Erdoğanism versus anti-Erdoğanism
In 2001, I watched the Hollywood movie “The One.” It was a pretty mediocre action film and there is little wonder it gets a mere 5.9/10 on IMDB, the people’s republic of rating movies. But the movie was at least memorable for one particular theme: It presented an array of multiple universes, or “multiverses,” and the main actor, the martial artist Jet Li, was able to move from one to another instantly thanks to “wormholes.”
I sometimes feel like I am living in such a caricatured application of speculative astrophysics these days, because I do live in two different universes: The universe of Erdoğanism and the universe of anti-Erdoğanism. My best wormhole is a simple device: My Twitter accounts.
The universe of Erdoğanism is very powerful within Turkey, which is why I experience it mostly on my Turkish account. The laws of this universe are pretty simple: President Tayyip Erdoğan is always right and his critics and opponents are always wrong. In fact, the latter are not just wrong, they are also devious and treacherous. They are pawns in a global conspiracy against Turkey’s savior, who will lift up not just this glorious nation but all the downtrodden peoples of the world.
In this universe, Erdoğan is the source of everything good that has happened to Turkey in the past 14 years. Other key names in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) don’t count. The Republican era before Erdoğan and its legacy don’t count either. There is only one great leader and his impeccable instincts, morals and righteousness. Every decent Turk must stand by him and rally against his enemies.
Then there is the anti-Erdoğanist universe, which is very powerful outside of Turkey, and which I follow closely in my English Twitter account. Here, again, there is also one simple rule: Everything that has gone bad in Turkey in recent years is because of Erdoğan’s sins. There can be no other problem in Turkey, perhaps even in the region. Why was there a military coup attempt against him? Well, he must have orchestrated a fake plot just to boost his authoritarianism. Why has the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) been bombing Turkish cities? Because Erdoğan must have intentionally destroyed the “peace process” (which he himself initiated) for cynical reasons — not because the PKK is also cynical and fanatic. Who are those Gülenists that Erdoğan has been so vehemently against? Well, they must be good guys as they are against Erdoğan.
Or why Syria did collapse with a horrible civil war that gave rise to ISIL? It must be merely because of Erdoğan’s meddling in Syria — not because the Bashar al-Assad regime is monstrous, or because Salafi-jihadism was already a growing disease in the region, receiving its greatest boost with the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2003.
In other words, both Erdoğanist and anti-Erdoğanist universes share a common feature: Obsession with one man, disregarding other important factors that define Turkey’s mess. While the first universe operates by praising the man as the source of all good, the latter operates by bashing the same man as the source of all evil.
The problem with both of these universes is not only that they are both inaccurate. It is also that they have created a vicious cycle. The anti-Erdoğanist universe helps further persuade the Erdoğanists that there is a great conspiracy against their savior, while their own zealotry hides other troubling realities in Turkey to outside observers. That is why I am suggesting everyone to use “wormholes” to travel between these universes, rather than being stuck in one of them. After all, neither of them will really help either Turkey or the rest of the world.