A new article in National Interest

11 Şubat 2011

GENEL, IN ENGLISH

Here is an article that summarizes our recent experience around the Sledgehammer case.

Abone Ol

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14 Yorum “A new article in National Interest”

  1. acracia Says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences in Turkey. In fact, many insiders within the media world would confirm the worrisome atmosphere of stifling the oppositionary voices in Turkey (they also did to me, personally), even though few dare going public about this today. Thus, in addition to the insights you shared with your readers in this piece, I would like to further a point you make, in order to offer more insight into the politicized media wars–a subject that I am deeply interested in.

    In your piece, you mention how a well-respected journalist was worried about his or her career because s/he spoke to you and conclude that “[t]his is not all based on paranoia: the country’s largest independent media company is reeling under a huge tax fine, imposed for what is commonly believed to be political reasons.” I want to add further detail on the points that you are making; I must add here that even though I am not particularly a proponent of this media company (I am not a proponent of any of them), I find what has been happening in Turkey quite worrisome in the name of democracy.

    1) So here is a link of a piece by journalist Asli Aydintasbas published in the WSJ, with the title “Turkey’s War on the Press”:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203917304574414503346981992.html

    The newspaper in question was Sabah, and it has changed ownership since then.

    2) Another point I would like to make on the worrisome politicization of the press war during AKP government, which has baffled me with its growing authoritarianism and stifling policies of plurality in the media with its sharp reactions and lack of tolerance to criticism, is regarding the tax issue you have raised. Now, I cannot know what is behind this, nor would I vouch for Dogan media company as I do not know the behind the scenes; however, I find the following unacceptable to say the least, coming from a democratically elected civilian government that boasts “advanced democracy” and “transparency” policies.

    Assuming Wikileaks cables are authentic (since they were never officially denied by the US government),
    I want to share a few excerpts from the following link:

    http://www.wikileaks.nl/cable/2008/09/08ANKARA1643.html

    ” ¶1. (C) SUMMARY. A very public and ugly battle has erupted between Prime Minister Erdogan and the Dogan Group. The conflict dominated the news this week after Erdogan lashed out at business and media mogul Aydin Dogan for reporting on allegations in a German court that the German-based Deniz Feneri Charity laundered funds to individuals in Turkey who are close to Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The charges focus public attention on widespread allegations about corruption in the AKP, a key vulnerability for the party. Still, Erdogan seems indifferent to reporting on the scandal in other media outlets, and has turned his wrath solely on the Dogan Group with competing charges about corruption linked to a zoning deal for the Istanbul Hilton. Erdogan launched a milder campaign against the Dogan group in Febuary for carrying “pornographic” photos of women on its front pages, but the latest attack is a significant escalation of tensions. Erdogan has not been this truculent since long before the AKP court closure case; ironically, the new scandal has fed speculation that a second closure case could result. END summary.

    It Only Took A Spark

    ¶2. (SBU) On September 1 the first court case against Deniz Feneri convened in the Frankfurt Regional Court. By September 5, German Prosecutor Kerstin Lotz publicly stated that the Turkish Government “tried to intervene in the case and wanted suspects released.” The next day, CHP leader Deniz Baykal announced on NTV, a non-Dogan media outlet, that “Mehmet Gurhan, International Director at Kanal 7, acknowledged he took money from the German Deniz Feneri and passed it to PM Erdogan.” Baykal implied that he Prime Minister and his party were direct recipients of funds embezzled from the charity. Dogan’s three flagship papers – Hurriyet, Milliyet, and Radikal – quickly picked up the story the next day with screaming, front-page banner headlines.

    ¶3. (U) In response, Erdogan publicly charged Dogan with corruption regarding a zoning application for new residences at the Istanbul Hilton. Dogan responded to the allegation by declaring: “The German judiciary claimed that the Prime Minister was involved in this case. The main opposition party leader announced this on NTV, but I am having difficulty understanding why I stand accused of reporting this in my papers.” In a second attack, the Prime Minister announced that Dogan had not been granted permission by the Turkish Board of Television and Radio (RTUK) to use an additional TV terrestrial frequency that he had purchased. Dogan denied Erdogan’s charges and accused the Prime Minister of trying to stifle any press criticism of himself.”

