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Tall Armenian Tale


The Other Side of the Falsified Genocide


  Turks in Western Media  
First Page


Major Players
Links & Misc.



Mahmut Ozan
Edward Tashji
Sam Weems
Geno. Scholars






Why are Turks so disliked in the West?
Could it have anything to do with there being nary a positive thing being said about Turkey in the Western media (with the possible exception of the "travel section")?


Whenever there is the rare positive possibility regarding Turks, the Orthodox folks begin their nutty campaigns to undermine the effort.... such as when Greek-Americans sabotaged a major movie planned on the life of Atatürk. ("Greek-Americans and Armenian-Americans ... fear that such a portrayal might lead to a warming of popular feeling toward Turkey" -- The New York Times.) When one enters Oriental rug stores, many owned by Armenians, you will rarely find any carpet labeled "Turkish." The droves of settled Greeks in America who have gone into the restaurant business have let every preparation of Turkish/Greek origin be known as Greek... such as "baklava," a Turkish word. (which most likely indicates its Turkish origin.)

Turk-haters have conspired to feed off on the negative image of Turkey everywhere. NBC-TV, for example, purposely devalued the representation of Turkish athletes in their coverage of the Olympics. America's non-commercial Public Broadcasting System (PBS), which should ideally be above external influences, is a champion of the Armenian cause. 

It's not the purpose of this web site to deeply get into the unfairness of Western media when it comes to the representation of Turks and Turkey. However, it is important to understand how negatively Turks are still viewed today, and the deep-rooted reasons why Americans and other Westerners automatically accept the anti-Turkish "side" of stories that the Orthodox folks spin.  As Pauline Kael said in her examination of MIDNIGHT EXPRESS... "Who wants to defend Turks?" 


  Even to this day, examples of ignorance regarding  the portrayal of Turks in the American media are not difficult to find. Here is how New Yorker magazine cartoonist S. Gross depicted the Turkish representative at the United Nations, as recently as 1996.

 fez-cartoon in The New Yorker, by S. Gross

Dear New Yorker: 

In S. Gross’ cartoon (Oct. 21/28 issue at page 18), “You can’t say the U.N. isn’t trying,” the Turkish delegate is depicted in supposedly traditional garb, wearing a fez and cloak. Outside of tourist shops, the fez has not been worn in Turkey since the proclamation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Prior to that, it had been the official headgear of the once-proud Ottoman Empire. As the Ottoman Empire decayed in the late 19th century, many considered the fez an embarrassment, culminating in it being outlawed by Kemal Atatürk, Turkey’s first President. Nevertheless, the fez remains somewhat in vogue in former Ottoman lands in North Africa. In addition, the cloak the delegate apparently wears is also not traditionally Turkish, but more consistent with North Africa. 

Sincerely, David Saltzman

November 5, 1996, The Turkish Times   

ADDENDUM: Most media outlets in the United States have gotten their acts together as far as outdated Turk depictions, but the rest of the world might be far behind. Here's one from Le Monde in Paris, from Dec. 19 2004. The description stated: "At Brussels Turkey proves to be difficult candidate for union."

No joining the EU unless you straighten out Cyprus!

Leave it to good old France to maintain the outdated depictions. Granted, there is a bit of leeway in cartooning, and I guess it wouldn't be impossible for a cartoonist to depict "France" as a man in a striped shirt and beret, carrying a baguette. (But would putting the Frenchman in 19th century garb be appropriate?) As a side note, look at the way the "Turk" is looking away, as if guilty. Never mind that the Greek Cypriots recently voted down the U.N. Plan for reunification that the Turkish Cypriots had voted for. Never mind, farther back, that the Greek Cypriots were guilty of massacres, necessitating the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee, enabling the mother countries to protect their respective minorities. Never mind the Turks exercised their legal right in 1974 to intervene, to protect the Turkish Cypriots from getting exterminated, as the coup leader for "enosis" admitted he would have later done. Honor, truth and right simply don't matter for "Christian" European nations.... the Turks must always be the guilty party, no matter what.

France wasn't alone; other recent "European Union" themed cartoons with Ottoman Turk depictions were featured in Brazil, the Czech Republic, and a country where one would hope the cartoonist should know better: Russia. (These were part of a 2004 "Don Quichotte" International Cartoon Contest, "Turkey facing Europe.")




