World media and AKP’s victimhood strategy

Turkish journalists are used to being singled out and attacked by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But more recently, Turkeyand’s top political leadership has turned its conspiracy-prone gaze to international circles. Stephen Kinzer, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who reported from Turkey for many years for The New York Times, is one such reporter. The mayor and city council of Gaziantep decided to make him an honorary citizen in recognition of the reporting he did years ago that resulted in saving exquisite Roman mosaics in Zeugma that were about to be lost to flooding. However, a personal order from President Erdogan describing Kinzer as and”an enemy of Turkeyand” led to the cancellation of the whole initiative. The reason for this order was a column Kinzer wrote for the Boston Globe that included a critical paragraph about Erdogan: and”Once seen as a skilled modernizer, he now sits in a 1,000-room palace denouncing the European Union, decreeing the arrest of journalists and ranting against short skirts and birth control.and” Having subdued and silenced the domestic media, this is not the first time President Erdogan has directed his ire against international media outlets. Last year in September, Erdogan and his supporters in the pro-government media denounced The New York Times and one of its Istanbul correspondents with growing anger. They reacted to an article and photograph about the recruitment of fighters in Turkey by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Newspapers controlled by allies of the president published front-page photographs of the The New York Times correspondent Ceylan Yeginsu, and suggested she was a traitor and foreign agent. Her motive, they said, was to malign Erdogan in a and”perception operationand” by insinuating that he is a closet supporter of ISIL, a group that Turkey, along with the United States and many other countries, classifies as a terrorist threat. Erdogan called the story and”despicable, vile and shameless,and” contending that it implied a connection between the Turkish government and ISIL. Most recently Erdogan slammed The New York Times for an editorial criticizing his autocratic tendencies and abuse of the legal system against media organizations in Turkey such as Zaman, Samanyolu TV and Hurriyet. Exposing his ridiculous understanding of how a democratic system and free media operates, Erdogan asked if The New York Times could criticize the US administration in such ways. Such a lack of tolerance for criticism is usually a symptom of weakness. It is normally easier to show tolerance for criticism when you are powerful. That the current government in Turkey is still the most powerful in recent history therefore constitutes a paradox. Why is there such intolerance when Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are so powerful? To answer this paradox one needs to understand that Erdoganand’s winning strategy is based on a narrative of endless victimhood. Despite winning election after election, Erdogan is still the master of playing the victim against powerful external forces. His populist and opportunistic political discourse of victimhood is a major part of Erdoganand’s electoral strategy. To portray himself as the helpless underdog facing powerful external forces, Erdogan needs to engage in such tactics. After reacting to critics with sharp intolerance, Erdogan excels in conspiracy theories. This is logical. If he is not at fault, it certainly must be the fault of others. This is crucial because the minute Erdogan accepts blame or shows tolerance for critics his winning strategy would collapse. He therefore needs to blame others. In his conspiracy-prone worliew, which resonates with large segments of society, the ones to blame are often the usual suspects: The US, Israel, Jews and lately, international media outlets and even economic rating agencies. This is why Erdogan likes to wax poetic about victimhood and pledges that he will never back down. All these dynamics should help us understand why a powerful Erdogan has a vested interest in showing no tolerance of criticism. His winning strategy of victimhood in the face of conspiracy theories depends on it.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman