Home > Bruce Kesler, Gaza, Iran, Israel, Palestinian Authority, Soviet Union (historical), Syria, Turkey, United States of America > Is New York Times reporter a propagandist for Turkey?

Is New York Times reporter a propagandist for Turkey?

By Bruce Kesler

Bruce Kesler

ENCINITAS, California-The New York Times’ headline could have been “Turkey’s Islamist Government Is Just Doing the U.S. A Favor, Wink, Wink” instead of “For Turkey, an Embrace of Iran Is a Matter of Building Bridges,” by Sabrina Tavernise.

With the imprimatur “News Analysis”, the NYTs bureau chief in Istanbul, Sabrina Tavernise, with a 1993 B.A. from Barnard College in Russian Studies, tells us that “Top leaders of Mr. Erdogan’s party believe that only a Turkey that is independent from the United States will be an asset for Washington in the long run.” Tavernise adds, “Turkey is not lost, they say, but simply disagrees with the United States over how to approach the problems in the Middle East.”

Although mildly disagreed with by some sources in her article, her “news analysis” is an apologia for Turkey’s Islamist government siding with Iran, Syria, Hamas against the US, Israel, and the West. Oh, and now Hizballah.  Erdogan has invited the head of Hizballah, on the recommendation of Hamas, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may attend also, to attend a rally in Turkey honoring Erdogan.

Tavernise is mostly carrying water for the Erdogan government, akin to the NYT’s Walter Duranty for Stalin’s.  Her Russian Studies might have prepared her better, but one wonders whether the Walter Duranty articles in the NYTs were even covered in her undergraduate schooling, Duranty being the NYT’s bureau chief in Moscow from 1922-1934. As Roger Kimball reminded us, “With peasants dropping like flies everywhere around him, Duranty cheerfully cabled back to New York that although there were some occasional food shortages, there was ‘no actual starvation.’ ”

Tavernise doesn’t speak Turkish. The Turkey expert, Gerald Robbins, does speak Turkish, whom I interviewed a few days ago. Robbins’ informed view of whither Turkey – Islamist, increasingly dictatorial, opponents largely neutralized within, with aspirations of wider power in the Middle East, and not friendly toward the US or the West —  stands in stark contrast to Tavernise.

Her lack of elemental understanding is evident in her repeating without comment, or perhaps even worse the second sentence is Tavernise’:

It is a risky calculation, but one that Hooman Majd, an Iranian-American writer, says the Turks are in the best position to make. Unlike Americans, Turks travel to Iran frequently and speak a language similar to the Azeri dialect spoken in Iran’s north.

That’s like saying, speaking a language like Yiddish – with some common elements with German — will allow someone to be fluent in modern German or on German politics, or modern Hebrew and Israel for that matter. Or, to the point, saying some Turk tourists speaking something akin to one minority language within Turkey, partly similar to a minority language in part of Iran, somehow is supposed to provide deep insight into Iran’s rulers or Iran generally. Tavernise is a tourist in Istanbul, not speaking Turkish, reporting bull. Tavernise speaks something closer to “Duranty” in her “news analysis.”

Even the NYT’s publisher supported revoking Duranty’s Pulitzer, calling Duranty’s work “slovenly” that “should have been recognized for what it was by his editors and by his Pulitzer judges seven decades ago.”  Yet, the NYT’s Istanbul bureau chief, Tavernise, repeats the NYT’s contemporaneous slovenliness.

I emailed Sabrina Tavernise early Sunday morning to comment on the interview with Gerald Robbins, I commenting to her, “I think you are too sanguine.”

I’ll update if she replies.

Kesler is a freelance writer based in San Diego. This article previously appeared on the Maggie’s Farm website

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