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Beware Mass Media: The New York Times’s Coverage of Turkish Football and Politics is a Veritable Disaster

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The New York Times Looks to Portray Hakan Sukur as the Aggrieved Victim in His Upscale Cafe. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/03/sports/hakan-sukur.html

 

U.S. President Donald Trump has been much maligned for his criticism of mainstream news outlets like the New York Times; he has indeed repeatedly criticized them for being “fake news” and has described them as “failing”. Of course, as is to be expected, the main (lame)stream media—like CNN—have hit back at Mr. Trump’s criticism with columns like Brian Stelter’s; that this particular column should carry the heading “Reliable Sources” is almost as absurd as the name of the Soviet Union’s main newspaper, Pravda, which was translated as “True”. Interestingly, Mr. Stelter’s claim that the New York Times (NYT) is not failing is based on purely economic concerns; Fortune reports that Mr. Trump’s opposition to the NYT has only served to bolster the periodical, whose stock was trading at a nine year high as of July 2017. Reuters corroborates this claim, as the globalist news outlet reported profits of over 15 million dollars in the second quarter of 2017.

 

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Mr. Trump Tends to Criticize the New York Time’s Poor Reporting. Since Turkish Football is a Subject I Know A lot About, I Have To Agree Here. Image Courtesy Of: http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/02/media/new-york-times-president-trump/index.html

 

What is surprising is that CNN and Fortune do not seem to understand that the “success” of a news outlet is not defined in terms of profit; rather its success is defined by its service to the people. Norwegian-American Sociologist Thorstein Veblen pointed out long ago that the commercialization of both media and education would have negative consequences, since it would mean that both would write for profits and—by extension—for the interests of those who would be providing investment. Taken in these terms, it should be clear that the main (lame)stream media is most certainly failing; they are writing in the interests of the global capitalist elite, but not at all in the interests of the millions of middle and lower class citizens at large.

A recent piece in the New York Times—written by John Branch about famous Turkish footballer Hakan Sukur—is a perfect example of the failing New York Times and, indeed, the failing main(lame) stream media in general. The 3 May 2018 piece makes Mr. Sukur out to be an innocent refugee, escaping an “authoritarian regime”; it is a portrait of an immigrant “trying to build his own American dream for his family”. While this, of course, follows the pro-immigrant and pro-victim narrative of globalism, the truth is a bit more complicated than Mr. Branch admits (or, perhaps, even knows—after all, journalism in the modern era has become a refuge for surface level analyses which often lack knowledge of deeper details). While many of my fellow Sociologists mock “the American Dream”, it is interesting that the NYT is so eager to bring it up—especially when looking to legitimate a famous figure who is being described as an innocent victim.

The reality is that Mr. Sukur was once a close ally of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan—indeed, he eventually resigned from his position as an MP in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and came under attack from Mr. Erdogan himself, mainly because of his support for the shadowy Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. While it is likely that Mr. Sukur did not have full knowledge of Mr. Gulen’s plans for Turkey, his support for the cleric is undeniable. He was likely a pawn, whose celebrity status could be used in order to sway public opinion in Turkey (similar to the way Lebron James is used in the U.S.), but that does not excuse the New York Times’ atrocious reporting.

 

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A Bizarre Triangle…Mr. Erdogan (Left), Mr. Sukur (Center), and Mr. Gulen (Right). Image Courtesy Of: http://kaanil.blogcu.com/hakan-sukur-fethullah-gulen-le-ne-konustu/18008146

 

In Mr. Branch’s story, he seems to insinuate that the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 was a good thing (after all, authoritarian regimes are “bad” and need toppling). Please see the passage in question:

It was his [Mr. Sukur’s] first interview since he left Turkey in 2015, nearly a year before the 2016 deadly coup that tried, and failed, to topple the authoritarian regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former friend and political ally.

This kind of framing—a topic I have written about in the past—would lead the uninformed reader to believe that a coup deposing an “authoritarian” leader would be a “good” thing. Of course, this is far from the truth—a successful Gulenist coup in Turkey would have been disastrous. Still, this is the kind of shoddy reporting that has come to be the norm in the United States, a place where famous political commentators like Bill Maher openly call for coups to depose leaders they don’t like (such as Mr. Trump).

The most insidious passage—indeed, the most repulsive portion—of Mr. Branch’s reporting, however, comes in his description of Mr. Gulen’s Hizmet movement:

Gulen’s Hizmet movement has, for decades, infiltrated Turkey’s institutions with a moderate strain of Islam, trying to nudge the country from the inside toward democracy, education and cultural openness more associated with Europe than much of today’s Middle East.

I have bolded the most important parts since they are, in my mind, absurd. That the New York Times—one of the leading news providers in not only the United States, but the entire world—should describe a movement which attempted to subvert Turkish democracy by attempting a military coup as one which tried to “nudge the country toward democracy” is a gross misrepresentation of reality. The New York Times seems to think that they can shape public opinion by using catch phrases and catch words like “moderate Islam”, “cultural openness”, and “democracy” in order to shape public opinion. This is, very clearly, an egregious example of an attempt by the media to support a very dangerous man in the name of progressive politics.

Observers should be aware of the duplicitous nature of the globalist mass media which prefers to play on emotions rather than report on facts. Mr. Gulen is no democrat, nor is he a champion of any kind of Islam; rather, he is a capitalist who looks to transform Islam into one more amenable to capitalist ideals (as the sociologist Cihan Tugal masterfully explains in his book Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism). That the New York Times would support a man who quite possibly ordered the bombing of his own nation’s parliament—and whose purported actions killed almost three hundred innocent people—as a supporter of “democracy” is both absurd and extremely troubling. For those of us who expect veracity from our news media—and despite the fact that ABC news thinks “The Colbert Report” is legitimate news (it is not)—this kind of reporting needs to be called out. It has no place in a country which prides itself on “freedom of the press”. We should all strive to take back our countries, and our free press, in the process.

 

 

 

 

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From Tweets to Teetering on the Brink in Turkey

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Clash of the Titans: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, complete with Basaksehirspor Jersey (L) and Meral Aksener (R). Image Courtesy of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/958823/Aksener_den_rekor_kiran_tweet__Galatasaray_2-0_Recep_Tayyip_Erdogan.html

 

Last weekend Turkish football giants Galatasaray faced off against league leaders Istanbul Basaksehirspor in a battle for first place in the Turkish Super League. If Basaksehirspor won, they would move five points clear at the top with five matches to go. If Galatasaray won, they would move into first place, one point ahead of Basaksehirspor. That it was a critical matchup was lost on no one, since Istanbul Basaksehirspor is an invented team which garners its support from the Turkish government; indeed, I am not the only one who has pointed this out.

At times it seems as if the team’s biggest supporter is the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself! On 14 April 2018, one day before the match, the President spoke at his party’s Basaksehir congress. Complaining about the team’s lack of fans (a topic I have touched upon), Mr. Erdogan issued a call to Basaksehir fans:

 

Tribünleri Başakşehir’in gençliğinin doldurması lazım. Gençler şampiyonluğa oynuyorsunuz tribünlerin dolması lazım. Bunu halletmeniz lazım. Bakın aniden bir sürpriz yaparım. Başakşehir’in bir maçına gelirim, tribünleri boş görürsem olmaz.

