Turkey’s Stockholm syndrome: The ‘fortune-ist’

Turkey’s Stockholm syndrome: The ‘fortune-ist’

There must be millions of column inches of credible material in print or on the web explaining why President/Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been winning and winning and winning – and will win again on June 7. With all due respect to all possible explanations [or any combination of explanations], academic or journalistic, this columnist feels obliged to introduce a neologism, the “fortune-ist,” hoping to contribute to the already rich debate. 

Mr. Erdoğan’s popular appeal does not direct merely at the half-educated Turk who loves the president’s tough guy manners. It is not a miracle appeal to the Turk who simply wants his country be ruled by the advancement of Islam as a religion or ideology. 

Nor is it just the “black Turk” who felt alienated by an oppressive etatist/elitist ideology that created millions of poor and outcast souls. The average Turk loves his newfound neo-Ottoman illusions of grandeur. He also loves the self-deceptive feeling of “we are imperial again.” He is the man who lives in a desperate shanty home in Afyon, earns $200 a month, but is proud that the Sultan is building the world’s biggest airport in Istanbul. 

He is the man who takes pride in a statement from the military headquarters that says “our howitzers [with 40 km firing range] shelled Syrian missile batteries [180 km away].” He is the man who believes that the “new Turkey” has already built a “100 percent Turkish” fighter jet. He is the man who believes that Mr. Erdoğan’s mighty Turkey will soon liberate Jerusalem and create an independent Palestinian state, after giving the “Jooos” a good lesson. 

But there is another Turk. The “fortune-ist.” 

The fortune-ist Turk is the defendant who stands in court on charges of plotting a coup d’etat and testifies that he is a good Muslim, and that his wife and sister wear the Islamic headscarf. He is the TV celebrity who, charged with rape, claims that the incident is a plot against him by Israel. 

The “fortune-ist” is the diplomat who enjoys a luxury hotel suite in Istanbul 365/365; the un-Islamic, drinking darling of Mr. Erdoğan. He is the diplomat who would happily sport a tie featuring the colors red, yellow and green if the Kurds joined a coalition government and Selahattin Demirtaş became the foreign minister. He is the diplomat who pretends to be fasting during Ramadan while in fact drinking heavily every evening during the holy month. 

He is the security official who “accidentally drops his ID card” during Friday prayers at the little mosque in his office premises. He is the prosecutor who meticulously reads newspapers in order to indict anyone who may have tweet a few funny lines against the Sultan – preferably before a colleague catches the criminal before he does. He is the governor who utters one hate speech after another in order to “get published” and therefore promoted. 

She is the famous journalist who, upon hosting a minister, pretends to be fasting, but rushes to her cookies and tea immediately after her guest has left. He is the famous journalist who campaigns for campus freedom for the headscarf, years after he campaigned for the campus ban on the headscarf. He is the journalist who once hosted junta leaders at his home, and who is now intellectually – and heroically - fighting against “military tutelage” (when it does not exist). He is the journalist who has been accompanying every Turkish leader in his private jet for the past 30 years. 

He is the taxi driver who shouts to the policemen, after beating a woman on the street, that “he is a soldier of Erdoğan.” He is the wealthy businessman who privately curses Mr. Erdoğan over tables adorned with expensive wine but plays the Erdoğan-fan when chasing government contracts in grey government buildings. 

He will be the first man to abandon Mr. Erdoğan’s cruise ship when it starts sinking. You will read about him in big newspaper headlines, saying: “I always hated dictators!” 

The Turkish fortune-ist is the man who privately feels compassion for the weak but always sides with the powerful. Are we not all glad to have met him?