The Armenian Facebook has a great feature of bringing people to the spotlight of discussion at the speed of lightning and throwing them back into the arms of forgetfulness at the same speed. It can, say, take old video footage and open up a thoroughly discussed topic again in a new way, it can, conversely, make people forget about the issue that was a subject of most discussion two days ago which didn’t get a solution, with the emergence of a new topic.
This peculiarity is a dangerous trap for inexperienced public figures and, at the same time a true gift for those who manage information flows at a professional level.
Recently, Gevorg Atchemyan, The Government’s Chief of Staff, became a “star” on Facebook. Tens of thousands of people, who didn’t even know that there was a position of manager in the government, now not only know the name of the young man occupying the position, but also some details about his life.
The occasion was a video made by the Editor In Chief of BlogNews.am, Konstantin Ter-Nakalyan. Here, Ter-Nakalyan says that the “Word of Life” religious organization (originally, sect), was the most powerful support for the Velvet Revolution. And according to Ter-Nakalyan, t is not accidental that representatives of the organization were included in the government, and as an example, mentions Gevorg Atchemyan’s name. This statement was re-published on “168 Hours” Facebook page and widely distributed, the views were much more than those on the BlogNews YouTube page.
First of all, it should be noted that members of the government are considered deputy prime ministers, ministers, sometimes their deputies, certain heads of government departments, but never staff members. Thus, no matter how the respected editor of BlogNews tries to create a “target” in order to make his speech more influential, the Government Staff Affairs Manager is not a government member at all.
Nonetheless, the “discovery” that there is an “infidel” in the government, triggered a fierce reaction, largely negatively.
A smaller number of commenters tried to defend the right of the public official to exercise his or her conscience. At the same time, many reminded of the “formers” religious preferences.
Several well-known users, such as Tigran Kocharyan (also known as “Elephant”) for example, succeeded in linking the religious beliefs of the head of the government to the recent demands for the resignation of the Catholicos of All Armenians, Garegin II, finding it to be a conspiracy against the Armenian Apostolic Church. Some even conclude that “infidel” officials are paving the way for sexual minorities to enter the government.
It is worth noting that the same Gevorg Atchemyan, judging from the few posts he wrote on his page, is not, mildly put, a proponent of gender equality, but vice versa, once in a while, writes homophobic posts.
The interest revolving around the official quickly brought about the discovery of new posts about him. Those who were curious found out that member of the Civil Agreement Party, Atchemyan, had written offensive posts against the first president Levon Ter-Petrosyan on Facebook, making fun of his physical appearance. “This man is not only physically blind, but also in terms of political foresight,” he wrote on May 10, attaching an article by the first president. Moreover, it is interesting that Ter-Petrosyan actually asked for support from the new government and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in that article.
This fact began a new wave of discussions regarding the Government Affairs Manager’s personality, though he had written the offensive post before he was appointed. Critics argued that making not of a physical defect is unacceptable in any case, regardless of the position held. And Athemyan’s fellow party members and fellow friends began to seek conspiracy in “the campaigns against him” and tied this new issue with the topic of the previous religious affiliation. Specifically, one of the sites mentioned Atchemyan’s affiliation with “Word of Life” in the headline.
In his honor, Gevorg Atchemyan very quickly apologized for his post about Ter-Petrosyan, regretting that “he didn’t manage to restrain his emotions,” but later added as a postscript that at the time of writing the post he did not hold a position in office.
On the very same day, one of the sites gave another unverified piece of information concerning Atchemyan, this time, again for some unclear reason, emphasizing his connection with the Word of Life organization, however the material had nothing to do with his religious affiliation.
No matter how these three topics seem to be unimportant, they have helped to disclose the vulnerability of our society for various manipulations and rediscovered the vast amount of intolerance. Finally, though according to various data, more than 90 percent of the Armenian population are Christians, and most of them are followers of the Armenian Apostolic Church, but (nevertheless, the primitive truth) it should not be forgotten that Armenia is a secular democratic state, according to Article 41 of the Constitution, everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and all religious organizations which are accredited in the Republic are equal and possess autonomy. This means that anyone, regardless of their religious affiliation, Christian, infidel or atheist, has the right to hold any office, authorized by law.
On the other hand, this once again allowed us to examine the capacity of our officials (this time, the newly appointed ones) to communicate with the public and the level of media literacy.
In this regard, the young (27-year-old) official’s page review also revealed to others that he sometimes makes judgments not based on credible sources, or confuses a seemingly identical piece of media with something else.
For example, by sharing the American Time magazine article about Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Atchemyan misinterpreted that the article was published in the Times.
This may have been a minor mistake for a “normal” citizen, but it would be desirable for a state official, even if not the highest, to be able to perceive this delicacy. Because “Time” is different from “Times.”
The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.