We can easily say that the weakest point of Turks is propaganda. The situation was the same in the Ottoman State, as well; and it has been the same in the Republic of Turkey. For Turks propaganda meant responding the articles and false claims. That is, nothing but a passive effort aiming at self-defence. This approach provided the comfort and freedom of activity for the other side to lay the blame on Turkey.
The most intensive period, when the propaganda against Turkey and the Turks occurred in America, was the year 1923. Powell writes about its reasons as follows:
"The reasons for the deep-rooted hostility against the Turks can be cited like that: The oppression policy against the Christian minority and especially the Armenians; secondly, religious prejudices and political propaganda. It is hard to say where the former ends and the latter one starts. Thirdly, the worry and the disappointment because of the re-emergence of a country, which we considered as defeated and disintegrated; and finally, the insistent rejection of the Turks to defend themselves."
Powell writes about the last reason in the page 32 of his book and in his article in 1922, he reports the conversation he had with Sultan Vahdettin, in Yildiz Palace and the statements of the Sultan as follows:
"Your newspapers and the magazines would not publish it, if we sent an article written by a Turk. If it was published, your people would not read this; if they read it they would not believe in it. Even if we sent an expert, who can express the Turkish opinion in your own language to America, can this person find unbiased masses of listeners?"
Perhaps the words of the Sultan are right. Therefore, again in page 10 of the same book, it is said that one of the esteemed religious people of New England, whose name is not stated, says as follows: "I do not want to hear the truth concerning Turks. I have already changed my opinion about them." This is because Turks were silent all the time and its opponents propagated against them and the religious and political considerations made an impression. Besides this, the mentality like "somehow or other it would not be published; even if it was published people would not read; even if it was read people would not believe", was an associate element which caused the development of an approach against Turkey and production of an easy and quick result of contrary propaganda. Generally, almost in every country there is tendency to believe that the article in a newspaper gives facts.
It is obvious how the religion factor and political considerations have an associate role in the development and adoption of a disadvantageous ambience against Turkey. When the wise propaganda is involved the situation becomes worse. The reality in the reflected news diminishes or is totally lost, let alone reflect unilateral news. In the book the statements given prove this thesis:
"Events of violence were greatly exaggerated. Some of the violence supposed to have happened recently did not even occur. One of the local press representatives (Istanbul) of the American relief organisation told his friends frankly that he could only send the news against the Turks; because it was what earned him money."
"The fact that they did not want to publish the report is not incomprehensible. Additionally, M. Venizelos laid all his weight. He objected to the publication of the incidents when the names of the witnesses were concealed and which were established without the presence of the Greek representative. It was rightful to behave like this not within the framework of the western commission but the local Greek authorities. The people, who unveiled the information against Greece lived in the regions under the Greek occupation and they could not be exposed to Greek retaliation. The same legal concerns were valid for the Bryce Report, which was about the treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire and the German brutality in Belgium. Despite the same reasons, the allied governments did not hesitate to publish the above mentioned reports."
The Bryce Report, that Toynbee mentioned, is the Blue Book of the British, of which he was the editor.
However, the opposite occasions seldom occurred. The British had to evacuate Baku on 18 September 1918. When the newspapers published this news, they mentioned the disloyalty of the Armenians. The British propaganda services seriously became anxious about it and tried to remove the effect of the news. The below mentioned lines of a memorandum, which was prepared with this objective, are very important:
"To discredit the Armenians means to weaken the struggle for Turkish hostility. It was difficult to eliminate the conviction that the Turkish people who were trying to with disasters continuously, are noble people. This news will revive this conviction and will harm the prestige of the Zionists and the prestige of Arabs. (...) The Turkish treatment towards the Armenians is the greatest leverage of the Government of the Majesty to provide the acceptance of the radical solution for the Turkish issue at home and abroad."
It is useful to have a look at what kind of organisation the British established in order to take measures for the propaganda:
"The first thing that I heard concerning the propaganda department was that on August 1914 in Walton Health Golf Club, on Sunday, following a lunch, Mr. T.P. O'Connor told Lloyd George that it was necessary to respond to the propaganda, which was launched by the German in America by distributing brochures in the streets, and giving them to the passengers getting of the ships. Upon this, Lloyd George said, see this issue, what can Charlie do, consider this. Masterman accepted it."
