April 26, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          Same here. I watched the three hour interview he did with Sam Harris at the time, and his comments after that interview were the last straw. He completely misrepresented a lot of what Harris said in a most disingenuous way. I wasn’t aware at the time of his position on the Armenian genocide.

          • Posted April 26, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

            Call me stupid, but up until TYT’s “reporting” of the Ben Affleck incident I was pretty much a dogmatic progressive. Their disingenuous misrepresentations, and outright lies about Harris, someone who’s positions, and writings I was very well versed in made me realize for the first time that were almost as willing as Fox News to lie to support their agenda. That caused me to view them much more critically, and I discovered they do the same on many issues.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted April 26, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

              If you’re stupid, so am I. I suppose I assume that because a big part of being an atheist is about a search for the truth that I tend to assume atheists are honest. I’m always a bit shocked when I realize otherwise. Incidents like the Uygar/Harris one have made me more cautious too.

  4. philfinn7
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Jerry, minor point, very minor since we are discussing something so major, but Cenk is pronounced Jenk, not Chenk.

    • Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      They sound similar to me, but I’ll correct it above, thanks.

      • Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

        They sound different to me, Cherry.


        • Nick Dertavitian
          Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink


      • Thanny
        Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

        Most likely, you’ve just heard a lot of people using the wrong pronunciation, such as in the video you linked above with Dave Rubin in it.

        • Jeebus
          Posted April 27, 2016 at 3:56 am | Permalink

          The name Cenk shares an etymology with Genghis (Cengiz if translated from Turkish), as in Genghis Khan. Interestingly, in Mongolian they apparently do say “Chengis” and I’ve heard some people pronounce it that way in English too (along with the hard G sound too).

  5. jeffery
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I didn’t see any mention by Jerry that, not only do Turks deny the genocide, you can go to prison there for insisting that it happened.

    • Scientifik
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Unbelievable, and this country is soon to join the EU…

      • Dermot C
        Posted April 26, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

        Continuing his excellent campaign to be named ‘Biggest Oaf of Any Head of State’, President Erdogan claims that it was Muslims who discovered the Americas in 1178.


        I reckon it took about another 800 years for Turkey to be admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization: I suspect with Ozymandian intellectuals like Recep in charge it might take another 800 years for Turkey to join the EU.

        • Scientifik
          Posted April 26, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

          If the EU’s realpolitik wins the day, it might happen sooner than most people think…

          “The EU struck a bargain with Turkey at a summit in March. Turkey, already hosting 3.1 million refugees, agreed to take back irregular migrants from Europe, in exchange for an end to visa restrictions, as well as progress on EU accession talks.”

    • Simon
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      Under dictator Erdogan you can be jailed for just about anything. Merkel and co’s shortsighted Muslim import drive has put Europe in a compromised position regarding Turkey. The penny has dropped with European governments that they are out on their ears if they don’t curb the immigration and Turkey is in a position to open the floodgates. The result is that Erdogan can behave like an authoritarian pig with impunity.

      AS for the YTs, they are sometimes actually worse than Fox when it comes to cheap shots and bias. Unfortunately this has been standard practice for progressives for years and eyes are only opened when the home ox gets repeatedly gored as in the atheist “Deep Rifts” and with SJWism in the wider world. Many were avid users of smug phrases such as “reality has a liberal bias” and only too eager to go along with lazy caricatures of conservatives. I still don’t think it has yet hit home for an awful lot of people on the left that some of their policy positions are as emotionally based as anyone elses.

  6. Geoff Toscano
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I didn’t realise until recently that the Armenian genocide was a cause for denial.

    It’s sad, but until a nation accepts its history there is no prospect of rehabilitation.

    • Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      “Until a nation accepts its history there is no prospect of rehabilitation.”
      Very true.

