April 30, 2015

Turkey and the sado-fascist spirit

Bülent Keneş

Many people have long been noting that what President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's one-man rule and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are doing cannot be properly assessed or analyzed solely within the confines of political science, sociology, psychology, economics and other social sciences, but that many of their acts and attitude directly fall into the domain of psychiatry.

Even a cursory look at the psychological mood injected into the Turkish political scene by Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who has no trick up to his sleeve other than imitating Erdoğan, as well as at the resulting hate speech and bloodcurdling style that amounts to hate crime, is enough to show us the disease haunting the entire society. Yes, there is no denying that there is a rapidly spreading disease that has become an epidemic and its very obviousness allows it to be diagnosed so easily. So, it is high time that we gave it a name. I prefer to call this rapidly spreading disease "sado-fascism.”

The link between the general mood or psychology of a society and its politics or sociology is obvious to everyone. I think there is no need to discuss the mutual interaction or the causal relationship between politics and the psycho-social atmosphere. Yet, it is crucially important to analyze the perverted pleasures that the ruling party, which is flagrantly heading toward fascism, gets from this political aberration, in addition to the material and political benefits it derives from its behavior. Already, without making this analysis into this relatively little understood aspect of the matter, it would be impossible to comprehend the fascism process.

As is known, fascism advocates the domination of a single ideology over all areas of life. As a repressive political system, it is organized based on the worldview (Weltanschauung) of a political party or leader. It starts to establish a domination that will quickly suppress all forms of diversity. All media outlets start to base their editorial policies on the ideology, choices and views imposed by the leader, and intellectuals are urged to justify the leader's views and opinions. With support from organic intellectuals, a form of sacredness is attributed to the leader, and time comes to cow dissenting voices into submission and suppress the views or opinions that diverge from those of the consecrated leader and his party. Dissident media outlets are censored, shut down or blocked with other unfavorable methods. Thus, the fascist, uniform view is made to dominate the society. The level of profundity or sophistication of fascism is directly proportionate to the extent by which these terms and conditions are fulfilled.

In fascism, the most important thing is the leadership along with the worldview. As the leader and his party restrict freedoms, undermine rights and destroy individuals to realize the ambitions of the totalitarian regime, they know no boundaries in abusing all sorts of values. In general, nationalism and patriotism constitute the vast and fertile areas for vulgar exploitation by fascists. In addition to patriotism and nationalism, religious values and historical values that are accompanied by a discourse on the revival of a glorious past have their share from this process of exploitation, which eventually creates empty, good-for-nothing forms of these values.

The instrumentalization of law and the judiciary is undoubtedly one of the indicators of fascist processes. Thus, those who raise objections in some way or another to the leader and the despotic totalitarian system and the social groups that are denigrated by the powerful establishment, for some reason or other face an intensive propaganda so that the pressures against them, their arrests, their executions and/or their destruction with summary executions and/or mass lynching campaigns are justified. As the leader who is in the grip of fascist tendencies and his organization can persuade the public about the initially hesitant pressures and injustice and secure their support, the process is amplified and efforts are made to turn it into a state policy with the eventual target of total voluntary and systematic eradication.

Erdoğan, who has been otherizing, demonizing and antagonizing the Gülen (Hizmet) movement for the last 15 months, recently defined this civil society organization as a "terrorist organization" that must be destroyed, without providing any concrete evidence, and this is closely related to the fascist tendencies in Turkey. Referring to it as the "parallel state," Erdoğan has long been trying to put the Hizmet movement into the National Security Policy Document, or the Red Book in popular parlance, which used to be considered as the 'secret constitution' of Turkey. This clearly shows the stage Turkey is in, in its move towards fascism with Erdoğan at its helm.

As is currently experienced in Turkey, the decisions made by a single person, i.e., the leader and his other judgments have started to be perceived as more right or fitting than everyone's. The rest of society is made to believe in the media's recital that the leader doesn't make any mistakes. The purpose of Erdoğan making comments on every matter, relevant or irrelevant, every day, of 10-15 TV channels broadcasting live his turgid speeches rife with unfounded lies and claims and enthusiastic and ambitious good-for-nothing heroism and more than 10 newspapers running headlines on the same speeches the very next day is nothing more than providing uninterrupted fuel for this need to motivate the masses. A leader who has swayed toward fascism can nurture no goal other than ensuring that society as a whole perceives the world and developments exactly the same way he does. He cannot tolerate even the slightest difference.

The fascist practices that he initially needs for his and his ideology's survival, over time turn into an ordinary occupation, the implementation of which gives him pleasures with an emotional aberration. Actually, this is where a psychiatrist's intervention is needed. Like the sharks that sense blood in the water, the leader and his organization have now started to take pleasure from the pains they inflict on various dissident or divergent social groups.

The persuasiveness of Adolf Hitler's attempt to rationalize the manslaughter he performed by burning and suffocating millions of people in gas chambers and furnaces based on some socioeconomic and demographic needs is questionable. I don't think it was possible to maintain this manslaughter without taking sadist pleasures from the sufferings of Jews as well as other ideological or ethnic groups, such as communists, gypsies and homosexuals, whom they saw as inferior groups. While the ongoing process in Turkey hasn't yet reached the level of the manslaughter experienced in Hitler's Germany, can we say that Erdoğan and his cronies do not take pleasures from the sufferings they inflict on the social groups that they see as different from themselves with leader-orchestrated campaigns?

What other explanation can we offer to the presence of tens of millions of people who take extreme pleasures from the lynching sprees spearheaded by Erdoğan against diverse social groups? Given the sheer multitude of the people who are dying to become part of Erdoğan's lynching rites and hate speech by emulating them, doesn't the current state of insanity deserve to be defined as "sado-fascism”?

As is known, sadism -- named after French writer Marquis de Sade -- is defined as receiving mental satisfaction and gaining pleasures by inflicting pain on other people. A person who does this is called a sadist. Even in its individual form, sadism is horrible. And it is more terrifying to imagine it in its collective form, combined with fascism. It is certainly horrendous, but this sado-fascism is being experienced with an ever-increasing intensity in this country.

For instance, thousands of people can boo the mother of a young boy, aged 14, who was killed by the police on the street as he was going to buy bread for the family, for minutes after Erdoğan's provocation over her being an Alevi. I am afraid the mob takes aberrant pleasures from that act after having lost their bond with humanity with a group psychology. Likewise, no action is taken to penalize those who killed the Kurdish boys who were mistaken for terrorists and killed by military airstrikes in Şırnak's Uludere district due to false intelligence, but those who were responsible for this attack are rewarded.

Millions of voluntary members of the Hizmet movement are lynched under the full glare of publicity accompanied by support, applause and screams of pleasures from the mesmerized masses although there is not a single piece of concrete evidence about them. Innocent people are dubbed as terrorists, hashashin, traitors and leeches every day with inconceivable summary executions accompanied by the applause of millions without presenting any evidence. Just as it is done to those who participated in the Gezi Park protests, the people who are close to the Hizmet movement are reported to be named in the lists of those who will be arrested and these lists have turned into tools of pleasure for a social lynching spree.

Turkey is in this state of insanity imposed by Erdoğan on everyone in the country and I believe Turkey truly deserves to be defined as the first sado-fascist totalitarian dictatorship in history.

Published on Today's Zaman, 30 April 2015, Thursday