One of the most distressing things to watch in Turkey as the Islamic government tears down decades of secular traditions has been the destruction of the free press. Given the recent attack on the free press by the Obama Administration, Turkey is an example of how the media can be chilled into silence. As protests have raged in the streets of major cities in one of the most important movements in the country’s history, the story has been virtually blacked out in the Turkish media, which is fearful of insulting the government of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. With the collapse of the free press in Turkey, however, one man took an extraordinary and novel stand: the host of a popular Turkish game show. Ali Ihsan Varol, the star of the Bloomberg TV quiz show “Kelime Oyunu,” or “The Word Game,” arranged for questions that had answers reflecting the violence from “gas mask” to “Twitter” to “dictator.” In the crushing silence on Turkish television, the show has caused quite a stir and hopefully brought well-deserved shame to Turkish journalists.
For viewers, the show was an obvious protest against the self-censorship of the media and an effort to show Turks that something historic was happening in the streets. Erdogan has become increasing bellicose in dealing with the protesters and threatened to bring a million Islamic supporters into the streets.
Viewers turned to social media sites like Twitter to tell people about the show. Twitter and other social media have become the substitute for media coverage in Turkey.
Turkey, and particularly Istanbul, is one of my favorite places on Earth. It has been painful to watch Erdogan take the country down the road of sectarian religious politics. However, it has been the collapse of the free press that has been the greatest shock. This is largely self-censorship. Turkey should remind us of how essential the media is to guaranteeing liberty and why we cannot allow the Obama Administration to erode protections for journalists.
When the smoke clears, and hopefully Turks get back their country, there will be many who will ask journalists “where were you during the 2013 protests?” One man however can be an answer on his own show when people are asked who stood up at this historic moment: Ali Ihsan Varol.
Source: NY Times
7 thoughts on “Turkish Game Show Host Defies Media Blackout Of Protests In His Own Unique Way”
I have also been to Turkey and it was certainly one of the most interesting places I have been. I also sympathize with the protests there. Praise to Ali Ihsan Varol and hopefully there will be more like him.
Fareed Zakaria did a good piece on GPS yesterday. He had a columnist from Turkey on and he believes this is a problem of Turkish male pride. According to this writer, Erdogan is the classic male Turk who sees it to be unmanly to ever take a step back. I don’t think this is indigenous to Turks, but apparently they are uber Alphas.
I have lived in Turkey when I was in the USAF and I have long followed events there. I could even speak some Turkish when I was there and travelled all over the country. As part of that, I have been an admirer of Kemal Ataturk and his revolution that established modern Turkey. This raises some interesting questions as to civil liberties in a backward feudal society transitioning to a modern secular state. Ataturk was an authoritarian ruler who used the struggle against foreign intervention and overthrowing the Ottoman Empire to uproot Islam in Turkey. He realized that to bring Turkey into the 20th century force would have to be used to smash the establishment of the mullahs and the religious state that had existed.
I really do not like any dictatorship or restrictions on basic freedoms, but one has to realize that after such a struggle, there needs to be some period of what the UN did in Germany after WWII. The allies established a deNazification of Germany and to this day there are some things pertaining to that era that are banned from public display. The Islamics are using the freedoms that have been established to get rid of freedom in Turkey. In fact, I posted with a Turk who was a big supporter of Erdogan who said that Ataturk was a good Muslim. I had to point out to him that Ataturk was a very militant atheist. He even had mosques torn down that got in the way of his drinking at his favorite watering holes. He had his priorities right I think.
So the question is what needs to be done to keep our freedoms when there is a political movement that outright seeks a sectarian dictatorship?
Maddow had this incident as the ‘Best New Thing in the World’ last week and the video (below) is pretty entertaining. The number of times he made forbidden political references – 70! – in that one show is amazing, as the rest of Turkish media remains mute. Though he was taken off the air he did return on Friday. When I saw the Maddow show and learned that he was taken off the air I was immediately concerned that he would never be seen again. I too hope the citizens of Turkey can get their country back. Us too.
you have to sit through a commercial to get to the video but it’s a very entertaining video. Ali Ihsan Varol is a hero.
Heck we don’t need no stoopid…. Censoring…… We will prosecute you…. Or kill you, or imprison you, or raid your home or…… We are different….
Strength comes in many forms and that was an impressive display of strength in the face of authoritarianism. Unfortunately, American corporate controlled media can’t seem to step up to that level of strength when it comes to the government’s abuse of power. American media is either blinded by the lights or so controlled by government that it is incapable of reacting strongly.
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