Mr. Masterman was an old Member of Parliament, and a member of the House of Commons. After this date, Mr. Masterman established the propaganda bureau and became the head of it. The presence of the bureau was concealed. Mr. Masterman resigned his post in the National Health Insurance Commission and he transformed the working place of this Commission "Wellington House", into the headquarters of the bureau and it was recorded as "Wellington House" in the documents.
The activity domain of the "Wellington House" is described as follows:
"To disseminate the incidents like the struggle of the Allies; the efforts of the British; the things done by the Navy, Army and the merchant Marine; the economic and military capacities of the Empire, the reasons and the goals of the war; the crimes and the brutality of Germany and its allies; the struggle of Belgium, the incidents which prove the non-humanistic side of the submarine war. The means, which are used are books, brochures, magazines, diagrams, maps, posters, postcards, pictures, photographs and exhibitions."
It was stated that only in Britain, the department published 17 million copies.
At the end of the 3rd report of 118 pages concerning the activities of Masterman's Bureau, there is the list of the published brochures and the books. At the end of the second half of 1916, the number of the published brochures and books is 182. We come across the names of writers like Max Aitken, William Archer, Balfour, James Bryce, E. T. Cook, Conan Doyle, Alexander Gray, Archibald Hurd, Rudyard Kipling, A. Lowenstein, C. F. G. Masterman, A. J. Toynbee, H. G. Wells. One of the three books of Toynbee is " The Tyrannies on Armenians".
All the references in the "Blue Book", which was published by the Masterman's Bureau and re-published by an Armenian publishing house in America, are the Armenian newspapers like "Horizon" published in Tiblisi, "Armenia" published in Marseilles, "Ararat" published in London, "Gotchnag" published in New York, and the Committee of Armenian Tyranny in America, which reflected the information that was collected from the missionaries. It is evident what kind of book it would be, which was based on these sources. In the meantime, it is useful to note that although the Armenians in Istanbul and Izmir were not replaced, in the map given in this book it looks as if they have been replaced.
After the explanation on how the Blue Book was written, it is necessary to quote from two writers who studied these issues and how the propaganda materials was collected. The first writer is Arthur Ponsoby and the name of his book is "The Lies In the War Time". Ponsoby was a member of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons as from 1910 until 1918. Later on, he was joined to the Labour Party. He was a person, who was against war. He published his book in 1928. The interesting parts which tell about the methods of propaganda are as follows:
"The War-Office issued a circular and invited the Officers to report on the war incidents about the enemy and had added that the incidents did no have to be real, a normal probability was enough." (Page 20)
"Lies about brutality are one the most satisfactory ones: Especially in this country (Britain) and America, no war can be without them. To discredit the enemy can be considered as patriotism." (Page 22)
"Even in ordinary incidents, of no importance, the witnessing of people would not create absolute confidence. At a moment when prejudices, enthusiasm, ambition and patriotism are mixed with sentiments, the statements made by a person has no value. It is impossible to block the dissemination of brutal stories. They were reiterated with brochures, posters, letters and speeches for many days. Popular figures, who would avoid to sentence their mortal enemies because of lack of evidence, did not hesitate be the leaders who accuse a nation of all kinds of brutalities and unnatural murders."(Page 129)
"A photograph, taken by a camera has a great effect on the people because it is reliable. There is nothing more authentic than an instantaneous photograph. Nobody would think of doubting the authenticity of a photograph. Because of this, if it is false, it takes time to reveal it. During the war, the photograph assemblage became an industry. All the states did this; but the experts were the French." (Page 135)
This expression may seem vague. Therefore it is appropriate to give some examples:
"In Europe, soon after the news was realised about the storming of Ottoman Bank by Armenians and attacks on the Armenians, some of the artists from illustrated newspapers were sent to Istanbul to draw the pictures of brutal incidents. One of the well-known war correspondents, Mr. Melton Prior was among them. He was a man of energetic and determined nature. He had an independent character. He told me that he was in a very delicate position because of his special task. People in his country heard about brutal and violent incidents and were eager to see pictures about them. Since the deceased Armenians were buried, the women and children were not harmed and none of the Armenian churches were attacked, providing these pictures was a problem. Being an honest man who appreciated the Turks, he refused to contrive false pictures of scenes he had not witnessed. However, the others were not as honest as he was. Consequently, I saw, in an Italian illustrated newspaper, horrible pictures, which showed the massacred women and children."
