By Yusuf Ozkir
- The writer is associate professor at Istanbul Medipol University's Faculty of Communication as well as publishing coordinator of Kriter magazine
ISTANBUL (AA) - In one of his statements made on Oct. 9, U.S. President Donald Trump said that former U.S. President Barack Obama had made “a fatal mistake” by making a deal with the PKK. This statement is yet another revelation -- by the U.S. president this time -- of the blatant lie -- brazenly told Turkey and the world so far -- that “the PYD-YPG-SDG have nothing to do with the PKK; they are separate entities”. By speaking the truth, President Trump also admitted that the U.S., whose foreign policy was designed to be antagonistic toward Turkey in the Obama era, had since been collaborating with the PKK, which is a terrorist organization.
The reference to the Obama era also points to the starting point of the pro-PKK campaign now being conducted through the American media. The American media, with its long history of clear antipathy toward Turkey, thoroughly internalized its anti-Turkey rhetoric with the Obama era. At this current point, the American media, no longer recognizing any legal bounds or showing any scruples about journalistic principles, has sunk so low that most of it has become a mere instrument of delivering anti-Turkey messages to a particular target audience.
The news reports and analyses written in the last week, as well as the visuals accompanying them, are giving us a picture of all of a mafia’s members, as it were, collectively shooting at the truth about this matter. Although the truth before us could not possibly be more obvious than it already is, they have decided to shoot at it with their made-up stories instead of seeing and understanding it for what it really is. Although their practices are already beyond the pale in terms of journalistic ethics, both the U.S. media and the European media -- the latter customarily always one step ahead -- are apparently seeking to set a new record with regard to their old prejudices. It must be because of this fervor that there has been a significant increase in the volume of the anti-Turkey news content. As a natural result of this choice, they have placed their reporting on Turkey’s decision to launch an operation in this same utterly biased cognitive frame. We can summarize their unsubstantiated concerns with the likes of the following headlines: “The combat against Daesh will now be interrupted”, “Daesh will make a come-back”, “Our Kurdish allies are being massacred”, “Turkey is waging a war against the Kurds,” so on and so forth...
- Loss of impartiality
The anti-Turkey feelings and attitudes in the European and American media have a long history. Their antagonism towards Turkey has economic, political, religious and historical roots. The extreme nature of their reaction to Turkey’s military operation, although it is being carried out against a terrorist organization as a legitimate act of self-defense in line with international law, can only be put down to a tragic loss of normalcy, which is exactly the thing the Western media needs.
The PKK has long been designated by European countries, the UN, the EU and the U.S. as a terrorist organization. The Western media’s uniting in an anti-Turkey front and forging their overall publication policies in defense of the PKK-YPG/PYD, notwithstanding the above-mentioned facts, is problematic in terms of two particular points: first, by assuming such an attitude, they overstep the bounds of universally accepted precepts of journalism, which are also in perfect harmony with international law. They have taken a very negative stance against the operation although normally it would be expected of them to support it since Turkey is merely exercising its natural rights stemming from international law, bearing in mind that the organization Turkey is fighting is officially designated as terrorist by all international bodies. The media outlets in question, amongst them a number of public institutions as well, should remember that their governments also define the PKK as a terrorist organization. We are talking about an organization to which President Trump himself referred to as “PKK”, using its private name.
Second, although Turkey’s theses must be given equal weight in the news reports in accordance with neutrality, an indispensable journalistic tenet, the Western media has been repeating, in perfect unison, what are merely memorized slogans in favor of a terrorist organization. In doing so, they turn a blind eye to the fact that there has now emerged a possibility that so many refugees may actually be able to return to their homes thanks to this operation. They also care nothing about all the children, women and the elderly murdered by the PKK so far. They make no mention of the fact that the PKK, along with its Syrian offshoot PYD-YPG, have been forcibly taking children as young as 10 from their families and forcing these poor souls into becoming terrorists. They also do not convey the fact that the PKK, a Marxist-Leninist organization, has banished hundreds of thousands of Kurds and Arabs from their hometowns in an attempt to change the demographic structure of the places it captured, and that an overwhelming majority of these people are now living in Turkey as refugees. Nor do they say anything about all the houses and agricultural lands of civilians destroyed and burned by PKK-YPG/PYD terrorists, who also have usurped a large number of cattle. Because the Western media has forgotten the sense of normalcy, instead of doing fair journalism, it is now spending all its energy on mythologizing the PKK-PYD/YPG terrorists in the region by giving them undue credit in the fight against Daesh. And this is what has shaped its agenda since 2015. As a justification of their support and defense of these terrorists in their news reports, we find phrases such as, “Our second greatest ally in the Middle East after Israel is the secular Kurdish PYD/YPG”. Therefore, with such heavily biased ideas forming the background, all the news stories presented by the Western media end up becoming propaganda material that has lost all neutrality.
- Long-outdated claims still being churned out
When we analyze the content being circulated to tarnish Turkey’s image, we find the same old set of prejudices and claims being warmed over in a perpetual cycle. Whenever Turkey acts on its own to protect and advance its legitimate interests, a major portion of the Western public opinion perceives these steps as harmful to theirs, and they take positions accordingly. We can safely say that on every recent occasion when the Western public opinion took a certain stance with regard to Turkey, its media headlined similar claims. And the first of these claims is fed through the news stories fabricated about Daesh.
