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Sercan Yoldas

The Framing of a Modern National Identity in the selected Political Discourses of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Winston Spencer Churchill

As economist Albert Hirschman (1989: 79) states “having opinions might be one of the essential elements of a person’s well being. A person should hold opinions of his own, and cannot have self-respect without opinions that define and identify him. We might think that our opinions about topics and issues such as nutrition, fashion, education, health, media, literature, or politics are purely the product of our own minds. The question is how do trend makers, marketers, and politicians control people’s minds so perfectly? How can they make us buy, eat, watch, go or vote within the limits they draw for us? The answer is so obvious, according to Lakoff; they use frames and framing. If we assume that our mind is a lake which is made up of rain drops, then frames are like the clouds hovering above it. They are the sources where we store information to be used to interpret the world around us.

Political leaders and their speeches are the focal point of political framing studies because policy makers are the ones to talk in the name of “the people.” In this study we analyze some of the common frames in the speeches of the two leaders who heavily influenced the shaping of national consciousness in the 20th century Turkey and England: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and Winston Spencer Churchill. We selected such concurrent concepts as “independence,” “minority,” and “foreign” in various different texts of the important speeches belonging the two leaders, and we analyze them within the context of George Lakoff’s theory on conceptual frames. Here is an example:

FOREIGN “yabanci”
A key concept that illustrates interesting political frames in the minds of Atatürk and Churchill in 1920’s and 1940’s is “foreign” – yabanci. When we analyze 112 different lines from Winston Churchill and 146 different lines from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s political speeches, we find drastic differences in their understanding of this concept. We believe that a comparison of the political frames in the political leaders’ minds also reflects basic values and beliefs of different cultures.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Foreign “yabanci” Frame


Winston Churchill’s Foreign “yabanci” Frame


Examples of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s Foreign “yabanci” frame:

Examples of Winston Churchill’s Foreign “yabanci” frame
We understand from the lines above that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s and Winston Churchill’s foreign – “yabanci” frame are quite different throughout. This difference partly arises out of separate courses these countries have followed throughout history. For Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a foreign country is always a blurring image, a threat, and a danger. His frame is informed by the many events in his own profession as a soldier, because he grew up in an Empire which was decaying and losing its possessions continuously. Later he became the leader of Turkish Independence War in which Turkey fought not only the neighboring countries, but also the Europeans as a joint force. Before the declaration of the Republic, Atatürk had always fought battles with the “foreign powers”. Besides, he always struggled hard with the opposition in the National Assembly who wanted and supported foreign interference in the country’s affairs for years. When these historical facts are taken into consideration, it is not very surprising for us to mark obvious negative connotations of this frame in Atatürk’s mind. Briefly, for Atatürk, the term “foreign” carries the connotations of “invasion,” “interference,” or a mandate regime. For this reason, it is very hard to find an utterance in which foreign – “yabanci” is used in positive connotation until 1925s. But as everything else in nature, frames can change throughout time. After 1925, which means after the completion of the construction of the republic, Atatürk changes this frame gradually. There is an urgent need in Turkey to develop her trade and industry for the funding of future developments of the country. After 1925, as a touchstone, he uses positive connotations with the concept “foreign”. He uses such terms as “foreign trade,” “foreign investment” and “foreign capital,” but even in these positive examples we realize that there is reservations in his mind. The remnants of his old negative frame of “foreign” can still be detected in his new positive frame. Although the clouds in his mind about the “foreign” as an immediate danger begin to disperse, there are still drawbacks. As Lakoff states, constructing and destroying frames both for our own mind and also for other people’s minds need too much time and effort. We can see his changing frame which has some reservations in this example:
“Gentlemen! Our country is wide. We need to work and to rise of capital for improvements both from in the country and rest of the world. For this reason, we are always ready to ensure the needed guarantee to foreign capital provided that they must be appurtenant to our laws.”
We see just the opposite of this in Winston Churchill’s political frame, which is almost stable in all the texts we analyzed. His frame of the term “foreign” directly evokes monetary and market frames in his mind. His duty as the Secretary of State for Treasury Department between 1924 and 1929 partly accounts for this way of thinking. For the continuation of a stable monetary system in Great Britain, “foreign” participation is sine qua non. Foreign goods and raw materials are the key elements of the industry at this time. Especially from England’s colonies, there is an endless flow of raw material which is processed and resold to the same countries with high profits. In this system there is no place for negative connotations of the term. Churchill’s maintains his positive approach not only towards the “foreign” but also the “foreigner”, because he sees foreign workers as a cheap form of labor, another way to increase the income sources of his country. In his frame of “foreign”, all terms are based on the welfare of his nation; he welcomes all things foreign, because they automatically bring wealth to Great Britain. In addition to this, in some contexts he describes the Englishman as “foreign” in other countries and he recommends “foreign investment” to his citizens. The flow of capital has always an important device to set up power relations between countries, and for this reason Churchill knows that if he controls the money flow between nations he can have control over power for his country.

We understand from different examples of this frame that both leaders’ approaches are as clear as a whistle; they both struggle for the well being of their nations, but their worries are completely different. They both look at the same painting but they perceive different things. In other words, in Winston Churchill’s way of thinking “foreign” triggers financial terms such as market, investment, manufacture, taxation and making a deal, but in Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s mind it triggers martial terms such as invasion, guardianship, mandate, and troops in general.

We conclude from Lakoff’s book The Political Mind that the human brain is in a continuous chain reaction between the neurons, which rekindle new concepts, new ideas, new thoughts, new words, and new frames. While perceiving and understanding even a single word, the brain makes so many operations that cannot be easily comprehended like using language itself. As in the act of perception, during the act of constructing frames the brain accesses many different sources of information and it generates products and ideas which take on a shape based on our world view, cultural background, education, religion, interests, and political views. Lakoff (2008:43) states that politics is all about moral values and every leader presents his/her policies on the grounds of one thing: “the right”. But whose “right” is right or whose “right” is wrong is a question that we have to decide for ourselves. This decision may affect the fate of later generations. To use Lakoff’s (2008:195) words: that there is a lot more to say, even now, about the brain, the mind, and their implications for politics.