If you are a foreigner in Turkey and used Twitter in the last couple of days, you were probably puzzled over the frenzy of the hashtag “organikhosaf.” Let me try to explain it.
There is a TV show on the state-run TRT called “Bir Fikrin mi Var?” (Do you have an idea?), which is the Turkish version of the Dragon’s Den. People compete with their business ideas and a jury panel of investors test competitors and decide on which idea should be brought to life in the end. After 10 episodes, the winner wins 2 million Turkish Liras. In each episode three ideas compete with each other.
On one episode, an entrepreneur-to-be woman, wearing a headscarf, presented her idea of mass producing and selling organic compote in markets and shopping malls. She said she solved the problem of compotes that have short shelf lives. On that particular episode there were two other business ideas competing with the organic compote idea. One of them was a floating snorkel and the other was a mobile psychical therapy device. The organic compote idea won on that episode but was later eliminated in the later rounds.
However, Birgün newspaper reported it claiming that the organic compote idea had won the competition. In their post on social media, they claimed that it was a scientific competition and that the jury chose organic compote over an Alzheimer chip that would cure and assist people suffering from it.
The events that happened after the news was posted are a classical textbook example of how social media can aid dissemination of misinformation. Unfortunately, we in Turkey are strongly divided as a country.
Both sides don’t really trust each other. For that, either side can be very quick and cruel when judging those whom they deem are in opposition to them.
I was ashamed when I read some of the posts about TRT, the competition and the competitor. Even celebrities jumped on to the bandwagon of social lynching. There were more than 30,000 tweets that reached 15 million people in the first hours after the original post by Birgün. By the end of the day, almost every Turkish Twitter user was aware of the situation.
There are many reasons behind this strong reaction.
TRT is Turkey’s state channel, just like the BBC in the United Kingdom. TRT, just like the BBC, is funded by taxpayers. However TRT, unlike the BBC, makes money from advertisements too. Also unlike the BBC, TRT has always been under the heavy influence of whichever government is in power. Thus, if you didn’t vote for the current government there is a high chance that you already don’t like TRT that much.
The competitor was a headscarf-wearing woman, and that is an indicator in the minds of many that such women are not well-educated. Thus, many thought that if she wears a headscarf and if she is talking about compote, than there cannot be anything profound scientifically or in terms of business.
Compote is not a “cool” thing these days. Unfortunately when I think about it, if given a choice, I would also choose a Frappuccino over compote any day. So if anything about compote is presented side by side with high-tech stuff, compote is likely to be overlooked.
The last major point that I understood from the madness on Twitter was the fact that people are very angry about the overall science and education levels in the country.
When all these prejudices took over, it created an evil current even amongst many other well-intentioned people.
There are many lessons after this ordeal. The first one is always to check our sources when we want to act on something that we read or watched on social media.
Secondly, let’s just put our prejudices aside. We need to be united as the people of Turkey.
The third one is an old saying: “Let him without a sin cast the first stone.” If you are so angry at TRT or the situation of education in Turkey, then take meaningful action against it instead of joining a crazy mob on Twitter. Be a volunteer in any educational NGO or design a project and present it to the Education Ministry.
And lastly, if the competitor really solved the shelf life problem of compote organically, we should definitely fund her project. I have had enough of getting food poisoning by big companies.