Mastering the ‘master narrative’ on Turkey

Mastering the ‘master narrative’ on Turkey

Disbelief, even a scoff or two, was my reaction when I read the argument by daily Milliyet columnist Can Dündar connecting a WikiLeaks embassy cable from Kabul on media management to this past week’s buzz on the cover of Time magazine.

Dündar focused on the diplomatic directive that sought the planting of stories in the Western media on the status of Afghan women. This, the memo explained, would nurture back the flagging domestic U.S. support for the war. Five months almost to the day, he noted, Time magazine obliged: A 6-year-old girl on the cover got the narrative running in the larger news media realm.

How could Dündar disparage this flagship of the “American Century,” as founder Henry Luce called it? Luce was just 24 – the 1923 equivalent of today’s Mark Zuckerberg – when he founded the magazine. How could one suggest that Time was doing anything more than just reporting the news? Just another conspiracy theory, I told myself. A “trend” supported by a single event.

But I silently apologized for my skepticism when I exited the plane here in the Netherlands. As I reached the newsstand it hit me like a winter’s “Coho” squall spinning toward the Dutch coast from Greenland:

 “Erdoğan’s Way,” was dramatically displayed in a montage of images stacked taller than the tall-in-real-life prime minister himself. And this was at all the Schipol newsstands.

The media event involving the European, Asian and Pacific editions of the magazine has been well reported. The writer Bobby Ghosh did a fine and professional job on the Anglo-Saxon media’s plat du jour these days, “The Turkish Model.”

Surely you’ve read the piece but bear again just one line: “In countries where young people have risen against old tyrannies, many cite Erdoğan as the kind of leader they would like to have instead.”

Dündar saw it and called it. The U.S. establishment in particular has a “cherished outcome” and it always echoes the “Turkish model.”

It’s unstoppable. More is soon to come in the form of two reports on Turkey. New York’s Council on Foreign Relations, chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, will deliver one. I have no inside information but happily bet it will focus on the virtues of the “Turkish model.”

Not far behind will be the RAND Corporation, following with another study in (I am betting) the model genre as well. The team producing the RAND report is headed by F. Stephen Larrabee, long RAND’s top expert on both Turkey and the Middle East.

I had hoped it wasn’t going to wind up like this: Turkey finally gets her “15 minutes” of Andy Warhol’s famous fame… for what? It is odd that few in Turkey or the region are as enamored of this “model” talk as all the outsiders.

But the data set is established and blindingly obvious. There is enough material now for the empiricists to begin digging in.

As to the rest of us, clearly there is little we can do but prepare for the “Turkish model” wave to grow bigger along with its many derivatives. This exercise in manufacturing a “master narrative” will continue on course. One Lego part at a time and pretty soon we’ll get the fully engineered storyline.

So let’s at least be conscious of the model being followed to create Turkey’s “model” narrative