Who Is Shant Harutiunian?

Last week, most of my stories had to do with The Great Armenian Revolution of 2013.

Today, Gegham Vardanyan (@reporterarm), a journalist in Armenia, posted this picture taken in Yerevan of graffiti that’s appeared depicting Harutiunian.

[tweet https://twitter.com/reporterarm/status/399817408392593408 align=’center’]

Other famous individuals that have gained the distinction of appearing in Yerevan street art are Garegin NjdehSoghomon TehlirianWilliam SaroyanVahan Deryan, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, and others. That’s the company Harutiunian now enjoys.

There are clearly people who do not think this man is enough of a lunatic to disavow his actions as dangerous and unacceptable, as I have argued they should. There are people marching so that he, a “political prisoner”, be set free – never mind the blatantly illegal actions he committed. There are people making him out to be a hero and enshrining him among actual heroes of the Armenian nation.

So, I figured something’s awry: either I misjudged this man and he deserves better treatment than what I’ve offered or I was right in assessing peoples’ reticence to resoundingly reject his antics because of a starvation for something more meaningful.

As I don’t take anything for granted – not even my own opinions and ideas – I decided to do a little research to see if there is something I missed between him becoming a public figure and when I got to know him, which was mostly last week.

I spent hours watching videos of him available on You Tube, of which there are many, trying to get to know the man (kind of) behind the (Guy Fawkes) mask.

Here are my observations:

1) PASSION, CONVICTION, KNOWLEDGE

He’s obviously passionate about what he believes. He also looks like he’s read some philosophy and history. Although from the videos it’s hard to tell whether he read the Cliff’s Notes version of everything or if he spent time studying the various texts of the people he references (e.g. Njdeh, Nietzsche, Marx).

There is definitely something in the noggin, it’s just not clear where it comes from and where it’s going. And I’m not sure it actually directs his actions the way he would have us believe.

2) NO DIRECTION

He speaks generally about starting a revolution but gives no reason why. Some of the things he has said he wants were “cultural revolution”, “revolution”, and Armenian philosophy or philosophers.

Much of the time he’s lamenting the lack of philosophical thought among Armenians and, rightly, the inability to have a substantive movement without that. But, contradicting his own statements on the matter, he ends up starting a half-ass “revolution” upon no clear premise.

3) WORST. DEBATER. EVER.

When he’s talking to an interviewer by himself, he seems reasonable, even amiable. But golly gee, brace yourselves if he’s in a room with another debater, particularly one who doesn’t fully agree with him: he is plainly incapable of having a civil discussion, a loose cannon.

Even after he’s made his point, when someone tries to say something in response, he continuously interrupts them and not to add anything in particular but to expound on points he’s already made or to repeat what he’s already said.

Even if you don’t understand Armenian, you can watch his interaction with others in the following interviews.

(Warning: there is a risk to your ears’ ability to continue functioning properly after watching)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiR2Maz6bg0&w=560&h=315]

At 7:20

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_ZbzD_3FA4&w=420&h=315]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=isUcjIOpFzc&w=560&h=315]

When he has to interact with others, he’s unable to control himself, choosing yelling to discussion. His comments are often laced with insults. It’s almost a sight to see if it weren’t so excruciating to watch. He seems more interested in his own voice than in anything that anyone else has to say.

4) ANTI-RUSSIA CONSPIRACY THEORIST

He makes no bones about his disdain for Russia’s overbearing hold on Armenia – which is understandable –  and its meddling in Armenia’s affairs but the man is convinced that Russia controls every aspect of the Armenian government: Serzh Sargsyan’s presidency, Seyran Ohanian’s ministerial duties as defense minister, the whole national state security apparatus. What makes it a conspiracy theory, of course, is that he offers no evidence whatsoever besides saying that he has evidence that he can show. Absolutely nothing.

He actually seems obsessed with Russia and not very concerned with the Armenian authorities.

In reality, he pays so little attention to discussing the actual Armenian authorities and why he might not like them to the point that he’d want to start a revolution that I feel he would have been better served starting his revolution against Russia and not Armenia. After all, it’s not clear what the point of starting a revolution in Armenia is if, like Harutiunian apparently believes, Armenia is under Russia’s total control.

