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When did the headlines with the word “Traitor” increase in Turkey?

Prof. Dr. Mehmet Altan*

In Turkish newspapers, the number of articles and news stories titled “Traitor” was 57 in 2003. By 2004, it had risen to 105, and in 2005, it had reached 224. These figures pertain to data from 15-20 years ago. Presently, the demographic of individuals aged 25 and above, with an average education of less than eight years, persistently resort to labeling each other as “traitors.”

Serious allegations, predominantly stemming from individuals who lack education, experience, and sometimes even a profession, in underdeveloped countries deprived of pluralism and freedom, have manifested as a prevalent issue.

In such regions, there’s a singular criterion: the accuser themselves…

When the gauge is insufficient and inadequate, the result invariably turns to insults and verbal abuse.

Of late, accusations, insults, and abusive language have been accelerating, sidelining any opportunity for constructive discussions. Genuine debates that could offer solutions to real issues are left off the agenda.

Everyone proclaims an unparalleled love for the nation, yet they indulge in a constant cycle of insults and derogatory remarks towards those who don’t share their views. Could the state of the country have become this if such behavior were absent?

Every individual should have the liberty to express their opinions, diverse perspectives should be openly discussed, ultimately leading to the identification of the best solutions.

Perhaps, had the country been unsuccessful in its attempt to democratize its century-old Republic, unable to establish the well-being and freedom of its citizens, and unable to command respect globally, the current scenario might have been drastically different.

Instead of constructive discourse, the landscape is dominated by accusations, quarrels, aggression, and brawls. Everyone yearns for the entirety of the nation to mirror their own thoughts.

Yet, democratic societies gauge freedom through the capacity to think diversely and exhibit respect for plurality.

It’s a matter of quality, knowledge, and value creation.


I chanced upon this subject while composing the chronicles of press history…

It turns out that the propensity to label everyone as a “traitor” had also experienced acceleration in the early 2000s.

I came across an intriguing statistic: newspapers had carried 57 articles and news pieces titled “Traitor” in 2003…

The number surged to 105 in 2004, and it reached 224 by 2005.

Of course, these statistics exclude the influence of television and radio.


The originator of this compelling statistic is Orhan Koloğlu… In his book titled “History of the Press,” he elucidates the reasons behind this phenomenon as follows:

“We must concede that the tendency to ostracize differing opinions as acts of treachery is rooted in a cultural deficiency.”

Koloğlu attributes this lack to what he labels as “cultural superficiality” within a society where reading newspapers was once hailed as an intellectual pursuit:

“Here, the superficial reflection of newspaper culture becomes evident.”

He buttresses this observation with a revealing insight:

“A study conducted by PİAR in 1988 furnished evidence substantiating the superficiality of newspaper culture in our country. It had become commonplace to believe that every national newspaper was only read by five people. However, PİAR’s research indicated that this figure was substantially higher. Tercüman was read by 9.4 individuals, Cumhuriyet by 8.3, Hürriyet by 7, Milliyet by 5.8, and Günaydın by 5.5. Consequently, it was alleged that the newspaper reached the hands of 16.6 million people each day, which amounted to a third of the population.”

Even those who laud such soaring readership might fail to realize that when a newspaper is read by nine people, none of them can truly peruse it attentively and comfortably. Consequently, neither sufficient information nor authentic news can be gleaned. Hence, all the assimilated knowledge remains superficial.”

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This brings us to the scarcity of a culture of reading books:

“We are of the belief that we must scrutinize the outcome of our failure to fully transition to a book-oriented culture.

Per capita paper consumption (1987): Germany 191, Italy 102, Spain 92, Turkey 10. Number of books published annually (1986): USA 72,000, Spain 27,000, Turkey 6,200. Count of periodicals (1986): USA 59,000, Spain 5,000, Turkey 2,635. Quantity of libraries (1986): USA 10,000, Spain 1,550, Turkey 632 (by the 2000s, Turkey 1,510, Germany 11,500, France 4,000, UK 5,000). Books borrowed per one thousand individuals (1986): USA 4,300, Spain 170, Turkey 7. Book per person ratio (1986): UK 983, Spain 1987, Turkey 10,600. Newspapers per one thousand individuals (1986): UK 420, Germany 330, Spain 87, Turkey 54.”

These data stem from figures from 15-20 years ago.

Books are barely read, let alone newspapers.

Indeed, newspapers have essentially ceased to exist…

However, there’s a noticeable surge in accusations of “treachery”…

In time, those chronicling the annals of the press will assuredly regard the mid-2000s as considerably more advanced and refined compared to the present era.


The demographic of individuals aged 25 and above, with an average education of less than eight years, persistently resort to labeling each other as “traitors.”

It’s conceivable that extending Orhan Koloğlu’s statistics on “treacherous news” to the present day would be intriguing.

As instances of insults and derogatory language escalate, so do instances of hardship and repression.

Perhaps the situation is best encapsulated by a well-known adage:

“An ignorant person is quick to engage in conflict.”

Prof. Dr. Mehmet Altan published his first article at the age of 15. For 20 years, he worked as a columnist and writer for Sabah, followed by 6 years in Star newspapers. He was also a television host and commentator. He lectured at Istanbul University for 30 years, achieving the rank of professor in 1993. He has authored nearly 40 books. After the events of July 15, he was arrested, disregarding Articles 19, 26, and 28 of the Constitution. He spent 21 months in prison. His rights were acknowledged as violated by the Constitutional Court, European Court of Human Rights, and Court of Cassation. Since October 29, 2016, he has been subject to statutory decrees.

This article was first published in artigercek.com in Turkish and translated into English by Politurco.

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