Newsweek involved (again) in Turkish domestic politics….


After a series of hard defeats in the domestic front- in the last one, the new chief of staff seems to be taking easy for the moment and upsetting secularists for not immediately and directly acting against AKP- the dogmatically secularists are weaving their web abroad and working harder to discredit AKP in US and in Europe. Mr. Çağaptay is the embodiment of this situation- I have already criticized him several times- and now his ideas on the Erdoğan vs. Doğan Media Conglomeration are in Newsweek, a totally partisan piece. Mr. Çağaptay might be the most successful western-credited intellectual who managed to ignore any positive signs about AKP, which seems to have formed the most successful government and most powerful civilian rule since 1980 coup. Here is his piece at Newsweek: 

Newsweek Turkey’s Media War The dispute is really a political matter—yet another attempt by Erdogan and the AKP to neuter a bastion of opposition. By Soner Cagaptay…….

Political actors needed to solve Kurdish question

Foreign observers following Turkish politics naturally may have an image of Turkey as a country where political parties face constant threats of closure by the Constitutional Court. They are, in fact, not mistaken. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has just escaped being closed down by the court.

Lessons in political public relations

Taraf is a Turkish daily newspaper distinguished in its commitment to human rights, the rule of law and democracy. Despite the fact that it is not even a year old, it has earned a unique place in the Turkish media by its brave coverage of political affairs. Taraf, which excels in highly expressive headlines, last Saturday carried a headline for its top story which read (in Today’s Zaman columnist Andrew Finkel’s translation) "A fine pickle we’re in to have to defend Doğan."

………Reactions by his opponents might have been vastly exaggerated, but the consequences of Erdoğan’s boycott call antagonized even people other than his political enemies. It not only helped to unite all opinion writers of the Doğan group (even those who have been fair toward him) against him, but also raised the objections and protests of journalists who have so far tried to pursue a balanced and objective assessment of his policies and who are fully aware that the Doğan group has for both ideological and commercial reasons pursued highly unfair and imbalanced coverage of Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government he leads.
……..Erdoğan’s call for a boycott of Doğan papers surely cannot be justified on rational grounds. It has triggered the emergence of various irrational and conspiracy theories, some of which are as follows: 1) Erdoğan lost his temper because he is worried that the Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) fraud scandal in Germany involving some people with ties to him will eventually implicate him. (This is, of course, the theory implied by the Doğan papers.) 2) Erdoğan wants to exploit the widespread antipathy among the people against Aydın Doğan. (This is, of course, the theory put forward by ardent Erdoğan sympathizers.) 3) Disclosure of the Deniz Feneri fraud scandal is actually the revenge of Chancellor Angela Merkel on Erdoğan, who upset her when he called on Turks in Germany to "integrate but not assimilate." (This wildest of conspiracy theories was related to me by otherwise very reliable sources.) 4) The Deniz Feneri fraud scandal is a plot by the deep state, which wants to get at Erdoğan, who somehow managed to escape the closure case. (This theory is put forward by those who closely follow the dealings of retired chief prosecutors.) 5) The "It”s Ramadan, stupid" theory: Erdoğan lost his temper because fasting is straining him.
……I buy none of these and instead have a very simple and rational theory to explain Prime Minister Erdoğan’s irrational behavior. Even undergraduate students who have taken my courses on political communication at Bahçeşehir University in İstanbul know very well that in contemporary democracies politicians spend a lot of money and employ a large number of public relations advisors, spin-doctors, minders, etc., in order to pursue effective political public relations. Mr. Erdoğan seems to be completely lacking competent political communications experts to advise him on this extremely important matter. Mr. Erdoğan needs to be aware that in the media age even an otherwise highly successful politician may be perceived as a failure if he fails in public relations.

Lewis and Huntington in the guise of Habermas

The Turkish press is full of commentaries on Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ’s intellectual caliber. After losing credibility in the eyes of the masses in Turkey following the post-April 27, 2007 memorandum, the army has recently been engaged in an initiative to improve its image and a reduction of militarist rhetoric.

Gen. Başbuğ cited Jürgen Habermas, John Esposito and a few other Western thinkers to fortify his arguments. Critics responded that his citations were all taken out of their contexts and did not reflect the general ideas of the cited thinkers. Anyways, I will give the army the benefit of the doubt and hope that one day its mentality will be more or less influenced by Western academics like Habermas and Esposito. For the time being, it seems that Gen. Başbuğ’s mentality has not at all been influenced by Habermas or Esposito, but by Bernard Lewis, Samuel Huntington and Daniel Pipes…………

Let us forget about Esposito, as I’m sure if Kemalists ever read any of his many books, he would be condemned as a "Shariah lover." Let us look at some of Habermas’ ideas and see if they fit our army’s mentality. Habermas is one the most influential thinkers of our time. He has not only bridged continental and Anglo-American traditions of thought, but also engaged in philosophical debates with thinkers as diverse as Hans-Georg Gadamer, Hillary Putnam, Michel Foucault, John Rawls and Jacques Derrida. His major achievement is the theory of communicative reason or rationality. This theory, among other things, includes the argument, called "universal pragmatics," that human beings possess the communicative competence to bring about "mutual" understanding. Let alone endeavoring to mutually understand Turkish society, our army resists entering into dialogue with major media institutions that represent millions of people in the country.

Although Habermas criticized the Frankfurt School and postmodernist thought for excessive pessimism and exaggerations, he concedes that the Enlightenment is an unfinished project that needs to be corrected and complemented. I think our army will find even this much criticism blasphemous……………..


What is more, in his magnum opus, "The Theory of Communicative Action," he criticizes the one-sided process of modernization. Habermas is also known for his strong defense of civil society, which our army sees as a threat. He argues that democratic public life can only thrive if institutions enable citizens to debate matters of public importance. He also envisages a new era of political community that transcends the nation-state, based on ethnic and cultural likeness, for one based on the equal rights and obligations of legally vested citizens.

I think, if they start now, our militarists will only be able to digest all this in 20 years’ time. At the moment it is easier and more convenient to think and act along the lines of Bernard Lewis and Huntington’s thought, which focus on the mistaken concept of the "peculiarity of Muslims." As Edward Said critically addressed it, this essentialist and culturalist notion sees Islam as the issue. By underling the "exceptionalism" of Muslim societies, they perceive Islam as the root of authoritarian polities in Muslim societies. They argue that Islam is patriarchal and lacks any concept of citizenship and freedom and that it embodies a world from which freedom, democracy, openness and creativity are alien.

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