Why pro-Erdoğan media rediscovered Atatürk

Why pro-Erdoğan media rediscovered Atatürk

On Monday, one of Turkey’s many pro-Erdoğan newspapers, Yeni Şafak, published a series of documents allegedly proving that Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, died because of poisoning. The plot to kill him was conspired in “freemasonry lodges” and the culprits included İsmet İnönü, Atatürk’s “second man,” who replaced him as president when he died in 1938.

Yeni Şafak was quite confident about the truth of its exposé, which covered its whole front page. For others, however, this was a laughing matter. The paper is known for its extravagant conspiracy theories, discovering a Jewish, British or American hidden hand in virtually everything that it deems troublesome. During the Gezi Park protests of 2013, it published a sensational story on how the protestors in Turkish streets were in fact all remote-controlled by a secretive “Zello Organization,” which was based in the dark corners of America. “Zello,” however, turned out to be nothing but an iPhone app that serves like a walkie-talkie, which some protestors had merely downloaded from a dark corner in America, also known as the “App Store.”

The “documents” that Yeni Şafak ran about the death of Atatürk were also a laughing matter. As daily Cumhuriyet pointed out, the font used in the documents, which are supposedly from the 1930s, were actually from Windows 7. In other words, the manufacturers of the documents were quite reckless. Similar inanities were also found in other “secret documents” that Yeni Şafak has published in recent days, such as a clearly photo-edited paper apparently presenting Fethullah Gülen, the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) nemesis, as a “top-ranked freemason.”

We are used to fake documents and shameless slander campaigns in Turkey, but the real question here is why Yeni Şafak decided to focus on Atatürk this time. Traditionally, Islamists are not fans of Atatürk, and have complained about conspiracies conducted by him rather than conspiracies against him. What has changed now? 

The change is that we now have a “second Atatürk,” and the whole recent history is being written according to his political needs. You can see this clearly in the editorial piece written by Yeni Şafak’s editor-in-chief, İbrahim Karagül, with its clear-cut headline: “Those who poisoned Atatürk in the past wage a war against Turkey today.” After a long narrative of “conspiracies against Turkey” Mr. Karagül concludes his piece by declaring the following:

“The ill-fated alliance, which played a role in poisoning Atatürk, hanging [former Prime Minister Adnan] Menderes, and other interventions since then, is today trying new things. We are now aware of them. We know them by name, and we know which missions they assume. We know how they conduct media operations, what they finance, and how they establish a dirty alliance with terrorism, making a shield through the exploitation of Islamic values within this ill-fated alliance. We are on Turkey’s side in this great settling of accounts. What about you?”

So there is an “ill-fated alliance” against Turkey. Its components are, of course, the political opponents of Tayyip Erdogan. They are guilty of organizing every evil in republican history, and every evil that Turkey faces today. They are traitors, hypocrites, evil-doers, terrorists. And there is one Great Man we should all gather around in order to overcome their nefarious plots. 

Alas, this is now the official ideology of the much-hailed “New Turkey.” To me, however, it looks quite old: A relic from the 1930s, in the not-so-lucky countries of the time such as Italy and Germany.