Armenian News Network / Groong
A Bit About Propaganda And The False Accusation
That Armenians Are Masters Of The Craft Of Spin
Armenian News Network / Groong
July 12, 2022
by Abraham D. Krikorian and Eugene L. Taylor
Probing the Photographic Record
LONG ISLAND, NY
Nearly everyone today appreciates the Internet as an incredibly valuable resource, but it has also become an excellent hiding place for those who have few or no scruples. It can be an anonymous and very protected haven for liars. There is so much misinformation, disinformation etc. available on virtually every topic that it is what we arrogantly call “in and of itself a monument to ignorance.” All this tends to be completely overwhelming to all but the most knowledgeable and experienced in tracking down and verifying information. It is therefore important for all of us to remember that it is always worthwhile to be wary and to use all information, including not only that found on the internet but everywhere, with caution, especially as it relates to genocide, any genocide.
It is of no little interest that the word “propaganda” has changed its meaning substantially over the years, and the meaning is dramatically different today from that which it was originally intended to mean. The concept of a Sacred Congregation de Propaganda Fide was established by the Vatican in the latter part of the 1500s to spread, propagate and regulate the Roman Catholic faith in non-Christian lands. It was formally established in 1622 and came into being in that same period, roughly speaking, as the Jesuits, the Company of Jesus. It was also designed to be active in counteracting the negative effects aimed at the Church of Rome.
Agnes Repplier, a well-known essayist and distinguished biographer, had an article she wrote published in the October 1, 1921 issue of The Independent and the Weekly Review entitled “A Good Word Gone Wrong.” Since it is short and covers a great deal of ground, we have decided to include it here. Some parts are enlarged to render reading easier. (See Figs. 1a.-1d.) We hope you will agree that it is well worth a read. The excerpts are presented in a way to provide the jist, not all in continuous sequence.
It is significant that Agnes Repplier points out “When one looks in the dictionary for the word “propaganda,” its definition suggests nothing reprehensible. Why should not an organization “for spreading doctrine or a system of principles be a decent, candid, and upright organization, inviting the attention and challenging the good-will of mankind? Sacra Congregatio de Propaganda Fide is an august, mouth-filling title, inspiring nothing but respect.”
The Congregation, which is administered by the College of Cardinals, still exists of course in Rome just outside Vatican City in sumptuous quarters, the Palazzo di Propaganda Fide (see Figs. 2a. and b.).<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
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Figs. 2a. and 2b.
Collegium Urbanum De Propaganda Fide in Rome with its large plaque inscribed in Latin. It is a three-story structure in the Piazza di Spagna and was designed by Francesco Borromini who was well-known for his work in Baroque architecture. The coat of arms is that of the Barberinis and was dedicated for use at the College by Pope Urban VIII. The Armenian rite of the Roman Catholic Church had its formal origins and connections from work carried out under the auspices of the Collegium. Photographs by the authors.
Against that brief background on some history of ‘original propaganda’, let us now try to present some information on the “Blue Book” and the Armenians, and contemplate how it has been ignored and continues to be dismissed by ‘the Turks’, all the while “The Blue Book” being accused as being a masterpiece of propaganda that is unworthy of being taken seriously. The fact is, however, the considerable writings about propaganda during World War I on behalf of the war effort, simply do not in any way suggest that what happened to the Armenians was contrived, fake or “pure propaganda.”
Through a fairly steady path ranging from very slight devolution of the meaning of the word “propaganda” from its nominal first use in English in 1718, it was ultimately in the context of the First World War that “propaganda” took on unabashedly a rather negative connotation. Those who deny the Armenian Genocide, and indeed other genocides, frequently make use of the expression “propaganda” to discredit the premise that genocide was committed. The infamous Blue Book of atrocities and criminal actions to which the Armenians were exposed and victimized, has been called an instrument of propaganda by those espousing and defending the ‘Turkish Point of View.’ See Figs. 3a. and 3b.
Title page of the original printing of the ‘Blue Book.’