5) IRONY

I’m not sure if he’s being ironic or he just doesn’t see it as a big deal but as he’s roundly tearing Russia and its influence in Armenia to shreds, his speech is concurrently sprinkled with Russian words: “logika”, “dochni”, “proste”, “luboy”, “dubinkek”, “vopshum”, “militsek”,

6) PHILOSOPHER-CUM-REVOLUTIONARY

Harutiunian seems to fashion himself a philosopher-cum-revolutionary. He laments the lack of philosophy and philosophers among Armenians and sees them as a precondition, not only for Armenians but everywhere, to a proper revolution. So I can only imagine that if he’s complaining about a lack of philosophers but thinks they’re necessary for a proper revolution, he either believes himself to be the philosopher necessary for the revolution or he’s not interested in a proper revolution.

In any case, when I think of those two words – “philosopher”, “revolutionary” – I think these guys:

General Andranik, revolutionary
General Andranik, revolutionary
General Garegin Njdeh: revolutionary, philosopher
General Garegin Njdeh: revolutionary, philosopher
Raffi: revolutionary, philosopher
Raffi: revolutionary, philosopher
Plato: some would say philosopher but I ask, proto-Shant Harutiunian?
Plato: some would say philosopher but I ask, proto-Shant Harutiunian?

Not this guy:

Harutiunian (Credit: Photolur)
Harutiunian (Credit: Photolur)

He makes himself out to be a martyr before being martyred.

7) THE VULGAR PHILOSOPHER

His colorful language, sometimes during interviews, is a potpourri of Turkish, Russian, and Armenian vulgarity.

“TUFTA” (Russian obscenity)

“SRIKA” (Turkish obscenity)

“BOZ/POZ” (Armenian obscenity)

See him channel Khrimian Hayrig, Krikor Zohrab, and Monte Melkonian:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AVQvb1RxTo&w=420&h=315]

Just imagine, as you’re watching that video, Khrimian Hayrig, Zohrab, Monte, or perhaps Njdeh, one of Harutiunian’s inspirations, standing behind that megaphone saying the things Harutiunian is saying. Ya, no.

8) REVOLUTION FOR WHAT?

He talks about revolution but nowhere does he explain WHY. He just says he’s going to do it, that’s it.

Because he didn’t answer my question, I offer to any readers: what does he want revolution for?

And I don’t mean what YOU want revolution for; I want to know why Shant Harutiunian wants revolution. Because, as yet, I have no idea.

BECAUSE IF YOU’RE GOING TO OPENLY TALK ABOUT SETTING FIRE TO THE PRESIDENTIAL PALACE or occupying the state intelligence service or carrying two cans of benzene (presumably to use in revolutionary activities)…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7NluSttecI&w=560&h=315]

… I feel like you should have a good reason for it.

FINAL CONCLUSION

Awkwardly, I didn’t find myself disagreeing with everything that he said, little of which centered on him conducting a revolution. But that doesn’t excuse his actions or his behavior. My final conclusion is that Shant Harutiunian is batshit crazy.

There isn’t a single video I’ve watched where he’s interacting with an interlocutor where he doesn’t go berserk, arms flailing, yelling at the top of his lungs, interrupting the host or other guest/s – even grabbing them. He seems to always be on the cusp of a massive emotional meltdown.

I stand by my original assessment that he’s a lunatic. I won’t lower my standards of the expectations of our fellow men and women because the man reached his wit’s end – his wit may have been shorter than normal. I also won’t accept him soiling the sanctity of true heroes of the Armenian nation, those who didn’t resort to pettiness and vulgarity in their effort to make a point. It’s inexcusable.

Anyone trying to justify Harutiunian’s actions is just feeding the depravity that not only created him but allowed him to feel that he would not be absolutely rejected by society for his actions.

I’ll take philosophers-cum-revolutionaries. Real ones.

By: William Bairamian

[twitter-follow screen_name=’bairamian’]

British Navy, Indonesian Special Forces in Armenia

Since the Great Armenian Revolution of 2013, there have been a flurry of news reports. Who did what, who hit whom, who was at fault and, my favorite, which country’s special forces and police were present.

In the daily CivilNet English-language digest yesterday, it was reported that some were alleging that Russian special forces were present at the protest because of Russian-language clothing on officers (at 2:22 below).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hb1ujnAVes&w=560&h=315]

Aravot Daily, which makes a sport of creatively presenting news headlines and exaggerating anything that has the potential to make the government look bad, published an article, entitled (quotes theirs), “In addition to Russian special mission units, there were also the U.S. service special agents at the Mashtots Avenue”.

That was distilled from a response to:

“[…] the question of why they brought detachments of the Russian special mission units to the Mashtots Avenue […]”

So: Russian on police clothing = possibility of Russian special forces in Armenia. Gotcha.