The youth of Basaksehir must fill the stands. Kids, you’re playing for the championship the stands must be filled. You need to take care of this. Look, I could suddenly make a surprise visit to a Basaksehir match; if I see the stands empty it wont be good.

 

Almost immediately, Mr. Erdogan’s comments created a backlash on social media; one fan posted a picture of Istanbul’s municipal workers with the caption “Basaksehir fans are coming with 27 busses”, alluding both to the team’s past recruitment of municipal workers to fill the stands, and to the team’s previous incarnation as the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s (IBB) team, Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyespor.

 

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Basaksehirspor’s “Hardcore” fans readying their Tifo with Drums. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/foto/foto_galeri/958500/1/Erdogan_in_Basaksehir_cagrisina_sosyal_medyadan_tepki_yagdi.html

 

Aside from humorous responses like the one mentioned above, the most important response on social media came in the form of a Tweet by Meral Aksener, herself a former cabinet member and former member of the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Action Party (MHP). Ms. Aksener broke from the hardline MHP and—seemingly following the populist line which has emerged from London and Washington in the past few years—started her own nationalist party, the Iyi (Good) party, in order to challenge the growing one-man rule of Mr. Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has seemingly subsumed the MHP and its “ancient leader”, Devlet Bahceli, to quote the Economist. Ms. Aksener’s Tweet was a brilliant response to Mr. Erdogan’s comments, reading:

 

Çok sayıda mesajdan, Sn. Erdoğan’ın AKP’li gençlere GS karşısında açıkça Başakşehir yanında yer almalarını isteyen çağrısının sporseverleri çok üzdüğünü gördüm. Bırakın gençler istediği takımı tutsun, bırakın futbol sahada oynansın ve futbol kulüplerinin renkleri kirlenmesin.

I read in many [social media] messages [posts] that many sports fans were upset by Mr. Erdogan’s open call for AKP supporting youth to support Basaksehir [Basaksehirspor] against GS [Galatasaray]. Let the youth support whichever team they would like to, let go and allow football to be played on the field and not sully the football teams’ colors.

 

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Meral Aksener Hits Back at Mr. Erdogan. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/958823/Aksener_den_rekor_kiran_tweet__Galatasaray_2-0_Recep_Tayyip_Erdogan.html

 

Following the match—which Galatasaray won 2-0, Ms. Aksener sent a follow-up Tweet with what could be considered the dagger in the heart: Galatasaray 2 – 0 Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This Tweet was many things:

  • It was funny.
  • It revealed the very real connection between the ruling AKP and Basaksehirspor; a form of social and cultural engineering designed to further the entrenchment of the AKP’s hegemony over all facets of Turkish cultural life.
  • It showed just how unafraid Ms. Aksener is of Mr. Erdogan, who—as The Economist notes—would never admit to being afraid of a woman.

 

Surprisingly, the globalist main (lame)stream media has not covered Ms. Aksener’s rising star. Given the post-modern world’s obsession with identity politics, it would have seemed that the story of a woman like Ms. Aksener’s challenge to Mr. Erdogan in an Islamic country would have been a popular one. Unfortunately, as in so many other cases, the main (lame)stream media only follows the stories that fit their narrative. And, sadly, that narrative is one which can have nothing to do with anything that strays from the logic of globalism.

That Mr. Erdogan was made very afraid by Ms. Aksener’s brazen Tweet showed just days later when, on 18 April 2018, he announced snap elections for 24 June 2018. It was a surprising move, especially considering how often Mr. Erdogan has spoken against early elections in the past. In 2010 Mr. Erdogan said “In the developed countries of the world there is no idea, no understanding of early elections. These are signs of backwardness”. In 2009 Mr. Erdogan called anyone who wanted early elections “traitors” or “sell-outs to the nation”. Yet, in 2018, Mr. Erdogan has gone against himself! Of course, such contradictions are not surprising. After all, this is politics in the globalizing world. There is, however, a rationale behind this madness. Mr. Erdogan has called these early elections—despite contradicting himself—for three main reasons.

 

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To Quote Mr. Erdogan: “In the developed countries of the world there is no idea, no understanding of early elections. These are signs of backwardness”.  Image Courtesy Of: https://listelist.com/erken-secime-karsi-cikmis-siyasetciler/

 

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The Above Reads “Early Elections Are A Betrayal To The Nation”; Mr. Erdogan’s Said On 15 March 2009 That “Wanting Early Elections Is a Betrayal To The Nation” While On 8 January 2010 He Announced That Early Elections Were A Sign Of Backwardness. Images Courtesy Of: https://listelist.com/erken-secime-karsi-cikmis-siyasetciler/

 

  1. Erdogan is looking to capitalize on the nationalist fervor while he can. As I have written earlier, Mr. Erdogan has looked to capitalize on the rise of populism following the election of Donald Trump in the U.S. and Brexit in the U.K. by re-branding himself as a nationalist. He has looked to strengthen these “nationalist” credentials by rallying Turkey behind the flag (the oldest trick in the book, of course) during the Turkish operations in Northern Syria, designed to prevent the formation of an independent Kurdish entity. Indeed, Turkey has recently attempted to take a middle ground approach to Syria between the U.S., U.K., and France on the one hand and Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime on the other. This policy, of course, is reminiscent of Turkey’s neutrality during the Second World War, perhaps one of the best foreign policy moves in Turkish history. And it is also one born out of Ataturk’s own nationalist position, of an independent and sovereign Turkey. Indeed, it seems that Mr. Erdogan—and the AKP more generally—have re-discovered Ataturk and classical Turkish geopolitics (focused on sovereignty and defending the national borders) and are looking to ride this wave to five more years of power.
  2. Erdogan has become cognizant of the threats to his own power in domestic politics as well as international politics. As the aforementioned Tweets regarding the Basaksehir match show, Ms. Aksener is not afraid to challenge Mr. Erdogan domestically. Despite the AKP’s clear ideological influence over Turkish football Ms. Aksener was not afraid to take a critical stance. At the same time, on Tuesday 15 April, U.S. president Donald Trump sent out one of his famous Tweets, it was the first one which mentioned Turkey that I can recall. In it, he called for the return of an American pastor who the Turkish government has jailed for being a “spy”. Mr. Erdogan, over the course of the week, recognized that both the domestic and international tide may be turning against him, and thus he had to act. Perhaps he realized that—given this recent firestorm on social media—his party might not be able to survive until November 2019, when the next elections were supposed to take place.
  3. Erdogan (who owes his seat in power to the forces of global finance) also knows that he must pander to the interests of globalization and global finance. As The Washington Post notes, “analysts said Erdogan may also have decided to shorten the electoral timetable because of signs of a worsening economy, a major concern for Turkish voters”. Indeed, Bloomberg’s reports of the call for early elections focused solely on the economic interests of global capital. Bloomberg’s piece pointed out that “Lira stocks rallied” after the announcement and that “The lira extended gains after the announcement, appreciating 1.6 percent to 4.03 per dollar as of 6:30 p.m. in Istanbul; it has weakened this year against all 17 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The benchmark stock index added 3.1 percent, its biggest one-day gain in a year.” Of course, as one analyst noted, this might not be enough. Jan Dehn, head of research at Ashmore Group PLC in London compared Erdogan’s situation to that of Chavez in Venezuela and Kirchner in Argentina: “Markets hope that if Erdogan wins he can do some adjustment and get a bit more normal. A bit like how markets used to view Chavez and even Kirchner. In reality of course, they did not get more moderate. They got more radical instead.”