See the Blue Book digitized https://net.lib.byu.edu/~rdh7/wwi/1915/bryce/ <![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Armenian translation of the ‘Blue Book’ published in 1920.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
It was only after the Armenian Genocide had pretty much run its initial violent course, and during attempts to raise funds on behalf of the survivors that there was anything remotely close to what might today be called “propaganda.” The context for this statement is that the approach used was to showcase a need, as we would nowadays call it, as dramatically as possible. Today such an approach would be regarded as nothing but good management and administration. It reflected an appreciation of the need for cogent strategy in presenting a case that would gain the most support from donors for much-needed relief. It is also worth emphasizing that the timing for potentially valid accusations of propagandistic deceptions on behalf of Armenians, and hence strengthening the contentions of those promoting the ‘Turkish Point of View’ meritless, is way off base. Timing is, of course, crucial to establishing facts. <![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
There is certainly no excuse for claiming that the ‘Blue Book’ is in the English language, and therefore nuances of language place the Turks at a disadvantage in terms of exactly understanding what was being communicated. It was translated into Turkish and has been published and distributed widely at no cost among Turkish politicians.
Cover of a Translation of the “Blue Book” into Turkish. <![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
And most importantly, careful re-examination of the arguments presented by the ‘Turkish side’<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> by several very careful scholars, especially Ara Sarafian, of the long-available facts has convinced virtually everyone with a fair and open mind that there were no nonsensical propaganda either in reporting what had and was happening before and during ‘deportation,’ or on behalf of the Armenians after they had been targeted for destruction by the Young Turk leadership but had somehow or other some miraculously survived the ordeal. We ourselves have tried to make a thorough search of the fairly extensive literature to see whether there is any morsel of truth in accusations of propaganda. Conclusion, there is none. <![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
The long and short of it all is that one need not seriously concern oneself with the attempts of Armenian Genocide deniers or revisionists to disparage the Blue Book edited by James Bryce with his Research Assistant Arnold J. Toynbee, then a Fellow at Oxford University. Toynbee went on, of course, to be appreciated as a great historian. Figs. 5a. through f. provide some additional context by use of images.
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Figs. 5a and 5b.
The Republic of Armenia issued a 330 dram stamp to honor the ‘Blue Book’ and its presenter Viscount Bryce.
A 280 dram stamp issued at the same time also commemorates the work of the German Pastor Johannes Lepsius. The two are shown on this FDC (First Day Cover).
Attempts have been made from time to time to set in motion the idea that Toynbee was sorry to have been engaged in the “Armenian propaganda effort”, and that there was no truth in it. Nonsense. <![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
Toynbee unequivocally states on pg. 585 of his last book, published posthumously, entitled “Mankind and Mother Earth: a narrative history of the world” published by Oxford U. Press, 1976:
“The two great twentieth-century wars were aggravated by 'genocide' (i.e., the wholesale extermination of civilian populations). In the First World War the Turks committed genocide against the Armenians; in the Second World War the Germans committed genocide against the Jews."
Photograph of Viscount Grey of Fallodon (1862-1933), the liberal British Secretary of Foreign Affairs under whose aegis the ‘Blue Book’ effort was undertaken by James Bryce with the assistance of Arnold J. Toynbee.
Fig. 7b. below presents a front page from the Armenian Weekly February 27, 1975. Here some correspondence between the late Dr. Vahakn Dadrian and Arnold J. Toynbee dating from 1973 is presented. The message should be abundantly clear to the reader.
Correspondence published in 1975 of letters exchanged between the late Dr. Vahakn Dadrian and Arnold J. Toynbee in 1973. It speaks for itself. Since the typeface in the last paragraph is not that easy to read, we have reproduced it below (Fig. 7c.).
