Two centuries of conspiracy
At all times of distress, conspiracy theories are there to provide some comfort to confused minds. It is the deep political crises which are once again paving the way for the rise of conspiratorialism in Turkey.
After the corruption scandals that erupted in mid-December started to shake the government, PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his party and supporters came up with the ultimate conspiracy theory, according to which there exists a “global plot” to discredit Erdoğan, and that is why some prosecutors invoked charges of corruption against the government ministers’ sons as a start. The governing party discovered the existence of a shadowy state network they call a “parallel state,” which was enforced by members of the Gülen movement. It is true once upon a time, the Gülen movement was considered comrades-in-arms in the struggle against the status quo ante. The AKP’s top echelons now look back and bemoan that they were naive! They could not see the evil side of the Gülenists until the latter turned against Erdoğan and his party and started an assault with the help of their members in the judiciary.
Thank God, say the AKP supporters, that the “judicial coup” came to a halt as Erdoğan took necessary measures, such as reappointing more than 2,000 members of the judiciary and security forces to other posts. Besides, the argument goes, the government stood firm by disciplining the whole judicial body and will keep going until its members are under total control of the Justice Ministry. Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? But it is no joke and it is not the end of the story.
The claims of the lack of judicial independence and of democratic legitimacy are dismissed in the name of the “new national independence struggle.” After all, Turkey is said to be under an attack from many sides: various international lobbies and their native collaborators. According to this reasoning, Turkey is under attack because it was on the rise in the last decade under the AKP rule and if it is not hindered, it will become a global power. Once a global power, Turkey will rescue the whole Muslim world which has suffered from foreign assaults for centuries. Indeed, the plot is not new; it has a history of “two centuries.” Once all-powerful, the Ottoman Empire lost all its power due to conspiracies of all sorts.
Once the modern Western idea of nationalism turned the non-Muslim subjects of the empire against it, Western powers further provoked nationalist movements to dissolve the Ottoman Empire. Besides, Westernization corrupted Muslim society from within. After two centuries of Ottoman decline and Republicanism, it was the AKP that altered the fate of Turkey, and indeed, of Muslims all over the world.
Once again, Turkey has started to assert its true identity and shine as a regional and even a global power. Just as in Ottoman times when the empire was the political center of the Muslim world, likewise Turkey has started to be perceived now as such, since Erdoğan turned out to be the most popular fıgure among world’s Muslims.
Like it or not, this is the mindset of PM Erdoğan and his supporters. It may seem and sound like an ordinary political tactic to divert attention from the corruption probe. Unfortunately, it is not the case.
The PM and AKP politicians believe in what they say. Although liberals have always assumed the xenophobic conspiratorialism is the product of Kemalism, it is in fact the Islamists and all sorts of right-wing political discourses that have always been based on a conspiratorial reading of modern history. I wish new generations of right-wing politicians could improve their understanding of modern history to shape their politics. Alas, even those who have been educated abroad and worked in international companies are prone to denounce the West as ever hostile to the Muslim world, as Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek stated, months before the recent “plot!”
To understand recent politics in Turkey, one has to remember conspiratorialism always goes hand-in-hand with authoritarian politics. That is why the political discourse of the AKP has to be taken more seriously, rather than dismissed as an expression of intellectual shallowness.