Politics à la Cinecittà

Politics à la Cinecittà

Turkey’s TV scene is an interesting test lab for social changes. Take one look at the daily shows on matchmaking and you’ll see the deep immoralization of urban lifestyle. But these days we are witnessing something more serious and more dangerous. Machoism may come this summer dressed in TV series.

As the referendum nears, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is eyeing every single vote it can get to pass the constitutional amendments. Observers and journalists that travel inside Anatolia report growing discontent in cities like Konya and Kayseri. Especially Kayseri, once the heart of the Anatolian Tigers, the new and emerging class of Islamic bourgeoisie, is now almost a blacklisted town. Many prominent families that supported the Gülen Movement in the early days of the AK Party government are now in jail. Not only them, but hundreds of thousands of people in cities like Afyon, Denizli and Bursa are unemployed because of the purges after the coup attempt.

So it is not surprising for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım to try and fish for the Kurdish vote, the nationalist vote, the conservative Kurdish vote, etc. Hakan Bayrakçı, the founder of the SONAR polling company, told me on CNN Türk how difficult it was to do polling in the southeast. 

“I preferred not to send face-to-face interviewers so they will feel safe,” he said. “And I literally ended up listening to the recorded tape conversations about how they could vote. Kurds are so uncomfortable and afraid that they can only make hints.” But Bayrakçı also added that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) still maintains a rock solid vote in Kurdish areas.

Now quickly change the channel to one of the prime time TV channels. On Kanal D you will end up watching “The Nameless,” a series about the police, governor and soldiers in a town a lot like Şemdinli. Star TV’s “Promise” is a standing ovation to the Turkish special forces with soldiers beating and killing so-called PKK fighters. (Women in both series portray supportive, weak and very emotional characters by the way.) Fox TV will launch its own “Soldier” series called “The Warrior.” Now imagine the message all these TV dramas leave in the minds of young Turkish and Kurdish men who are out of school, unemployed and unhappy. This is a recipe for civil unrest.

An important intelligence source of mine who has seen a lot of fighting in the southeast told me that the shows resemble North Korea. “They’re very paranoid, very insular shows,” he said. “One almost feels like they’re in a former Communist country or in Iran right after the revolution and during the Iran-Iraq War.”

Showbiz and TV is AK Party’s new playground and the government is pouring tons of money into these so-called “patriotic-toned” TV dramas. Dialogues are full of propaganda and even though stories have some truth in them, they are unrealistically nationalistic with flags, prayers and religious undertones.