by wjw on January 10, 2013

For the first time in history, our friends in Turkey have pretty well done away with censorship of books and other reading material.  Back in July, parliament passed a law that would free all banned works, provided that no court chose to uphold the ban in the meantime.  Apparently no court did, so 23,000 banned works can now be legally made available for the first time.  Turks, read your hearts out!

Turkey had no actual national censorship board, instead having a variety of state organs that could ban books for various reasons, often “insulting Turkishness,” which was a crime under their constitution.  (Nowadays I believe the crime is “insulting the Turkish nation,” which hardly seems any better.)

Kudos for all of this, but unfortunately the Turkish government has progressed from persecuting books to persecuting writers.  There are more journalists in jail in Turkey than in any other nation, just about all for writing things critical of the current regime.  Many of the charges are completely frivolous and will be dismissed if the journalists ever see the inside of a court, something the government is at pains to prevent.

The regime reflexively believes that any criticism comes at the behest of the Deep State, the creepy cabal of politicians and military leaders who controlled the country during the Cold War.  So they feel justified in imposing harsh measures.

Numerous alleged members of the Deep State are also in jail awaiting trial, including dozens— at one point hundreds— of officers accused of planning Operation Sledgehammer (Balyoz Harekâtı), a 2003 coup that never actually happened.  (Can you— should you— be tried for a crime you planned but didn’t commit?  If so, I’d be in jail for the next 500 years.  I regularly plot mayhem that I don’t carry out.) 

While Turks are now at liberty to read 23,000 new books, they still have a censored Internet and television.  So, y’know, two cheers.

I’m not exactly a disinterested party, because my Dagmar trilogy of This Is Not a Game, Deep State, and The Fourth Wall have sold to a Turkish publisher and will soon (I hope) be delighting thousands of Turkish readers.  Let’s hope they’re not too overwhelmed by their 23,000-volume reading backlog to pick up something new.

Ralf The Dog. January 10, 2013 at 6:28 pm

“Can you— should you— be tried for a crime you planned but didn’t commit? If so, I’d be in jail for the next 500 years. I regularly plot mayhem that I don’t carry out.”

It’s called Conspiracy. All that is required is two or more people and one overt act. The overt act could be as simple as internet research to find out if it can be done.

Barkeron January 11, 2013 at 10:34 am

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the Deep State more like a myth/urban rumor?

So this whole ado could be just a kind of “Oceania was always at war with Eastasia” deal. The Strong Men of the government will protect you against the nefarious omnipresent conspiracy…

S.M. Stirling January 17, 2013 at 7:25 am

The head of the current Turkish government once remarked of democracy that it was like a streetcar — you only stayed on it until you got to your destination.

This was a gaffe of his: that is, he said what he really thought.

I do not, to put it mildly, take their protestations of democratic intent very seriously.

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