By Ben Barrack
There is a reason that most leaders of nations seek to control the people; that reason is simple. Individual citizens without common cause or purpose are no match for consolidated power but power, no matter how consolidated, is no match for an impassioned and unified people. When the voices on the street unite against corruption at the top, power runs scared.
That leads to Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan; he has decided to pick a fight with twitter. Accountability in the corruption scandal that is ensnaring members of Erdogan’s inner circle like an invisible man who can take down a much bigger opponent, is being fueled by social media.
Erdogan is desperate. No doubt, if he had his druthers, he’d rather let the cacophony of voices in the twitter-verse harmlessly release their tensions. Unfortunately for him, however, is that the twitter-verse is marshaling its strength against him, which has spurned him to pick a fight he very well may lose.
According to a report from the AFP, a twitter handle that is particularly bedeviling to Erdogan is Haramzadeler (“Sons of Thieves”). In addition to swinging punches in the dark while Haramzadeler appears to be armed with night vision goggles, Erdogan is also doing what all guilty parties do when ignoring their accusers no longer works. Phase two almost exclusively includes smears; Erdogan has referred to the audio recordings that reportedly captured him and his son engaged in illegal activity as “vile” fakes.
Consider the A&E / Duck Dynasty scandal last year in the U.S. Millions of people who otherwise had not common cause all united because of their support for Phil Robertson. Each of those millions of people had shared passions who didn’t consciously unite; they united as a direct result of those passions being threatened. While there are a myriad of issues more important than Phil Robertson’s plight, common cause dictated effectiveness.
Twitter is very much like Duck Dynasty; millions of people love it and are likely to find common cause against anyone who attempts to take it away.
Consider prohibition in the U.S. in early twentieth century. Though on some level, it may not be something to be proud of, Americans had common cause to unite against prohibition, which was repealed, largely as a result of that common cause. The federal government learned that while its people would put up with much, they would not tolerate being told they couldn’t drink.
As for the twittering Turks, further common cause is likely to be the reason Erdogan wants to kill it; his guilt.
As is often the case, if Erdogan’s scalp is had by the masses, what fills the leadership vacuum will be all-important and may actually be worse. Many believe – and it’s very likely they’re correct – that the notorious Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric residing in the Poconos, is actively working towards Erdogan’s fall as well. If that’s true, Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul – himself a “Gulenist” – stands to benefit most.
Further underscoring that possibility is that Gul has called Erdogan’s twitter ban ‘unacceptable’. The reason very well may be two-fold. He understands how ill-advisable it is to go against voices in the streets who’ve found common cause and he sees a wounded leader in Erdogan and likely wants more power.
In this metaphor, Erdogan represents himself and the horse very well could represent twitter: