Turkey’s ‘emotional reality’

Turkey’s ‘emotional reality’

Probably you keep hearing about it all these days, the concept of “post-truth.” After a spike in use around Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, the word “post-truth” has been named as Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year. 
Actually the term was first used by Serbian-American playwright Steve Tesich. 

“The problems confronting us now are no longer seen as problems. Truth is perceived as the problem, as the real enemy, and more and more we look to our government to protect us from it,” Tesich wrote in 1992.

Well, truth is sometimes, actually perhaps often, awful. Facing the bare truth probably makes most of us uncomfortable. Psychologist Bella DePaulo found out that an average American lies at least once a day. The more eager we are to make a good impression, the more we lie. DePaulo puts it this way: “[Lying is] almost a necessity of social and professional life.”

Politicians trimming the truth or exaggerating some semi facts is not news, but today, we are facing a new dimension. The political discourse used by leaders is not only false but creates a fake chain of “produced facts.” 

It is no surprise that a Turkish political scientist, Akın Ünver, came up with a similar concept called “emotional reality.”

There are no facts, but postulations which are basically not true but arouse specific emotions, like patriotism, xenophobia, paranoia, hate, rage or excitement. 

Post-truth is identified with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump a lot these days; however, the concept has been one of the, if I may say, pillars of Turkish politics. 

According to Turkish fact checkers, Doğruluk Payı (they call themselves Turkey and Facts in English), only half of what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claims have been true.

For example, on April 26, when Erdoğan came up with his famous slogan, “The world is bigger than 5,” referring to the U.N. Security Council Members, he claimed that all five members of the Security Council were Christian countries; however the simple fact is one of the members is China, and it is nearly impossible to describe China as a Christian country. Well, but saying so makes it easier to whip up the anti-Crusader sentiment among conservative Turkish voters. 

During the G-20 summit in Antalya, Erdoğan claimed the minimum wage in EU countries was around 200 euros, but this was again far from the truth. Although the minimum wage differs from country to country (it is, for example, 1,600 euros in Luxembourg and 872 euros in Malta), it is hard to find an EU country with a 200-euro minimum wage. However, the idea of being richer and stronger than Europe makes the man on the street feel proud at least for a period of time. 

Erdoğan of course is not the only scapegoat in Turkish politics in constructing an “imaginary world of facts.” The incumbent prime minister, former Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), claimed that “when even the U.S. and England did not have high-speed trains, Turkey had one.” This is also simply not true, when England has the famous “Eurostar” line and there is also a speed train line between Boston and Washington DC. 

AK Party Ankara MP Burhan Kuzu, on the other hand, claims that the Turkish economy has never been able to grow when coalitions are in power. However, when the 27th government led by İsmet İnönü was in power, the growth percent was 9.4 percent; when the 54th government led by Necmettin Erbakan was in power, the growth rate was 7.3 percent.

It is best to conclude with how Tesich further defined post-truth in a famous article in The Nation:

“Our choice is between our myth as a people and its yet-to-be-realized potential, or the mirage of our grandeur and our newfound self-esteem. The mirage is very tempting. It stands there in front of us like some hallucinatory hologram shimmering with lights and delights. We can see in it whatever we want to see but there is a tunnel waiting at the end of these lights. A wimp with a human face is waiting to welcome us there and to inform us with whom it is we have been collaborating.”