  7. Cameron
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I have to ask the uncomfortable question “why recognize it anyway?” The truth is that genocide is historically quite commonplace. Many European and Asian minorities were either totally absorbed or completely wiped off of the face of the earth with not so much as a tear today. At what point in history do we stop fixating on the horrors of the past? I am not being facetious here. Rather, I really don’t know what to make of this need to recognize historical atrocities and at what point to de we make the arbitrary cut-off to say that we don’t need to forcefully recognize it anymore. Is it 100, 200, 500, 1000 years? Should I shake my fist at the Danish government for atrocities committed by the Normans when they wiped out my Saxon heritage, or should I be angry with Germany for the Saxons? One could argue that only those people still currently suffering due to historical misgivings should be recognized. Then again, how do we determine if someone is still suffering from it (aside from obvious cases)? I can’t help but open this can of worms when considering the current fetishism of victimhood.

    • eric
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      At what point in history do we stop fixating on the horrors of the past?

      We’re talking about an event that started around 1915. Some people alive today had parents or grandparents that went through it. So I really don’t think the Norman invasion of England is a good analogy.

      Second, this was the actions of a modern, industrial nation state with a republican (parliamentary) form of government. So we can probably do a lot more “learning from history” on this case than we can from early medieval invasions. Its worthwhile asking questions like ‘how did the state let it happen, and how can we prevent other states from acting in a similar manner’ for this case because the answers may be very relevant to our types of states, in a way the question ‘how did the state let the battle of Hastings happen’ may not be.

      Third, I don’t think anyone here in the west is demanding today’s generation of Turks be blamed for what their grandparents or great-grandparents might have done. People just want the first, simple step of acknowledging it happened. Denial shows enormous callousness and disrespect towards the victims. Everyone should be willing to acknowledge the bad acts of their forebears, even if there will remain disagreements about possible recompense or reparation.

    • Samvel Tigranyan
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      The aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is that it not only wiped clear the majority of armenian population,but it also determined the faith of the rest of the armenians.Those who were lucky enough not to get brutally murdered and raped had to escape and find their new places of life around the world.This would and did change the future of one of the oldest cultures that humanity has known,lot of the survivors just lost the touch with their culture and language which naturally occures in cases when one is isolated from their own kind and surrounded and effected by the new culture/language,they just lost their cultural and ethnic identiity.This in fact is what the Turkish gov originally planned to do and it is happening.That makes it differemt from other mass executions.

    • robert
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      A genocide accepted is a genocide remembered and when genocide is remembered, the original intent of the perpetrators is never realized. It is for these reasons that humanity must stand in solidarity with the victims in order to ensure that the legacy and historical foundation of a community never acquiesces to the policies intended to rob a people of their existence.

    • robert
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      Recognizing any genocide is key to preventing it in the future. Did you happen to know that Hitler modeled the Holocaust based on what the Turks Did to the Armenians? Hitler famously said “I have issued the command and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness for the present only in the East with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” This was part of the speech Hitler gave from the Nuremberg Tribunal s in 1945.

  8. Jerry Tarone
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    If you watch various take downs of Cenk comparing what Cenk has said Sam Harris has said vs the actual video of what Sam Harris said, in Cenk’s own interview of Sam Harris, one can only come to the conclusion that calling Cenk “disingenuous” is being very generous.

    One can really only come to the conclusion that Cenk is lying, suffering from a severe case of confirmation bias so bad that Cenk changes what Harris said in Cenk’s mind, or Cenk is suffering from some sort of personality disorder. But perhaps I’m not being fair and others have a different suggestion?

    I really don’t know what else it could be when Sam Harris says something over and over when being interviewed by Cenk himself, but when Cenk discusses it or writes about it, it’s the opposite of what Sam Harris said. Most notably is Cenk saying Harris is talking about all Muslims when Harris is discussing Muslim terrorism.

    The number of Youtube videos chronicling Cenk’s dishonesty against Sam Harris is simply amazing and they continue to multiply. (As are video’s of Cenk’s other victims) Cenk’s response to these videos is calling the producers “Sam Harris fanboys”, or he has what can only be described as an incoherent gibbering tantrum.

    I was never a big fan of Cenk but I simply can’t watch him anymore because of this behaviour.

    • ChrisB
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      I agree.

      I watched that whole 3 hour fiasco of a “discussion” between Cenk and Sam Harris. I don’t know how Harris’s head didn’t explode or at least burst into flames by the end of it. I have never seen someone (Cenk) try so hard and so disingenuously to miss the point over and over and over again. It was mentally and physically painful to watch.

