Why Turkish newspapers are funnier than humor magazines

Why Turkish newspapers are funnier than humor magazines

The usual line “Turkey is bizarre” is no longer a sufficient term of portrayal. Real news reports have reached a level of amusing absurdity that they may in the future threaten humor readership in the country. 

The pick of the week should be the viral video showing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail advancing on protesters in Washington, pushing them, and then attempting to drown them out with noises reminiscent of bleating goats – a scene that prompted social media users to quickly mock the guards and the scene, with many using the hashtag #ÖÖÖEEEEEEEAAAAAA??????HHHHH and inserting their shouts into mashups of pop songs and crying animals. 

Then on Monday a photo on Hürriyet’s front page showed a group of illegal Muslim immigrants on the northern Aegean Greek island of Lesbos protesting their forced deportation/re-admission into Muslim Turkey.

One of the protesters, a child, was holding a placard that read: “No Turkey.” Behind him an adult protester was holding another placard that read: “We want freedom.” Call it a simple twist of fate, but the photo was probably more telling than any few-thousand-word essay on Turkish politics.
Recently, this newspaper, too, was part of the unconscious effort threatening humor magazine readership when it posted three news stories on its web page at the same time. One headline read: “[Turkish Justice] Minister accuses Twitter of plotting against Erdoğan.” Another headline was: “Turkish man arrested for insulting [prime minister] on emergency line.”  

Still not funny enough? Move on to the third headline, then: “Turkey leads resolution in favor of peaceful protest in Geneva.” The lead paragraph read: “Amid growing global concerns over the deterioration of civil rights and freedoms, the Turkish government has led a resolution favoring people’s right to peaceful protest at the U.N. Human Rights Council (URC), prompting a leading human rights organization to call on Ankara to harmonize its national level of implementation with its acts in the international field.”  

It is fascinating that a country can generate such black humor in serious, sometimes horrible, news stories – although the story on Turkey spearheading international efforts to protect the right to peaceful protest cannot compete with the September 2015 story on the appointment of Saudi Arabia as head of a top panel of the United Nations Human Rights Council (the panel is – or maybe was – no joke: It selects leading officials for the task of shaping international standards in human rights, and it reports on human rights violations around the world).  

Of course, the news on Turkey leading a resolution favoring people’s right to peaceful protest at the URC will cause louder laughter when read together with a Hürriyet story of March 10 which details the financial miracles reported by Katmerciler, the supplier to the police force of the anti-riot water cannon trucks: In 2015, Katmerciler’s revenues rose by 83 percent, operational profits by 153 percent and net profits by 103 percent.   

But your columnist’s favorite in the non-visual media reporting category was the headline that quoted Mr. Erdoğan as telling CNN International: “I am not at war with the press.” The president said two prominent journalists, Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, were standing trial at the second hearing on charges of espionage and terrorism, with the prosecution demanding life sentences. They are lucky that President Erdoğan is not at war with the press. What if he were?  

Ah, but what about the Turkish forestry and waterworks minister, Veysel Eroğlu, who slammed NASA’s technology as “inadequate,” and claimed Turkish studies were better? His “Who does NASA think it is? We are better than them” was a good one but in the face of tough competition, not amusing enough.