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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tatlises shooter may have PKK links

Picture of Nihat Şimşek published in several Turkish newspapers
on March 23.
According to Radikal and other Turkish news sources, the man suspected of having attempted to assassinate Turkish singer, İbrahim Tatlıses, has ties to PKK. Pictures of the man - Nihat Şimşek - in green fatigues, holding an AK47 are said to show him at a PKK training camp. The police are also supposed to have found emails on suspects' computers instructing PKK-related actors to “find Nihat, let him finish the job.” According to one theory, Tatlıses, as a prominent Kurd, would have been a victim of PKK anger for not supporting the organization. But he is also reputed to have connections to organized crime and personal conflict with the person who is alleged to have ordered the assassination, so these theories remain speculation at this point.

Press review Turkey, France, and Nato

The Economist thinks that Turkey is wobbling on how to deal with the protests spreading in its neighborhood. Erdoğan was among the first to call for Mubarak's resignation in Egypt, but he first failed to support the no-fly zone in Libya, only to then sent four frigates, a submarine, and another warship to support Nato's efforts there. As the protests and the violent crackdowns spread, the Economist warns that "When it comes to Syria, sitting on the fence may not be an option." Turkey's EU Minister, Egemen Bağış, has a different take (from Word Bullentin):
Turkey did not take a U-turn over Libya. But we have prevented a fait accompli in Libya. An unplanned and unprogrammed NATO intervention would have taken place weeks before before waiting for a United Nations resolution.
David Judson at Hürriyet thinks that the current events in the region highlight Turkey's significance to the EU. In his view, most
issues fade... behind Turkey’s growing profile and its assets that can help solve the region’s increasing turmoil.
And he quotes Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, who noted that “The Turks

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why the French extreme right is making "historic" gains

Le Pen's far right party has made "historic" gains in the first round of the French local elections, amounting to a nation-wide tripling of its votes so far (from 5 % in 2008 to 15%). It is only trailing Sarkozy's UDP party by a couple of percentage points.

Marine Le Pen - outsmarting the
center? (Wikipedia Commons)
This, to me, is but the latest in a series of Europe-wide election results that suggest the following lesson: Attempts by mainstream parties to appropriate anti-immigration rhetoric in a desperate attempt to steal votes from the extreme right, thus preventing it to make electoral gains, are more likely than not to backfire. When established parties move to the right on immigration, this does not seem to reduce support for the xenophobic far right.

Why is this? Using the traditional tools of political science - quantitative or formal - we would expect these kinds of maneuvers to work. When your opponent moves away from the center, you should move toward it and capture the more centrist of your opponent's voters, all things equal. The reason why this logic is flawed, in my view, is that it discounts the power of discourse and narrative framing.

By moving to the right on immigration, centrist parties across Europe have appropriated the rhetoric of the extreme right, making essentialist cultural and identity-based arguments an acceptable and normal part of the daily public discourse. By embracing some of the extreme-right's demands and focusing national attention on the kinds of issues that they "own" politically - immigration, integration, Islamophobia, and xenophobia - centrist European parties have allowed themselves to be lured into playing on the extreme right's home turf. Or rather, they have allowed the extreme right to frame the nation's political discourse, which is a sure way of boosting their respectability and credibility. "After all, haven't they long been raising the issues that the centrist parties only now are addressing?"

Paradoxically, therefore, what seems like a smart move by the centrists amounts to ceding ground to the extreme right instead of taking political territory from it. Not the way to go.

French far right makes serious gains

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Turkish superstar Ibrahim Tatlıses shot in the head

Turkey's "Frank Sinatra," Ibrahim Tatlıses (literally, sweet sound or voice), was shot in the head Sunday and is in critical condition at a hospital in Istanbul. He is apparently awake and speaking today, however.

Tatlıses, Wikimedia Commons.
20 suspects have been rounded up, two of which can supposedly be linked to the location of the crime due to their cell phone records. Tatlıses's car was sprayed with bullets from an AK47 Kalashnikov and the suspected rifle has apparently been found at the home of the wife of one of Tatlıses's known enemies.

Like Sinatra, Tatlıses is reputed to have had ties with organized crime, and has been the subject of previous assassination attempts. He was, however, extremely popular in Turkey and also in the Arab world.

