In the post-war situation, when state-sponsored propaganda was replaced by chaotic statements, the volume of hate speech increased.
Smbat Gogyan, a mathematician and former chairman of the Higher Qualifications Committee (HQC), believes that hate speech has always existed and is now well used by political technologists. And politics itself is manipulation.
He reminds that if the state apparatus is established, the permissible threshold for manipulation decreases, as the institutions are able to control each other.
But we still did not have the courage to talk about systemic problems.
How important was the resistance to state propaganda? We believed in the propaganda during the war, the calls to trust the state, but we were not ready for the results.
I do not know if we were ready or not. In any case, the news was not one-sided, it was not as if everything they were presenting everything as being good. Those who understood the map, those who followed the news and those who analyzed understood that there were problems.
It is another matter that we were subconsciously not ready to accept the problems on the front. When it was said that we changed positions and occupied more convenient landscapes, it naturally meant that we retreated.
And in that context, it can be said that the government remained under the burden of its propaganda, as the masses had not yet realized that the situation was not so good when the current agreement was suddenly adopted. There was a problem with perceiving reality.
We generally need to understand the situation, not only in war but in everyday life. We misunderstand most things from everyday life to interpreting world-class processes, and that’s a fact.
What is the reason? Education?
I’m not so sure. In any case, now the demands of the average citizen are much higher than they have been for centuries. Is it a utopia to think that the majority of citizens are well-developed and oriented in all situations? Can we educate everyone not to be manipulated? I do not have the answer to that question.
It is another matter that if the state apparatus is established in the country, the permissible threshold for manipulation decreases, as the institutions control each other.
For example, in the United States, the debates of 2016-2020 were very heated: there were regular calls to impeach the president, to express no confidence. These were processes that could not succeed, but propaganda was doing its job. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on campaigns that are completely manipulative, affecting people’s emotions.
Therefore, I think that understanding such a large amount of information is not a matter of education, but a global challenge for humanity.
The share of media in Armenia in our life is very large․Facebook is especially oversaturated. Plus, everything is politicized.
The level of politicization must be reduced.
In Armenia today, people talk less about their professional problems and prospects. We are mainly talking about political processes that we do not understand, and everything in politics is manipulated.
Maybe we think that now is not the time to talk about other issues, as long as everything depends on political decisions.
The fact that it is difficult to talk about professional issues also plays a role. Many people prefer not to talk about their specific professional fields. We do not have the courage to talk about the problems in the system.
Scientists complain about funding, but at the same time hide the fact that their scientific level of competitiveness in the world is declining.
We lose not only the institutional structures of some spheres but also people with specific knowledge disappear.
Did the same happen in the military sphere?
I can not say anything about that. On the fourth day of the war, I went to Stepanakert, stayed a few days and witnessed a general calm, as if there was no war.
On the one hand, it can be considered a sign of self-confidence, on the other hand, a certain indifference. When you live in a state of war for 30 years, the perception of war also changes. Maybe sociologists will explain it better.
Now we see that there is no evacuation plan for some villages in Artsakh. And the question arises: when we had the “Shant 2018” military exercise two years ago, did such a plan exist or not? If not, why was one not created?
In other words, do we register the problems and move forward or not? Maybe we have registered them, but don’t have the resources to solve them?
These are questions that have not been answered.
Instead, social networks are boiling over. How are they affecting us now that there are so many unanswered questions?
Social networks are very addictive, it is very dangerous. Let’s not forget that, for example, Facebook does not reflect the attitude of society towards different aspects of life, but we get the false impression that what we see on the social network is a reflection of the image of the whole of Armenia.
Technologists are trying to create an environment on Facebook and television, as they affect hundreds of thousands of users and audience, creating a false perception of society.
Naturally, there is a lot of hatred, aggression, evil in social networks, and people spend a lot of time online.
Democracy and freedom of speech are values, but we must work to make thoughts meaningful. If a meaningless thought is expressed en masse – insults, curse words, of course, it does not help people to formulate a correct idea.
After all, we read the books we prefer, while we do not make choices on social networks. Basically, we see what we are given.
Is the environment of hatred, which now pervades even apolitical people, connected with defeat in war?
It did not happen now, the hatred has been there for years, it has deepened, now maybe it has reached its focus. But let’s hope there is no higher focus next year.
I do not think that the growth of hatred is connected with the war, it’s just that now people have started to spend more time, be more active in social networks, and there are many negative emotions related to the war.
Add to that the armies of fakes, who are now attacking the authorities and the opposition on a much wider front.
We must understand that the increase of the polarity in society is very beneficial for journalism, as it leads to an increase in the amount of information, as well as to the expansion of advertisements and consumption.
It is difficult to sell information in neutral societies. When there are no real sensations, and most of the media are not smart enough to make serious investigations and revelations, naturally, they try to find cheap sensations, polarities.
And it starts to become a way of life, a normal, ordinary attitude to the news.
Personally, what worries you the most about the news?
Lack of professional speech. There are very few non-politicized analyses.
You will hardly find expert opinions on news sites and media resources. That is the problem.
Whoever pays for the media manages the information and ensures its consumption.
We do not have professional neutral associations. For example, a military scientist who can express a professional opinion about the war and that we can believe. Several military experts are now expressing their opinions, but when you read their thoughts expressed over the years, you feel that they have a personal tendency and direction.
Now the Minister of Education and Science has changed, can we say what will change, what will be our future plan?
Perhaps the new minister has that vision, and he must answer what he thinks about the future himself. I myself am not optimistic about improving the quality of education in the coming years.
We see that after the excitement of 2018, there has been a serious setback in terms of democratic values, to put it bluntly.
Any situation can be interpreted from a positive or negative point of view. It all depends on the next steps.
Now we can decide to mobilize as a nation or to emigrate as a nation. Everything is in our hands, it depends on how we set the goal.
And how do we formulate it?
I am staying and working, and the attitude of society will show in time.
They say it will be good in the end. And since it’s not good now, it’s not over yet. Everything depends on us.
Interview by Nune Hakhverdyan