    […]

    “PM Spokesman Akif Beki contends, “It’s a media habit. They want something; they don’t get it, so they attack.” He defended RTUK’s refusal to allow Dogan to use his recently purchased terrestrial television channel by arguing that this station would have put Dogan in control of more than 50 percent of the media. Beki also believes this fight will not last long. “Dogan is wrong,” he argued, because he is “printing allegations being adjudicated in a German court as (if they are) pure truth.” AKP Vice Chairman Nihat Ergun made the same point to us in a September 11 meeting at the Parliament. (COMMENT: Although Beki contends that Erdogan’s criticism is justifed and that the Prime Minister has actually shown admirable restraint, there are suggestions of a deliberate political move against Dogan. Several weeks ago, Minister of Trade Simsek told a group of investors in London to sell their Dogan stock because Dogan “won’t be around much longer.” END COMMENT) Indeed, after Erdogan’s attacks began last week, Dogan stock fell 8 percent. And although Dogan Holding showed a profit last year, several media and business sources have indicated the lack of government tenders and contracts is beginning to hurt the massive conglomerate.”

    I firmly believe in the necessity of reading the whole text, rather than just excerpts, to make an independent judgment by one’s self, but this is the general picture in a nutshell. But above all, what I find unacceptable is a minister from Erdogan’s cabinet, minister of trade, revealing a government determination to go after and erase a media company: “Several weeks ago, Minister of Trade Simsek told a group of investors in London to sell their Dogan stock because Dogan “won’t be around much longer.”

    Recently, I have read in the NYTimes that Turkey had established a “robust democracy” democracy, implying that AKP successfully passified the military. The reduction of the military from the political arena is a very positive thing in the name of democracy. This is so true and desirable. And yet, did the authoritarian nature of the state really change? These examples from the press show that they have not, and in fact, they even look uglier since much more was expected from a legitimately elected civilian government, that keeps mentioning the word democracy. But at what expense?

    Prosecuting numerous officials, cartoonists, journalists, columnists, etc who criticize him with different reasons under different pretexts such as personal insult, PM Erdogan has lately even been subjected to another controversy: people who were protesting in a soccer stadium with whistles and boos were allegedly detected under cameras and identified, and if what the newspapers report is actually true (you never know), these people might be prosecuted. It is actually not clear what these people were protesting, but the whistles and boos happened when the PM’s name was announced, and during the live-broadcasting of the incident, the voice of a famous journalist was recorded upon the boos as “eyvah, sesi al sesi” meaning roughly, “oh no, cut the sound.” This within itself is a very sad and telling example of part of the atmosphere in Turkey.

    Equating democracy with the rule of the majority is wrong; equating democracy with the passification of the military from the political-maneuvre domain is reductive. Plurality is essential for a democracy; allowing minority and opposition voices to be freely articulated in public is vital. The media is a crucial vein for that plurality to exist, and yet, the image reflected right now shows quite the opposite. And passifying the military is desirable for the establishment of a “robust democracy” in Turkey, but not at the expense of creating a police state (the police has now very worrisome rights and powers) and substituting the previously-complained military authority with another form of authoritarian government; and certainly not at the expense of the worrisome dynamics and controversies that surround the Sledgehammer Case.

    People in Turkey deserve better.

    Cevapla

  2. acracia Says:

    I am not sure, but I think there might be a glitch in the system. I hope my commentary is posted.

    Cevapla

  3. Bekir L. Yildirim Says:

    Good try, but I don’t think so Dani.

    İt is the black friday, National İnterest, Fox, Murdoch, JINSA. AIPAC, Jeusalem Post and the rest of the neo-cpn-mens empire . Time to reminisce the heydays and say “boy, what a ride it WAS”. Your ilk is “used to be” Dani. Wake up and smell the coffee brwewingh all over the world from Caracas through Istanbul
    to Cairo.

