BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Did you see the LATimes’ Sunday March 16 hard-copy edition? The front page of the main section of the newspaper was half covered (vertically) with what I understand is called an “ad wrap” which then fully covered the back of the paper, too.
What makes things even worse is that Turkish Airlines, the advertiser, is trading in Steve McCurry’s name, too. Who’s he? That’s the guy who took the famous, now iconic, picture of the Afghan girl who appeared on the front cover of National Geographic magazine’s June 1985 issue. Evidently, he’s travelled and photographed in Turkey as well.
This kind of advertising is not new. Various Turkish propaganda arms have been advertising in the LATimes and other major newspapers for decades now. But the scale and timing are of interest.
An ad such as the one I mention costs roughly $80,000 according to the gentleman I spoke to at the newspaper’s advertising office. He said the advertiser might get some discounts based on the total annual level of business. But think about it, this is a significant sum, to promote “Turkey, Home of Istanbul” which is the first thing anyone who picks up the paper sees. This is beyond the frequent ads about Turkey that appear in the Travel section of the newspaper. I don’t know if this was coupled with online advertising, so there may well have been even more to this.
You might recall that a few weeks ago, I had written about travel-based propaganda emanating from Azerbaijan. This kind of publicity is among the best because it is seemingly harmless. Who can fault a country for flaunting its cultural, scenic, or other assets in search of tourists? It creates a positive sentiment towards the country. In this case, the name of a noted photographer just adds to the positive image Turkey is trying to convey.
We should also not miss the opportunity to chuckle at typical, Ankara-born, absurdity. On the one hand, the cultural wealth stolen from Armenians and others is promoted. On the other hand, as a result of Erdogan’s bombast and ego, Twitter is now shut down in Turkey, depriving tourists of one means of sharing the beauty that’s being promoted by… Turkey!
Given the internal political turmoil Turkey is undergoing as a consequence of the Erdogan-Gulen clashes, anything to distract from that ugliness is beneficial to Turkey. It is also a hint of what might be deluging us over the course of the next two years.
We keep hearing about the Turkish government’s intention to counter Armenian efforts on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Genocide. This kind of mushy, non-political, superficially innocuous propaganda can be an effective tool to undercut our efforts. Ours is a serious issue, and no one wants to deal with a difficult topic. It’s much easier to look at pretty pictures and ancient edifices and get all woozy about how wonderful a place Turkey is. “How could such a place produce genocide?” That’s what Turkey’s propagandists want the average citizen to think.
It’s our job to preempt their preemption of our efforts. Get busy. Start delivering pictures of Armenia (Eastern and Western) to your local newspaper, magazine, or online publication. Talk up our case. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and huge sums of money arrayed against us.