Today, at least for this post, I refuse to write about he-who-shall-remain-nameless-and-silent, for the noise is too much and there are far more interesting things going on in the world about which to write.
Yiğit Bulut, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief economic adviser, said: “There is already a leader in this country and he is engaging in politics. There is no need for anyone else to engage in politics. He is engaging in politics both at home and abroad. Our duty is to support the leader in this country.” Sounds a bit autocratic, don’t you think? Rather like telling everybody to go play with your toys and leave the important stuff to us. Don’t worry your pretty little heads.
Although historically, the role of president is largely ceremonial in Turkey, Mr. Erdogan has become increasingly aggressive since becoming president two years ago. In recent weeks, the government put forward a draft bill to be debated in parliament which, if passed, would enable Erdoğan’s government to remove all 711 judges at two of the highest courts — the Council of State, which hears cases lodged by citizens against the government, and the Supreme Court of Appeals. Rather like saying, “Here, Mr. Erdoğan, let me clear this mess up for you and then you can pick and choose your own judges! Won’t that be fun?” Mr Erdoğan is already accused of using the courts to intimidate opponents. Since he became president in 2014 around 2,000 cases have been opened against people, including journalists, cartoonists and teenagers, who have apparently insulted him.
Once again Erdoğan appealed to Germany to shut down someone who he felt insulted him. This time, it was Mathias Doepfner, the Chief Executive Officer of German media group Axel Springer SE. A German court rejected the appeal last week, but lawyers for Erdoğan say they are still considering a separate lawsuit. This all traces back to the poem by German comic Jan Böhmermann, which I was finally able to read, but … well, I will not be copying it here. Böhmermann is facing defamation charges from Erdogan, which are not likely to amount to much, but Doepfner came out in support of Böhmermann, saying “For me your poem worked. I laughed out loud,” he wrote, adding that he backed the comedian. And that, folks, is why Erdoğan requested disciplinary action against Doepfner, because he laughed. At least 1,845 cases have been opened against those accused of insulting Erdogan since he came to office in 2014.
Now, if we put two and two together here, what we come up with is a recipe for a dictatorship, or something very nearly so. Think about it. Erdoğan has a very thin skin and absolutely cannot stand to be mocked. When you expose your thin skin, more and more people will jump on the band wagon of mockery, so there is no doubt in my mind that we have seen only the tip of the iceberg in jokes, poems, videos and other Erdoğan-jests. Outside of Turkey, his power to control the would-be teasers is waning as Erdoğan has begun to lose the power of the Turkey-EU immigrant deal as leverage. Within the borders of Turkey, however, his power and control are growing at an alarming rate. Now, the only recourse the people of Turkey have, really, is through the power of the judicial system, the courts. If all judges are replaced with ones friendly to and hand-picked by Erdoğan himself, the people have lost their voice. Peaceful protest? Almost a guaranteed death or prison sentence. Erdoğan and his minions know well how to quell an angry mob. No, it would seem that the people will no longer have any voice. But then, after all, remember what Yiğit Bulut said: “There is no need for anyone else to engage in politics. Our duty is to support the leader.” Now think of all you have read about Nazi Germany in the 1920s-1930s. Some today say, “well why didn’t the German people stop Hitler?” WITH WHAT, pray tell? Turkey today is hardly Nazi Germany of the 1930s, but …. look at it a year from now. I see far too many parallels and too few solutions. I rest here, and will leave you with one final thought. He-who-shall-remain-nameless-and-silent today is very much like Erdoğan, and has even been ‘endorsed’ by Erdoğan. Think about it.