U.S. politics is sometimes funny, sometimes maddening, almost always pathetic. However, lest we think we have a monopoly on funny, ridiculous political stories, this one is even funnier, in a sad sort of way, than anything we have seen here lately. What makes it particularly funny is the aftermath. Of course, that is easy for me to say, since it took place halfway around the globe, but still, I think you will get a kick out of it.
In Germany, there is a political satire show called extra 3, which has been around on German network NDR since 1976, some forty years. It is obviously a popular program. Last month, 17 March, to be exact, the program presented a satirical music video titled “Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdoğan”. The song was a spoof, adapted from a German pop song. I’m certain it loses something in the translation, but here are the lyrics translated into English:
- He’s living in grand style,
- Big Boss from Bosporus.
- (“A showy construction with a thousand rooms,
- built without permit in a nature reserve”)
- Press freedom gives him a swollen neck
- That’s why he needs all those scarves
- (Erdogan talking with a hoarse voice)
- When a journalist writes an article
- Erdoğan dislikes
- He’ll be in jail by the next day and the
- Newspaper’s editorial office gets closed down
- He doesn’t think twice
- And rides through the night
- With tear gas and water cannons
- Be nice to him,
- Since he’s holding all the cards,
- Erdo-how, Erdo-where, Erdoğun
- The time is ripe
- For his great Ottoman empire,
- Erdo-how, Erdo-where, Erdoğun
- Equal rights for women
- Means they are beaten up equally
- (“Istanbul police has dispersed an
- International Women’s Day demonstration by force.”)
- If the election results don’t suite his face
- He’ll shake them into place
- (I like to move it, move it)
- He loathes the Kurds
- And would much rather bomb them,
- Than his brothers in faith over at ISIL.
- Hand him over your money
- He’ll built you a refugee tent
- Erdo-how, Erdo-where, Erdoğun
- His country is ripe
- For EU-membership
- He doensn’t give a shit about democracy
- Erdoğan says “Hi and goodbye”
- And rides off into the sunset.
To get the full effect, you should really watch the video, which has had more than 4 million hits … it is available with English subtitles here.
A brief bit of backstory:
Limited Freedom of the Press – Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, is cracking down on journalists who offend him. His renewed ambitions to install an authoritarian presidential system in Turkey make it appear that he might further restrict freedom of the press and open a path for a dictatorship. When Erdoğan was first elected Prime Minister, in 2003, many hoped that he would serve as a democratic model for the rest of the Islamic world. Turkish voters have refused to give him the blank check he desired, and last year turned down his effort to rewrite the Constitution to give himself vast new powers. Since becoming President, Erdoğan has made a further turn toward dictatorship, crushing the remnants of a free press. In December, 2014, Turkish police arrested the editor of Zaman, the country’s largest newspaper, which had not only been a critic of Erdoğan but also written extensively about the corruption that pervades his government and family. The editor, Ekrem Dumanlı, was accused of trying to mount a coup d’état. Earlier this month, the government seized Zaman and began printing pro-government articles. More than 1,800 cases have been opened against people accused of insulting Erdogan since he came to office in 2014, under a previously seldom-used law against insulting the president. Those who have gone on trial include celebrities, journalists and even schoolchildren. He is also cracking down on other groups such as women’s rights advocates and Kurds.
Refugee Crisis – While Turkey was the first country to receive Syrian refugees some four years ago, Erdoğan’s motives were not necessarily humanitarian. He was hoping to convince NATO to take action against Syria’s al Assad, but when that did not play as Erdoğan hoped, he began funding Daesh in their fight against al Assad. Erdoğan believed that the larger the number of displaced Syrians, the better his chances of convincing the international community of the need to enforce a no-fly zone across northern Syria, where the refugees could ostensibly be settled. Turkish authorities made it difficult for refugees, now numbering close to 2 million, to leave for third countries. As their numbers in Turkey reached a critical mass, NATO member states would be more likely to act, Erdoğan had hoped. His plans backfired, however, NATO did not act as he had hoped and Daesh was not successful in unseating al Assad.
So, given that condensed bit of history, as you can imagine, Erdoğan was not happy with the song and video blatantly mocking him! In fact, from all accounts he was furious! Erdoğan summoned German ambassador Martin Erdmann over the song, asking the German government to intervene and delete the video. Instead, the ambassador reminded Erdoğan that Germany is a nation with freedom of speech and freedom of press rights. Although the press in Germany does not enjoy as high a degree of freedom as in the U.S. and Canada and the press must follow some standards, political speech, including criticism of the government, is allowed. Representatives of the German government declined to intervene, and extra 3 followed up with English- and Turkish-subtitled versions of the video and republished a number of earlier videos criticizing the Turkish government! Erdoğan’s overreaction to a satirical video produced an outcry by the German public with representatives of all German parties criticizing the situation of lack of press freedom in Turkey.
At the same time, Erdoğan is seeking membership for Turkey in the European Union (EU). There are arguments both for and against, but that is a whole separate post. A spokesperson for the EU said he “does not appreciate” Turkey’s decision to call in the ambassador because of a satirical song, and “believes this moves Turkey further from the EU rather than closer to us.” The EU has been hesitant in admitting Turkey as a member. Wouldn’t it be something if Erdoğan, by throwing his little temper tantrum, closed the door on those negotiations?