      It’s not that hard a concept:
      Sam Harris does not claim that Islamic extremism is entirely due to the religion of Islam. No one thinks that religions operate in a vacuum as the sole cause of such extremism. Of course historical, political and social aspects have their role. But you just don’t fly planes into buildings, blow yourself up or saw the head off of another living human being unless you believe certain things, like you are going to heaven or you are doing God’s work.

      To claim that religion has nothing to do with Islamic extremism you have to be deluded or lying. And the dishonest way Cenk portrayed that encounter afterwards to his fanboys when anyone can go back to the discussion and check for themselves what actually happened, well that was just nauseating.

  9. Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    You drew a parallel between Armenian Genocide deniers and Holocaust deniers. Holocaust deniers are not, as so many think, misinformed — they are intentionally promulgating a sanitized version of Nazism, trying to make it appear acceptable so as to promote tolerance and even support of Nazism among reasonable people. In other words, they want to do it all again, and their statements represent a tactic, not a mistake. Do you see anything similar in the motivation of Armenian Genocide deniers?

    • Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      I think that there may be a connection between Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide and its present-day policies such as the brutal treatment of Kurds and the takeover of northern Cyprus, a takeover which IMHO is too much ignored by international community.

    • Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      I haven’t investigated the motivations involved in either in detail. However if I recall correctly, there’s a crime in Turkey something to the effect of “slandering Turkishness”, which I believe gets trotted out when someone is outspoken about calling for accountability on the Armenian genocide. So there’s a sort of “whitewashing of our country” (or ethnicity) there too. (Instead of a political party, but the gist seems plausibly similar.)

    • Simon
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      Naziphobe. Don’t blame Nazism for atrocities committed against the Jews, it was all the fault of the oppressive Treaty of Versailles. The French made them do it. Nazism is the ideology of peace and it makes trains run on time.

      • Posted April 26, 2016 at 2:42 pm | Permalink


      • Phil Giordana FCD
        Posted April 27, 2016 at 3:59 am | Permalink

        Yeah, sure, blame the French. Again.

  10. eric
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    He came so close. He could’ve easily kept paragraphs 1,2 and 4. But I agree, 3 is a problem. If he’s unwilling to say that it happened, he still could’ve handled the issue better with something like this: “I was raised in a Turkish family, with Turkish cultural attitudes and biases. I’m still struggling to overcome them. I must admit I’m not fully there yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever be totally free of them. But I plan on reading a lot more on the issue, and this time not focusing on sources that merely confirm my childhood beliefs.”

  11. TJR
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    It has always puzzled me that the phrase “Young Turks” is so often used with positive connotations. I can only assume that most people know little or nothing of the original group of that name.

    Rather like the unfair negative connotations of “Philistine”.

    • I.V.
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Same here, and back when I heard about a Turkish-American launching a TV show called “The Young Turks” in 2011, I immediately thought the name in very poor taste…

  12. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    The US position here is a bit ironic. (Not that Sweden to my knowledge has signed off on the genocide. But it has become a political question yet again, I hear.)

    So if a nation doesn’t sign off on the genocide decision, is it in denial?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      From what I know, both Sweden and the US have accepted the Armenian genocide, both fairly recently. There are 27 countries that have and they are numbers 22 and 24 respectively. My own country (New Zealand) unfortunately has not officially. I don’t know why we haven’t, but the chances are it’s because of some trade deal.

  13. Samvel Tigranyan
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Samvel Tigranyan on April 26, 2016 at 11:04 am
    The aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is that it not only wiped clear the majority of armenian population,but it also determined the faith of the rest of the armenians.Those who were lucky enough not to get brutally murdered and raped had to escape and find their new places of life around the world.This would and did change the future of one of the oldest cultures that humanity has known,lot of the survivors just lost the touch with their culture and language which naturally occures in cases when one is isolated from their own kind and surrounded and effected by the new culture/language,they just lost their cultural and ethnic identiity.This in fact is what the Turkish gov originally planned to do and it is happening.That makes it differemt from other mass executions.

