By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
The power of the cartoon seems to rival that of a division or more of soldiers, an economic boycott, or even a well-funded bribe. It only took one such cartoon to enrage Turkey such a degree that it effectively caused a worsening of diplomatic relations with France. We have to wonder what is more significant in these interesting times: the strength wielded by a free press satire newspaper, or how easily a dictator can be manipulated as a result of his unchecked ego and power.
The row between nations stemmed from a rather risque cover on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper of October 28th, 2020. A caricature depicts a randy, lecherous looking President Erdoğan sitting in his underwear upon an armchair while lifting the hijab of a laughing woman to expose her bare buttocks. The Turk seemingly takes delight in this, saying “Ouuuh! Le prophète!” A caption reads: “Erdogan dans le privé, il est très drôle” (A possible translation is “Erdoğan in the private sector, he is very funny.” )
Turkey and its president released the Kraken of its bureaucracy, prosecutors, and diplomats to counter the Charlie Hebdo cartoon threat, with his Communications Directorate proclaiming, “Our people should have no doubt that all necessary legal and diplomatic steps will be taken against the caricature in question. Our battle against these rude, ill-intentioned and insulting steps will continue until the end with reason but determination.”. Erdoğan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun wrote “Macron’s anti-Muslim agenda is bearing fruit! We condemn this most disgusting effort by this publication to spread its cultural racism and hatred.” Yet not to be outdone or outshined by his own underlings, President Erdoğan was more succinct and measured in his learned analysis, voicing a week ago that French President Macron ‘needed a mental health check’ for his pledging to defend secular values and fight radical Islam, prompting France to recall its ambassador.
Erdoğan could add to that mountain of wisdom by lending an ear to his cohort Saddam Hussein who during trial proceedings memorably orated, “The lion does not care about a monkey laughing at him from a tree.” and just let it go.
Five years ago, I keyboarded an article here lamenting on how President Erdoğan was “becoming a control freak” as evidenced by his then bizarre behavior…
“[The] presidential palace reached a new zenith with the unveiling of surveillance control rooms inside, giving him unprecedented ability to personally spy on seventy seven million Turkish citizens. In a feat of technical engineering rivaling that of George Orwell’s Big Brother, the president will certainly enjoy the spectacle of his new spyglass.
According to Al-Monitor, the system has 143 displays that allow President Erdogan to tap into closed-circuit television systems in the streets of eighty one of Turkey’s provinces along with its government’s Mobile Electronic System Integration (MOBESE) and those used in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
With the system about to become live, Erdogan will now be able to personally watch all public demonstrations, city life, military and police operations, and other events he finds of concern.
The system is not limited to just government operated video systems, the control center is wired to monitor cellular 3G traffic and television broadcasts, the Gendarmerie, the Disasters and Emergencies Management Directive, Information and Technologies Authority (BTK), and the intelligence services.” ~+~
Now it seems that not even one cartoon on the cover of a french satire newspaper can escape the tenticles of our Turkish ally. Turkey certainly beat the CIA and NSA in detecting such existential threats to a presidency, for they utterly failed to detect a similar affront and consequently launch a retaliatory strike against the same newspaper when on October seventh Hebdo launched a Cartoon of Mass Destruction against the United States by depicting a randy, lecherous Joe Biden groping the breast of the First Lady over her husband’s gravestone. Surprisingly the US didn’t send the French Ambassador packing, along with his
French , I mean, Freedom Fries. Most other nations’ leaders must appear weak in Erdoğan’s mind because usually they are either too busy or simply do not care about trivialities such as a cartoon. Maybe it could be they are actually of stronger personalities and command greater self confidence as evidenced by restraint, or at the very least indifference to petty irrelevance.
The Streisand Effect of Turkey’s response to the cartoon clearly MIRV’ed the publication’s paper warhead. Now thousands more want a copy. The going rate on e-Bay is between twenty three and sixty five U.S. Dollars for this three Euro Charlie Hebdo print. We haven’t seen such bubble in paper commodity prices since various state governors fostered the toilet paper crisis of 2020.
If President Erdoğan is so easily manipulated perhaps the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic could cause a breakdown between Turkey and Azerbaijan by weaponizing a cartoon showing the president chasing the skirt of an Armenian woman. Ending the conflict there surely would be welcomed by civilians living under threat of war and hegemony by Turkey–a caricature is also much less bloody.
Continually I find myself throwing my hands up in despair and frustration at how politicians exert wrath upon individuals or a people for doing nothing wrong. I suspect much of that part of the globe would benefit if someone slipped the senior government of Turkey a hookah stoked with marijuana so they all could chill out and leave ordinary people alone for a day or so.
By Darren Smith
The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.