BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It’s time to address some advances that Turks have made in their propaganda machinery and efforts. What started with the likes of Tall Armenian Tale,” a mess of a website, is now far more sophisticated, because of serious money being poured in.
An example of money talking is an outfit called Turkish Cultural Foundation (Turk Kultur Vakfi) with offices in Boston, Istanbul, Sonoma, and Washington, DC. I’ve only recently become aware of it in any substantive way, though it was founded January 1, 2000 according to their website. They’ve been sending out slick newsletters advertising their lectures (most seem to be in Turkey). What’s insidious about this is the “we’re just an American group promoting cultural awareness” tack adopted by the group. The deviousness of this is obvious given the office locations cited. But it sure looks good and creates access to people’s hearts and minds. Worse, it is very difficult to counteract, for all the same reasons, much like the heinous “Anatolian” festival in Orange County last October, about which I’d written (see “Occupation, Liberation”). Also interesting is the subtle embrace of their murderous Ottoman past with the use of a logo that is almost identical to that empire’s “tugra,” or seal. See the accompanying pictures.
In tandem with this progress is the ever increasing participation by Turks on Armenian websites/blogs, if comments posted to my articles are any indication. On one hand, we should thank the Turks for driving up the number of hits on our newspapers’ websites, enabling them to charge more for advertising. But there is a downside. Many of our folks respond, quite extensively and aptly, to the blather posted by these Turkish agents. Unfortunately, this eats up precious time on our side. It might be better to engage these Turks selectively. Those comments that are well written, insidious, or even genuine outreach/curiosity, should be addressed. The bulk of the Turkish comments, though, are beneath contempt, and should be met with one person posting a terse, barely one-sentence-long dismissal, and nothing else. The time saved is better expended posting on Turkish sites and causing THEM to spin their wheels, with lengthy, frothing “rebuttals” to our comments.
Another very dangerous form of Turkish “free speech” and propaganda has landed on American shores in the form of the Gülen movement. Muhammed Fethullah Gülen (usually conveniently omitting his first name to not stir up anti-Islamic sentiments) is the ideological head of the movement, though he actively “dissociates” himself from it organizationally. He fled to the U.S. under the pretext of seeking medical treatment, but probably to avoid arrest in Turkey. At the time, his Islamicism had not yet carried the political day in the form of the AKP, now in its third term of governing Turkey. This movement has been very adept at establishing Turkish themed charter schools in many states of the U.S. The money received from these schools makes its way to Turkey and Gülen’s pockets (some contend he is a billionaire) through a Medusan tangle of legal entities, as he is encamped in a huge compound in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. Some of this vile network may be starting to fray (more on this another time), but meanwhile, these schools are training a generation of kids (and future voters) in baseless Turco-philia.
We must be alert to these dangers on the public relations front and pre-empt, undercut, them, not respond to them which just serves to strengthen the Turks’ framing of issues and falls into the trap of playing their game with their rules, rather than ours. If you notice such activities and perfidy, report it to the ANCA, your favorite Armenian news source, or any other appropriate entity.