So: cops with the light blue stripes across their backs that have “POLICE” imprinted on them (below), in English = American/British/Australian/Canadian(<-lol) police in Armenia. Right?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtIbJG_z7jw&w=560&h=315]

So: why isn’t anyone asking about the obvious American/British/Australian/Canadian(<-lol) police presence in Yerevan?!

The video that accompanied the Aravot article:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f23vRjv5Hmg&w=560&h=315]

It is admittedly proved that there was Russian written on police clothing, but there are a few more pieces of evidence that seem to skip the reporter’s mind who was asking the question:

:10, there is an Armenian flag on officer’s (#1) sleeve

:13, there is an Armenian coat of arms on officer’s (#2) hat

:24, there is an Armenian flag on officer’s (#3) sleeve

Unless, of course, this was a ploy to take Armenian-looking Russians and dress them up in police clothing with Russian on it but with Armenian symbols to utterly confuse the living hell out of anybody who looked at them.

In which case, the reporter asking the question is wholly justified.

By the way, the answer to the question above that was posed by the reporter?

“Not only Russian special mission units, but also Mossad and British Navy, the U.S. Central Bureau of Investigation servicemen were there, late at the end, our partners from Indonesia arrived.”

Courtesy of Ashot Aharonyan, head of the Police’s Public Relations and Information Department.

Indonesians: always late to the party. But they can do whatever they want because they have this guy:

Credit: Al Jazeera
Credit: Al Jazeera

Who looks a lot like a guy who actually can do pretty much whatever he wants.

Except get Republicans to like him. But I digress (like whoa).

In other news, in an interesting article by Hetq, Aravot is one source (out of two) cited about media professionalism and ethical reporting in Armenia.

Full Aravot article here.

CivilNet Gets It Woefully Wrong

I’ve recently been informed that my commentary is “ridiculous” because I am not currently in Armenia starting a revolution. But in my world, which happens to exist outside of the “why don’t you go [fill in the blank]” kindergarten playground of discussions, I believe I am free to comment on things that exist outside of the vicinity of where I live so that’s what I’m going to continue to do.

For context, I’ve been a fan of the CivilNet English-language video updates since they were announced in September. I think they are an important source of information for people whose primary language of communication is English and who want to have a connection to news in Armenia.

CivilNet fb

However, this short report on today’s cockamamie “revolution” really got it wrong.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtj1p6ADGG8&w=560&h=315]

What about it? Well, thanks for asking. Come with me.

1) Look at all these police arresting people!

The video, as can be seen, shows almost an unhindered stream of what looks like police aggression and force. To those none the wiser, the police are brutally carrying away and imposingly blocking the paths of citizens simply trying to protest.

But what the video completely fails to show is that BEFORE the roundup and presence of significant police force, several explosives were detonated by this guy and his ragtag band of “revolutionaries”:

Harutiunian and his "revolutionaries." (Credit: Photolur)
Harutiunian and his “revolutionaries” (Credit: Photolur)

In fact, as can be seen in a video taken before CivilNet’s, although there was a police presence, there were no special forces or SWAT anywhere in sight. 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ypGza2cU90&w=560&h=315]

I’m going to guess they showed up after the fact but in the CivilNet video, it looks like it was a continuous event with the massive police presence, and accompanying arrests, happening just because people were protesting, which was NOT the case. 

Selective much?

2) Sequence of events

The video’s narration notes that “when protesters decided to start marching toward the Presidential Palace, more than 200 police and special forces, including the SWAT team, pushed them back.”

How about a scenario? Say you’re walking around with some friends and you all happen to have taken your favorite masks with you on this particular stroll. You also happen to be in Washington, DC (or Budapest or Kigale or Athens) and decide you feel like a protest. So you start heading over to the president’s pad. Except, on this particular day, THERE WERE EXPLOSIVE DEVICES DETONATED less than a mile from where the president lives.

What capital in the whole world would allow masked protesters to get anywhere near any government building, much less the president’s house, during a time of such disarray? If you answered not a goddamn one, you’d be correct. 

In real life, CivilNet doesn’t bother with the fact that there was a serious violent incident that took place before these marchers tried to head to the Presidential Palace and leaves the impression that activists protesting “corrupt governments and greedy corporations” were stopped in their tracks by police. 

Another fact not important enough to include in the report that I feel might have encouraged the police to pour hundreds of their officers onto the street: 8 policemen were hospitalized after the explosives were detonated.

“Revolutionaries” beating the shit out of some guy before 200 people with masks were stupefyingly stopped by police on their jaunt to the Presidential Palace:

Harutiunian in orange shirt. (Credit: Photolur)
Harutiunian in orange shirt. (Credit: Photolur)

3) Editing

After a full minute and a half of showing police carrying people away, the narration announces that,

“it appeared that the protests centered around Shant Harutiunian […] who for days has been repeating that somehow something must change.”

