Deep State (of Depression)

by wjw on June 12, 2013

Once again I’m watching scenes from one of my novels play out on television, and once again I’m finding it depressing. Deep State was a novel about a revolution against an oppressive Turkish government, and now we get to see that on CNN— and to watch Christine Amanpour try to corner a Turkish official about exactly which “terrorists, radicals, and marginal people” are responsible for the violence.  (He had no answer, since it’s perfectly obvious that the overwhelming majority of the violence is on the government side.)

What exactly are the protestors upset about?

Prime Minister Erdogan has been elected three times, and is clearly the most popular politician in the country.  During his ten years in office, the per capita GNP has risen by no less than three hundred percent.  Turkey, unlike neighboring Greece, survived the world recession very well— in fact its rate of growth barely slowed.

Turkey is increasingly prosperous, and the prosperity is reaching parts of the country that have been poor since the country’s founding.  The country has a functioning, if flawed, democracy.  It’s far from a dictatorship like Libya.

Yet Erdogan— (and I regret that WordPress’s character set does not allow me to spell his name correctly) —is also prickly, authoritarian, and inclined to blame his problems on the conspiracies of (unnamed) evil terrorists and foreign agents.  He’s jailed dozens, maybe a couple hundred, military officers for a coup that they never actually attempted, and tossed reporters in jail on charges so transparently false that they’d be thrown out of court— assuming the reporters actually get their day in court, what with all the government-inspired delays.  He’s jettisoned the country’s tactical alliance with Israel, and is inclined to tell other world leaders how to behave.

Erdogan’s center-right Islamic party is also starting to police the nation’s morals.  There are new restrictions on alcohol which effectively ban its sale in many areas.  Public displays of affection are now discouraged (resulting in deeply charming “kiss-in” demonstrations being held here and there, at least one of which was met with violence).

So what happened to kick off the protests?  The prime minister wants to spruce up the nation for the centennial of the republic’s founding in 1923, and to that end he wanted to bulldoze the trees in Gazi Park adjacent to Taksim Square, the busy, crowded, chaotic heart of Beyoglu, historically the most Europeanized part of Greater Istanbul.  Gezi Park was to be demolished to make way for a reproduction of Ottoman barracks that had once stood there.  An Ottoman barracks to celebrate the Republic.  Or maybe Erdogan.  Or the Sultan.  Or something.

A few hundred protestors turned up, and the police charged in and beat the crap out of them.  So the next day, a few thousand protestors showed, and the police thrashed them again.  And the next day, when tens of thousands of protestors showed up, and the demonstrations began to spread to other cities, the police behaved predictably, and things got bigger.  There were protests in 61 of Turkey’s eighty-odd provinces.  Police repression in the capital of Ankara was particularly brutal.

There was a sort of truce for a few days, but early Tuesday morning the riot police moved into Taksim, and now it’s on.  There were some bonfires and molotov cocktails, but very possibly those were the work of police provocateurs.

And what’s it about?  Erdogan, pretty much.  His condescending, paternalistic style, his authoritarian high-handedness. Many of the protestors, possibly most of them, actually agree with Erdogan’s policies, they just can’t stand the man himself.

So I’m not seeing a happy ending here.  A lot of people, mostly young, with no leaders,  no unified ideology, and only the organization that Twitter and Facebook might provide.  Versus an old guy who can’t admit that he’s wrong and who sees conspiracies under every tree, because the idea of an open-sourced political movement just isn’t on his radar.

He should have just let the protestors go on till they got tired and went home.  After all, who pays attention these days to Occupy?

Instead we’ve got scenes from my novel being played out.  I can only hope Dagmar’s on the scene, and can figure out what to do.

Kathy June 12, 2013 at 8:48 am

Thanks for this post.

Esebian June 12, 2013 at 3:34 pm

So, is it just a big damn scapegoat, or is Erdogan prove for the existence of the deep state as its public face?

wjw June 13, 2013 at 4:16 am

So far as I can see from here, by this point Erdogan has pretty much crushed the deep state, though I imagine he’s perfectly willing to blame it for his problems.

But Erdogan’s been in power long enough that he’s developed a deep state of his own.

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