 

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U.S. President Donald Trump Weighs In. Image Courtesy of: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/986432143189512192

 

And this radicalization is what many in Turkey fear. Unfortunately, however, in the age of globalization which is characterized by an extreme form of capitalism, the markets are truly all that matter. You will not see wide-spread outrage at the fact that Mr. Erdogan is circumventing the constitutional democracy of the Republic of Turkey. This is because his move will bring “stability” to financial markets, at the expense of a populace which has been living under an official state of emergency for the better part of the last two years. His decision to call early elections will earn investors more money, even though Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists.

Unfortunately, global financial moguls care little for these trivial “details”. They care about the bottom line; “human rights” and “democracy” are just a footnote to that bottom line. As a commentator in a local Turkish newspaper points out, the early election is just an early call for the battle against imperialism at the ballot box. I have pointed out before how globalization and globalism are just colonialism and imperialism with a kinder face; it is time that we all recognize this—and take back our countries—before it is too late.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag-map_of_Turkey.svg

The Two-Faced Nature of the Political Narrative in the United States Reveals the Depth of Corporate Media Control in the United States: The Perspective of a Marginal Sociologist

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The great American Sociologist C. Wright Mills once wrote that the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR) were analogous entities. Mills pointed out that while in the Soviet Union intellectuals were crushed physically, in the United States intellectuals were crushed morally; this is to say that if one said something against the dominant narrative in the USSR they were sent to a gulag (like Dostoyevsky), while in the United states they are shamed morally and—thus—lose their legitimacy in the public eye (one recent example would be the globalist news outlet The Guardian’s odd shaming of pop artist Taylor Swift for not voicing political opinions). Of course, Mills was not the first to note the odd similarities between the two world superpowers in the Cold War era; the Beatles’ “Back in the USSR” noted the similarities between their very names.

And, in 2018, it seems that we are still noting the similarities between the United States—the “leader of the free world”—and the Soviet Union’s successor, Russia. Again, The Guardian provides a great example of the narrative I mentioned in the title: In a 2017 article, The Guardian slams the Russian media for being state-owned. Predictably, The Guardian’s analysis is blatantly biased, inevitably connecting the topic to—as the narrative would have it—U.S. President Donald Trump:

 

There are, of course, many lessons to be learned and many parallels to draw with the current fraught relationship between Donald Trump and the US media. But it’s important to keep in mind that Putin has amassed far more power than Trump can possibly hope to during his time in power. However, one thing is clear: both in the US and in Russia, the media are often distracted with outrage over absurd behaviour and nonsensical public statements while ignoring what those in power want to be ignored.

 

There is, however, a small problem with the globalist main (lame)stream media’s narrative here. It is that Donald Trump has so little control over the media in the United States. In fact, the situation is not at all parallel to that in Russia. The U.S. news media is against Mr. Trump’s position and, it seems, will go to extreme lengths to paint over the very real problem created by their inherent biases.

On 31 March 2017, Mr. Trump slammed Amazon.com for what he calls “scamming” the U.S. Postal Service. Of course, America’s state television channel (when a channel has contracts which guarantee it a monopoly on televisions in airports across the country, it becomes state media), CNN, slammed Mr. Trump for slamming Amazon.com! While Mr. Trump certainly has a right to criticize Amazon.com for its role in pushing out small businesses (how many bookstores exist in the United States anymore?) and for skirting around sales taxes—Amazon.com is, effectively, a faceless corporate monopoly which cares little for the people as long as it profits off of them—this (more important) problematic aspect of Amazon.com’s role in corporate America was not discussed in the U.S. news media (even though Mr. Trump’s political rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, agrees). This is because the U.S. news media is—like its counterpart in Russia—hardly free. Rather, it is beholden to political lobbyists.

 

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Mr. Bezos and Mr. Trump. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.stern.de/wirtschaft/news/amazon–trump-attacke-kostet-bereits-milliarden—persoenliche-fehde-mit-jeff-bezos–7922072.html

 

Please take the recent Washington Post article as an example. In his 31 March article, Philip Rucker writes:

 

Trump is typically motivated to lash out at Amazon because of The Post’s coverage of him, officials have said. One person who has discussed the matter repeatedly with the president explained that a negative story in The Post is almost always the catalyst for one of his Amazon rants.

 

While Rucker’s rationalization of Mr. Trump’s criticism of Amazon’s business practices (which are well deserved) leaves much to be desired, one passage in particular seemed to be an insult to any Washington Post reader with an independent mind. Rucker writes:

 

The president also incorrectly conflated Amazon with The Post and made clear that his attacks on the retailer were inspired by his disdain for the newspaper’s coverage. He labeled the newspaper “the Fake Washington Post” and demanded that it register as a lobbyist for Amazon. The Post is personally owned by Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, and operates independently of Amazon.

 

If one were to assume—as the Washington Post would like people to—that there is no conflict of interest here, they would have to be extremely naïve, to say the least. That Mr. Rucker goes on to lament that Mr. Trumps tweets caused the company’s shares to fall goes to show that the Washington Post may—indeed—be a lobbyist for Amazon. Yet, instead of Americans questioning the legitimacy of their news media—and questioning corporations, like Amazon, for their role in shaping political opinion as purveyors of the culture industry—we see that most Americans are all too happy to support corporate interests over the people’s interest. It is made all the more shocking when looking at how the main (lame)stream media in the United States responds to events like this in other countries.

On 21 March 2018—just ten days before Trump’s fallout with The Washington Post—fellow traveler in the state media The New York Times was quick to criticize the take over of one of Turkey’s major media groups, Dogan Media, by a pro-government conglomerate owned by Demiroren Holding. The New York Times explained:

 

The Dogan Media group owned the newspapers Hurriyet and Posta, and two of Turkey’s main entertainment and news channels, Kanal D and CNN Turk. The government had accused the company of being biased against it and the governing party.

 

A well-respected Turkish journalist, Kadri Gursel (who was recently released from an 11 month stint in jail for being critical of the government), Tweeted that “The process of gathering the Turkish media industry in one hand according to the Putin model is completed”. Given that Dogan media owned much of the sports media in Turkey as well, it is clear that the new ownership of Mr. Demiroren, whose son Yildirim is the head of the Turkish Football Federation, will affect the Turkish football world as well. In a sense, it is a further “Erdoganicization” of the Turkish culture industry and, by extension, Turkish football.

