Genocide & Modernity
Stalin, once cynically remarked, If you kill one person it is a tragedy, but if you kill a million, it is a statistic. It is difficult to comprehend large-scale horror. The crime of genocide in some ways has defined modern times. With technology, states have become more efficient at mass murder. But the term genocide is sometimes promiscuously used. Take for example the case of Libya. Supposedly its now murdered leader Qaddafi was going to launch a genocidal campaign against his opponents. The media compliantly whipped up fears of wholesale slaughter. The charge had little substance but it was used to justify U.S. and NATO military intervention in that oil-rich country. In other instances, there are deniers of actual genocide, such as Turkey, which continues to deny what it did to its Armenian population.
Peter Balakian, historian, poet, and professor at Colgate University, is the author of Black Dog of Fate and The Burning Tigris, and translator of Armenian Golgotha. In 2016 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his collection Ozone Journal.