"One of the up-front names, that was mentioned on the occasion of the so-called brutal correctional measures, was Musir Sakir Pasha, who was sent to Anatolia to make reforms. It was rumoured all over the world that while the Field Marshall was in Erzurum on October 1895 that is during Armenian Revolt, his chain watch in his hands, he was instructing the soldiers to kill the Armenians for one and a half hours more- two hours in some of the versions-... Taking into account the objective of our trip, we visited the British Consul, Mr. Graves; the Governor, Mehmet Âªerif Rauf Pasha; The French Consul M. Roqueferrier and the Russian Consul, M. V. A. Maximov. We asked these people whether they believed the rumors about Âªakir Pasha. M. Roqueferrier told us that these were ridiculous stories, that were made up for fun and he added some words of appreciation for Sakir Pasha."
"Russian Consul, M. Maximov said: It is not my responsibility to contradict these stories. What I can tell you about Âªakir Pasha is that it is true that he is very brave and kindhearted. I have known him for long years. He is my friend. The British Consul, Mr. Graves said I was not there. I did not talk to him concerning this subject. However the Governor said that this is not true. This is sufficient for me because I believe what Rauf Pasha says without any hesitation."
"I asked Mr. Graves, "Do you suppose that any massacre would occur, if the Armenian rebels did not encourage the Armenian for the rebellion." He replied, "certainly not. Not a single would have been killed."
Nevertheless, this information never published in the western press. As it is stated in these words:
"At the end of October (1922), the representative of the Near East Relief Organisation, late Miss Annie T. Allen and Miss Florence Billings sent a report to the headquarters of the organisation in Istanbul. The report, consisted of the condition of the Turkish villages, which the Greeks set on fire while they were retreating. The organisation never published the report, as Lloyd George did not publish the Bristol Report concerning the catastrophe in Izmir caused by the Greeks."
Truly, Lloyd George did not publish the Bristol Report.
"During the massacres in 1905, many photographs were taken in Russia. These photographs belonged to a group of corpses, surrounded by a crowd. One of these photographs was published in "Le Mirroir" on 14 June 1915 under the headline of "the murders in Poland by the German gangs". Similar pictures, were published in many other newspapers." (Page 136)
The second writer is Allen Lane and the name of the book is "Evdeki Atesi Yanik Tutun" (Keep the Firs at Home on). The first page of the book gives, the speech given by the US. President Coolidge on the occasion of Journalists Association. The President says the following: "The propaganda tries to reflect some parts of the incidents; block the relations between one and another and come to conclusions, which are impossible to attain if the series of the incidents are examined thoroughly."
Some of the passages from the book are as follows:
"The objective of the propaganda is to simplify. It creates a way of thinking, which will vindicate the fights, with the continuous reiterations for a long time. It does this through the methods which the organisations responsible for propaganda and the news agencies will accept. The propagandist will create simple and believable descriptions and fiction because these will fit the beliefs which the people are actually invited to believe. As Gobel said in the successive war, "propaganda is to submit evidences, which people cannot find and verify by themselves, to naive people the issues, they think over and have wished for. (Page 3)
"In the time of war, this is, above all, to create the expected outlook and behaviour of the enemy in accordance with the prejudices about their behaviour. This necessitates concealing of the news that will make the enemy look and the submission of the news in a way, that will always arouse hatred for the enemy."(Page 3)
"The brutal stories appear in every war. The goal is to create an image which is inspired by war and which will arouse fear on it."(Page 3)
"War is presented to the people by means of universal and simple ideals on which nobody can oppose and which are known by everybody. These ideals are the symbols of the national virtues such as freedom, justice, democracy, and Christianity." (Page 4)
"Characteristic brutal stories have come from the correspondents, who are far from the operation area. Unchangeably, these are told by some of the refugees whose identities were concealed. More than after these stories give second-hand information" (Page 84).
The subject of propaganda can be summarised by the words of C.F. Dixon Johnson:
"The emergence of the stories concerning the massacre of the masses is disadvantageous for Turkey at the final vindication. We do not hesitate to reiterate that this is the evident objective of the direction of the British Government's policy. The nation, with which we have close alliance ties and which is co-religionist of millions of our citizens, is accused of committing horrible crimes against humanity by relying on the evidences, which are exaggerated considerably and shamelessly. There is no need to apologise for trying to accuse it honourably."
Gürün, Kamuran, Ermeni Dosyasi, TTK Basimevi, Ankara, 1983, pp. 40-44