 

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Both Mr. Demirorens and Mr. Erdogan. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gundemotuzbes.com/dogan-medya-grubu-erdogan-demiroren-e-satildi/38776/

 

The point of this post is to show that when corporate interests take over the media in order to further political agendas in foreign countries, it is seen as an unquestionably bad thing. Yet, when the same thing happens in the United States it seems that people do not even bat an eye. Remember that Jeff Bezos—the owner of both Amazon.com and The Washington Post—has strong progressive leanings and his purchase of the Post has worried many commentators even in liberal circles. It seems that we should be more worried than ever about the connection between corporate wealth, politics, and the media. It is a connection that sociologist Thorstein Veblen made clear more than a century ago, and it is one which should concern people all over the world; as my example from Turkey shows, this problematic melding of news media, big business, and politics affects people regardless of their country of citizenship. If only the main (lame)stream media in the United States could drop their (perhaps racist) tendency to criticize other countries (like Turkey) at the drop of a hat and instead do their jobs—which is to keep their own societies honest.

 

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Sage Words From a Great Writer. Image Courtesy Of: http://dream-prophecy.blogspot.com/2015/12/cia-mind-control-over-american-and.html

 

United_States.jpg  This Is Why People Must Take Back Their Countries, Before They Are Subsumed By Commercial Interests at the Expense of Their Citizens. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/pictures/flags/unitedstates.html

Tensions Between the U.S. and Turkey Rise as Erdogan Attempts to Re-Brand Himself as a Nationalist: The View From the Football World

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On 27 January 2018 Voice of America reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was willing to risk a military confrontation with fellow NATO ally the United States in order to rid Turkey’s southern border of Kurdish YPG/PKK militants. While Turkey’s interest in the Syrian border has historical precedent since the region represents an area of crucial geopolitical interest to Turkey, the soundbite VOA chose to quote is an interesting one. According to the VOA article, “Erdogan has pledged to ‘crush anyone who opposes our [Turkey’s] nationalist struggle’.” Given the VOA’s framing of Turkey’s offensive in terms of “nationalism”—a term that has taken on a pejorative meaning in the West—it is useful to delve into this particular matter.

First of all, it is important to recognize that Mr. Erdogan is not a nationalist at all; rather his rhetoric is part of a wider re-branding strategy. That Mr. Erdogan is certainly not a nationalist was made clear last December during the opening of Trabzonspor’s brand new Akyazi stadium, an event that drew criticism from all walks of Turkish society. During the opening ceremony on 19 December 2016, four banners were hung from the stadium’s rafters. From right to left (and, ostensibly, in order of importance) the banners of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the founder of modern Turkey), Recep Tayyip Erdogan (the current president of Turkey), the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Sani, and Binali Yildirim (the current prime minister of Turkey) were hung. Of course, the idea of the Qatari Emir’s poster appearing before a member of the Turkish government elicited criticism from many Turkish commentators. Yet, as if that was not enough, the Qatari national anthem was played before the Turkish national anthem at the opening. While Qatari involvement—and interest—in Turkish football is not unprecedented (indeed the Gulf state’s Qatar National Bank—QNB—is also Trabzonspor’s shirt sponsor), this degree of acquiescence to Qatari interests was unprecedented at the time. As commentators rightfully asked, “what was the Qatari Emir’s relationship to Turkish history”? In short, it is a manifestation of Qatari soft-power (and economic imperialism) through football. Turkey is effectively selling off its own infrastructure to Qatar, thereby succumbing to the rising tide of globalism, despite framing it as—alternatively—a Neo-Ottoman agenda or Turkish nationalist agenda. In reality, it is neither of these; it is merely a cynical attempt to attract foreign investment from a wealthy Gulf State.

 

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From Left to Right: The Turkish Flag, Turkey’s Founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Sami, and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.diken.com.tr/akyazi-stadinin-acilisinda-katar-emiri-al-saninin-posteri-asildi-katar-ulusal-marsi-calindi/

 

The reasons for Mr. Erdogan’s re-branding are complicated. It is both a response to the so-called “populist” turn in the United States (due to Donald Trump’s election) and the United Kingdom (due to Brexit), while also being a response to Mr. Erdogan’s failure to hide his own party’s corrupt globalist agenda (most recently revealed by disgraced Iranian trader Reza Zarrab). A third reason that Mr. Erdogan has had to re-brand himself is due to the stress created by the presence of a large Kurdish militant force on Turkey’s southern border; as a Turkish leader tasked with preserving Ataturk’s borders Mr. Erdogan cannot afford to lose an inch of Turkish territory.

While Mr. Erdogan is in a difficult position, sandwiched between the neoliberal globalism demanded by American (Western) interests and the mandate of Turkish nationalism bequeathed upon him by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the contradictory situation is one that reflects the contradictory nature of globalism itself. In the West, the ideology manifests itself as part of a utopic iteration of “progressive” politics. Yet—as the impasse in Syria shows—the globalist world is a world of war. While most progressives—and in fact many Americans—will tell you that the last World War ended in 1945, citizens of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Iraq (again), and Syria might tell you that they have lived through World War III in the past thirty years—the “globalist period” post 1991 have been characterized by the constant destabilization and ultimate disintegration of nation-states defined by strong statist governments.

Of course, it was American meddling that caused these destabilizations, coupled with the poisonous addition of identity politics. In Turkey’s case, the idea was certainly one “born” in the West; the carrot of European Union membership had been extended to Turkey if they would just extend more “rights” to their Kurdish minority. Here an article by an American academic who subscribes wholeheartedly to the poison of identity politics shows how real the problem is. While the author argues that “Turkish prejudice against the legitimacy of the Kurdish identity reminds one in some respects of the former prejudice against African-Americans in the United States”, it is clear that the author is only exemplifying the tendency of Western researchers to use Western discourse to dominate conversations in reference to non-Western areas; it is an example of the neo-colonialist nature of “progressive” academia in the West.

The end-result of this neo-colonialism and identity politics is, sadly, an attempt to divide Turkey. The case of Turkish footballer Deniz Naki is a great example of this division based on identity politics. Mr. Naki, a Turkish-German footballer of Kurdish descent who plays for Kurdish side Amedspor decided, on 28 January 2018, that he would not return to Turkey following an attack on his vehicle while in Germany. Following that decision, the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) decided to hit him with a fine. On 30 January 2018 the disciplinary wing of the TFF hit Mr. Naki with a three year six month suspension; since the suspension was over three years it means a lifelong ban from Turkish football for the footballer. He was fined 72,000 USD for “separatist and ideological propaganda”, due to his sharing “a video on social media on Sunday calling for participation in a rally in the German city of Cologne to protest against Turkey’s military offensive into northern Syria’s Afrin region” according to Reuters. Another result of identity politics in Football means thatt Diyarbakirspor could return to the top flight soon,

 

 

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A Defiant Deniz Naki in Happier Times. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/spor/915063/PFDK___Turkiye_ye_donmeyecegim__diyen_Deniz_Naki_ye_ceza_verecek.html

 

Unfortunately, the ugly tentacles of identity politics extend from the globalist West to all corners of the world. Just like the United States, Turkey is unfortunately not immune to the divisiveness of identity politics. Despite Mr. Erdogan’s rebranding he is still a globalist at heart; after all, no true nationalist would have allowed the Syrian crisis to unravel the way it did on Turkey’s southern border, just like no true nationalist would have stoked the fires of identity politics and divided Turkey between ethnic Turks and ethnic Kurds. While Erdogan is trying to frame his actions in terms of nationalism, most observers of Turkish politics know that—due to historical constraints—Mr. Erdogan had little choice but to act on anything that threatens the territorial integrity of the Turkish state. That said—and despite everything—Turkey will survive this crisis like it has so many before. As Serif Mardin writes in State, Democracy, and The Military: Turkey in the 1980s, “there does exist an enduring populist, egalitarian, democratic strain in Turkish history which shows greater institutionalization than in other Middle Eastern countries and which has enabled this country to emerge from a series of soul-searching tests with pride” (Mardin 1988: 27).