    What kind of wisdom is that Dani. “The definition os insaniğty is doning the same thing over asnd over again and expecting a different result each time” (a wise man)

    Evil never wins.
    İt has delusions of victory for:
    “Mephisto is a moron”

    Me

    Cevapla

    • acracia Says:

      Bekir L. Yildirim:

      Since we have established you are an antisemite, and you were among the people who insinuated Harvard had recruited Dani Rodrik because of his Jewish background, and presented us with some “statistics” that one third of Harvard students were Jewish, and thus contributed to the targeting of Dani Rodrik’s Jewish background in your previous posts in Turkish–exactly as he mentioned in his piece, I would at least be ashamed of posting this here, if I were you.

      I know, when I called you antisemitic, you told me that is not “cool” anymore, so clearly, we have different opinions and standards about racism. I am simply stating this here, as a friendly reminder in the name of human dignity. The rest is up to you.

      Cevapla

  4. Bekir L. Yildirim Says:

    And how did you manage to get the spokesperson for human dignity status?
    Not with a coup-detat I hope 🙂

    A more logical answer would be to challenge the veracity of data I presented. But then again you guys never did that. I think that teflon too is vereing out. Hence today is your black friday. The other superpower is awakening: The collective conscience of humanity.

    Dani, you (prseuming a different person) and whoever else is welcomed to opine on my blog too. Ain’t freedom of specch o wonderful thing?

    Cevapla

    • acracia Says:

      I have said what I had to say. I will leave you with your conspiracy theories and “values.”

      Cevapla

    • trssby Says:

      Bekir,

      You can not insult persons for their backgrounds or for their beliefs. Can you explain us what is the relation of being Jewish with this subject. Read a little Shakespeare like the following that he was asking to a Christian in the 15th century, as a Muslim I doubt you can answer me to day, try if you can.

      Shylock:
      I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands,
      organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same
      food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases,
      heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter
      and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If
      you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
      And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
      rest, we will resemble you in that.
      The Merchant Of Venice Act 3, scene 1, 58–68

      Cevapla

  5. Bekir L. Yildirim Says:

    Tough act to follow 🙂 I’ll try to remember when the subject comes up. My message reached to where it needs to. I also developed a teflon to the very original “antisemite” label over the years. The Jews like Noam Chomsky, Israel Shahak, my friend İsrael Shamir, Norman Finkelstein, Michael Learner, Gilad Atzmon, Marc Ellis, Hassidic Jews to name just a few do’t call me “antisemite”, but an anoymous person does. I can live with that, unless they are “self hating Jew” of course.

    “Mephisto is dumb”

    Me

    Cevapla

    • Can Acar Says:

      And your point is?

      Cevapla

      • acracia Says:

        “My message reached to where it needs to. I also developed a teflon to the very original “antisemite” label over the years.”

        Reading between the lines: That apparently others called him antisemite as well, over the years. And that he developed a “teflon” to it. Therefore it is nothing original to him, and that it takes a Noam Chomsky (to leave all his other stuff and read this blog and speak Turkish to understand the antisemitic insinuations) to break that “teflon” developed over the years.

        And the cherry on the top:
        the good old stereotypical sentence that we also hear a lot in Turkey and elsewhere, when racists want to claim they are not racist by inserting casually they have a friend from the “other” group, followed by an equally racist statement: “Self-hating Jew”–especially meaningful after having asked to “face” the previously presented the “data” that Harvard is 1/3 Jewish, therefore we should use this “data” to racially/ethnically/religiously profile this institution (which is very racist within itself) to conclude that Dani Rodrik is worthless as an academic and only hired by Harvard because he is Jewish (this is what he had insinuated in Turkish).

        Sorry Can Acar, for jumping in, but I couldn’t resist.