CUT TO FOOTAGE OF MAN BEING HAULED OFF BY POLICE.

So can we conclude that the thing that Harutiunian is trying to change is police dragging people away while distraught women weep in the background? Although it was Harutiunian that inspired the police to be doing that in the first place?

And then there is no mention that Harutiunian was the jackass who led the initial group and was doing this, and throwing explosives on the ground like firecrackers, before the area was flooded by police:

Harutiunian (Credit: Photolur)
Harutiunian – seriously, WTF? (Credit: Photolur)

For effect, both the beginning and end of the video was flanked by audio of a screeching woman, I suppose to accentuate the egregiousness of a police officer carrying away a possible suspect in the explosions that CivilNet didn’t bother spending much time on.

Wonderful editing. Grade A. But so terribly disappointing. 

Look, I get it. Every outlet has its tilt.

CivilNet is a project of Civiltas which is a proactive think tank established by one of the longest-running government officials in modern Armenian history who happens to be a member of a political party on tepid terms with the ruling party. Fine. But this was just too blatant.

You want to make the government look bad? I’m sure you can come up with something better than craftily editing a video in a way that renders it a half-truth.

I also recognize that we’re so damned starved for something we’ll take anything. Indeed our state of affairs must be in doldrums if there are smart, serious people riding the coattails of a lunatic to make their point.

Successful revolutionaries, even violent ones, make a case for revolution.

Think about Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Adams making a sign announcing that they’re starting a revolution like they’re having a fucking bake sale.

Or Lenin walking into the street with a stick and swinging it at people like Donatello (the Ninja Turtle, not the artist). Or Mao Zedong and Robespierre muttering nonsense like a common fool and then expecting the people to fall in line.

No, these revolutionaries wrote, debated, organized, spoke, planned, and thought. They had purpose. They would not be satisfied with the painfully bland, “somehow something must change.” What person who respects their own intelligence in the least could be inspired by such ambiguity?

By not condemning Harutiunian and his ilk for what they are, we would be complicit in encouraging the vapid rhetoric that is fit not for revolutionaries but charlatans. We cheapen our goals and our expectations of others and ourselves.

We’re capable of thinking deeply. We just need to do it.

By: William Bairamian

[twitter-follow screen_name=’bairamian’]

The Great Armenian Revolution of 2013

You may have seen or read that explosives were detonated after protesters clashed with police in Yerevan today.

This is the level of maturity of “revolutionaries” in Armenia. The moronic, self-styled cigarette-hanging-from-his-mouth-Guy-Fawkes-mask-wearing-stick-wielding-resident-hooligan-“revolutionary Shant Harutiunian, decides to detonate flash (magnesium) bombs in a crowd of people, injuring several who were marching with him and at least 8 police officers.

Image
Shant Harutiunian (Credit: Photolur)

No rhyme, no reason, no target. The best I can come up with for his motivation is, “I’m mad so I’m going to blow shit up – even if I might hurt innocent people.”

“Revolutionary” rushing and taking down a female bystander (News.am)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EabMwxvQL1Y&w=420&h=315]

“Revolutionaries” beating a man with sticks (Armenpress)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=545jZX-i1S8&w=560&h=315]

By the way, for all the media outlets that are reporting that there were riot police:

Asbarez

An Armenian opposition activist and more than three dozen of his supporters were detained in downtown Yerevan on Tuesday in violent clashes with riot police that followed what he called an attempt to carry out an anti-government “revolution.”

RFE/RL

A maverick Armenian opposition activist and more than three dozen of his supporters were detained in downtown Yerevan on Tuesday in violent clashes with riot police that followed what he called an attempt to carry out an anti-government “revolution.”

WHAT RIOT POLICE?

This is what riot police look like in my crazy imagination:

Image
Credit: flickr/Nigel Parry
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

And they don’t seem to be anywhere in the videos of what happened in Yerevan, as one acquaintance astutely pointed out to me.

Ironically, now the police have probable cause to believe that seemingly peaceful protesters might be equipped with explosive devices. And the reason was some purposeless action. The only thing that will be revolutionized because of this is how law enforcement officials deal with public protests.

Way to go, dumbass. 

If this is the type of revolution people want to have – unfocused, pointless, indiscriminate – then they don’t deserve to have one at all.

By: William Bairamian

[twitter-follow screen_name=’bairamian’]