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    I so love CU, and I am soooo disappointed to learn this about him. Since his parents are still practicing Muslims, I was willing to cut him a bit of slack on Sam Harris, but this is far worse.

    I remain a fan, but a more jaded and cautious one.

  15. Avi Mueller
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Every open-minded person who has looked at the evidence agrees that this genocide happened—except for Turks.

    No, not just Turks. Many nations do not recognize it, including the United States. Israel in particular has steadfastly refused to recognize the Armenian Genocide: Echoing Uygur, Israel’s Simon Peres said “History should be left to the historians” and in response to Armenians’ claim that they were victims of genocide replied with the official Israeli line that”We oppose this definition. What happened to the Armenians was a tragedy, not a genocide.”


    Elie Wiesel and Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg as well as the AJC and Yad Vashem withdrew from an international conference on genocide in Tel Aviv because the academic sponsors, against Israeli government urging, included sessions on the Armenian case. Wiesel also sought, unilaterally, to abort the conference and, according to Yehuda Bauer, personally lobbied others not to attend. Acting at Israel’s behest, the US Holocaust Council practically eliminated mention of the Armenians in the Washington Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Jewish lobbyists in Congress blocked a day of remembrance for the Armenian genocide.

    Not all genocides are created equal, it seems. The cynically opportunistic refusal to acknowledge a politically inconvenient genocide shows that phrases like “we will not be silent” and “never again” are empty platitudes.

  16. Jeff Ryan
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I gave up on Uygur a long time ago. I was willing to put with a lot, but he wore out his welcome.

    Politics (and national security) have had a lot to do with this issue. Turkey is incredibly strategically important. If anything, I’m amazed things have gotten this far.

  17. J. Quinton
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    What’s doubly frustrating is that we have the term “genocide” in our lexicon specifically because it was invented to describe what the Ottoman empire did to the Armenians (if Wikipedia is to be believed).

    • Nirven
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      In her book “A Problem from Hell”, Samantha Power describes how Lemkin coined the phrase, and how he had to pester politicians to get it recognized.
      A depressing, but interesting book.

  18. Adam M.
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Wellp, everyone’s got their blind spots and topics that they’re not trustworthy to speak fairly about, but it’s good to shine a light on them.

    I don’t think it’s fair to say “Of course she didn’t get to mention it on TYT.” As Ana said in the video, she was out of town at the time, and she’s repeatedly said that she’s always been able to say anything she wants to say on the show, and that no matter how strong their disagreements Cenk has never attempted to censor her in any way. Perhaps she chose not to speak on the show for political reasons, or perhaps she was simply out of town as she said, but I don’t think there’s any evidence of censorship.

    I also don’t think it’s fair to say “the show now instantiates the Regressive Left”. They oppose the regressive left on many issues, such as the aforementioned censorship, the proliferation of safe spaces, etc. They strongly support free speech, the right to offend, etc. They’re not cultural relativists and have clearly said that Muslim oppression of women, gays, atheists, etc. is horrible, and Muslim culture is in many ways a horrible culture that they hate and that needs to be changed.

    You can find a couple of opinions that are sorta-kinda similar to a watered down version of what you hear from students on university campuses, but they strongly disagree with the Regressive Left on far more topics.

    • Vaal
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

      I agree with your general point.

      This is why I get cautious when new labels are created – e.g. “Regressive Left” – which can become the same ingroup/outgroup markers as the “other group” is accused of employing.
      It becomes problematic because someone can display some characteristics that might fit under the label, but not others, and tossing them in to that labelled bin erases over the details.

    • Jessica
      Posted April 26, 2016 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      I couldn’t disagree with your assessment more. I was a member of TYT for about a year and slowly (embarrassingly slowly) came to realize how regressive and just plain untrustworthy they really are. The whole Sam Harris debacle made me reexamine how they comment on stories, and, just as importantly, what stories they choose to cover and not cover. If anyone were to ask me to define Regressive Left, I’d tell them to watch TYT for a week.

      • Vaal
        Posted April 27, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        Ok, I guess we disagree.