        Cevapla

  6. Chronic Anonymous Says:

    Here is an excerpt from the nationalinterest.org article:
     

    [..] Zaman is not just Turkey’s largest-circulation newspaper; it is also the media flagship of the Fethullah Gülen movement. Gülen is a charismatic Pennsylvania-based Turkish preacher who has built a vast network of followers that is closely allied with the AKP government. […] Yet Zaman’s vilification campaign against the defendants and blatant distortion of the facts give the lie to these democratic pretensions.
     
    They also lend credibility to the widespread perception that the dirty tricks behind cases like Sledgehammer are the work of Gülenists, who are known to have established a stronghold in the national police and among the prosecutors assigned to these cases and also to have infiltrated the military. There is more than a grain of truth to these allegations. A former U.S. ambassador to Turkey during 2003–2005, Eric Edelman, has revealed that he was passed fake coup documents by an individual connected to the Gülen movement. […]

     
    reading these paragraphs, I am invariably lead to establish a mental link Sledgehammer prosecution with the Zaman daily, Gulen movement, Pennsylvania, and Eric Edelman.
     
    IOW, it all leads back to the US.
     
    If I had to name one pattern those (ex-)military personnel (generals/admirals and other high ranking officers) have in common, I’d say it was their dissatisfaction with the US (and the EU).
     
    The most visible expression of that dissatisfaction I can name came from among the audience on 7 March 2002 during a symposium titled ‘Forming a Peace Belt around Turkey’ at the Military Academy, Istanbul, by National Security Assembly Secretary Gen Tuncer Kilinc (now retired).
     
    He said: “I’d like you to know that these are my personal opinions. I agree with Prof Manisali. It has become a necessity that Turkey seeks new venues. I think the best alternative (to EU) would be to –without excluding the US– act with Russia and, if possible, include Iran. Turkey has never received any help from the EU. EU, views the problems pertaining to Turkey negatively.”
     
    [I won’t claim to be the best translator there is. Here is the actual quote for those who’d like to improve upon my take: “Öncelikle şahsi görüşlerimi açıkladığımı bilmenizi istiyorum. Manisalı Hoca’nın sözüne katılıyorum. Türkiye’nin yeni arayışlar içinde olması bir ihtiyaç. Bunun da en doğru yöntemi zannediyorum, Rusya ile birlikte, ABD’yi göz ardı etmeksizin mümkünse İran’ı da içerecek şekilde arayış içinde olunması. Türkiye, AB’den hiç yardım görmemiştir. AB, Türkiye’yi ilgilendiren sorunlara menfi bakıyor.”]
     
    Now, even though Gen Kilinc’s words target the EU, everyone who listened to (or read) those words were shocked that one of the most prominent generals (of the time) proposed an alliance with Russia (and Iran) in parallel –if possible– with the US.
     
    IOW, we all interpreted those words as something of a ‘mutiny’ against the US.
     
    Needless to say, Ret Gen Kilinc is now prosecuted in the Ergenekon case with the accusation of belonging to an illegal armed terrorist organization and obtaining secret documents related to state security… [Shocking. Isn’t it? That the Secretary of the National Security Assembly obtained secret documents related to state security.]
     
    I don’t know if Cetin Dogan was close to (or in sync with) Tuncer Kilinc, but I expect Cetin Dogan himself does.
     
    Now.. going/coming back to what Dani Rodrik wrote on the nationalinterest.org commentary:
     
    Frankly, I’d have liked to have thought Dani Rodrik to be a lot more intelligent than wasting time writing petty narratives/commentaries to US/Turkish papers complaining about judicial minutia and asking for mercy between the lines.
     
    Since this is a political prosecution, the defense needs to be political too. I mean, even though showing that some evidences are false/irrelevant/fake was a good start, that kind documentary detective work cannot go far –the prosecution can simply manufacture more of the same to exhaust you and your readership.
     
    A way to expose the bigger picture needs to be found: Even if it may not be possible to pin down exactly WHO are going after these military personnel, a convincing case must be put before the public explaining WHY they are prosecuted.
     
