1304) Anatomy of Hateful Turk-Reportage in the 19th Century West

The following article from a newspaper in Iowa was such a good example of the bias and ignorance in Western press coverage, it called for a spotlight. The writer appears to have been "G. W. Weippiert," and the article is identified as a "special letter"... although where it appeared was not a letters page, and was given extra attention with three adorning illustrations of the personalities involved. (One, a poor depiction of Sultan Abdul Hamid, shown below.)

The tragedy is that as racist and inaccurate as this article and similar ones from the period were, the coverage of matters Turkish has not changed significantly in today's Western press. The accent is still on prejudice and distorted history.


Davenport Daily Leader, Nov. 15, 1896


He Pokes Fun at the Ambassadors of the Powers, Incidentally He Calls Them Liars and Says They Can't See Straight — A Wild English Scheme — The Prince of Naples' Bride.

[Special letter.]
Despite its terribly tragic features, the situation at Constantinople is not without its amusing side. After the Mussulman fanatics had murdered 5,000 Christians in cold blood and robbed every Christian domicile to which they could force an entrance, the representatives of the six Berlin treaty powers — Great Britain, Russia, Germany, France, Austria-Hungary and Italy — insisted upon a thorough investigation of the massacre. The sultan, in compliance with their request, appointed a commission, consisting of some of the most notorious Mohammedan fanatics, and this commission, in an incredibly short space of time, filed a report exonerating the Turkish mob of civilians and soldiers.[1] An official note was then sent to the six powers, which, in addition to the decision of the commission, contained the insinuation that the ambassadors had misinformed their governments and failed to give a truthful version of the unfortunate affair. The half dozen diplomats, thus officially stigmatized as liars,[2] at once commenced to exchange notes with each other, and in this pleasing, but profitless occupation they are engaged at the present time. Meanwhile, the heads of the foreign offices at Berlin, London, Vienna, Rome and Paris are giving out hints about what is to be done with the "unspeakable Turk," the latest rumor being that Germany and Austria, with the consent of France, will insist upon the abdication of Sultan Abdul Hamid. Another report is to the effect that the young Turkish element, which, although weak in number, is strong in influence, will request the sheik-u;-Islam, the highest religious officer of the Moslem realm, to pornounce [sic] the sultan insane and to declare the throne vacant. Both these rumors are interesting, but it is more than doubtful that anything will come of them.[3]

The British Lion is Excited.


The massacre of 5,000 Armenians at Constantinople the Turkish commission attributes to the strange folly of a band of Armenian revolutionists who, armed with revolvers and dynamite bombs, took possession of the Ottoman bank on the 27th of August, killed the police officers on duty, and held the buildings for some hours against the Turkish soldiers. The participants in this unique raid surrendered on condition of their lives being spared and were sent out of the country. The infuriated soldiers, maddened by religious fanaticism, then began a raid on the entire Armenian population, and slaughtered men, women and children with the sanction of the civil and military authorities, until the foreign ambassadors put an end to the carnival of blood by dispatching an emphatic joint note to the sultan.[4] A subsequent communication led to the appointment of the Turkish whitewashing committee and the porte's impertinent question to the powers: "What are you going to do about it?" [5] The only nation which has done anything at all is Great Britain, which has massed a powerful fleet within short sailing distance of Constantinople and instructed its ambassador, Sir Philip Currie, to notify the sultan that a repetition of outrages against his Christian subjects would constitute sufficient cause for England to act single-handed in their defense. The only action taken by the ambassadors of the other signatory powers is the strengthening of the defense of their respective embassies [?] to be ready for a general Turkish outbreak, which may occur at any moment.[6]

