949) The First Anti-Turkish Defamation Lawsuit

Holdwater here. I am a great fan of anti-Turkish defamation lawsuits. It's too bad the Turkish communities settled in the world's nations are the polar opposites of the Armenian diaspora, largely indifferent, ignorant, and unwilling to part with money to defend Turkish honor and the truth. But the way to get at these genocide creeps and other Turk defamers is simply to sue them. In the case of genocides, let them prove there was a genocide, hopefully (and that is a big hope) with an impartial Western judge analyzing the real facts.

Below is what may well have been the first of such lawsuits. Probably nothing came of it. But at least the racist movie, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, is not polluting the airwaves as it once did. Perhaps the suit did have some effect.

At the time of this writing, a suit is brewing in Massachusetts, targeting the bigoted and one-sided educational system. There is also a possibility of a suit in Australia, targeting their public broadcasters for showing the hateful PBS program, "The Armenian Genocide." It may be the beginning of a trend. The reason why Turk-haters have been getting away with murder is because no one has been seriously opposing them.

Followed by an old Mahmut Ozan article (see "Comment" at left navigation bar for more of Ozan) from another issue of the same magazine. It gives a great idea of the great pain this film has caused to Turkish people.

Turkish-Americans say “enough” to ABC-TV and Columbia Pictures on “Midnight Express” showing

A lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court by the Federation of Turkish-American Societies in New York on August 13, 1984. The lawsuit charges American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. for showing and making of the film Midnight Express, respectively.

Erol Gürün, the president of the Federation, said, “This film insists over and over that Turks are dirty, inferior, sexually perverse, and morally corrupt. While on trial, tears streaming down his handsome, all-American face, Hayes calls the Turks “a nation of pigs.” This film is racist and discriminatory of Turkish culture and heritage. This film caused irreversible damage to the members of our community.”

Since the film was released in 1978, it has received an enormous wave of protest from Turkish-Americans, as well as an unusual amount of criticism from the national print media. Elia Kazan, in the New York Times of February 4, 1979, wrote that “Midnight Express is not only racist, it’s anti-human.”

However, all the protest letters, telegrams, and telephone calls of Turkish-Americans were ignored and the film has been shown numerous times on television since it closed in movie theaters.

In a statement issued by the Federation, it was argued that the Midnight Express mystique has woven itself into the American society in that anyone who hears the words “Turk,” “Turkish,” or “Turkish-American” is quick to cite this move based on discrimination. It was also stated that the filing of the suit will certainly have a profound effect on the television and motion picture industries in that discrimination will be found to have a high price tag.

On August 23, the Federation also filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission since the ABC television station is using public airways. The August 13, 1984 class action request enjoins ABC-TV and Columbia Pictures from further distribution in the U.S. or showing of the film on national networks or in the video tape market. The suit requests the courts to award the Federation and its member organizations, on behalf of the Turkish-American community, over $100 million in monetary damages because of mental anguish and harassment, over $100 million in monetary damages because of violation of Civil Rights Law Section 40-d, $100 million in punitive damages, and all the attorney’s fees and cost related to this lawsuit.

In Washington, D.C., the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations released a statement to ATA-USA that “although the current financial situation of ATAA does not permit active involvement with the Midnight Express lawsuit, we urge the individual members of all the component associations of ATAA to make contributions to the Federation for this activity.” ATA-USA also urges its readers to support this very important lawsuit. Send your checks to the Federation of Turkish-American Societies, Inc., 821 U.N. Plaza, New York, NY 10017.

ATA-USA/Fall 1984-Winter 1985, p. 39
Midnight Express; The Motion Picture Which Indoctrinates The World

by Mahmut E. Ozan, President-FTAA

(Editor’s Note: From time-to-time around the country, television networks re-show ‘Midnight Express’ despite the protests of the Turkish-American community. This article really typifies some of the effects this movie has on our community.)

After almost ten years, that feeling of total helplessness was back with me once more when I learned that the infamous film, “Midnight Express,” was being shown again on one of the local cable stations.

My initial reaction was, “Oh no! I will not watch it. I refuse to go through that agony again.” I remembered that when I first saw it, I was in a daze, even 24 hours after the show. It was a feeling of floating somewhere in a “twilight zone” in a semiconscious state hoping to wake up and find that it all had been a horrendous nightmare.

Nevertheless, my decision, not to watch it again, was overtaken by my natural curiosity about whether the film had lost any of its destructive force, or if my reaction to it had mellowed. So with my heart pounding, there I was watching it again. To my dismay, it had not lost any of its evil power but was as destructive in every aspect as before. My outrage at its unfair and fraudulent propaganda had not mitigated over ten years.

It seems to me that the worst sensation a human being on this earth can experience is to be utterly and totally helpless in the face of blatant intolerance and discrimination. It is a gnawing feeling fraught with frustration at not being able to right a dastardly wrong. The utter inability to inform the decent peoples of the world that what they are watching is a carefully orchestrated vilification of a part of the human race, a character assassination of the Turkish reputation, is one of the most insidious ramifications of this film.