        Though I have not watched the Young Turks, I’ve seen several interviews by and with
        Cenk Uygur, and they do not support, IMO, his being put neatly into the “regressive left” box. Even in the Kyle Kulinski show linked to above, Cenk seems far more reasonable, and displays more range and nuance than the label “regressive left” would lead me to expect. He readily admits religion having a guiding role in terrorist behavior, including Islam. He readily criticizes Islam and religion in general. He’s not “all religions are equally good and we ought to respect religion” he’s closer to “all religion is bad and we ought to criticize them all.” Now, he may be WRONG, but I certainly don’t see a “pandering to Islamism (not “Islamism” not “Islam”)” that the phrase “regressive left” was created to incorporate.

        Also, even as a huge Sam Harris fan – he is one of my intellectual heroes – I do not find Cenk’s questioning of Harris’ first nuclear strike comments to be unreasonable.
        I’ve seen the videos that purport to show Cenk’s utter misunderstanding of or misrepresentation of Sam’s first strike comments in end of faith. But (with the exception of one or two comments Cenk makes), I find Cenk IS identifying a slipperiness in Sam’s defense of that passage. That was even the case in their long interview together.

        So while I am not a long time viewer of the Young Turks, I’ve seen enough not to so easily slide into believing all the criticisms of Cenk, or too quickly slap a “regressive left” label on him.

  19. Posted April 26, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Most countries throughout historical time (and before, no doubt) have committed genocides. The U.S. was guilty of various forms of genocide (warfare, infected blankets, death marches, starvation, etc.) against the indigenous populations (misappropriately called Indians)in what became the U.S. Similar atrocities occurred throughout the world. Genocide should never ever happen anywhere.

    The Turks committed genocide against the Armenians. I don’t know how many other genocides they’re guilty of. I do know that they were excessively brutal towards other peoples living near them. The Greeks, for example; many of whom still hate them.

    Diaspora of the Armenians was terrible for them, but beneficial to the countries to which they immigrated. Fresno, California has/had a
    large population of Armenians. I was fortunate to acquire an Armenian version of Stuffed Grape Leaves from an Armenian dorm sister as a freshman in college. I am most grateful for that cultural sharing as it is a favorite of my family (and anyone else who’s ever eaten it.) There are jillions of Stuffed Grape Leaf recipes from all around the Mediterranean and Near East. Greek Stuffed Grape Leaves are good. Armenian is, confirmed by taste tests, so far, the best.

  20. Rich Sanderson
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    As I posted on Twitter, Cenk’s “I’m not a scholar” line is the same excuse as the leaders of CAGE, who said “I’m not a theologian”, over the rather simple question of whether stoning a woman for death for adultery is right or wrong.

    Also, you’ll notice the likes of PZ Myers and the other anti-liberals at FreeThoughtBlogs/The Orbit, are very quiet about this issue. Why? Well, I suspect it is the same reason they stay quiet when CJ Werleman spews his bigotry – they see the likes of CJ, Lean, and Cenk as useful attack dogs against those nasty “new atheists” such as Dawkins and Harris.

  21. nonof your business
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    while i disagree on many many topic with mr cenk and have my own personal opinion of him which aint nessesarly flatering specially with this topic theres also another side.

    after all he was grown up and raised turkish.
    and they usually indoctrinate their peopel very strongly. and noone is safe from such indocrination when it starts at young age.

    we all are indoctrinated in some way.

    however i still wonder about his real atheism

  22. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 26, 2016 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    I’ve now watched the full video of CU on gnu atheism and i feel there is a basic fallacy. CU states that although Muslims are behaving much worse than Christians or Jews since the Scriptures of all 3 religions is just as bad therefore the main explanation for Muslim atrocities must be Western imperialism. But historically both Judaism and Christianity have gone thru periods of reform not seen in the history of Islam. What is the Islam equivalent of Reform or Reconstructionist Judaism? Or Unitarian or Quaker Christianity? I’m not sure there is one. CU thinks he’s a better atheist than Sam Harris since he recognizes that all the Bibles are equally bad.
    At least CU seems perfectly earnest here. But the logic seems naive.

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