The political and media fields, like twins, reflect the problems that exist in Armenia. And everyone is dissatisfied with both.
The main reason is the immature state of political culture. Garegin Miskaryan, a public figure and former member of the “Citizen’s Decision” Social-Democratic Party, explains.
He compares social networks with toasting ceremonies. And he says that simple relationships have entered social networks and that the important and key one has been left out.
Garegin Miskaryan is convinced that platforms are needed for discussions and proposals on key issues, especially when we are going through the stage of redistribution of property (including media resources).
In the case of rapid, frequent, and contradictory information, the navigators become more important, the navigators, who help to understand what this or that case, this or that news means. It is difficult to consider such a guide for the media.
With the advent of the Internet, our communication and the quality of public relations have changed dramatically. The standard forms of information exchange that people have seen for centuries have gone out of their way to reach a wider audience.
Both the media and the heads of the public administration lost their monopoly on information. And it had both positive and negative results.
The volume of information flows increased, but the quality suffered. Events are happening faster than we are growing.
Civilization perhaps hasn’t been in a state like the one we are in now, and society finds it difficult to adapt.
Yes, we need public opinion leaders, opinion leaders, or rather guides. The opinion of the broad layers of society depends on those people.
And those who form that opinion are not always broad-minded, educated. The way of serving determines a lot. Opinionists need to find the nerve through which their words can reach the public.
And here, too, there is a lot of room for manipulation, because the process of shaping public opinion is uncontrollable. But in any case, a clash of opinions is a good thing.
Trolling, humor, mockery are good tools in both political and media conflicts. They do not listen to the one who says something stupid with a serious face, they listen to the mocker. What makes a mockery so attractive?
Ridicule is the self-defense manifestation of society. It is a grace, a gift, somewhere also an instinct. When you respond to nonsense with nonsense, it becomes two pieces of nonsense. When you make fun of something stupid with a serious face, you are expressing an attitude towards the phenomenon.
The strong point of democracy is also that when you fight against democracy, you strengthen it. Just as you strengthen by working for democracy.
And mockery is a means of struggle. But it is one thing to make fun of it, and quite another to devalue it in every way.
What is happening now at the level of the opposition and the rulers is not a mockery, but a devaluation of the institutions.
Ridicule is a phenomenon specific to the people, and when a state official solves an issue with ridicule, it is already cynicism. And cynical leaders never lead to a good place.
In 2018, a force came to power that was surprisingly open in communicating with the public. Not so now, many windows were closed. Given the various restrictive laws, can we say that air is scarce?
I would say the air quality has dropped. If we consider information as air, it exists more than ever. But the quality has decreased, and at the same time, the demand for quality content has increased.
On the one hand, this is a favorable environment for the change of political culture, but on the other hand, we, as a people who did not have a positive political culture, find it difficult to quickly and easily distinguish quality content from low-quality content.
Now, at this stage of political maturation, information flows help as much as they hinder and harm the politicization of the people.
But in any case, politicization requires the free circulation of information.
There was that moment in 2018 when politics was considered everyone’s business. And then what changed to create an atmosphere of mistrust? Even before the war.
At different stages, the authorities relied on different sources. The source of Kocharyan’s authority was power, Sargsyan’s money, Pashinyan’s word, demagoguery. And the devaluation of speech took place because of Nikol Pashinyan.
When he says what people want to hear from him, but it does not turn into action, a situation is created when people’s confidence in words decreases.
It also gives reason to think that in the next stage we may value real values (freedom, independence) rather than the sources of power we see – power, money, or speech.
In my opinion, this is a process leading to self-determination.
The public speech is mostly pathetic, with hues of thuggery and the streets (it is enough to listen to the speeches of the National Assembly). Why not create a new language? One where the speaker is understandable and sympathetic, and not fake. Also fake, in their efforts to be like the people.
This new language had to be formed in line with the political culture.
Publicly acceptable speech is directly related to politics because before the extreme liberalization of the mass media, public speech was controllable.
And the media worked depending on the goals of the political force.
For example, if the relationship is based on money, it is necessary to provide low-level intellectual content. During Serzh Sargsyan’s rule, the media production that brought street culture to the air increased it and made it popular.
In other words, we needed a society with a low level of consciousness, which was easy and cheap to manage.
In Soviet times, the only social science subject was Marxism-Leninism, from which no other humanitarian thought was allowed to develop. And the bearers of that idea were also the leaders who ruled Armenia until 2018, and then came the politicians (represented by Pashinyan) who were formed in that environment.
In other words, it is probably impossible to expect anything new from them.