Dreibund Proposed by England

While England's aggressiveness appears chivalrous, yet it does not amount to much. Russia, which is really the dominant factor in Turkish affairs, adheres with Muscovite tenacity to the policy of procrastination and inactivity inaugurated by Prince [?]anoff Rostvesky, whose recent death paralyzed concerted action.[7] Lord Salisbury knows perfectly well that the first shot fired at the defenses of the Bosphorus by the British fleet would embroil England in a war with Russia, and possibly France, and its present isolated position would make such a conflict decidedly dangerous. The English press comments very freely on this international aspect of the crisis, and one journal, the St. James' Gazette, suggests in sober earnest the formation of a new triple alliance, consisting of Great Britain, the United States and Italy. It believes that the American people would regard with enthusiasm the spectacle of the union jack and the stars and stripes floating side by side in the Bosphorus to back up the joint demand for the rescue of the oppressed Armenians and the suppression of Moslem tyranny.[8] This sounds very well, of course, but the American nation is not in the humor of pulling England's chestnuts out of the oriental furnace, and the formation of a new "Dreibund," with the United States as a participant, in a, chimerical proposition. The Washington government will continue to protect its interests in Turkey single-handed, and insist upon the recognition of the rights of its citizens, but it is not probable that it will take any part in the political movements of any of the European powers interested in the final settlement of the so-called "eastern" question.

State of Affairs In Italy.

With Italy the case is different. It is a country on the verge of bankruptcy. Its commerce and industry are paralyzed; its people taxed beyond the limits of endurance; its military prestige sadly impaired by the defeat of its Abyssinian army. In spite of patriotic appeals to the nation the continuance of the war in Africa elicited no enthusiastic response, and the government has been compelled to make peace with King Menelik of Abyssinia, who is to receive a heavy indemnity in cash and a guarantee that Italy will not attempt to extend its territorial possessions on the Red Sea coast. Humiliating as was the treaty, its insulting character was further accentuated by the condition that before its ratification it should receive the sanction of the czar of Russia. That imperial personage, after some delay, gave his consent, and the document has just been signed in due form by the representatives of Italy. Abyssinia and Russia. The ire of the upper class Italians has been aroused by this latest exhibition of Russian arrogance, and they are quite in the humor of participating in a war against the Muscovite empire, the success of which would restore Italian prestige and perpetuate for several generations the tottering dynasty of the house of Savoy.[9]

Prince of Naples and His Bride

(The article concludes with a chapter on how the Prince of Naples was set to marry Princess Helene. "divinely tall" as most Montenegrin women, as opposed to the prince, "miserable small," and they would "make a funny-looking couple." Daughter of the prince of Wales, Maud, was once the apple of the Italian's eye, but she rejected the "undersized wooer.") In a war between Italy and Russia the cooperation of Montenegro might prove of vast advantage. Although the country has a small population (236.000), its fighting strength is not to be despised. Every man is a soldier and expert marksman; and in hand-to-hand conflict the physically perfect and powerful Montenegrins have never found their equals. Before the conquest by Suleiman II, in [year?], Montenegro was a powerful principality. Early in the eighteenth century, the people rebelled and established an hereditary hierarchical government which was countenanced, but not recognized, by Turkey. By the Treaty of Berlin, signed July...1878, the province was declared independent. (The ambition of the present ruler, Prince Nicholas) is to add Albania and other Turkish provinces to his principality and establish a kingdom on the coast of the Adriatic.[10] The marriage of his daughter to the Italian heir is therefore of as much advantage to him as it is to Italy. Each needs a friendly and reliable ally, and the proposed union of family interests is immensely popular in both countries.
(Holdwater: G. W. Weippiert, graduate of the State University of Madison, Wisconsin, has been referred to as one of the "legends of Iowa." He took over the German weekly, the "Deutsche Zeitung," from his father in 1879; the newspaper is said to have "favored democratic principles." Two years later, Weippiert sold the "Deutsche Zeitung" to Rev. Gass, a German Lutheran minister. It looks like he kept up with the news game, at least as a reporter.)
Holdwater Notes

