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HomeExpertsIs It Possible to Stop Elected Dictators? Highlights from Turkish Experience

Is It Possible to Stop Elected Dictators? Highlights from Turkish Experience

I cannot help but say “We have seen this movie before” when I see another country which is struggling towards maintaining their democracy. Many Turkish luminaries are feeling the same way. We are witnessing the dictatorship process, which had effectively started in Turkey back in 2013, in the countries those have the most advanced democracies in the world., and I say “I wish they would have taken a lesson”. Similar tactics, similar discourses, similar results…

First, here is a short but blazing story: Hitler suddenly wakes up in a neighborhood in Berlin on a summer day in 2011. Hitler, seeing the youngsters playing football, realizes in a short span of time that neither the war nor the racist Nazi party exist anymore. It is also not possible for him to find Eva Braun or Goebbels around. Hitler, who takes to the streets with his uniform, finds his confused image becoming popular on YouTube. First, everybody thinks that Hitler is a crazy actor, but by time, he is accepted as a cute political figure. Shortly afterwards, Hitler starts to attract people thanks to his passionate speeches towards xenophobia, ani-migration, and nationalism.

And the people start turning towards Hitler. On top of that, he does not even need Goebbels anymore for the dirty war of propaganda. Hitler, who benefits from all of the opportunities of social media and uses a popular language, has millions of followers now.

The story I summarized above belongs to Timur Vermes. His book “Look Who’s Back”, which was also turned into a screenplay, does not only look closer to the community in terms of black humor, but also identifies the realities on how the wheel of politics actually turns.

The question is quite clear. If Hitler, who had caused millions of lives to perish, would have resurrected out of his grave, would the people still be captivated to his vibrant and deviant ideas? According to the novel, it is possible to answer this question both with a yes and no. Because the two alternative answers will be determined by the socio-economic conditions and the fight which will be put up by the individuals and institutions.

Rob Riemen insistently points out something in his most recent book (To Fight Against This Age/page 147). “Fascism is the love child of Democracy”. Fascism, under the ruse of populism, sacrifices the acquirements of democracy by the single-use method, separates the people from each other in order to achieve its goal, and generates a crazy supporter base for itself.

If the psychological ground wouldn’t be so ready, the political populism wouldn’t have been a putty in the hands of the masses so easily. Chauvinism is popular nowadays, xenophobia is widespread, and there is a huge doubt if the social justice is being delivered properly… Under these circumstances, the speech of the greedy politician changes into racism, polarization, and conflicts. It has been long since.

The problem is not only the greedy politician, but also the desperate masses. The discourses, which under no circumstances could have ever been accepted, became ordinary today, and ended up being a political jargon. The political leaders, who are not delighted with the investigative-enquiring media, declares various classes of the community as enemies, furthermore, as traitors, and openly points the people, who they turned into scapegoats, as targets, and unfortunately, a large number of people in the communities believe this terrifying scenario.

A very fast paced progression towards the elected dictatorship is in question. Who is to blame here? Is it the irresponsible leaders, or the masses in the communities, who applaud the polarization and worship the authoritarian leaders without taking any lessons from the bloody conflicts of recent history? Who is to condemn and blame?

First, we need to acknowledge the status of the relevant time. Which social-economic-political conditions create conflict zones? Victimization of the happy minority in the center is as old as history of humanity. However, such dwindle of time and restriction of space have never been seen in any of the periods in history. In other words, the events, which had taken a quarter of a century in the old times, take place in a few days today. This is exactly why the intellectuals must think faster and generate longwinded courses of action plans.

We are obliged to ask; why would the mass communication being widespread only be useful for the populist fascists? Warning the people inside the ship should be as easy as scuttling the ship. As long as the people can use the correct language to reach out to their masses.

The people who would like to understand how a democracy can be destroyed step by step, they are welcome to have a look at the example of Turkey.

For example, is it a coincidence that Turkey, a nominee for being the Islamic model of democracy in the world once upon a time, is the country where the highest number of journalists are imprisoned nowadays? Just like in many other examples, the first target of the leaders, who turn into dictators, is always the media. Just like the other authoritarian leaders, Erdogan took action in order to destroy the media groups which do not submit to him, and also created a media only loyal to him. Because of the unilateral news and interpretations, the dictators know very well that the brainwashed masses will be easier to handle.

Despite everything, the free media, by using the opportunities offered by social media, has a huge responsibility. Keeping silent is the worst choice. Surrendering is a betrayal both to humanity and the profession. There are no other alternatives other than fighting all out. The voice and the struggling of social media might seem inadequate compared to the loud noise made by the media groups which are under pressure by the oppressive state, but bear in mind that the ideas are just like seeds, one day for sure they will yield a fruit and the freedom expression will not be erased from the memory of the community…

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It is not enough for the media to put up a resistance singlehandedly. It is essential for the intellectuals to discover the language that is comprehensible by the people, and while doing so, they need to avoid being a captive to populism and also cheap discourses. Every single honest intellectual, who thinks that the democracy is being destroyed, must leave their arguments and ideologic fights behind and join hands towards the matter of human rights. Unfortunately, this has not been done in Turkey, and a heavy price is being paid right now.

Another point; all of the constitutional institutions established to provide the rule of law must realize the risks taken in order to have the democracy to come out of the coma. Check and balance system must be sustained in order not to have all the power to be handled by one individual. This opportunity was not used properly in the example of Turkey.

Turkish constitution guaranteeing the freedom of media, and the judiciary finding a place for the separation of powers could not prevent Erdogan being a dictator, because the elements of the separation of powers outside the ballot boxes stated “You can’t be serious!”, and imagined that the authoritativeness will hit the wall someday. They thought that this wall is actually the people, but in fact, the people were always misled by a populist language and unilateral propaganda. This situation did not cause any awakening for the people who bear responsibilities. For example, after a media outlet is shut down, the other media outlets did not foresee that one day they would be shut down as well. Of course, their turn came too. Around 200 media outlets were shut down. The ones which were not shut down either became a slave, or changed hands.

There is another important matter about the rise of the dictatorship. Judiciary in Turkey had been ruling arbitrary for decades and thus, they had betrayed the trust of the people. Erdogan managed to use this emotion of the people insidiously and subtly, and destroyed the separation of powers one step at a time. Unfortunately, this extermination did not create a fear against the dictatorship amongst the people, on the contrary, it caused the Constitutional Court to be leveled down because of its partisan and unfair attitude, and the people even were glad to see that the

Supreme Court and the Court of Accounts turn into a party organization.

Despite all of the negative situations, there is no room for despair. The key is held by the people who still believe in democracy, but their eyes are generally on the short-term election victories. However, a more comprehensive and embracing struggle is needed. Keeping the democratic values alive is the insurance of the world peace. Our old world is too exhausted to take the fascism adventure. It is just the time for an all-out and fundamental struggle for democracy.

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Ekrem Dumanlı is a journalist, author and the former Editor-in-Chief of Turkish Daily Zaman.

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