Just how one rationalizes the statement that the ‘Blue Book’ was propaganda, and that Toynbee had major problems with acknowledging the reality of the Armenian Genocide and that ‘the Turks’ carried it out, is beyond our understanding. While ‘the Turks’ might like to believe that Toynbee was ‘on their side’, the fact remains that he was not the least bit complimentary about Turks or their creative abilities. Turks certainly were not a “creative minority.” <![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]>
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> We attended the propaganda show at the British Library (cf. David Welch, 2013, Propaganda power and persuasion, British Library Publications, London, 210 pgs.) and learned many things that had escaped our attention. We were amazed to learn that the vast number of booklets and pamphlets etc. which were released, the publication of still more became limited by the availability of paper! Also, there is considerable wisdom reflected in the statement “No propaganda of any nature will succeed in its object for long unless the cause for which the propaganda is being conducted is acceptable to the better intelligence and feelings of mankind. It is true that propaganda requires all the organisation and machinery of the highest technical excellence, but it will not permanently popularise and advance a bad cause.” More recent articles reflect the same attitude cf. e.g. M. L. Sanders, "Wellington House and British Propaganda During the First World War," The Historical Journal 18, no. 1 (1975): 119-146.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For an accurate portrayal of how the Blue Book came into being and how it was carefully produced see the late David Miller’s "The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. A History of the 'Blue Book'," RUSI, Royal United Services Institute, Journal 150, no.4 (2005): 36-44 for accurate clarification of how the Blue Book came into being.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Bryce, James Bryce Viscount, Miragents, Vahan Translator) (1920) Haykakan jarderu p`astat`ught`ere. [Armenian Massacres, Documents on] Publisher, Hratarakets A. Tilanean, K. Polis [Constantinople]: v [paginated, lettered with Armenian fonts] + 175 pages.]
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> An interesting and detailed run-down on the way British wartime propaganda was actually implemented is given by more than a few sources, see for example Ivor Nicholson, "An Aspect of British Official Wartime Propaganda," The Cornhill magazine 70 New Series, no. no. 419 (1931): 593-606.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The initial Turkish language edition publisher of the Blue Book ended up being a ‘shoddy job,’ with meanings that apparently got seriously altered from the English original through mistranslation. The publisher was thus happily forced to cease distribution. A fresh translation was undertaken, and it is said to be a very good job. The initial faulty translation may end up being a collector’s item and have some pride of place among world class botched jobs. See http://www.armenianweekly.com/2010/02/19/ara-sarafian-pencere-did-a-shoddy-job/
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> For an attempt to relegate the contents of the Blue Book to the refuse heap of propaganda see e.g. Justin McCarthy, "Wellington House and the Turks," in The Turks, ed. Hasan Celal Güzel et al. (Ankara: Yeni Turkiye, 2002) vol. 4, pgs. 447-467, and McCarthy, Justin (2009) Armenian Issue Revisited. The Bryce Report: British Propaganda and the Turks. ATAA Assembly of Turkish Associations 28 July 2009. https://www.ataa.org/armenian-issue-revisited/the-bryce-report-british-propaganda-and-the-turks.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> A relatively recent volume which is not easy to get hold of contains a number of articles on the Blue Book. By far the best one is by Ara Sarafian. See Ural, Safak. Emecen, Feridun and Aydin, Mustafa (2008) Türk-Ermeni iliskilerinde yeni yaklasimlar : uluslararasi sempozyum 15-17 Mart 2006 = the New Approaches to Turkish-Armenian Relations : international symposium 15-17 March 2006. Istanbul Universitesi. no 4745. xv, 949 pages. ISBN: 9789754048049 (pbk.) 9754048045 (pbk.). An excellent DVD film featuring the conference and a subsequent visit by Ara Sarafian to the Harpoot area may be seen in The Blue Book, Political truth or historical fiction? (2007) by Gagik Karagheusian, David Holloway and Ara Sarafian, Ani Sounds ca. 80 min.).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Etmekjian, Lillian (1984) Toynbee, Turks, and Armenians. The Armenian Review vol. 37, no. 3-147, pgs. 61-70.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> See Gold, Milton (1961) Toynbee on the Turks in the Near and Middle East. JRAS, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland No. ¾ (Oct.), pgs. 77-99.
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