Thursday, 5 April 2007

Changing the Worldwide Image of Turks

Ataman recently mentioned frustration the lack of people banding together to counter the media scandal that perpetuates stereotypes about Turks. I am from the US and if I didn't have Turkish friends when I was little, through my Mom's university connections, I would never even have been interested in Turkey or Turks. I'm happily married to a Turkish man now so I am very interested in Turkey and Turks and the current scandal that veils the eyes of all of my educated and beloved friends in the US. It's really troubling actually. For example:

My good friend and colleague said, this fall, that she found me brave to have married a Turk because she had heard that they 'beat their wives.' I was shocked, stunned, and then responsive. I assured her that the treatment I have received is far better than any of my US dating experiences. I also faced comments at a business conference, again about marrying a Turk. "You will never measure up to men in that society." I cleared that one up too. Yet on it goes as I recall a comment from a pure Irish couple I stayed with in Kenya: "You shouldn't have babies with a Turkish man, he will take the kids back to Turkey and you'll never see them again." What?! (I think they were a little influenced by a movie with Sally Struthers called 'Not Without My Daughter,' which by the way was about Iran ... this is what we are dealing with people!) Somebody help me out here please. How do these people get these ideas in their heads? I'll tell you how, they are only exposed to Turkey through biased and fabricated messages in the US media. Did you know that a movie made in the US doesn't make its own cost until it is exported? Media is a heavy industry and it's a booming export. Who's to say that other people around the world don't have very skewed ideas about Turks. And who's to refute these ideas given the lack of documentaries/films focused on how Turks really are, day to day, and how they really live and what they're really going through? This totally involves Armenian propaganda as well because the ignorance feeds it! It's like they are raiding a store because the owner is asleep. We must put a major stop to this! We must awaken people using the media.

I think a documentary would be effective. I've seen "Crossing the Bridge" about Turkish music. It's gorgeous and well-made. Why not put that spirit into a production about Turks today, the history, the blatant propaganda, the nations who buy into it to make themselves look innocent, etc. How about we put this information in a format that's really accessible by every-day people who watch TV and have kids and are short on time (and not just scholars who dedicate themselves to the issue and argue in a vacuum about it) ... reaching more people will result in real changes taking place. Not everyone is in the ivory tower.

This is the start of how the documentary could be structured: Please take a moment to read and ENVISION this.

Picture an introduction with quick Turkish music, scenes of people walking along the streets of Istanbul, relaxing on boats in Bodrum, working at offices in Ankara, drinking tea at bazaars, living life.

A voice over (the narrator of the documentary) cuts in as the music fades and other images and filmed street/life/restaurant, etc. scenes relating to the voice fade in and out in the background: “Turkey: the land of …… ...etc. Turkey is the home of some of the most profound authors, musicians, music producers, PR gurus, artists and designers in the world and is the most westernized and secular nation in the Muslim world today. So why would leaders in the west risk their chance at an alliance with a rational nation in the Middle East? This is the question that frustrates historians, professors and professionals around the world, because the answer can only be found behind a wall of silence of Turks themselves, a silence that is breaking under the pressure of politics.

Sound bite with a professor talking about the situation today (maybe have this professor sitting in her/his office with a strong visual behind her/him … something engaging … their name will appear and linger a minute below their face as they talk) – they can mention the politics, who is buying into the Armenian lobby and why (how many votes do they buy, are they really taking the time to discover the truth before they take a side, etc.) The power struggle masked by the EU bidding and educated speculation about where that struggle is rooted.

Music. Scenery.

Narrator voice over again: the narrator will take us on a journey starting with the end of the Ottoman Empire and the conditions in Turkey, including where the Armenians lived and how the Empire was collapsing, the amazing vision of Ataturk, etc. This information will be narrated and then you can fade into historians for more sound bites. You can use different paintings and visuals to really bring the audience into the history. Trade the voices between the voice over of visuals and the actual sound bite (with the historian at a café, or in an office with their name lingering under them as they speak) … The historian(s) can speak about numbers etc. (Please keep in mind that the majority, the huge majority, of the US audience is not aware of the history of the Ottoman Empire. You have people who love history but the history here in our high schools (and it’s not mandatory in college unless it’s your major or related) is taught in a very biased, Eurocentric way. My history foundation included American Indians, Napoleon, etc. A few sentences may have mentioned the Ottomans but you can breath life into this subject for thousands of people with this documentary.)

The history alone is interesting – the changing of the language, the battles, the drawing of borders and rallying of people and then the strange twist in the Armenian alliance with Russia and how ridiculous it starts to look when this is back-dropped by these historical events -- it will become obvious to the viewer that this was not a systematic ethnic cleansing and absolutely not a genocide.

You can see what is developing here. Go through the history and work into the present day – showing the life of Turks and European and American politicians and maybe even Armenian lobbyists who are bitter and misleading. You don’t need to say any opinions in the narration, the facts will speak for themselves. In a documentary it is better to keep opinions to a minimum in the narration. The sources, historians, professors, professionals, etc. will lend plenty of opinions. The key is to make it seem like the producer is just capturing the facts and the beauty and real life in Turkey and the history that is so misconstrued.

By the way: An excellent reference to this can be found in the documentary about the History of New York. It’s an 8 DVD series but it’s well constructed and engaging and a favorite of many people here you will see the pattern of voice over, historian/expert, scenery, music .. the pattern is very powerful because you don’t want to hear the narrator too much or see some guy/lady talking a lot or just see the pictures or the scenes from today … but spacing them just right helps people stay engaged and also helps them digest information.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to introduce the reality, struggles and sacrifice of Turks to the world in this way? Factually, beautifully and credibly as opposed to some movie caricatures and continuous slaps in the face from western media? It’s up to Turks and Americans who are part of the Turkish community to make this happen.

Thank you for your time and attention.