I don't know the author... but in this apparent academic paper, the following excerpts beautifully describe the roots of Turk-Treatment in the Western media. 

The relationship between West ("Occident") and East ("Orient") is another example of a relationship of power and domination....

Hence, the representation of Turkish people in western literature and cinema is not different from Middle Eastern stereotype. First of all they are attributed negative physical characteristics such as ugliness, dirtiness and moral characteristics so that they are always lustful, fanatical, irrational, cruel, scheming, unreliable, defeated. Their only reason for existence is to pose challenge to the western hero. For this reason, if they have any energy it only provides problems to the hero since the characteristics of this energy are evil. Their countries are passive background to the stories in which all the important and good things are done by Western heroes like James Bond. If they have a problem they are not able to solve it, because a western hero is necessary to solve the problem or at least to show them the way to the solution. [96] In Western literature we can easily find various examples in which Turks are presented in association with negative connotations such as cruelty, religious fanaticism, espionage, dirtiness, drug addiction etc. For example, Simon Shephard writes about the image of the Turk during the Renaissance period as follows:  

Turks, Tartars, even Persians constituted the infidel powers which neighboured and threatened European Christiandom. The word "Turk" was mainly used in two ways, as a generic name for an Islamic State with its own characteristic institutions of Government and military; and as a description of behaviour or character- the Turks 'being of nature cruel and heartless'(...) The idea of cruelty was probably produced by the Turks' distant foreigness combined with an absence from their lives of comprehensible Christian ethics, but more importantly by their military threat. [97]  

This trend in Early English Stage covers Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlane the Great (1590) and the Jew of Malta (1592), Thomas Kyd's the Tragedy of Soliman and Perseda (1599), Fulke Greville's the Tragedy of Mustapha (1609), John Mason's the Turk (1610), Robert Daborne's Christian turn'd Turke (1612), Thomas Goffe's the Raging Turke or Bajazet the Second (1631), Ladowick Carlell's the Famous Tragedy of Osmand the Great Turk (1657), Nevile Payne's the Siege of Constantinople (1675), Elkonah Settle's Ibrahim the Illustrious Bassa (1677), and Mary Pix's Ibrahim the Thirteenth Emperor of the Turks (1696) [98]  

In these plays, one of the important Turkish stereotypes is a Turkish tyrant who seperates two lovers by falling in love with the girl (a naive Turkish beauty) who he has kept in his possession through force. But because of the faithfulness to her lover who is a Christian Westerner, she is either rewarded by God with a happy reunion, or she chooses death instead of the Turkish Pasha's love. [99] While she analyses the general characteristics of Elizabethan plays Rana Kabbani writes that "Shakespeare whitewashes Othello by making him a servant of the Venetian State, a soldier fighting for a Christian power, and most importantly, a killer of Turks..." [100] At the 19th century, due to the cencorship of British Victorian society, eroticism was transferred either into the world of underground pornography or to "exotic" lands such as Ottoman Territories. Indeed, some European writers chose Eastern settings and characters to satisfy their reader's sexual interests. Kamil Aydin writes as follows :  

In fiction, the Lustful Turk (first published in 1828) is an outstanding example of a convention that consists largely of a series of letters written by its heroine, Emily Barlow, to her friend Sylvia Carey. When the heroine sails from England for India in June 1814 , their ship is attacked by Turks and afterwards they are taken to the sumptuous harem. In this epistolary novel, readers quickly encounter bizzare sexual scenes and stories associated with the lechereous and cruel character of the Turkish Dey.All the erotic fantasies are narrated through Emily as she talks to the other enslaved girls in the harem, eg. one of the captives in the harem is a Greek girl named , Adrianti, who tells the tragic story of how her father and brother were slaughtered before her eyes by the Turks. [101]  

Similarly Lord Byron employed a Ottoman territory for a horror story and started to write a story about a vampire taking Izmir as the setting. [102] In his Turkish Tales, Leile, Zuleika and Gulnare are presented as beautiful, hopeless victims of a Turkish governor. [103] At the decline era of the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish image took another form "which is sometimes demeaning, sometimes critically mocking and caricaturised by Victorian figures such as Bayle St. John, Thackeray, C.Dickens and so on." [104] In his Rowing Englishmen, Charles Dickens writes that, "Oh no! We should have been off anywhere but in Turkey." [105]  

