Prime minister and his mounted media
AHMET İNSELThe February 28 intervention in Turkey was a period of confrontation and reality when the democratic polish peeled off of many people in the media, the academic world, in professional associations and nongovernmental organizations. Those who stood side by side against the Sept. 12 coup quickly disintegrated to opposing sides. It was revealed what they understood out of democracy when some people said “well done” for the witch hunt that was launched. The fears generated by the civilian and military executive powers of Feb. 28, the interior and exterior enemies they pointed out and the lies they produced were coarse. However, they were adequate for those who wanted to believe them.
Feb. 28 pushed its organic intellectuals forward. It shaped the media as much as it could. Its mission was relatively easy because there was only a society that had lost its self-esteem to a great extent because of long years of emergency management. The masters of Feb. 28 and their collaborators defined their relative victory as one that “will last a thousand years.” No need to remind readers what the outcome was.
We are going through a period of confrontation and reality similar to the one of Feb. 28. From several aspects, this period is a different democratic confrontation and reality period compared to 16 years ago. The biggest difference comes from the fact that today’s government enjoys the legitimacy of being backed by a wide electorate. Also, there is the difference coming from the fact that the Turkish society today when compared to the ‘90s is much more urban and has a much stronger self-esteem.
On the other hand, the attitude adopted by the government and its supporters against the Gezi Park resistance, the language they have adopted, the lies they have generated, the interior and exterior enemies they point out, the conspiracy scenarios they first produce themselves and next start to believe in, all resemble the Feb. 28 period. The picture presented by the set of newspapers and television stations that define themselves as the conservative media are just as bigoted, aggressive and dishonest as the mainstream media of the Feb. 28. Those who write and comment there, just like the ones in the past who used to act on the whistle from the military; now they act on the prime minister’s voice.
The masters of Feb. 28 were keen to speak at every opportunity and that their ordering voices were heard continuously. Today, the prime minister is doing the same. In his speeches that are the replica of each other that he delivers at least once a day, he does not only aim to gather his voters around him; he aims that the mental world of his supporters remain under his monopoly. He actually achieves this to a great extent. Several media outlets that were able to maintain their dignity a tiny bit until a few months ago today have left aside their last bits of ethical values and their final concerns about dignity, and they have turned into an active copy of the worst paper of the conservative media. However, it looks as if this huge mounted troop of media has not been adequate for the prime minister so he personally appoints who will run the television channel or newspaper the Saving Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) recently has seized.
The obsession with control everything down to its smallest detail, under the image of absolute obedience, gives away that he does not very much trust even his own circle. For this reason, he wants his voice to be echoed simultaneously from more papers and channels; that his words are repeated.
Among these mounted troops of media and academia today there are many names who had been victims of Feb. 28. There are also those who had sided with the oppressor at that time. They remind us of two realities that have been known since the history of humanity. Being the victim once upon a time does not guarantee that one will not become the oppressor or side with the oppressor in the future. Those who side with an oppressor are always ready to side with another oppressor.
At Feb. 28, Turkish society, especially the media and academia passed an honor test. Fifteen years later, many things have changed but the test is the same.
Ahmet İnsel is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece was published on June 25. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.