1. Where do you suppose "G. W. Weippiert" got his information from? There is some poetic justice in showing what an idiot he was, as much as this exposition comes over a century too late. The 5,000 figure of "slaughter" at the end of this episode was total propaganda. Mr. Weippiert simply accepted at face value the claims of the equally biased Western sources. Note how up in arms the six powers listed sound to be, while they hypocritically turned a blind eye with the excesses of their own... do you suppose their true motives might not have been the protection and care of Armenians, after all? Also note that the commission appointed by the sultan was composed of "the most notorious Mohammedan fanatics," even though the racist writer had no idea who they were. Not that such a report was needed to determine the truth; as Prof. Erich Feigl wrote (link above): "Not the least bit of evidence could be found to support these figures in the secret report of the British Embassy (F. 0. 424/188, Nos. 149 and 169). But what difference did that make? "

2. The diplomats may not have all been liars, although no doubt more than a few were. The ones that weren't simply accepted the tall tales told, thanks to their bigotry. (It was easy to believe, for some of them, that Turks were naturally conducive to massacre, given all of the propaganda they were brainwashed with.) The others were duty-bound to traverse the course of dishonesty, as their home countries had the goal to weaken the Ottoman Empire, ultimately to split its riches between themselves.

The interesting consideration here, however, is that history has demonstrated what "liars" these diplomats were. Yet note the indignation and disbelief of pea-in-their-pod, "G. W. Weippiert."

3. Pronounce the sultan insane! Sounds like a bad movie, where the family member who hopes to inherit the riches of a relative schemes to get them locked up in the sanitarium. It's no surprise the bigoted author had to sneak in the term, "The Unspeakable Turk" (not that he needed to; his title said it all), and we can just feel his pain as he laments that nation-crushing measures would probably not be implemented, after all.

4. The soldiers had nothing to do with the killings. The Istanbul French Embassy's Charge d'Affaires, M. de la Bouliniere, wrote in his Aug. 21, 1896 report to his Minister of Foreign Affairs (Hanotaux) that "the military has not so far taken any reprehensible action." The only reprehensibility came from the Dashnak revolutionaries, who comprised more than the handful who were at the bank. The desperadoes were spread all over, trying to incite the citizens, armed with 800 quality revolvers and 753 bombs (12 weighing as much as 25 kg.) which "did not kill instantly but tore the victim's flesh and made them writhe in pain and agony," as documented by one of the terrorists, Hrach (Haik Tiryakian; as documented in Varandian's "History of the Dashnaktsution," pp. 160-163) These men were behind the real "carnival of blood," and yet the bigoted Weippiert simply dismisses them as a band of rascals involved in a "strange folly." He then has the nerve to accuse the Ottomans as the white-washers.

5. It's doubtful the careful sultan, intimidated by the powers as he was (he agreed to pardon these madmen, some of whom would return to commit further crimes), would engage in such a schoolyard challenge.

6. Of course, that general Turkish outbreak never took place; the Turks trying to maintain their cool, as usual, despite their horrible treatment. The writer is once again hoping to paint the image of Turks as uncontrollable savages.

7. Please make a note of the author's criticism of Russia here, for not meddling in another nation's affairs.

8. Here, he's actually telling the truth. Indeed, "the American people would regard with enthusiasm" their nation's takeover of the Ottoman Empire, given how manipulated they were into believing the Turks were monsters, through the bombardment of prejudiced articles as this one.

9. The author hugely reveals his hypocrisy, hating the idea of Russia's muscling in on another nation's affairs, unlike back in Footnote 7 where he was criticizing Russia for twiddling her thumbs. That's because Italy is a "good guy" nation in his book, as much as Italy tried to suppress Abyssinia. (He hates the fact that Italy was "humiliated" by the savage African nation! No doubt they would have been better off under the thumb of such a civilized Christian country.)

10. An interesting passage, shedding light on the not-always-familiar workings of Montenegro. The racist author sounds as though he would have been perfectly happy if Montenegro expanded herself at the expense of Albania and the Turks. As a side-note, how ironic that Montenegro remained under Serbian domination during the break-up of Yugoslavia; looks like their fighting men may have gotten soft with the passage of time.

© Holdwater
 © www.tallarmeniantale.com
The source site of this article gets revised often, as better information comes along. For the most up-to-date version, and the related photos, the reader may consider reviewing the direct link as follows:



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