A recent obituary of a college professor ended with the bleak statement, “He left no survivors.” Several former students of his called in afterwards to complain that this was not true. The professor, a life-long bachelor, had died without next-of-kin. However, as his students pointed out, he left dozens of survivors, who were ready and equipped to pass on to unborn generations, the knowledge he had instilled in them. His survivors were his former students, whose thoughts, feelings and characters were shaped by this one man’s influence.

Now as we transpose the anecdote to make an analogy with the devastatingly negative lesson that “Midnight Express” is pouring into the minds of millions of unsuspecting viewers everywhere in the world, we begin to comprehend the enormity of its irreparable damage. Each and every new filmgoer who sees this movie is a candidate to become a disciple, a voluntary missionary for life, who will carry these tainted thoughts passing them on wherever they go, even to future generations.

In October 1978, when this film first came out, it was around my son’s tenth birthday. I considered taking him to see the movie but later changed my mind. Leaving him home with his mother I made my way to the theater alone. It must have been a premonition of things to come because it was a blessing in disguise. It was such a relief that my son, who carried in his veins the blood of his father, a Turk, was not subjected to demoralizing effects of this propaganda. At least I had been able to protect him until he was old enough to understand the implications.

About this same time I began to feel that I had been let down by my parents and relatives, by my teachers and preachers, in a word by all Turks who from infancy had held me in their arms, fed me at their bosoms, taught me in their schools, nurtured me in their society. I cursed them all! I cursed them for not indoctrinating me to hate the Greeks and Armenians, thus robbing me of my one basic weapon to fight back and leaving me stark naked and completely powerless against these unrelenting assassins of the Turkish culture and nation.

As I was watching it this second time the thought crossed my mind that the screen writer, the director, and the actors of this dispicable film revealed again and again their true nature as traditional ingrained haters of anything Turkish. They seemed to foam at the mouth completely consumed in their abhorrence. No one could possibly have invented a more impressive vehicle to spread hatred. Neither Victor Hugo, nor Edgar Allen Poe, nor Dante Alighieri, nor Dostoyevski, nor for that matter even Doctor Frankenstein himself could have possibly created more hated monsters than the ones depicted by the jailers in this film. Their portrayal of the Turkish prison guards makes “The Phantom of the Opera” or “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” look like tame kittens. So successfully did they achieve their despicable goals, that the audience was consumed in their seats with the greatest of emotions befitting this heinous orgy: hatred! No doubt, this film was concocted by those who make hatred of Turks their life’s work.

When the film was over I was drained of my very sustenance, but my eyes focused on the screen as the names rolled down slowly as a monument to their accomplishment, there to be seen and read by the whole world. In fact, the only redeeming part of the entire incredible nightmare was that they were giving themselves screen credit, and by doing so were revealing their true identities. The names of these pitiful villains revealed their true ethnic backgrounds. They were the vengeful extremist Greeks and Armenians with outrageously bad Turkish accents, portraying with great relish the wretched Turkish judges, lawyers, officers and of course, the ever-brutal inhuman jailers.

To this day, I cannot find in myself any compassion or forgiveness for those who took the book of a misguided American drug addict and found in it one horrendous opportunity to violate the honor and reputation of a proud, venerable nation. Billy Hayes, the author of the book which was the basis for the film itself, was quoted as saying a while back, in a national daily, that he was very sorry that the movie was such a complete alteration of his book. He admitted that he was once caught in Turkey with drugs, had paid for his crime and had no grudge against anyone.

Having read that article then and having seen the film version of his story two different times in the span of ten years, I cannot refrain from wondering, why they have done this? I keep saying to myself, over and over again, “What kind of hatred must these people have in their blackened hearts to stoop so low as to slander not only a group of people but a whole nation, a whole culture, a whole religion?” “Where is human compassion, where was human decency?” Everyone connected with this film must have sold themselves to a group of militant extremists and anarchists for a fistful of dollars.

The famous historian, Edson Clark, once wrote in his Nations of the World: “Turks were far better men and far abler rulers than the wretched tyrants they have superseded.” But the descendants of these tyrants have never recovered from their inferiority complex and by raping the book, page-by-page, they seem to be determined to procreate an army of intolerant, bigoted disciples to keep their struggle ever fresh.

William Pitt once commented:

“Turks have only one love—justice and truth; they did no injustice to anyone and yet they are being victimized.”

Arnold Toynbee has said: “Ottoman Turkish institutions came perhaps as near as anything in real life could, to realizing the ideal of “Plato’s Republic.” The Greeks who prostituted themselves in the making of this movie appear to have nothing in common whatsoever with Plato.

Pierre Loti, the celebrated French literary figure once had this to say: “The Turk is the noblest of all nobles. One should be blind to history not to understand the Turks. The dignified silence of the Turks against the unjustified attacks and mean slanders can be explained only by their pity of the blind.”

Finally, there are the prophetic words of another great French literary figure, Claude Farrère, who must have had the likes of the people who made “Midnight Express” in mind when he wrote:

“There has been too much undeserved prejudice and hatred against the Turks. You have to take your time. But when enough time is spent, everybody without exception falls in love with the Turks. everybody, except of course the incurably wicked souls.”

I take solace in the knowledge that there have been so many western observers who have understood the true character of the Turks and their particular predicament in history.

ATA-USA/Summer-Fall 1987, pp. 55-6

© Holdwater

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