This tradition has not changed in the 20th century. For instance, Paul Bowles claims that "if a nation [Turks] wishes, however mistakenly to westernise itself, first let it give up hashish." [106] Ernest Hemingway clearly states his uneasiness with Istanbul since it is very dirty and he adds that "[minarets] look like dirty, white candles sticking up for no apparent reason." [107]  

Films have also produced and disseminated particular negative images of Turks. For example, in Lawrence Of Arabia (David Lean) the moviemakers present Turks as corrupt, evil, barbarian, ugly, sodomite peoples by using the point of view of a British army officer. Similarly, in Pascali's Island (James Dearden) Ben Kingsley plays an ugly, bold, bisexual Turkish spy who becomes tragically involved with Charles Dancer's tricksy archaeologist and Helen Mirren's Austrian painter in the middle. Due to his fanatical jealousy and denunciation, the lovers (English archaeologist and Austrian painter) are killed by the cruel, ugly, fat, bribee Turkish Pasha of the island. In Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray,1954), the name of one of the bank robbers is Turkey. [108]  

In this context, we need to add that stereotypes about western people are regarded as structurally central in relation with the stereotypes of Turks because stereotypes of Turks are partially defined in terms of or in opposition to western people. [109] For this reason, the dirty, lustful Turk attains at least some of its meaning and force from its opposition to the clean, rational, honest etc. characteristics of western people. [110] 

Anti-Turkish horror propaganda from 1576

Anti-Turkish horror propaganda has quite a tradition:
Around 1576, Jacopo Ligozzi created a cruel miniature
entitled Mufti -11 Papa Delli Turchi (a mufti depicted
as the pope of Turkey) with a mostro, thus insinuating
that Turkish religious leaders were masters of "monsters"


Anti-Turkish propaganda and discrimination is not only one of the oldest examples of psychological warfare, its duration surpasses by far even the leyenda negra which swept Spain, reaching a new peak in recent years due to concerted action by Erivan and Athens. 

It is: a cocktail of inferiority complex, envy and ignorance; the fame of the Turkish soldier, fantasies of Turkish love life and history of Turkish civilisation. All that created an atmosphere which had already culminated half a millennium ago in pictures like that of the Mufti, (The "pope" of the Turks") and his tool, a mostro ( monster) - the Turkish nation. An answer is long overdue.

Source: Eric Feigl, A MYTH OF ERROR (Not "Terror"!)


During the years of the Armenian "Genocide," editorial cartoons in the Western press never failed to depict the Turks as having committed atrocities... in keeping with the slanted bias of the Western press.


A Few Turcophobic Odds and Ends



The second definition in American English dictionaries of "Turk" connotes "savage," "tyrannical," and/or "cruel."


Say that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turbaned Turk,
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
I took by the throat the circumcised dog
And smote him – thus!

"Othello," William Shakespeare



The Italians have an exclamative that expresses fright (at times comical fright): mamma, li turchi! -- Mamma, the Turks (are here, or on the way). Not very nice, is it? And the word "Turk" here means a generic "Muslim," which makes it worse; the phrase originates from the fears stirred everywhere in Italy by centuries of Arab raids, with local inhabitants killed or kidnapped, their women raped, thir houses and churches plundered and destroyed. (Source unknown)




A Rare FAVORABLE Depiction of a Turk!


This page is far from comprehensive... it's hard enough putting this site together without making a serious study of how Turks are represented in the Western media. (Besides, that is not the purpose of this site, as mentioned.) This is why there are only a few examples, encountered arbitrarily, for the most part. Believe me, if I were to put my mind to providing a series of negative or ignorant Turkish portrayals in America's media, past and present, there would be no end to this page.

Instead, I wanted to focus on the very rare portrayal of a Turk in the American media who came across as a "hero."

