February 27, 2015

Straying from EU sidelines into Goebbels’ territory

Abdülhamit Bilici

Adolf Hitler is certainly known for having signed off on some of the most horrific acts in modern times, causing the deaths of millions and sending people to the gas chambers simply because of their beliefs. His military forces, his SS officers, his weapons industries, his war tactics, as well as the roads, bridges and dams he left behind -- they all deserve careful examination.

It is, of course, now clear to everyone just how much damage and shame he created in his own country. But perhaps the most striking characteristic of the whole Hitler ordeal is that he was able to carry out all of this tyranny with the strong support of the public in a country that also gave the world Goethe, Marx, Hegel and Kant; a country that led the way with its intellectual enlightenment and where the average educational level was (and still is) so high.

In terms of what he actually carried out -- turning the hated of an entire society onto an imaginary enemy -- Hitler's aide was that great virtuoso Joseph Goebbels. After all, true tyrants have never really carried out their work alone; they always have magicians helping them to make their actions seem legitimate, as well as a slew of other consultants, soothsayers, intellectuals and so on. And so it was for Hitler with Goebbels, who now symbolizes all the evil spirits that have ever lived.

The most critical ingredient for successful propaganda is actually quite simple, very cheap and in heavy circulation in Turkey these days: lies. One stark example of a lie that was used as significant propaganda was the story of the head-scarfed woman in Kabataş (in İstanbul's Beyoğlu district) during the Gezi Park protests. It was said that she “was beaten and urinated upon” by a large group of naked men wearing leather gloves on one of the nights of Gezi. A similar lie used for propaganda was the idea that Bank Asya had received advanced information about the Dec. 17, 2014 corruption investigation, and had gained some $2 billion in profit by investing in foreign currencies. The list goes on: from Erdoğan's assertion that “Obama looks warmly on the prospect of Gülen's extradition,” to the idea that Gülen somehow gave orders to assassinate Sümeyye Erdoğan, or any of the many assertions linking the Gülen movement (also known as the Hizmet [Service] movement) to either the CIA or Mossad.

In the end, one thing is clear: we need to take systematic lying seriously. Words from that master of lies and propaganda – Goebbels -- show us that even a very developed society like Germany was unable to protect itself from these methods.

If you repeat something enough, you will be able to get people to believe it -- even if it's a lie. How long you will be able to perpetuate this lie depends on how long you will be able to protect the masses from the military, economic and political results of this lie.

Propaganda allows the focus to be put not on the real source of oppression but on some object of hatred. It also works to create a constant and unending atmosphere of tension. In the meantime, think of the media as being a keyboard upon which the ruling party can play as long and as hard as it likes.

Osman Şimşek, who edits the “Herkül” website and talks in his book “Inkisar” about the lies, slander and oppression visited on the Service movement over the past year, notes the following for pious believers. “When our Prophet asked, ‘Who is bankrupt?' he received the answer, ‘Someone who has lost all their assets.' Then, our Prophet goes on to explain who, according to him, is truly bankrupt: ‘In the end, a person's prayers, their fastings and their donations are all added up. That person may have done many good things, but may have sworn, hit, slandered and stolen possessions belonging to others. Their good deeds are then handed over to those people against whom they have acted badly. Yes, good deeds end, but one's debts never end. So what happens is that the sins of those against whom they have sinned are loaded onto them and this person rolls straight into hell. Yes, that is a truly bankrupt person.'”

In the end, those who have departed the whole axis of democratic Islam, moving instead closer to the methods used by Goebbels, have managed not only to cast their own fates into question. What they have really done, as Today's Zaman columnist and sociologist Ali Bulaç recently pointed out, is destroyed the positive image of the pious and turned Turkey into a country that is neither democratic nor a state of law. You know who I am talking about: Goebbels would have been so proud of your creations.

Published on Today's Zaman, 27 February 2015, Friday