The home of humor

The home of humor

A group of internationally-acknowledged marketing gurus have produced impressive visual material that will be Turkey’s PR face across the globe this year. The marketing wizards say their campaign aims to make Turkey one of the world’s top five tourist destinations by 2023, the republic’s centennial.

This year’s “Turkey campaign” (belly-) dances around the slogan “Home of…” More than a hundred visual materials to lure foreigners to Turkey, the “Home of Coffee,” according to one poster, and “Home of Trade,” according to another. That’s fine, but others explicitly reveal the incessant Turkish soul-searching: xenophobic at home and xenophile in business.

The Turkey 2014 campaign portrays the Crescent and Star as the “Home of Iliad,” “Home of Medusa,” “Home of Troy,” “Home of Nike,” “Home of Lycian Tombs,” “Home of Serene,” “Home of [ancient Greek] Temples,” “Home of Ancient Gods,” and the “Home of Cappadocia,” among many others.

There is no way to know if the campaigners hoped that, but, overall, their visual material gives the impression that Turkey is also the “Home of Bitter Humor.” For instance, according to one campaign poster, Turkey is the “Home of Enlightenment.” Let’s hope Turkey would really be so in the next decades, about four centuries after the Age of Enlightenment. But presently, Turkey is rather the “Home of Child Brides and Islamic Scholars Who Promise Faithful Muslims 72 Virgins in Heaven.” It is also the “Home of a Leader Who his Supporters Claim Possesses All Virtues of God.”

According to the campaign narrative, Turkey is the “Home of Spirituality.” In reality, it looks more like the “Home of Men Who Tell Others How to Be Devout Muslims or Face the Consequences.” The home of Turkish spirituality…

And of course, Turkey is the “Home of Tranquility,” the campaigners claim. It probably is, especially these days. In a speech in Berlin a couple of days ago, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan boasted, “Not a single person has been killed in any terror attack in Turkey over the past year.” Is that not wonderful news? Is that not how one would describe tranquility? The “Home of Tranquility.” Turkey: the home of Bad Jokes, the home of Extreme Bitter Irony.

The campaigners smartly produced the idea of the “Home of Street Music,” but that, too, reminds one of either street musicians harassed by the police because they play “infidel music [rock].” Or of Mr. Erdoğan, who once called a bunch of young street rockers “Satanists.” Or of a more recent incident, in which two men dressed as clowns, entertaining passers-by and their kids for a few coins on the street, and were detained by the police for “begging by means of clowning.” Not really the “Home of Clowns.” 

The campaign tautologically boasts that Turkey is the “Home of the Virgin Mary,” the “Home of Christianity,” and the “Home of Religion” at the same time. But the “Home of Hypocrisy” award should go to the visual that boasts about being the “Home of Hagia Sophia.” Home?

The Hagia Sophia Church in Istanbul was built in 537 AD (or 916 years before the Ottoman conquest), and served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and the Seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople (except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted into a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin empire). Recently, senior government politicians, including a deputy prime minister and Muslim clerics, have stepped up a campaign that asserts that the Hagia Sophia, now a museum, should be converted into a mosque and opened to Muslim prayers.

Ironically, as the campaigners launched their PR effort, including the “Home of Hagia Sophia,” crowds of imam school graduates gathered in Istanbul and issued a press statement, demanding that it function as a mosque: “The Hagia Sophia, for us, is not just a prayer house; it symbolizes, together with the Conqueror’s [Mehmed II] heritage, our independence … Without it being opened to [Muslim] prayers, there is no way we, the Turkish nation, can be fully independent.” Turkey, the “Home of Hagia Sophia Mosque.” The Home of Reason. The “Home of Christianity.”

Despite all possible deviations from reality, one particular campaign material deserves praise for honesty in portraying Turkey as the “Home of the Ottomans.” That’s true, whether the word “Ottoman” comes in solitude or with prefixes like “post-modern” or “neo.”