The mother of all bombs
“If previous audio recordings were bombs, this is the atomic bomb.” So read a message in Turkish (with my translation here) that I read on Twitter on Monday night. Then I clicked on the given link to YouTube, which took me to a series of alleged wiretapped conversations between Turkey’s prime minister and his son.
The conversations were absolutely shocking. Accordingly, the PM was telling his son to remove the large stacks of money in the latter’s apartment. Allegedly, this was a conversation that took place exactly on Dec. 17, 2013, the very day that police launched an unexpected corruption probe against certain ministers and their affiliates. Allegedly, this was a “smoking gun” showing that the prime minister and his family is at the very core of the corruption scandal that Turkey has been debating since Dec. 17.
In a couple of hours, however, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a short press release saying the alleged conversations between the PM and his son are, in fact, “the product of an immoral montage and are totally untrue.” It added, “Those who set up this dirty conspiracy will be questioned within the law.”
Soon, pro-government sources also added that at the exact time of these alleged phone conversations, the prime minister was in fact giving a public talk in Konya. Those who did the “montage” in other words, were not smart about the time they designated as the moment of occurrence.
Since those conversations were uploaded onto the web, millions of Turks have been passionately debating what they mean. This has become the hottest topic on social media, and the top item on the opposition party’s agenda, whose speakers have called on the prime minister to resign.
The fact is, whatever the truth is, these wiretaps are something so atomic that Turkey has never seen. If they are authentic, then they expose the greatest political scandal in the history of the Turkish Republic. If they are really “montage,” or the product of some hi-tech voice creation, then they amount to the most ambitious, unabashed (and “immoral”) political conspiracy the same republic has experienced.
Sadly, it is likely that there will never be a national agreement on truth, as the supporters of the prime minister will believe that the conversations are fake, while his adversaries will accept them at face value. Since there is hardly any objective institution left, truth will vary according to whom you asked.
Few can doubt a deeper truth, though: There is a very passionate political war within the Turkish state. The very fact that somebody wiretaps phone conversations between the prime minister and his son and then broadcasts them on the web ahead of local elections reveals that this “somebody” has lots of power and lots of political motivation.
But then, should this be seen as a big treat to the state, as the so-called “parallel state,” an anomaly in democracy, seems to really exist and attack the executive? Or, should this be seen a self-styled form of checks and balances in the face of an executive that is determined to maximize its power?
Again, Turks seem passionately divided on this issue as well. The sad truth is that we have become nation of warring tribes with very little common narrative, value or reason left. And the mother of all political bombs – at least among what has come out so far – will only deepen our cleavages.