The emperors have less clothes

The emperors have less clothes

These days, an objective observer of the Turkish media, especially social media, can learn fascinating facts about two bitterly opposed powers: The government of Tayyip Erdoğan versus the “parallel state” he claims to have penetrated the police and the judiciary.

Take the series of wiretapped phone conversations between the prime minister and several of his friends and subordinates, for example. They reveal two separate sets of facts:

First, they reveal the prime minister indeed reins instructions on the media, as it was rumored before by journalists, but denied by government spokesmen. They also reveal corruption and some ethically questionable facts, such as “donations” asked for by businessmen who obtained state contracts.
Secondly, these wiretapped conversations show us certain policemen recorded and archived them.

They apparently did this through court orders given for specific legal investigations. However, the fact the conversations are released on the web for public consumption, and with notable timing, hints at political motivation. If there really is a “parallel state,” in other words, this is the kind of work it would have done.

There are different ways to interpret this interesting picture. On the one hand, you can say if there were no “parallel state” - policemen and prosecutors who have a subjective motivation against the government - then we would not be able to learn about the true nature of the government’s links with the media and business.

On the other hand, you can say had the pro-government media not turned against the “parallel state,” we would not be able to hear more about the latter’s excesses - especially the excesses in the “coup cases” of 2008-11.

Yet, unlike most people in Turkey who seem to take sides, one can choose to see both sides of this picture. One can, in other words, look at all the exposed facts and use all of them together to construct an accurate description of reality.

When I try to do that, I see something as follows: Here you have two conservative (or Islamic) circles in Turkish society. They both have been oppressed and marginalized by the older secular elite. Hence, they both developed a culture of secrecy and yearning for power. When they achieved power, in an alliance against the old elite, they also developed a newly gained self-confidence. Both felt their historic moment had come and thus saw no need to contain their enthusiasm. Soon, the little disputes between them turned into a big conflict, because both sides were equally self-righteous and had an equally conspiratorial view of the world.

The result was a bitter political war, which certainly harms Turkey’s economy, institutions and societal peace. However, if both sides show some wisdom, important lessons can be taken for the future, which can be meaningful for other Islamic actors in the world as well.

That in itself is a crucial matter that deserves a much more attention, but here is my two cents in just one paragraph:

Islamic movements, whether they are political parties or societal groups with political aims, should rethink their notions of power. They have a long history of being oppressed and working for victory, but they have very little intellectual preparation for the aftermath of victory. They need to realize power corrupts those who hold it, and not assume they are righteous enough to be excluded from that universal rule.