I always say this;
If President Tayyip Erdoğan were to face a real journalist and be subjected to some substantial questions, his entire narrative would fall apart.
We saw a minor example of this in an interview he conducted the other day.
Erdoğan, who arrived in New York with a large delegation for the United Nations General Assembly meetings, spoke to Anna Nawaz of PBS channel as part of his contacts.
The part of the interview related to Russia was highlighted, but the rest was actually more productive in terms of revealing Turkey’s state of mind and ground realities.
Erdoğan became angry at the questions the reporter attempted to ask about press freedom and judicial independence, even though they could be considered relatively mild. His face tightened, and the familiar hateful glances that we know from Turkey emerged.
However, Erdoğan cannot even tolerate this much. According to Erdoğan, there is complete independence of the judiciary and media in Turkey, and there are no journalists or politicians in prison!
Erdoğan, accustomed to journalists who always say “yes, sir,” rebuffed the reporter who tried to ask follow-up questions.
Some might find it normal not to know who a journalist is or what press freedom entails, but those who watched the interview or saw clips of it on social media bore witness to the democratic level in Turkey and Erdoğan’s style of governance.
If we did not know that there is no such thing as judicial independence in Turkey, that indictments and decisions are written in the Palace, that judges and prosecutors merely follow orders, and that the media is coordinated by party commissars, we might have taken Erdoğan’s words seriously.
Now, let’s talk about Erdoğan’s highly publicized New York visits.
If I hadn’t been here for years, watching the UN meetings, and looking at the Palace media, I might have believed that Erdoğan was making waves, that world leaders were lining up in front of the Turkish House, and that the American media was chasing Erdoğan.
But the reality is quite different.
Forget making waves, without Erdoğan’s large convoy and team filling the streets of Manhattan, no one would even notice.
This situation is not unique to today; it has been like this for the past 7-8 years.
In fact, before writing this article, I reviewed my analyses of Erdoğan’s last two trips. For example, in my article titled “Erdoğan in New York: Turks Giving Themselves a Pep Talk!” on September 21, 2021 (https://www.tr724.com/erdogan-new-yorkta-turkun-turke-gaz-vermesi/), I explained how the President’s visits to New York involved meetings with his own team, speaking at pseudo-NGOs he had established, such as TASC or SETA.
Last year’s UN Summit had a similar performance.
In my article on September 21, 2022, titled “Empty Shelves (!) but Beautiful Parks. I’ll Be Back Again!” (https://www.tr724.com/raflar-bos-ama-parklar-guzel-yine-gelecek-ben/), I talked about Erdoğan’s visits to New York, speaking at NGOs he had set up, essentially delivering his party’s weekly parliamentary group speech in New York.
During that trip, he also spoke on PBS television and staged a staged walk in Central Park, taking photos with Americans. Mentioning PBS television, Erdoğan’s statement on the American channel, “Shelves are empty, people are hungry,” still remains as a humorous memory. His meeting with Mustafa Destici, the leader of the BBP, whom he brought with him on the plane during last year’s visit, also sparked discussion.
In summary, all of Erdoğan’s visits to the UN General Assembly in recent years can be considered more or less the same. Military cargo planes bring his official vehicles, and he is accompanied by dozens of ministers, MPs, high-level bureaucrats, and their teams.
Huge amounts of money are spent like water in some of the most expensive places in the world, such as Manhattan.
If you look at the room rates of the Peninsula Hotel where Erdoğan stays, you can understand what I mean. I can definitely say that the hotel, transportation, vehicles, meeting rooms, and gifts cost several million dollars.
The massive amounts paid to lobbying firms to improve relations with the United States are not included in this list.
Speaking of lobbying, Erdoğan’s trips to the United States always began with meetings with Jewish lobbies in the country. Erdoğan used to host representatives of the Jewish community. In fact, the current ambassador, Murat Mercan, allocates a significant part of his work in the United States to the Jewish Lobby. However, it is interesting that Erdoğan did not meet anyone from the Jewish lobby during this trip.
At least there was no publicly announced program for such meetings.
By the way, Erdoğan’s passage through the streets of Manhattan in armored vehicles and the presence of advertising trucks with slogans like “I love Erdoğan” or different slogans are a topic on social media.
Especially, the digital ads on the trucks are difficult to understand whose idea they are. These are considered as reflections of the complexes of third-rate dictatorial country leaders. The fact that the “I Love Erdoğan” ads evoke different connotations is another issue.
In the years when Erdoğan had a prestigious image and Turkey was a rising star, Turkish leaders used to speak at reputable think tanks or universities in the United States when they came to Washington or New York. Now, such a situation no longer exists. Both the state of the country is evident, and the scandal that occurred during Erdoğan’s last visit to a think tank is well known. Erdoğan’s guards attacked invited journalists, and the scandal was talked about for days.
Erdoğan held a meeting at SETA, which is affiliated with the Palace.
As in previous years, attendance was very low. In fact, most of those in the room representing think tanks were actually members of Erdoğan’s entourage.
Look at the photos provided by the Anadolu Agency; there were as many hands wearing earphones as there were ears. The most recognized figure was former U.S. Ambassador to Ankara, James Jeffry, who is not considered a foreigner because he has been a fixture in government programs.
In summary, Erdoğan and his large delegation go to New York to make propaganda for Turks by Turks. Erdoğan, who has not yet secured a bilateral meeting with the U.S. President and has not been invited to Washington, caused a commotion on the plane on his way back to Turkey last year.
A similar situation could happen again this year.
If there were media and opposition in the country, we would need to ask Erdoğan this: Who and why are you doing this expensive show that costs millions of dollars? Do you have a fantasy of making your party’s weekly group speech in New York?