Outreach to the Burbank Democratic Club
for Support of Armenians in Peril Lands with a Thud
By Vic Gerami
Who knew the simple act of requesting a one-day show of solidarity with Armenian human beings in Azerbaijani bondage by way of posting a social media profile image that reads, “Azerbaijan: Free Armenian hostages NOW!” could be so difficult? But it was difficult and painful when it came to asking for support from the Burbank Democratic Club.
That’s why, dear readers, I share my most recent communication with BDC president, Emily Weisberg with you now.
I find it remarkable that, instead of owning up to and rectifying mistruths contained in the Burbank Democratic Club’s (BDC) responses — i.e., your responses — to my initial outreach, as well as the outright lies I caught and catalogue for your convenience below, you would use aggression and denial in a transparent attempt to distract from your mistake. In mine and most responsible adults’ experiences it is invariably wiser to admit an error in judgment, action or perception and to edify the truth by acknowledging the true facts, making whatever changes or corrections are necessary in service to integrity, than it is to keep digging with a shovel of more misstatements.
When one party in a two-way dialogue refuses to communicate in good faith—and it’s clear to me now that you think gaslighting is a sufficient proxy for integrity—it becomes incumbent on the other party to bring light to bear against obfuscations. So let me light up each of your false statements individually.
Misstatement 1 (Weisberg/BDC):
I wanted to address your posts about the club. Based on the structure and length of your email, we mistakenly thought it was another of the mailing lists we are often sent. Rather than respond and let us know that it was a call to action, and not a mailing list, you decided instead to take to social media to attack us. This could have easily been resolved and we would have gladly participated in the call to action. However, it seems that your desire to attack us was more important than pushing the actual issue at hand.
My ‘email’ was a press release about a vital human rights crisis now at hand. That could not have been clearer. The fact that you refer to this important press release by the mere method of its distribution — referring to the release as “your email” — tells me that the human-rights abuses it elucidates were unimportant or at least not compelling to you. Recall, the subject line read: Truth And Accountability League Launches Solidarity Campaign Calling on Azerbaijan to Free 200+ Armenian Hostages.
The absolute urgency of the life-and-death issues addressed within my press release being penultimate in priority far above the importance of whatever motivations power your behavior in our correspondence, let me reiterate that more than 200 human beings who are Armenian hostages and victims of profound human rights violations deserve the Burbank Democratic Club’s vocal and passionate support if not your advocacy. That, Ms. Weisberg, is what’s important. Let us remember that at all times going forward.
Now continuing to address your first misstatement: There was no way for you to mistake my press release for something “promotional,” as you put it. Its purpose as a call to action could not have been clearer. In fact, unlike most senders of press releases these days, I didn’t use a wire service for a blast. Rather, I did the hard work of keeping things personal by emailing the release individually, directly to you and, one-by-one, thousands of others. Your claim on Facebook that it looked like a ‘promotional email’ is baseless and absurd.
Of the thousands, yes thousands, of organizations, media outlets, elected officials, and individuals to whom I sent this press release, one-by-one, you are literally the only person to make the claim that it was unclear. When you care about something as much as do I this, you notice when one among thousands of hand-selected recipients so casually and so callously dismisses the plights of 200 innocent human beings in Azerbaijani bondage.
The BDC’s participation does not and cannot make or break this cause. Yet I hoped to have your support and solidarity to bring awareness to this urgent humanitarian catastrophe as reported by the Human Rights Watch (HRW), on Saturday’s United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. That is an annual event held on June 26 to raise awareness that despite being banned under the Geneva Convention, torture continues to be used for interrogations and to humiliate people during times of war.
Misstatement 2 (Weisberg/BDC):
In your email, about halfway down, you include the bolded phrase “how.” There is no clear action item or ask at the top of the email, which is why, once it was read, we asked to be removed from what we thought was a mailing list. We are constantly in conversation with members of the Armenian community, and in an attempt to cut down on the number of spam emails we receive, inaccurately assumed yours was another piece of spam. How easy it would have been for you to clarify, rather than use it as an opportunity to attack.
My press release reads very clearly as do the attachments specifically designed for social media profile badges and cover photos. Your paragraph, “We are constantly in conversation with members of the Armenian community, and in an attempt to cut down on the number of spam emails we receive, inaccurately assumed yours was another piece of spam. How easy it would have been for you to clarify, rather than use it as an opportunity to attack…” is problematic at best. Apparently, you only receive spam from the Armenian community. Logically, one can only draw that conclusion from your statement. If as you claim, you “mistakenly” assumed it was spam by looking at the subject line, what other word in the subject-line field besides “Armenian” is more operative? Apparently, in your mind, ‘Armenian’ equals ‘spam.’
Misstatement 3 (Weisberg/BDC):
Burbank Democratic Club has a long history of supporting our Armenian Brothers and Sisters and taking real, and consistent action, regarding (most recently) Artsakh. Rather than explore any of that, you issued a quick “gladly” as a response and immediately took to Facebook. If you’re authentically interested in our investment and involvement with our Armenian community, we’ll be planning a joint meeting with SCAD regarding the recall attempt and will be co-hosting our annual holiday party and toy drive with them as well. We hope to see you at both.
Sending you this press release was not my first futile attempt to explore a synergistic relationship with the BDC. My previous emails about matters related to the war in Nagorno-Karabakh and other issues were never acknowledged.
In your response to my Facebook post, you wrote that the BDC does not list partners. That’s not true. You clearly do. As of this morning, you have the following organizations listed under ‘Resources and Partners:’ Burbank 100, Democratic Socialists of America-Los Angeles, Field Team 6, Forward 43 (CA AD 43 District Delegates), Indivisible Media City, LACDP Democratic Club List, San Fernando Valley Young Democrats, and Swing Left.
