Covering the Ottoman Empire: Orientalism and the Mass Media
This chapter follows the events as they were covered by some of the major elite Western European dailies, more popular newspapers, as well as pro-Armenian and anarchist magazines. It is argued that, underlying most of the mainstream press reports, were forms of ‘latent’ Orientalism, which prevented most journalists to reflect on the specific motives behind the attempt and to elucidate the deeper causes of the rise of Armenian and/or anarchist terrorism in the Ottoman Empire. Few Western reporters looked at the personal tragedy of the victims or explored the international and domestic challenges the Hamidian government faced in responding to the terrorist challenge. Elite newspapers paid attention to the political aspects of the failed attempt and its aftermath, but did so from a ‘diplomatist’ view, interpreting the events against the background of the so-called Eastern Question. Some Francophone, radical left-wing magazines, close to the leftist circle of ‘pro-Joris’ advocates in Belgium, launched a ‘humanitarian’ campaign in his support, representing the attempt as a legitimate expression of anger and resistance against an Oriental despot. But however varied, Western reporting on the event remained largely self-referential and repetitive, which needs to be interpreted against the backdrop of the commercialization and globalization of the mass press, as well as the persistent power of Orientalist frames of reference.