Witnessing the same old claims circulated by Western media outlets -- despite the sheer volume of the news reports that Turkey remains the only country that put boots on the ground and actually fought and defeated Daesh in Al-Bab and Jarablus, and that President Erdogan has been on the hit list of this terrorist organization because of his determination and strong statements -- demonstrates a clearly biased perspective with regard to Turkey.
The second false claim is that Turkey is targeting civilians. This claim, circulated through the false stories fabricated by the PKK, makes its way into news reports about Turkey’s operations. The PKK has been engaging in black propaganda through its social media accounts where it posts photos of people killed or wounded in clashes in different places that have nothing to do with Turkey’s operation area. While, under normal circumstance, it should be child’s play to find out where those visuals actually came from, certain media outlets do not bother with such “insignificant” details, and, as a result, stoop to becoming mouthpieces and propaganda tools of a terrorist organization and hence distributors of a body of lies. This, despite the fact that a number of units working under the Communication Department of the President’s Office and Anadolu Agency reveal, very quickly indeed, the real nature of those photos (providing details about when and where they were taken), thereby categorically proving that they are fake.
The third major claim is that “Turkey is targeting the Kurds,” which is another monstrous lie. In their news stories and columns, they purposely avoid using the name of the PKK or those of its Syrian offshoots, and instead, keep saying “the Kurds” [in an attempt to equate these terrorists with the entirety of this ethnic group]. This mentality is completely cut off from the reality on the ground, and this attempt to equate terrorists with the Kurds is perpetrated solely to unravel the brotherly ties between Muslim Turks and Kurds, which go back at least a thousand years. The first example that comes to mind to prove that this is the case is the approximately 400,000 Kurds who are now living in Turkey, having been exiled from Syria by the PKK.
Likewise, the sit-in being staged right in front of the Diyarbakır headquarters of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) by a growing group of mothers who demand their -- mostly teenage -- children back because they were kidnapped by the PKK is a clear sign that the Kurds in Turkey are now actively reacting against the PKK, indicative of how far apart they are. Many Kurds voting for different parties, and primarily for the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), and the 80,000 Kurdish guards protecting their towns and villages against the PKK go on to demonstrate that the Western media’s claim that “Turkey is waging a war against the Kurds” is nothing but slander and black propaganda. And the main fear underlying the vigorous repetition of this false and fictional discourse is the tangible achievements of this millennial brotherhood and their consciousness of and adherence to the civilization that has kept them together for all these centuries, a civilization they have created together. The target of this black propaganda is to harm, by repeating a discriminatory rhetoric, the sense of brotherhood, which has become an integral and inseparable part of the social consciousness over centuries.
- Media should be responsible
When we look at the media organizations that produce and publish such news reports, we find a particular language commonly employed by public broadcasters as well as private ones. A larger number of media corporations, among them American, German, British, and French media giants, creating content against Turkey with very similar unfounded claims cannot be explained simply through the current situation. Therefore, we can consider such publications and political approaches as the fulfillment of an irrational, ideological agenda. At this point, it would be useful to recall the kind of rhetoric by which the most prominent media contents are shaped.
For example, the AP news agency, since the beginning of the operation, has described it as an “occupation”. The Wall Street Journal reported that the operation is being conducted “to seize territory held by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces”. CNN, calling the operation an “offensive”, continues to refer to the PKK-YPG as “the Kurds”. As can be seen in the reports of NBC News, claims of Daesh making a come-back taking advantage of this opportunity are receiving a lot of coverage, frequently accompanied by the claim that “Turkey is undermining the combat against Daesh”. And, by the way, probably topping the list of writers making the most fantastic comments on this issue is David Ignatius.
Seemingly more senior publications amongst them, such as Foreign Affairs, are presenting the operation as a move Erdogan is making for the sake of his political career, even though it is against a terrorist organization Turkey has been fighting for almost the last 40 years. Their purpose is to cast aspersions on and discredit the operation. In other words, the Western media is doing its utmost to replace the truth with lies and realize its full potential as a platform of manipulation and black propaganda.
Looking at the current circumstances, there appear to be two reasons underlying the current Western media coverage of the operation. The first one is the general antagonism toward Turkey, which has deep historical roots; the second and more current one is the fact that the plans they made over the PKK-YPG/PYD have mostly fallen through because of this operation. As a matter of fact, Western countries have for decades been investing in a terrorist organization politically, socially and economically in an attempt to attract as many Kurds from inside Turkey as possible to this organization, thinking that these Kurds would eventually collectively subscribe to a separatist ideology. They had conviction that, through their efforts to mythologize the terrorist and separatist membership of the PKK over their “heroic fight” against Daesh, they had covered some considerable distance toward concretizing this process in a certain piece of land.
Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring was launched at such a momentous juncture and shattered all the fictions, and reports and articles interspersed with blatant lies and utterly groundless claims. Rather than worrying over the defeat of the PKK per se, what they cannot bring themselves to accept is that all their investment will now have gone to waste. Therefore, it is not difficult to foresee that the Western media will become increasingly more aggressive and end up becoming a mere black propaganda tool completely cut off from realities.
Translated by Omer Colakoglu
* Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.