I don’t see the Southern California Armenian Democrats (SCAD) or the Armenian National Committee of American, Burbank Chapter (ANCA), do you? I took a screenshot and posted it under your defensive and erroneous response on Facebook.
Misstatement 4 (Weisberg/BDC):
It is extremely disheartening to see you take these actions and know that because of them, your very important message is getting ignored.
In the future, please let us know of future action items and consider clarification, rather than attack. Assuming best intentions, especially with a club that has a track record such as ours, is important.
What’s ‘extremely disheartening’ is you backing yourself into the type of corner where you need to take a creative attitude as a weapon against the truth. Secondly, it’s disheartening that you would deny something that can be instantly proven. Third, while you try to divert attention from your hostile and deceitful actions, over 200 Armenian men and women are illegally detained in Azerbaijan, abused, tortured, and mutilated. Several have already been executed.
So, while you make fantastical claims of being supportive of the Armenian community and organizations, your track record, website, and your actions speak volumes about the truth. I don’t see that you have done anything since Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s genocidal attack, which amounts to an ethnic cleansing against the Armenians of Artsakh. In this moment, this is the single most tragic catastrophe for Armenians all over the world, including Armenian-Americans living in Burbank who make up about 11 percent of the city’s population. Your attempt to gaslight the issue with persistent denial of having done or said something, no matter what evidence points to the contrary is sad and all too transparent.
I also noticed on your website that you did not endorse a single Armenian-American candidate in 2020. You didn’t even endorse your party colleague Dr. Armond Aghakhanian, the founder and honorary Chair of SCAD. Like yourself, Dr. Aghakhanian was running for a seat on the Burbank Unified School District’s Board of Education. True to form, you endorsed yourself and Steve Ferguson. But you left out Dr. Aghakhanian. It is a gross conflict of interest for the president of the Burbank Democratic Club to be endorsed by the club itself for the local school board. Furthermore, the endorsements of two club colleagues who are not Armenian for the school board while leaving their Armenian counterpart out is a pointed statement about BDC’s feelings toward Burbank’s Armenian community.
If I thought that your mention that I could join in your event with SCAD was an authentic and heartfelt invitation and not simply public relations, I would have accepted. But your failure to offer to do something for the situation in Artsakh even now shows just how disingenuous is that overture. Sure, I’d love to come to one of your events someday. But my purpose is to gain BDC’s support for Armenians in danger now!
Talk is cheap. Real leadership is taking ownership of one’s mistakes and making amends. But I don’t expect that from you. You have chosen rhetoric and soundbites over authenticity and courage.
It may seem that I’ve taken a full-throttle stance in my response to your response. Perhaps I’ve caught you off-guard with my adamant tone. I do not seek to hurt. But I have no time to play nice on the edges of truth and reality when neither truth nor reality have value to a conversation partner. Without a doubt we should both—nay, we should all—support our causes of mutual interest. I say I have no time to play because the 200-plus people under torture and threat of death truly have no time to waste.
The door for BDC’s support for Armenians in peril remains open. And please know that as quick as I am to hold you to account, I am even quicker to forgive and provide substantive and effective mutual support for those in danger of violence or oppression. We should be allies; we should be their allies. The ball is in your court.
Digging Deeper into Burbank Democratic Club
Emily Weisberg’s hostile response led me to look at the BDC more closely. Truthfully, it was nearly impossible to find out who was in charge there, the name of its president, board members, executive board, and possible staff. Leaving out the two most prominent local Armenian-American organizations from their ‘Resources and Partners’ page, the page that Weisberg denies exists, is not the only thing missing from the BDC’s website.
The BDC has a serious transparency problem. The problem is they have little or no transparency. You can go through the club’s entire website (at least as of Tuesday, June 29) and social media accounts, but not find a single person’s name associated with it. There is only a single email: BurbankDems@gmail.com. Yet, there is a ‘donate’ button that takes you straight to the group’s PayPal account. How convenient. This is what Republicans do. The BDC has committed too many violations of rules noted in the Democratic Leadership Handbook published by the California Democratic Council to list here. They include the way the club is run, its lack of transparency, and the opaque nature of content on its website.
The more I researched, the more information I found that was contradictory to Weisberg’s claims. Her lie that the BDC does not list partner organizations on its website, their list of 2020 political endorsements without a single Armenian-American in a city with a very large Armenian population and business community, and her claim that ‘Burbank Democratic Club has a long history of supporting our Armenian Brothers and Sisters and taking real, and consistent action, regarding (most recently) Artsakh’ would be laughable if not so hurtful. I went through BDC’s website and social media accounts meticulously. The ONLY trace of support for the Armenian community is an uncaptioned, seemingly random photo of an Armenian Genocide commemoration march that was posted to their Facebook page in 2019.
I also checked with a representative at SCAD who told me that their upcoming event with the BDC is the first one. So, Ms. Weisberg’s claim of having had a ‘long history’ with the Armenian-American community is phony at best.
In today’s environment where most public figures, advocacy organizations, and activists focus on shared trauma and intersectionality, Ms. Weisberg’s response to my request was very unexpected. To use a perhaps overused but still apropos term, it was profoundly tone-deaf.
I grew up in, in part, as a Burbank resident. I will always have a connection to the city. I am pleased to have initiated and led an effort by the City of Burbank to recognize the independent Republic of Artsakh in March of this year. Now I’d like to leverage Emily Weisberg’s wet-towel of a response to my request for support from the Burbank Democratic Club for Armenians under immediate threat of execution and real-life torture to inspire action from you, my valued readers of The Blunt Post.
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