As for the United States, they will survive this as well. As U.S. President Donald Trump said during his State of the Union Address, “the U.S. must give money to friends and not to enemies”. In return, then, the United States must be a friend to friends as well. By succumbing to the globalist logic, the United States has turned its back on too many “friends”. The presence of U.S. Troops on Turkey’s southern border—aiding Kurdish militants—does nothing for American national security, especially while the southern border of the U.S. with Mexico remains as porous as ever. The United States must return to being a republic, as its founding fathers envisioned it to be. Instead of wasting money in the Middle East, the U.S. would be much better off spending at home in order to improve infrastructure and address poverty within the country.

 

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U.S. Soldiers–and the U.S. Flag Should Be At Home, Not Dispersed All Over the World. Images Courtesy of: https://www.voanews.com/a/ergodan-says-he-is-ready-to-risk-confrontation-with-us/4227613.html

 

This is why the end of globalization—and its ideological brother, globalism—will mean an end to WWIII and a fairer, more peaceful world in the end. It is up to us as citizens, however, to demand that our leaders resist the temptations that the corruption of globalization offers. After all, it is a system that enriches a global class of super-rich on the backs of a world-wide working class.

 

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Globalization only seems to work if you’re part of the “super rich”; an alernative explanation has been chewing tobacco. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-story-of-globalization-in-1-graph/283342/

Turkish Super Cup Fiasco Shows the Deepening of a New Hegemony in Turkish Football

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New Season, Same Old Story. Image Courtesy Of: http://saudigazette.com.sa/article/514890/Sports/Brawl

 

The Turkish Super Cup contested between Besiktas and Konyaspor on 6 August 2017 descended into violence between rival groups of fans (for video, please click here), showing that–once again–the E-ticketing system (Passolig) has done little to curb stadium violence. Instead, the social divisions that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has encouraged over the course of its fifteen year rule spilled onto the pitch. Euronews (from Reuters) reported:

 

Supporters of Atiker Konyaspor, the main team from Turkey’s central Anatolian province of Konya, chanted slogans accusing Besiktas and its fans of links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency against the state. Fans of Besiktas, an Istanbul side whose supporters include a vocal leftist element, responded with a song popular among secular Turks, aimed at the rival fans from Turkey’s conservative heartland. The two groups rushed onto the field and fought after the final whistle.

 

That Besiktas’s fans should be accused of being terrorists is absurd, but so is the conservative fans’ revulsion to Besiktas’s fans singing the Izmir Marsi seeing as how it is…a nationalist song (for video, please click here). Is not Konya part of Turkey? Apparently, the divisions sown by the AKP run deep.

Yet, for all of the failures of the Passolig system to prevent violence, one thing it did succeed in was uncovering “undesirable” fans—those fans who have political messages. Arrest warrants were issued for seventeen fans for opening a banner “in support of two educators [academic Nuriye Gülmen and primary school teacher Semih Özakça] who have been on hunger strikes for over 150 days”. According to the authorities these two are members of the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), an outlawed leftist group in Turkey. How the banner ended up in the stadium is a mystery. Another mystery is how a switchblade knife, of all things, not only got into the stadium but got onto the field of play.

 

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Somehow, a Bad Banner Got Into The Stadium . . . Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/siyaset/797587/Basaksehir_macinda__Baskomutan_Erdogan_a_izin_var__Super_Kupa_da__Mustafa_Kemal_Pasa__disarida.html

 

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Along With a Switchblade Knife! Image Courtesy of: http://skor.sozcu.com.tr/2017/08/06/besiktas-konyaspor-macinda-gergin-anlar-taraftar-sahaya-atladi-ve-649731/

 

Despite “tough” security measures (including the presence of 1200 police officers and 1100 private security guards), scores of violent fans entered the stadium and brawled, causing large amounts of damage to the brand new Yeni 19 Mayis Stadium.

 

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The Aftermath of Senseless Violence. Image Courtesy Of: http://skor.sozcu.com.tr/2017/08/07/samsun-polisi-super-kupa-sonrasi-olaylarla-ilgili-statta-400-guvenlik-kamerasini-inceliyor-649946/

 

Despite what seems to have been complete chaos, it is amusing that there was one thing that was not allowed in the stadium: A banner reading Yasa Mustafa Kemal Pasa Yasa (Long Live Mustafa Kemal Pasa), supporting the founding father of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Although this is absurd—and very surprising, considering what was allowed inside the stadium—it is part of the consolidation of a new hegemony in Turkish society, one that aims to roll back the traditions of the secular Turkish state both politically and—more importantly—culturally; this is why sports has become such a battle ground in the culture wars.

 

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Apparently, This Was One Of the Few Items That Was Successfully Kept Out Of the Stadium. Image Courtesy Of: http://skor.sozcu.com.tr/2017/08/06/mustafa-kemal-pasa-pankarti-stada-alinmadi-iddiasi-649686/

 

Fikret Orman, President of the Besiktas club, defended the authorities decision to not allow the pro-Ataturk banner, saying “Stada gelen insanlar, siyasi slogan atmaya değil, yıldızları izlemeye geliyor. Siyaset yapmak isteyen, partilere gidebilir (People come to the stadium not to yell political slogans but to watch the stars. Those who want to do politics can go to the [political] parties),” but he did not acknowledge the absurdity of allowing a knife—and not a banner—into a stadium. After all, is Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as the founding father of the Turkish Republic, not beyond politics for those who believe in Turkish civic (I remind you, not ethnic) nationalism? It is not when the matter at hand is cementing a new kind of hegemony. Besiktas, as one of Turkish football’s traditional powers representing the eponymous liberal district of Istanbul, is the antithesis of what their opponents on the night, Konyaspor, represent. Konya is Turkey’s most conservative province, located deep in the country’s Central Anatolian heartland. The team is backed by the “green capital” of Islamic businessmen who have prospered during the past 15 years of AKP rule, and their goal is to challenge the existing status quo in Turkish football.

And they are not alone in mounting this challenge, as another banner controversy will show. Istanbul’s Basaksehirspor (An invented team I wrote about in passing when I wrote about Gazisehir Gaziantep Football Club) are the long term project of the Turkish state, and this is why they will be playing for a spot in the UEFA Champions League on 16 August 2017. Even foreign commentators have noted Basaksehir’s attempts to challenge Istanbul’s traditional giants. A recent article in the United Arab Emirates’ The National opens with this passage, referring to last week’s Champions League qualifier with Belgian side Club Brugge: “The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, made a point of being at the stadium of the club he supports two weeks back. Erdogan likes to be associated with victory . . .”. Since Basaksehir is the team Mr. Erdogan supports, they did not have any problem getting a banner reading “Baskomutan (Commander in Chief)” alongside Mr. Erdogan’s portrait into the stadium. The term historically refers to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, but this re-writing of history is typical of a changing Turkey.