    Then, and only then, are you likely to get somewhere.
     
    And, BTW, I think you are all giving far too much credit to Gulen movement –an otherwise loosely organized group of people gathered around some vague principles and material interests.
     
    Those of you unlucky enough to be around the 1970-1980 will also remember that the whole country was divided in basically 2 (much more tightly organized) halves We all remember how dedicated were their followers/supporters; yet, they all vanished on the 13th September 1980. So will, IMO, Gulen’s followers once they serve their purpose.

    Cevapla

    • Bulent Murtezaoglu Says:

      Hah, here you are. I was wondering when you’d show up. Anyway.

      A way to expose the bigger picture needs to be found: Even if it may not be possible to pin down exactly WHO are going after these military personnel, a convincing case must be put before the public explaining WHY they are prosecuted.

      Then, and only then, are you likely to get somewhere.

      No. If anything their experience with the Turkish press and parts of the visible intelligentsia shows that you can neither get coverage nor have your ideas discussed properly in the present climate. In general, based on what I have seen, we, as a nation, simply lack the wherewithall to even begin to do such things. One way the gauge this is to look at the cheap/ludicrous tricks used in punditry and how those who do so remain ‘respected intellectuals.’ If the public, as it were, is going to be a factor in this, plain old (and despicable) propaganda methods would work far better. Indeed those very methods are being employed without an iota of shame (nor at any cost to the stature of the perpetrators) against PD&DR.

      Now, this doesn’t mean digging up relevant information and coming up with coherent theories about the politics (or the power play) behind all this would be useless. It would be very useful for those of us who lack control over the voting crowds and don’t have other kinds of political influence but would, nonetheless, like to know what’s going on. It is, however, too much to ask of a couple working in an unrelated field in Boston.

      The US side of things is indeed very interesting. You and I have both seen how motivated members of US academia can get in pushing utter rubbish about the Gulen movement. Likewise you can see favourable fluff pieces and interviews in parts of the US press but little else. This does not indicate a deep coordinated conspiracy but perhaps a kind of bias arising though the general climate. There’s probably much value in identifying a hierarchically organized, mass-based religious (Islamic) movement that allows one-stop shopping with propaganda organs, a proven track record in pacification/control of the masses, a docile/controllable bunch of intellectuals and a solid economic base from which all that can be kept going.

      There is another side that’s emerging though. There seems to be some willingness/motivation in some circles to start printing the kind of stuff us Turks have always known about both the AKP and Gulen movement. Some think-tanks started to act as though they have just discovered that AKP has authoritarian tendencies (nooo, really? who knew?) and that Gulen’s organization isn’t merely the vehicle to spread and localize liberal values/attitudes (again, how very surprising. Who’d have thought it?). That development, I think, might be significant as is Edelman’s choice to identify Gulen’s people as the providers of fake documents at this point. If groups/people who are parties in some polarization in the US are taking sides in the present polarization in Turkey, that’s well worth looking into.

      Oh, and, I disagree with this:

      Those of you unlucky enough to be around the 1970-1980 will also remember that the whole country was divided in basically 2 (much more tightly organized) halves We all remember how dedicated were their followers/supporters; yet, they all vanished on the 13th September 1980. So will, IMO, Gulen’s followers once they serve their purpose.

      They did not vanish. They were put behind bars and their legal and social base was systematically destroyed. This took very heavy-handed action, application of naked power, suspension of pretty much all rights, imposition of curfews, and strict censorship etc. for a number of years. There are statistics for the number of arrests it took in addition to all the stories about killings/torture and such. What we can conclude from what happened is merely that the army/state was far stronger than all of those groups in a no-holds-barred match-up. Crushing those organizations was not a simple thing that just happened and your characterization makes it seem like they just vanished on command. It would take far worse to make Gulen’s followers ‘vanish.’ Besides, nobody really wants them to vanish (I don’t).

      Cevapla

  7. Chronic Anonymous Says:

    If anything their experience with the Turkish press and parts of the visible intelligentsia shows that you can neither get coverage nor have your ideas discussed properly in the present climate.

