Turkey as a failed society

A different kind of reality is both constructed and deployed, which effects a huge gulf in understanding between the pro-AKP and non-AKP masses.

Can Semercioglu
22 October 2015
Turkey issued a total media ban over Ankara bombings.

Turkey issued a total media ban over Ankara bombings. Demotix/Sahan Nuhoglu. All rights resrved.The Ankara massacre that killed 102 people, many of whom are our friends, affected our lives as adversely as anything we have seen for a long time – but not exactly for everyone. Such slogans as “it’s time to re-unite,” or “we need unity and solidarity today” on the part of the AKP deputies and authorities (Justice and Development Party) no longer mean anything, even if we take them to be the mainly empty gestures that they are. They are unreal, because there is no unity in Turkey.

Many Turkish people not of the left and not of the Kurdish community have little regret about this event. There are even those who went so far as to say on Twitter that “102 people are fortunately pegged out.” A quick search on Twitter will unfortunately provide the seeker with too many examples. It seems that they gloat and rejoice over our dead bodies, as Ece Temelkuran has recently chronicled in the Guardian. This is not just confined to hateful speeches, but issues as well in cruel acts.

These are the same people who attacked the protesters against the Suruç massacre and desecrated the carnations left near the Ankara train station where the bombs exploded, by people who were expressing their grief. We’re familiar with this kind of activity. From the Gezi Park protests of 2013 up to this day, we have witnessed people with machetes and knives in their hands who attack protesters. Or, even earlier, suffice it to remember the bloody May Day of 1977, and the dark and cruel killings of the 1990’s. Far from being new, these acts unfortunately constitute a right-wing tradition.

The perpetrators are those committed to a particular brand of Islam and nationalism.

Different levels of reality

Media have a great impact on this widespread barbarism. Pro-AKP media (which we call as “havuz medyası” – pool media – in Turkish) make news that rely mostly on manipulation or occasionally on lies. Yet, it is naive to see them as pure fabrication. This kind of news creates a different kind of reality for the perpetrators, one that is both constructed and deployed, and which effects a huge gulf in understanding between the pro-AKP and non-AKP masses. They have a totally different perception of everyday events and political stances. Unquestioningly faithful to these perspectives, they attack people who don’t have the same views. There are as a result only different levels of reality in Turkey.

Moreover, news censorship and various bans of internet and media access allow the AKP to continously re-organize and monopolize the people who are pro-AKP, so that the pro-AKP masses are living in a different reality, far from any truth.

As a result of this distortion of reality, the AKP grassroots actually think that the HDP (People’s Democratic Party) killed its own members and supporters in order to boost its electoral chances. On many other occasions, the same people are convinced that incidents that occur to embarrass the Government are backed by international conspiracies taking in nearly everyone apart from the Turks, such as a secret coalition of Putin, Obama, Assad, PKK, Armenia, Israel and also that sine qua non, çapulcus. Like their party always does, the AKP grassroots never assume full responsibility in the face of the events which befall them. They never use the phrase “I have done it”, but use, “It happened to me.” That’s the most profound ethical problem at the heart of Turkish Islamist-nationalist politics. The truth is that the Turkish police knew who were going to bomb the peace rally, but still they didn’t do anything.

A new constitutive willpower

Hence, we can say that Turkish society is now more divided than ever in terms of ethnic, religious, political issues and even in terms of lifestyles, as the Pew Report says. It is wretched to have to witness these events. Here are the young people slaughtered in a peace rally on the one hand, and the masses who are barbarically gleeful when they see this massacre. This aimless violence cannot be explained on a rational plane. Maybe we had better designate it “pure evil”, constituted by people who have no other desire. So, the toleration that is necessary for a minimally liberal democracy and also contemporary societies to exist is lacking in Turkey. Only socialists and Kurds demand toleration today and they are against liberal democracy, wanting to replace it by a kind of left-oriented direct democracy.

Consequently, as Umut Ozkirimli has said in his inspirational article, Turkey has drifted away from its moorings as a republic, which is an incontestable fact. Moreover, Turkey is far removed as well from being any kind of society. Turkey is a failed society – precisely because of the huge gap between the realities and the masses. And this requires a new kind of constitutive and foundational societal perspective to emerge, namely, a new constitutive willpower. The HDP will never be able to claim responsibility for this constitutive power on its own, since the HDP will certainly have to rely on a far wider societal alliance, however successful its efforts. And the stakes couldn’t be higher. If the hegemony of a leftist perspective towards society cannot be established, events like the Ankara massacre will become ordinary and everyone will finally feel on their own pulses the failure of our society. 

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