 

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A Kafkaesque Situation: Supporting the Current Leader of Turkey In the Stadium Is Allowed, Yet Supporting the Founder of Turkey In the Stadium Is Not Allowed. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/siyaset/797587/Basaksehir_macinda__Baskomutan_Erdogan_a_izin_var__Super_Kupa_da__Mustafa_Kemal_Pasa__disarida.html

 

And now Basaksehirspor will face Sevilla in a bid to further their challenge to Turkish football’s traditional powers. Even the team’s Tweets reflect the crude nature of Turkey’s new ruling class. After besting Club Brugge in the previous round of Champions League qualifiers, the team asked Sevilla “Don’t you want to win the Europa League once again Sevilla FC?” [Author’s Note: The team that loses the final qualifying round tie for the Champions League earns a spot in UEFA’s second tier competition, the Europa League]. Sevilla FC responded to Basaksehir’s jab brilliantly with “Thanks, but we have a lot of them …. Better the first one for you”. For a team with minimal European experience (eight matches in total), Basaksehir’s gall can only be classified as classless but that is sadly the manner of behavior that has become de rigeur in Turkey these days (please recall a post I wrote criticizing Turkish Airlines’ claim that their airport lounge in Istanbul is bigger than some airports).

 

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An Interesting Exchange Between Official Twitter Accounts. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/sporarena/basaksehir-ve-sevilla-sosyal-medyada-atisti-40551429

 

Since a member of the AKP claimed a few weeks ago that “a new state had already been formed” in the wake of last summer’s failed coup, it has become clear that there is a real attempt to consolidate the gains of the last 15 years ahead of President Erdogan’s power-grab election in 2019, especially given the large scale dissatisfaction with AKP rule that surfaced during the April 2017 referendum. This attempt at hegemonic consolidation manifests itself in all facets of Turkish society, and sports is–as always–no exception.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.mytripolog.com/2011/07/largest-most-detailed-map-and-flag-of-turkey/

 

 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Attempts to Re-Brand Himself as a Nationalist by Renaming Football Stadiums

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Turkey’s controversial President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a savvy political leader to say the least. He is also very intelligent, and his latest move is another attempt to survive amidst the ongoing global turmoil. Mr. Erdogan sees the rising tide of populist nationalism (most prominently exemplified by June 2016’s “Brexit” and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump in November 2016) and is looking to exploit it by re-branding himself as a populist nationalist leader. His latest tactic focuses on football stadiums. On 29 May 2017 Mr. Erdogan announced that he was “going to remove the word ‘arena’ from stadiums”, deeming the word “un-Turkish”. According to The Telegraph, Mr. Erdogan asked a rhetorical question: “What does arena mean? We don’t have such a thing in our language,’ Mr Erdogan added, urging people to examine the ‘meaning and interpretation’ of arenas saying the word was ‘neither polite nor elegant’ “.

 

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Ataturk’s Language Reform. Image Courtesy of: http://www.nationalturk.com/en/turkey-83th-anniversary-of-turkish-language-reform-to-be-celebrated-14675/

 

Of course, such a move is not new or unprecedented in Turkish history. Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, pursued a language revolution which brought the Latin alphabet to Turkey by eliminating the Perso-Arabic script of Ottoman Turkish; it was one of the cornerstones of Ataturk’s revolution designed to “Westernize” Turkey. More recently, as scholar Banu Eligur points out in her illuminating book on Political Islam in Turkey, the military did the same after the 1980 intervention when “the state-owned television issued a long list of words that were banned from use over the network” (Eligur, 2010: 117). According to the author, “the state was not simply expected to promote a conservative understanding of national culture, but to discourage—or, as one document puts it—to ‘extinguish’ modernist movements in literature and the arts” (Eligur, 2010: 117). This is the same kind of consolidation that Mr. Erdogan is looking to achieve with his attempt to ban the word “arena” from use in Turkish stadiums; it is also an attempt for Mr. Erdogan to equate himself with Ataturk.

 

 

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According to Mr. Erdogan’s Decree, the Names of Galatasaray’s Turk Telekom Arena (Top) and Besiktas’ Vodafone Arena (Bottom) Will Have to Change. Images Courtesy of https://www.tripadvisor.co.za/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g293974-d2329797-i222044743-Turk_Telekom_Arena-Istanbul.html (Top) and http://www.vodafonearena.com.tr/_assets/images/layout/og-image.jpg (Bottom).

 

It would behoove observers to realize that Mr. Erdogan’s purported goal is a façade. After breaking with Fethullah Gulen—the reclusive Islamic cleric blamed for the 15 July 2016 coup attempt—Erdogan is looking to become more of a nationalist and less of a globalist (as Mr. Gulen is). Mr. Gulen, who is undoubtedly an Islamist, embraces a globalist vision without countries; it is a vision where an Islamic umma (believers) is united as Muslims and not Turks, Egyptians, Iranians, etc. State media in the United States decided to publish a statement by Mr. Gulen (himself a traitor to his country) on 15 May 2017, in which he states his position clearly. He argues that:

 

school curriculum that emphasizes democratic and pluralistic values and encourages critical thinking must be developed. Every student must learn the importance of balancing state powers with individual rights, the separation of powers, judicial independence and press freedom, and the dangers of extreme nationalism, politicization of religion and veneration of the state or any leader. [Emphasis added].

 

It is remarkable how closely Mr. Gulen’s emphasis on “pluralistic values” and “critical thinking” resembles the indoctrination strategies of many universities in the United States, where “critical thinking” is a code-word for anything but; in reality it means “think like your professors think”. Mr. Gulen’s decrying of nationalism and the “veneration of the state or any leader” fits in with the same anti-nationalist rhetoric of globalists around the world. That American state media should publish the words of a shady Islamic cleric is, also, sadly not surprising. The Washington Post turned against Mr. Erdogan since his split with Mr. Gulen; after Mr. Erdogan’s bodyguards thuggishly attacked anti Erdogan protesters in May of 2017 the newspaper called Mr. Erdogan’s security detail “thugs” and “goons”. That the newspaper is finally outing Mr. Erdogan for his authoritarianism does not absolve them of their guilt for supporting Mr. Erdogan (while he still worked with Mr. Gulen) during the Gezi Park protests of 2013 when Max Fisher cited a poll which said Mr. Erdogan had “high approval ratings” despite the protests. The false nature of the claims—designed to discredit the anti-government protestors—is made clear by the newspaper’s own admission of misrepresenting the facts. A disclaimer in the story reads:

 

Correction: This post originally indicated that the Pew poll had been taken after protests began. In fact, it was taken in March, before protests started. 

 

It seems “fake news”, or at least deliberate misrepresentation of the facts by state media in the U.S., was alive and well long before the Donald Trump era in a bid to prop up Mr. Erdogan. Now, having lost his globalist ally, state media is changing their tune just as Mr. Erdogan is. It is important to realize that Mr. Erdogan is merely adapting to a changing world without truly changing at all.

