It is the ‘deep nation,’ not deep state
This week, Turkey’s top pieces of news were made by two adjacent cities on the Black Sea coast: Sinop and Samsun. Both were visited by a delegation of parliamentarians from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the vanguard of Kurdish nationalism. In return, both Sinop and Samsun, like much of the Black Sea region, are hotbeds of Turkish nationalism. Hence nationalist youth in both cities protested the guests, whom they saw as the mouthpieces of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a terrorist group. Hundreds of angry demonstrators gathered in the streets to condemn the delegation, in anger that could have led to a public lynching had the police not intervened.
Right after news of this agitation, Turkey’s “intelligence experts” quickly found the “real culprit”: the “deep state.” BDP deputies, the very target of nationalist anger, even gave a more precise description: “the Turkish Gladio,” a shadowy organization that is believed to exist within the state and kill “state enemies.”
However, there was not a single piece of evidence to believe that such a secret organization acted behind the scenes. Moreover, such a conspiracy was obviously unnecessary: The youngsters who threw stones at elected deputies calling them “PKK” only reflected a popular idea and sentiment among nationalists, which probably constitute the largest block in Turkish society. If there was anything “deep,” in other words, it was the nation itself, rather that its state.
I not only think this way, but also believe that the other way – seeing a well-crafted conspiracy behind every social evil – is a self-delusion that is way too popular in Turkey. It is so common that political camps here differ from each other only on the identity of the imagined conspirators. While all nationalists believe that “foreign powers” orchestrate all the troubles we have, the opposite side (which included some self-declared “liberals”) put the same blame on a domestic power, which is the “deep state.” What is painfully rare is the view that the world is too diverse a place to be run by such masters, and that most social phenomena happen spontaneously – a view that is often considered to be “too naïve.”
As one of the proud subscribers of this naïveté, I think that the accusations about the “deep state,” which has skyrocketed in the past decade, are not entirely untrue but often seriously overblown. Most things that are attributed to this mythical organization – such as violence against Christians, Alevis, Kurds, liberals, etc. – are, in my view, are simply the results of hateful ideologies, angry masses, and fanatical individuals.
One can argue that this very bigotry in society is the making of the state as well – through decades of “national education” and official propaganda. I would certainly agree with that. But this does not change the fact that state-made hatred has become a social reality that is independent of the state.
In fact, my guess is that we are entering a new period in which the state will prove to be the proponent of peace, tolerance and moderation, while certain social groups will cheer for conflict, oppression and hatred. This is especially true for reconciliation with the Kurds and the peace process with the PKK, things that most Turkish nationalists abhor. Their fury in Sinop and Samsun was probably only a forewarning.