     
    In which case, they should either talk to who is behind this ‘present climate’, or expose it.
     

    Indeed those very methods are being employed without an iota of shame (nor at any cost to the stature of the perpetrators) against PD&DR.

     
    What other proof do you need to deduce that those perpetrators are merely foot soldiers marching under the orders of someone.
     
    And, when you meet a foot soldier in a battle, you don’t waste time trying to persuade each one of them that what they are doing is wrong; that doesn’t get you anywhere.
     
    You need to locate the HQ and deal with them.
     

    Now, this doesn’t mean digging up relevant information and coming up with coherent theories about the politics (or the power play) behind all this would be useless. It would be very useful for those of us who lack control over the voting crowds and don’t have other kinds of political influence but would, nonetheless, like to know what’s going on. It is, however, too much to ask of a couple working in an unrelated field in Boston.

     
    This is the most interesting bit of this battle: It seems much of the fighting has been left to “a couple working in an unrelated field in Boston“…
     
    Am I to understand that all those generals (and civilian intellectuals etc.) are totally oblivious as to who is/are going after them, or have they actually accepted defeat?..
     
    Let me elaborate on that a little more: Is it likely that Cetin Dogan himself (as well as all other multi-star generals etc.) doesn’t know who exactly is prosecuting them, or could it be that he does know but is too scared by its/their strength to the point that he does not foresee a victory –hence this blog as a bargaining platform?
     
    If it’s any one of these cases, I –as a member of public, a bystander– would refuse to be a pawn in a game whose actual player is oblivious or too scared to play.
     

    The US side of things is indeed very interesting. You and I have both seen how motivated members of US academia can get in pushing utter rubbish about the Gulen movement. Likewise you can see favorable fluff pieces and interviews in parts of the US press but little else. This does not indicate a deep coordinated conspiracy but perhaps a kind of bias arising though the general climate. There’s probably much value in identifying a hierarchically organized, mass-based religious (Islamic) movement that allows one-stop shopping with propaganda organs, a proven track record in pacification/control of the masses, a docile/controllable bunch of intellectuals and a solid economic base from which all that can be kept going.

     
    I don’t believe in perpetual motion machines.
     
    “A kind of bias arising though the general climate” isn’t sufficient to keep this thing running especially when we can all see how flaky some/most of its cogs and wheels are.
     
    We have seen it time and again that there’s some form of ‘deus ex machina’ involved that intervenes whenever there’s a significant loss of momentum. The ‘machina’ maybe the Gulen movement or the AKP funded press, but I very much doubt the ‘deus’ is Mr Gulen himself, or even any entity originating from within Turkey.
     

    [..] There seems to be some willingness/motivation in some circles to start printing the kind of stuff us Turks have always known about both the AKP and Gulen movement. [..] That development, I think, might be significant as is Edelman’s choice to identify Gulen’s people as the providers of fake documents at this point.

     
    I don’t think this battle is between AKP/Gulenists and the generals; we need to look beyond those think-tanks to identify the actual sides.
     

    They did not vanish. They were put behind bars and their legal and social base was systematically destroyed.

     
    This is what I meant: Relatively a few of their leaders were put behind bars and their legal and social base was systematically destroyed. And, interestingly, we didn’t see the whole population rise in support of them –same thing did happen when much loved Menderes was executed.
     

    It would take far worse to make Gulen’s followers ‘vanish.’ Besides, nobody really wants them to vanish (I don’t).

     
    Nor do I wan’t them to be destroyed.
     
    But, sooner or later, they will have to decide whether they are a political entity or loosely-coupled group of people. Either way, a significant characteristics of it will have to vanish.
     
    Furthermore, IMO, had it not been for the ‘deus’ (see above), it would have fragmented and factionalized long ago –which we may yet see in a few years.
     

    Cevapla

  8. Harmony Niffenegger Says:

    Degerli bilgiler icin tesekkurler.

    Cevapla

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