The fact that Galatasaray was the first team to change the name of their stadium in response to Mr. Erdogan’s comments is not surprising (the team has been close to Mr. Erdogan), but it is indicative of the falseness inherent in Mr. Erdogan’s comments. Sports Illustrated reported that Galatasaray changed their stadium’s name from “Turk Telekom Arena” to “Turk Telekom Stadium”. But…what is a “stadium”? Is “stadium” not a non-Turkish word? Of course it is, and it underlines the ridiculousness of the call to erase “Arena” from Turkish stadiums; it is more ridiculous when one realizes that most of the new stadiums built in Turkey under the AKP regime have been named…arenas. Mr. Erdogan is trying to re-brand himself by separating himself from the era of Gulenist influence but it will not be that easy since Mr. Erdogan is not a nationalist, and has never been one.

As Banu Eligur notes, Mr. Erdogan said in January 1995 that “the 21st century will be an era in which systems that are based on Islam will come to power in the world” (Eligur, 2010: 162). Islamism is, clearly, not compatible with nationalism, itself a secular ideology. Thus, it is unlikely that Mr. Erdogan’s about face is credible. It shouldn’t be surprising, since his own reformist wing within the Turkish Islamist movement founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP); it was a wing that, according to Eligur, “placed a greater value on electoral victory, which required a significant expansion of the party’s constituency base, than on the religious purity of the membership” (Eligur, 2010: 198). In other words, Mr. Erdogan was never really a Islamist (in terms of faithfulness to the religion of Islam), rather he was looking for votes (and by extension) power. Thus his new-found populist nationalism is similarly false.

To understand this, Banu Eligur’s work is again useful. Eligur ends her book by pointing out that

 

Islamism, unlike Turkish nationalism, does not accept the notion of a Turkish identity. Turkish nationalism, as a secular ideology, seeks to protect both the secular and the unitary character of the state. The Islamist movement is likely to have a hard time competing against the very foundations of the secular-democratic Turkish Republic: the Turkish nationalism of Ataturk. However, Islamist entrepreneurs may opt once again, as they have after each threat to the survival of their movement, to reframe their message to the Turkish people so as to neutralize the nationalist challenge and secure the power and appeal of the Islamist movement in Turkey. (Eligur, 2010: 283)

 

This is the essential point that observers of Turkey should keep in mind at this critical juncture in history. Mr. Erdogan’s move regarding stadium naming policy is—to borrow Eligur’s term—a “reframing” of the message. Mr. Erdogan, being the observant leader that he is, senses the rising tide of populist nationalism in the world and is looking to reframe himself in that context. None should be fooled, however, as to Mr. Erdogan’s intentions. He is still a politician who—in the context of extreme capitalism—is looking to keep his hold on power in Turkey using whatever methods necessary. Due to the global context, for the foreseeable future it seems as if Mr. Erdogan will look to exploit Turkish nationalism as a means to keep his hold on power and the Turkish state.

 

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Banal Nationalism. Image Courtesy Of: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag-map_of_Turkey.svg

A Marginal Sociologist’s View on the Turkish Referendum and What the Future May Hold: The Fault lines Revealed Say Something About the World, Not Just Turkey

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Despite my earlier predictions, Turkish voters chose “YES” for a new constitution in the referendum of Sunday 16 April 2017 by a narrow 51.3%-48.7% margin. In my defense, the vote was marred by irregularities including ballot stuffing and a controversial decision to allow unstamped ballots to count. According to CNN’s piece, monitors

 

described a litany of shortcomings.

  • The state of emergency imposed after a failed coup last July had a profound effect on the political process. “Fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed,” the monitors’ report said. “The dismissal or detention of thousands of citizens negatively affected the political environment.”
  • State media was biased in favor of Erdogan and did not adequately cover opposition. “The legal framework for the referendum neither sufficiently provides for impartial coverage nor guarantees eligible political parties equal access to public media,” she [monitor Tana de Zulueta] said.
  • Monitors saw “no” supporters subjected to police intervention at events and senior officials in the “yes” camp equated them with terrorists.
  • The involvement of Erdogan and other national and local public figures in the “yes” campaign led to a “restrictive” and “imbalanced” campaign framework, she [monitor Tana de Zulueta] said. The decision on the day of the vote to allow unstamped ballots “significantly changed the ballot validity criteria, undermining an important safeguard and contradicting the law.”

 

In typical fashion, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the monitors’ report, telling international observers to “know their place”. Given that Turkey’s three largest cities—Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir—all said no, it is very likely that voting irregularities did indeed turn the tide for the “YES” side. Indeed, it was noted that many polling places in southeast Turkey recorded clean sweeps (as in 97 for “YES” to 0 for “NO” in one case where all vote counters were relatives), the kind of questionable results that are common in authoritarian regimes. In fact the results were much closer in many Istanbul districts than would have been expected, as a look at Istanbul’s district by district results show. In conservative Eyup “NO” won out 51.54% to 48.46% while in conservative Fatih “YES” won with a similarly narrow 51.38%-48.62% result. With results this close—in even notoriously conservative districts—in an election where the majority of big cities went against the AKP for the first time since the party came to power, it is unrealistic to think that the “YES” win was truly “free and fair”.

 

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Three Largest Cities Say No. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39622335

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97 “YES” to 0 “NO” in Southeast Turkey’s Sanliurfa Province. Note the vote counters’ last names—they’re the same! Image Courtesy Of: http://ilerihaber.org/icerik/aile-boyu-saibe-urfada-dokzan-yedi-evet-0-hayir-cikan-oylari-sayanlarin-hepsi-akraba-70744.html

 

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Results Were Closer Than Expected In Some Conservative Districts of Istanbul. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.sozcu.com.tr/2017/gundem/istanbul-2017-referandum-sonuclari-evet-ve-hayir-oy-oranlari-1784854/

 

 

Despite the controversy, the “YES” side won. As President Erdogan said—using a football analogy, no less—“I come from a football background. It doesn’t matter if you win 1-0 or 5-0. The ultimate goal is to win the game.” Given that the “game” was won—albeit with an offside goal (!) perhaps—we now need to analyze what it means. I believe that the fault lines that the referendum revealed in Turkish society mirror the fault lines we see in the world today, but it is not all doom and gloom for Turkey since the future could be brighter than many “experts” seem to believe.

Many political pundits seemed despondent in the wake of the results, with The Guardian’s Yavuz Baydar saying “Erdogan’s referendum victory spells the end of Turkey as we know it” and Foreign Policy penning a piece titled “RIP Turkey”. At first glance, the pessimism seems warranted; the kind of polarization seen in the election map—where, in this case, the tourist and industrial centers on the coasts and Kurdish areas in the southeast voted “NO” and the long-neglected peripheral provinces of central Anatolia voted “YES”—is reminiscent of the societal polarization seen in the wake of Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump’s victory in the United States.

