‘AK trolls’ were detrimental to the ‘Yes’ camp
I recently wrote an article about the sophisticated propaganda machine of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
I suggested that in the inner core of that three-layered machine was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP’s top ranks, who worked with a very qualified inner team that uses state of the art technology to take the pulse of the nation, measuring the reflection of every statement on society and devising their strategy accordingly.
Surrounding that core is another layer of so-called academics, journalists, and opinion-formers who amplify the AKP’s messages in the public sphere. This group often acts as if someone has pressed a button: One day they may all voice total hatred against Russia and declare it Turkey’s number one enemy, while the next day they may stage a complete U-turn and start claiming that Turkey has no friends other than Russia.
If one of their missions is to muddy the waters, another is to lead smear campaigns against the AKP’s critics. They attack and insult anyone who does not agree with the president’s views, creating a chilling effect among opinion leaders who may have a different view from that of the AKP.
The problem is that when this unchecked they can go beyond acceptable limits, and their capacity to spout nonsense is beyond imagination.
It now appears that this group’s propaganda may have been detrimental for the “Yes” camp in the recent referendum on shifting Turkey to an executive presidential system.
Pro-AKP names as an irritating factor
Faruk Acar, the head of the Andy-Ar polling company, which worked for the “Yes” camp, told me that up to 80 percent of the electorate votes according to identity politics. The remaining 20 percent of the electorate is considered to be made up of floating votes, with half of them seen as open to be influenced during the campaign period ahead of the referendum, according to Acar.
“The electorate looked at those arguing in favor of ‘Yes,’ especially on TV programs. There were several actors within the AKP who were supporting the ‘Yes’ camp unconditionally and their names became worn out. They became one of the factors that could harm the campaign. Part of the AKP and Nationalist Movement Party [MHP] electorate found these people’s rhetoric irritating and said, ‘If they are in the yes camp, I’m not.’ The AKP could have used other names that are more acceptable in society,” he said.
“I’m talking about those opinion leaders, journalists or intellectuals, who argued in favor of ‘Yes’ in front of the public,” he added, noting that if President Erdoğan had not stepped into the field, the “No” camp could well have won.
I asked him whether he was suggesting that those figures in the AKP’s shop window unintentionally worked against it.
“Let’s not say the ones in the shop window, but rather those who pose as if they are in the shop window. We shouldn’t forget that the moment the AKP put those in its authentic shop window in the field, the ‘Yes’ campaign started to gain momentum,” he replied.
Acar said this means that certain messages need to be understood in terms of the rhetoric being used in politics.
“The electorate wants peace. Unemployment and economy are not even the most important problems for them; the voter is asking for peace and tranquility. If it were up to me, I’d open a clean page and try to adopt the unifying role of a big brother. I’d tell other parts of society that they should not be worried. I’d work not to just keep this as rhetoric, but also prove it with my actions,” he added.