Everybody is familiar with the wave of misinformation, misinterpretation, and actual falsification which swept the Allied countries during the recent World War. Now the pendulum has begun to swing and soon we may expect a settling back to normal, with a calm consideration of enemy countries as a mixture of good and bad elements like the rest of the world. But the consistent misinformaion of the Western world with regard to Turkey has been of such long standing as to take its place among the inherent traditions and almost ineradicable beliefs of whole nations.
The few Westerners of importance who have tried to give faithful pictures of life in the Near East have been outnumbered to the extent of being smothered. Major General Harbord, sent officially to investigate conditions; H. G. Dwight, a former United States consular official and author of “Constantinople” and “Stamboul Nights”; Pierre Loti, the romantic lover of Turkish civilization; Anatole France, whose keen mind usually penetrates popular illusions; and H. G. Wells, in “The Outline of History,” are members of the small group of Westerners who have defended Moslem civilization. When Lothrop Stoddard says: “Fourteen hundred years ago Islam rose and flooded the civilized world,” he obviously regards the Mohammedan advance as a wave of barbarism sweeping to destruction the elements of a lofty Western civilization. A pretty theory upon which H. G. Wells has made the following comment: “If the reader entertains any delusions about a fine civilization, either Persian, Roman, Hellenic, or Egyptian, being submerged by this flood (the advance of Islam), the sooner he dismisses such ideas the better. Islam prevailed because it was the best social and political order the times could offer.” Anatole France goes him one better by declaring that “the most tragic day in history is that of the battle of Poitiers when in 732 the science, the art, and the civilization of Arabia fell back before the barbarism of the Frank.”
The age-old charge against the Turks is of course the Armenian massacres. A journalist not long since tabulated the reports of these massacres in recent years and showed that they totaled thirty-five million slain. As the whole Armenian population is known never to have exceeded three million, there is obviously a case of falsification somewhere. The Bryce reports have been proved to be without tangible evidence and to have been based entirely on hearsay. It has been remarked that investigation in the villages where Turks were in the minority would have revealed just as many instances of Greeks and Bulgars massacring Turks. Indeed it is notable that the Greeks and Bulgars accuse each other of such atrocities much more than they accuse the Turks. The situation is of course the result of an agelong conflict between different peoples who have become almost inextricably mixed politically. Those massacres which occur among the Armenians are most often the work of the Kurds, who are roving bands about as lawless as the mobs in parts of the American South, and about as out-of-hand politically as the banditti who infest parts of Italy and Spain.