 

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Turkey’s Results. Blue is “NO”, Red is “YES”. Image Courtesy Of: http://referandum.ntv.com.tr/#turkiye

 

While I have seen many observers describe this phenomenon as one pitting the “educated” and “cosmopolitan” urban areas against the “ignorant” and “backward” rural areas, I believe there is another answer; it an answer that does not try to degrade one group in the face of another, rather it is an answer that tries to get to the root of what might be called a budding global crisis. Rather than an “urban/rural” divide, I think we are seeing a divide between “capital-rich regions” and “capital-poor regions”. This is to say that regions rich in capital—due to foreign investment or development—are typically urban while regions rich in capital—devoid of foreign investment or development—are typically rural. Of course the ethnic aspect of the Kurdish areas (themselves also capital-poor) adds another dynamic to the Turkish case, but—generally speaking—ethnically Turkish “capital-poor” regions voted along the same lines for “YES”. It is also important to note that the terms “capital rich” and “capital poor” do not refer to individuals living in those areas, rather it refers to general regional attributes (like the number of foreign companies present, etc.).

This situation affects traditional voting patterns. In the past people voted on what they thought was best for their country; while there may have been different parties with different goals, they tended to be different visions for the same end goal: the betterment of the country as a whole. In the current situation, with politicians more and more beholden to corporate interests and capital and less to their countries, there is little middle ground to be had for voters. For many politicians and wealthy donors the end goal is not the betterment of the country, rather it is the betterment of personal bank accounts. Thus the stark divide as politicians look to win votes (to better their own economic situations) by polarizing the electorate: it is a classic situation of divide and conquer in the context of a zero sum game.

An example of how this manifests itself is the case of Izmir businessman Selim Yasar, a member of the board of Yasar Holding, which owns the foodstuffs brand Pinar, the sponsor of the Pinar Karsiyaka basketball team (the Yasar family has also been involved with the Karsiyaka football team). After posting a Tweet reading “YES thank you to the Turkish public that made the right choice!”, fans of the Karsiyaka team slammed Mr. Yasar on Twitter to the point that the Tweet was deleted. This is not surprising, since Karsiyaka’s fan group Carsi has ran foul of the government before for sending political messages (much like the other Carsi group, fans of Istanbul team Besiktas). When fans confronted Mr. Yasar on social media, reminding him that his district (of Karsiyaka) voted overwhelmingly against the referendum (83.2% “NO”, one of the highest rates in the country), Mr. Yasar responded with a threat that the team’s sponsorship deal would need to be “reconsidered” so as not to fall afoul of Ankara [the government] following such a high percentage of “NO” votes in the district. In the authoritarian climate fostered by the referendum results, of course, such bold threats are not surprising.

Here we clearly see that the businessman is putting his own interests first, likely knowing that cultivating good relations with the government will mean more business deals and increased profits; for Mr. Yasar is voting along the lines of what will bring more money in. Mr. Yasar is a good example of how, under extreme capitalism, politics can get polarized (and, at times, ugly). Indeed the local—and even the team—is of no concern to Mr. Yasar. In order to cultivate support from the government, Mr. Yasar is willing to end his relationship to the sports team (or at least publically threaten to do so in the name of appeasing the state).

 

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Mr. Yasar Vs. The Fans. Images Courtesy Of: http://haber.sol.org.tr/toplum/evet-kutlamasi-yapan-yasar-holding-karsiyakali-taraftarla-karsi-karsiya-geldi-193445 (TOP) and http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/karsiyaka-taraftarina-tezahurat-sorusturmasi-40074959 (Bottom).

 

This brings me to why it may not be all doom and gloom for Turkey. First of all, there is a disconnect between what the state wants (the “YES” camp) and what the capital rich regions want (they mainly voted “NO”). This kind of divide will likely not be sustainable, especially given that the AKP has built itself on a foundation of economic “stability” and “development” (processes that affect capital rich regions). Mr. Erdogan has upped his populist rhetoric to speak to the capital poor regions of ethnically Turkish Central Anatolia, but that betrays his neoliberal leanings. His recent attempt to bridge these contradictory positions shows how untenable the situation is. At a ceremony marking the birth of the Prophet Muhammed on 22 April 2017, Mr. Erdogan said:

How can one who does not listen to the voices of millions of Muslim children who have been killed in Syria regard himself a follower of the Prophet? You must have seen the father who was holding his deceased twins after the chemical attack [in Syria]. How long will those villains continue their cruelties without paying the price? What are we called just because we speak against them? They call us dictator. Let them say that. We will continue to raise our voices against them. Because our Prophet preaches ‘consent to cruelty is cruelty.

While his pursuit of justice in the Muslim world is underlined here, it also conspicuously ignores the role that Turkey played in undermining Syrian stability by turning a blind eye to militants streaming into Syria from Turkey; this type of hypocritical position is not sustainable in the long term. Neither is the fact that, following the coup of 15 July 2016, much of Turkey’s civil society (including government officials, diplomats, and judges) has been purged for relationships with reclusive cleric Fetullah Gulen. The AKP was built on the foundations of a relationship with Mr. Gulen and his followers; without that deep-seated support—which penetrated all levels of the Turkish state—it is unlikely that the AKP can retain its institutional cohesion.

Perhaps most heartening, however, is the fact that—for arguably the first time in Turkish history—we truly see the liberal communities of coastal Turkey taking the same side as the Kurdish communities of eastern Anatolia. One look at the voting map shows this convergence based on shared interests. When one takes into account the close vote in conservative districts—and the fact that the biggest cities all voted “NO”—we can infer that many conservative Turks were also against the constitutional change. In this atmosphere, we see a rare opportunity for Turks of all stripes—conservative and liberal, Muslim and secular, ethnically Turkish and ethnically Kurdish—to come together.

 

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Most Big cities, Excepting Bursa, Voted “NO”. Among the Top 10 “YES” Voting Provinces (In the Red Column), Most Were From Central Anatolia. The Top 10 “NO” Voting Provinces (In the Blue Column) Were a Mix of Kurdish Provinces (5) and Liberal Coastal Provinces on the Aegean and Thracian Coasts (5). Note also that “NO” percentages in Turkey’s most Liberal City (Izmir) and Turkey’s Main Kurdish City (Diyarbakir) Were Virtually Identical: 68.80% to 67.59%. Image Courtesy Of: http://referandum.ntv.com.tr/#turkiye

 

Likely, it will necessitate the rise of a new political party or at least a new charismatic political leader to bring these disparate groups together. Such a party would probably have to be socially conservative (but not Islamist), much in the way America’s Republican party is conservative and not specifically religious, and it would have to be nationalist (civically, and not ethnically, so as to include Turkey’s Kurdish citizens) to have success. If such a movement mobilizes, it is likely that it will also benefit from fractures that have emerged within the AKP following the split with the Gulenists, and could mount a challenge to Mr. Erdogan in the 2019 Presidential election (which this referendum ensures). This means that a new opposition party could emerge to exploit the close nature of the referendum; if well-organized enough it would be able to challenge Mr. Erdogan, who could then actually lose the election in 2019 (and with it the power) he hoped to gain through the referendum in the first place! Hopes for a truly inclusive Turkey may actually be more alive after the referendum than they were before the referendum, and that is another perspective from which the referendum results can be viewed.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag-map_of_Turkey.svg

 

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