Let me take you back to the days of the 1970s, where images like this other "hero" of the time were presented:

 Winchester Man

I believe this fellow was known as the Winchester Man... kind of a take on the Marlboro Man (although he was a bit of a pretty boy to come across as the rugged, macho type, don't you think?) That's Farrah Fawcett at left, by the way, before she made it big.

Many years ago, cigarette smokers were looked upon as "cool"... these days, smokers are the outcasts of American society. 

Well, there was another "cool" smoker in those days.



Yes, "The Turk." Camel cigarettes (one of the few American products that has the word "Turkish" in their packaging... referring to the Turkish tobacco) embarked on its MEET THE TURK campaign. "The Turk" was cast in a "James Bond" sort of role, involved in all kinds of exciting adventures and prancing about in a world of sophisticated glamour. Beautiful women would always be by his side (although I don't remember if he ever had as many at once as the Winchester man, above)... in one of the few depictions of the Turkish male as a worthy lover (I wish I made notes years back... but I came across several books written by Western travelers — one was from the 19th Century — amazed at what great lovers Turks can be. Probably the "Lustfulness"... which of course is meant in a derogatorily lecherous sense... of the "Lustful Turk" stereotype does point to some enviable truth, in terms of virility).

At any rate, the Turk from Camel's "Meet the Turk" campaign was the rare example of a Turk in American media who had a really favorable image. In fact, I can think of no other examples where a Turk was represented in such a "positive" way.

What happened to The Turk? I'm not exactly sure, but The Turk was nowhere to be seen, following an apology from a Camel company representative, concerned that they might have offended some ethnic groups. You can bet the ethnic groups that complained weren't Turkish!

Murad the Turkish cigarette

Ottoman Turkish cheesecake

There was a cop show on television called TURKS a few years ago that had nothing to do with Turkey... the program was about a family of police officers who happened to have "Turk" as a last name. (No doubt the idea was that "Turk" connoted toughness.) I remember reading reports about complaints received from our Orthodox friends... Heaven forbid Turks should come across positively in the media, even in such a pathetically small light.

Camel, by the way, is not the first American tobacco company that showcased a Turkish flavor in their advertising campaigns. Many years ago (perhaps at its peak in the 1930s?), Murad dressed up their ads with typical images meant to depict Turks... such as the harem girl pictured here. (At any rate, the "harem" aspect is probably the first thought that would have come into people's minds.) Years ago, I was in a restaurant in New York City that had a huge, nearly wall-sized print of an old "Murad" ad... depicting a fierce Turkish warrior on horseback, swinging his ever-present sword. (It was beautifully dynamic, and I loved it. I wish I could have had that barbarian on my wall.)

More on Meet the Turk and other cigarette ads with Turkish themes. The first link informs us the campaign lasted from 1974-1980, and that:

The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company was looking for a Camel Filters advertising campaign that targeted the independent individual, or at least people who thought they were independent. "Meet the Turk"; he is a man who does the unusual, "he searches for what most men do not even know exists." This campaign opened on the West Coast about the same time Turkey decided to invade Cyprus. Untimely? You bet. Billboards in the San Francisco Bay Area were being defaced to read, "Meet the Jerk" or "Meet the Tur_." Did this negative reaction bother the Turk? Yes it did, but only from a distance. You see, the Turk was from Manhattan. Meet George Kozul, a part-time model by day, and a full-time telephone repairman by night. George's father was Yugoslavian, and his mother of Italian ancestry. At the time of the campaign, George hadn't been any closer to Istanbul than Coney Island.


  Epilogue, the Camel Campaign.


Joe Camel

R.I.P., Joe Camel

     "The Turk" was not the only Camel mascot who was yanked, thanks to pressure from special interest groups. JOE CAMEL bit the dust, after advocates criticized the cartoon character for influencing children to take up smoking. (Notice how Joe Camel could dress up like The Turk, in James Bond fashion.) It was at that point Camel shelved the idea of having their product represented by any symbol... they now concentrate on generic, adventurous scenes. Sometimes the Turkish flavor creeps up in their ads, as in the example below....  where few Turks would probably object to the outdated representation provided by the Fez.



We're Not Done Yet...





 Further Reading:

THE TURK: Lustful and Terrible



"West" Accounts


Armenian Views


Turks in Movies
Turks in TV


This Site