And can we expect anything new from the media?
Our market is too small to have independent media.
Recently, “Quartet Media” was closed, which used to work very effectively (for example, in the case of Electric Yerevan, people took to the streets through media manipulations and then sent home), but now it could no longer work.
And its closure is also an indicator that the media in Armenia were created based on non-public demand.
The public should feel the need for impartial and independent media. In other words, be so knowledgeable and responsible that they are ready to pay for quality media content.
In some cases, it is enough for 1% of the public to invest in creating an independent media outlet and making it viable.
Now whoever pays, also makes orders.
And what is the role of social networks for us? Especially Facebook.
Social networks allowed more people to express themselves. In the past, there was a toastmaster and communications in the public sphere took place during ceremonies, such as mourning or weddings.
And the toastmaster was the person who dictated the trend, said a new speech, and also managed and organized. After all, it is not easy to get people to do something together and not get bored.
Now, all that has been transferred to social networks, moreover, along with food.
In addition to emphasizing a person’s social status, social networks are also important as tools for managing relationships and changing their quality.
If, for example, the wedding has been moved to social media and is now celebrated and also eaten (pictures of eating are published), then the meetings that would help people make important decisions about their lives are left out of the relationship.
In other words, simple relationships have entered social networks, and the important and key ones have been left out.
And now I think there is a demand to create an environment, a platform (on a state or public basis), where people will discuss not what they ate today and what they will wear tomorrow but will offer solutions to the problems facing the state and better organization of public life.
I am sure that it will be very difficult without such platforms.
Was the party “Citizen’s Decision” such an experience?
The party was an attempt to transform the political field, but in our public perception, the party is a phenomenon that is alienated from the people. People do not want to participate in decision-making in that model.
The creation of a public platform is in a sense aimed at filling that gap as well. That people discuss ideas and programs without being associated with the party and without being afraid of party labeling.
For years the authorities have been persuading that politics is a dirty business. It was as if they were saying, we take that job on ourselves, you live in peace. That idea was broken in 2018 when those who took to the streets were already doing a political act. How did it happen that now politics has become a dirty, filthy business again?
Those who took responsibility for making changes and breaking stereotypes (at the request of which society stood up) did not do it.
And this led to the fact that people once again began to identify politics and deception, without a deep understanding that politics is in fact the art of organizing life.
After all, if we want to have a democratic state, first of all, we must create democratic parties and transparent working media.
These are the institutions without which there is no democracy. Of course, the judicial system is a separate topic, but before achieving that, the party and media systems must be established.
The political forces that came to power were building their media industry. And as far as can be noticed, even now there are desires to create such a media empire. Moreover, copying the previous models.
It has its logical explanation. Keeping power through words and demagoguery is a matter of a very short time. Of course, the demagogue himself realizes that his power must be based on something.
There are three pillars: democratic values (freedom, justice), the struggling people (but we have given up that path), and money/power.
Of course, the easiest thing is to rely on money, but since Armenia has few resources (we do not have oil or gas), and the existing money is conventionally with the former, now the process of redistribution of that property is going on.
But this government cannot be based on money, because the fight for money (also in the National Assembly) aims to delegitimize the current political force.
The goal is to be able to prevent the return of property and their deprivation. The so-called opposition political layer in the National Assembly is fighting for what it has. And since he lost the elections, there is only one option – to organize a coup.
In order to organize a coup, it is necessary that when the moment of the coup comes, the people do not take to the streets and do not defend their choice. That is why there is a process of devaluing the ruling power at any cost.
In other words, aside from passing laws, they do everything, swear at each other, discredit each other, that if they start a coup tomorrow, people will say, yes, what is the difference between this force and the other, they are both the same.
But the problem is that if the coup succeeds, there will be a dictatorship, if the coup fails, there will be a dictatorship.
And now the media is fighting to maintain that dictatorship. It is a struggle of the bearers of the oligarchic value system. They do not imagine another way, nor do they want to do so.
Are we going towards dictatorship?
Is there no other path?
There is a layer of society that realizes the importance of democracy, it is simply not systematic and does not have enough resources to be able to make a breakthrough at least at this stage. But I hope we have a chance to take a step towards democracy.
The processes that will take place during the redistribution of ownership and property will lead to an unstable situation where there will be a need for a third force.
And if as a society we can find the potential to form that third force, we will not allow democracy to be replaced by dictatorship.
After all, the environment created after 2018 created a greater chance for democracy than there was before. It remains that the window is used.
After all, if we go to dictatorship, the next step is the loss of statehood.
Interview by Nune Hakhverdyan