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SEMİH İDİZ > We have to thank Mr. Erdoğan

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Prime Minister Erdoğan’s international reputation is at rock bottom. Even Washington is indirectly likening him to Hitler by equating his Twitter ban, which Erdoğan admits he ordered, to the book burning campaign in 1933 in Nazi Germany.

Judging by his remarks, however, Erdoğan doesn’t care a lot about his international reputation. What he is saying in effect is “I don’t give a damn what people outside this country think and say, I am determined to carry on with what I am doing.”

This appears more like a sign of desperation than of defiance, even though he is trying to market it as the latter. He must have some truly dark secrets in his closet, that are even worse than what has already been revealed, which he needs to suppress badly and keep out of the public domain.

Otherwise he would not go so far, also tarnishing the country’s reputation in the process, let alone his own reputation. Erdoğan’s exaggerated remark about waging “a second war of independence” for Turkey also shows the degree of his desperation.

Fortunately, however, Turkish people - or at least that portion of the public that refuses to be duped by him – have also been proving their mettle, their determination and their resourcefulness in opposing and overcoming the Twitter ban.

Put simply, this ban has rebounded on the government badly. But it has increased international support and sympathy for Turks who have been defying Erdoğan’s increasingly undemocratic ways since last summer’s Gezi Park protests.

Erdoğan’s authoritarian ways have even provided Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, who has been facing anti-govenrment riots for weeks, with an opportunity to appear democratic. Asked in Caracas if he too was going to ban Twitter, Maduro said he was not because this would be undemocratic.

Everyone sees now that not only is it technically impossible to pull the plug out on the Internet in this age of advanced information technology - a fact that President Gül has also been underlining - but also that if you try and do this, you will only prompt people to be defiant.

This can be clearly seen in the way Erdoğan’s Twitter ban has caused an explosion in Twitter use by a defiant and angry public. Put another way, if you try and block one avenue, people know now there are dozens of other avenues that can be used.

Even the most technologically ignorant among us understands now what a DNS (Domain Name System) or a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is. People in the remotest villages of Turkey are sipping their tea today while adjusting their mobile settings to ensure they do not miss out on anything due to the Twitter ban.

People who were not aware of this previously also know that if you pay a provider outside of Turkey a set amount of money, and not very much at that, you will not only be able to access any banned site, but also cover your tracks and make yourself invisible to those who are trying to monitor your online activities.

Given all of this, it is hard not to agree with Murat Yetkin, who in his column yesterday, characterized Erdoğan’s advisers as “half-wits.” They would otherwise have seen how a Twitter ban would rebound, hitting Erdoğan and his government, ruining their already damaged international reputation, and warned him.

Some of Erdoğan’s blind supporters, on the other hand, such as a well-known singer of arabesque songs, can only be regarded as “twits,” having given full support to Erdoğan’s Twitter ban over their Twitter accounts, after overcoming the ban in the same way that the government’s opponents are doing.

Looking at all of this, it seems much more appropriate to thank Erdoğan and members of his government, rather than getting angry with them. After all, what they have really achieved is opening peoples’ eyes, and increasing their knowledge and awareness about the possibilities that modern technology provides.

March/25/2014

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