October 25, 2014

Lethal weapon: hatred

Orhan Oğuz Gürbüz

It is frequently suggested that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) resorts to psychological warfare methods with a view to extending its hold on power. It amplifies tensions between social groups in an effort to reap power from social cleavages. The intention is to build upon the Alevi-Sunni, secular-religious, pro-AK Party-dissident polarizations to create widespread hostilities among social groups. What President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan uttered about Berkin Elvan, a youngster who died during Gezi Park street skirmishes, confirms these shocking claims. Indeed, he said that Elvan was "not a young boy who died after leaving home to buy bread," but a "pawn in the hands of terrorist organizations."

It will be of no use to reopen old wounds and rekindle ancient hostilities. The AK Party politicians benefited greatly from this polarization strategy in previous elections. They amplified tensions between diverse ideological groups to the greatest extent. They likened the recent elections to the "War of Independence." They labeled their rivals "traitors."

Those who are curious about political history should already know how the ruling parties that seek to practice authoritarianism rush to create imaginary enemies. The "parallel structure" folly proved to be a very useful argument for the conservative/nationalist voters who, in the past, believed that Zionists were everywhere. They held this "parallel structure" was responsible for the military coup of May 27, 1960, as well as the acts of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which burned down schools and dormitories run by the Hizmet movement. Fond of governing the country with omnibus bills, the AK Party management is now using this parallel structure omnibus to defend itself in the face of every blunder or failure.

The international community has been accusing AK Party officials, including Erdoğan, of lending support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). But spin doctors who are plus royaliste que le roi went too far when they claimed "The parallel structure supports ISIL." By pointing to this parallel structure as being responsible for every evil thing, the AK Party intends to ensure that dissident individuals or groups are subject to physical or verbal attacks from the society. This practice of inventing enemies at public rallies, in newspapers or on TV and injecting anger into the public does not bode well. This shouldn't be what the ruling party meant by "restoration."

Looking at the bills recently introduced to alter the judicial system, we can say that the ruling party will not tolerate any criticism. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu accusing the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) of being "Baathist" is another sign that this repressive mentality will go unchanged.

Davutoğlu has an academic identity and it won't do him any good to imitate Erdoğan's style. Turkey needs consensual and peaceful rhetoric. Efforts to manipulate society with ideological reflexes and accumulated anger may lead to unexpected damage. If you continue to use a dead young boy to fuel political polemics, you will turn into a state apparatus that is devoid of all human sensitivities. Political parties survive as long as they continue to embrace all walks of life in the society. If you opt for being deceived by the media outlets, you control and submissive businessmen and believe that these perception operations will continue forever, then you will lose in the end. The strategy of boosting anger and hatred and the divide-and-rule policy may give you temporary victories, but will eventually add fuel to the black hole that will swallow all of us.

The AK Party wants to start fires that are sociologically small with the intention of destroying its enemies and carving out new territory for itself. Anger is an emotion that must be controlled. You may believe you derive power with policies of controlled rage and hatred. But anger is a lethal weapon that can backfire and destroy its possessor. The AK Party must stop using this alluring, but lethal, weapon.

Published on Today's Zaman, 25 October 2014, Saturday