12 - When news is not enough: American media and Armenian deaths  pp. 294-308

When news is not enough: American media and Armenian deaths

By Thomas C. Leonard

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Americans entered the twentieth century with a vivid picture of Armenian victims in the Ottoman Empire. Headlines of “MASSACRE,” “SLAUGHTER OF INNOCENTS,” and “HOLOCAUST” ran in the New York Times in the 1890s. Outrages reported in the sober Review of Reviews and the Independent in New York became a book that was expected to reach beyond specialists: Armenian Massacres or the Sword of Mohammed, Containing a Complete and Thrilling Account of the Terrible Atrocities and Wholesale Murders Committed in Armenia by Mohammedan Fanatics (1896). Twenty stalwarts of benevolence in the Anglo-American world had their signatures reproduced in this volume, attesting to its truth. The cruel fate of Armenians caught the eye of many opinion leaders. Philanthropist Phoebe Apperson Hearst sent a check to the Armenian Agitation Association of America and her demagogic son, William Randolph Hearst, began his famous war cry over Cuba in the “yellow press” by invoking these martyrs of Anatolia. Among both elite and average readers of the news at the start of the twentieth century, it was common knowledge that the Ottoman Empire was a killing ground for Armenians.

The great European war of 1914 renewed ethnic bloodshed in Turkish lands and led the American press to pick up the thread of the earlier stories. Though overshadowed by the grand battles along European frontiers and sea-lanes, the assaults on Armenians were hard to miss in the news.