How can generals be fooled by a preacher?
This is the question I hear the most nowadays: How come people who have become generals are deceived by a person who claims to have talked to Prophet Muhammad? How come people who have become generals carry one-dollar bills in their pockets as an amulet that has been blessed by Fethullah Gülen? How come fighter jet and helicopter pilots feel the need for the “courage prayer” dictated by Gülen?
Please note that we are not talking about a belief or a religion or being pious here. Something beyond that; we are talking about worshiping Gülen, regarding him as a holy man. Moreover, we are not talking about a couple of people or a few hundred people, we are talking about thousands of people who have been keenly selected and placed, who have never ever betrayed the main structure, for a time frame as long as 40 years…
If we review this giant organization that we have named the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” (FETÖ) and the full dimensions of which we have not yet comprehended, only through belief and commitment to Gülen aspects, these kinds of organizations are named “cults.” As a matter of fact, cult does not explain FETÖ in terms of the religious/cultural background. We cannot compare FETÖ to other belief platforms.
I am not trying to start a polemic on Islamic terminology; what I am trying to say is that people who have received modern education, who think rationally, will have difficulty explaining this structure with “wisdom and rationality.” It makes the situation even more complicated that nobody can explain how people who have had modern, enlightening education themselves, who have been taught to use their minds, have become a part of this belief group.
When we look at history, even today, we see that from time to time certain deviant structures emerge from all monotheistic religions. The mechanism is about the same in all:
1- Attributing godly features to the leader, the sheikh; believing that he/she has communicated with the prophet or angels of god; believing that the leader is the person promised by the religion.
2- The tight control of the leader over his mass; the categorization of the belief group into several levels, from the bottom to the top; the existence of certain brothers, sisters and controllers at every level.
3- Nobody in the organization, including the ones at the very top, have 100 percent information on what the leader’s final target is; the organization has been convinced that it is impossible to fully understand what the leader knows or thinks.
As a matter of fact, there is much academic literature exploring and explaining the mechanisms of these organizations, structures and belief-based groups.
If we return to the question in the title, how can generals be fooled by a preacher?
The people who participated in the coup, the officers and non-commissioned officers, spent their lives in military schools since childhood, within the army with indoctrination that we can call ultra-Kemalist. Yet again, instead of this indoctrination, they are serving a person who claims he has spoken to the prophet in his dream, who claims he is the Mahdi.
This is proof that ideology can never replace belief. Not only in Turkey, but all the psychologists, psychiatrists and social psychologists working in this field should come together and research this matter in our country.
How did 909 people kill themselves?
The date was Nov. 18, 1978. The members of the Peoples Temple cult who had migrated to Guyana committed mass suicide by drinking cyanide. We watched the scenes on television while we were children, the bodies of 909 people, including 276 children. I had read every single line written about them. I was still horrified at the scenes when I reviewed them for this article.
The cult had rehearsed the mass suicide many times before; there were voice recordings of everybody dying. The first person to swallow the cyanide was a 1-year-old baby; his mother had made him drink the poison, then she drank it.
The mental mechanism that made this mass madness is not too different from the one that made July 15, firing on people.