Turkish superstar Ibrahim Tatlises shot in head by unknown attackers - The National

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Effects of Fox News' Muslim Bashing

Media Matters has an interview with John L. Esposito, Georgetown University, about the deleterious effects on public opinion of the Muslim bashing on Fox News. In an email to Media Matters, Esposito wrote:
The cumulative effect of the confrontational rhetoric of Fox commentators like Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and Sean Hannity who hammer away at portraying Islam and Muslims as fundamentally different contributes to a popular culture in which seeing 1.5 billion Muslims as potential enemies has become embedded. Too many Americans are developing an intolerant, irrational fears and even hatred not simply of extremists but of Islam and Muslims which has led to discrimination, harassment, and violence.
In particular, he focuses on the space and sympathetic treatment given to anti-Islamic crusaders like Brigitte Gabriel, on Fox, whom I have blogged about recently. Esposito describes a Gabriel as:
an entrepreneur, a professional Muslim basher. She, like [Pamela] Geller, [Robert] Spencer and company have no expert credentials in Islam or Muslim history and cultures, the very topics that they speak about. She is a fear monger pure, an Islamophobic culture warrior, and plays fast and loose to get the limelight and a career. What she and others excel at are simplistic generalizations and assertions, often choosing selective texts, individuals or events as if they were representative of the entire community.
Instead of focusing on extremism in America or Muslim extremists as a dangerous but very small percentage, she chooses to target the

Friday, March 11, 2011

The 2011 McCarthy hearings begin

It is not just Europe that is experiencing a wave of Islamophobia. Far-right conservative activists in the United States have become increasingly ardent in recent years and months. The NYT has a good profile of one of them, Brigitte Gabriel, the founder of the anti-Islamic ACT!, who according to the NYT warns that
America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America ... They have infiltrated us at the C.I.A., at the F.B.I., at the Pentagon, at the State Department.
And, one should add, apparently also the Conservative Political Action Committee itself, where - the horror - a Muslim is actually a member of the board! And where another famous Reagan-era conservative icon and CPAC board member - Grover Nordquist - has gone and married a (dare I say it?) Muslim. It's almost as if the United States Constitution allowed members of different faiths to be politically active. Surely something must be done about this situation.

Other prominent anti-Islam activists who are doing their best to remedy this dreadful state of affairs - in which individuals are not persecuted and prohibited from a public role due to their faith - include Pamela Geller, who has been leading the charge against the proposed Cordoba Center on Manhattan, and Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy.

And yesterday was the opening day of Rep. Peter King's "Congressional Hearings on the Radicalization of American Muslims." King, himself a long- time supporter of the terrorist organization known as the IRA - has been concerned that mainstream Muslim organizations do not cooperate with authorities in defeating terrorists. Perhaps the best response in the face of such impressive lack of self-reflection or concern about internal logical consistency is satire, so I am attaching a Daily Show clip below that does that better than I can.

UPDATE: Just saw yesterday's even better Daily Show clips on the Peter King hearings, so I'm attaching those instead. (You can see the old clip here.)

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Radical Muslim Hearings
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

And the brilliant commentary by John Oliver:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Radical Muslim Hearings - IRA Terrorism
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Turkish media wars: part III

Back from a lull in posting caused by an overdose of work.

While I've been busy doing other things, the Turkish "media wars" have raged on. On March 3rd, EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Štefan Füle, issued a strongly worded comment on the recent arrests of Turkish journalists. According to EurActiv, Füle's statement notes that
Štefan Füle, Wikipedia Commons
The European Commission is following with concern the recent police actions against journalists, including the detention today of Nedim Şener, Ahmet Şık and others and the arrests last week of ODA TV site administrators Soner Yalçın, Barış Terkoğlu and Barış Pehlivan.
And the European Parliament yesterday passed a highly critical statement on Turkey, the most critical document to come from the EP since the opening of negotiations in 2005, according to the Turkish opposition party CHP's Brussels representative. The Turkish foreign ministry criticized the document for being "one-sided, unacceptable and irrelevant to reality" and even the CHP's Brussels chief described it as a poor analysis of events in Turkey. The document was passed as part of the EP's consideration of the Commission's 2010 Progress Report from November of last year. (The Progress Report can be accessed here, and the text adopted by the EP is available here.)

But the EU is not the only actor critical of the Ergonekon probe-related media arrests. The Wall Street Journal reports that even the Turkish President, Abdullah Gül, has expressed "concern" over the arrests, stating that they constitute "developments that the public conscience cannot accept."

In an independent development but adding insult to the injury caused to Turkish media by the Ergonekon investigation, my Turkish readers may soon no longer be able to access this blog since a court in Diyarbakır (a city in Southeast Turkey) has decided that Blogger should be blocked in Turkey. Le Monde reports that the decision comes after a petition by the Turkish media group Digiturk. Apparently, some Blogger pages transmit material - in particular football matches - that infringe on copyright and intellectual property rights.

Fair enough, but shutting down the entire Blogger platform due to the unwarranted activities of a few of its users is draconian and entirely disproportionate. A free media (and blogs are included in this category) is as important to a vibrant democracy as oxygen is to human life, and you wouldn't outlaw air because of a few polluters! (OK, I welcome better analogies in the comments section...)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Turkey and Europe: Mr Erdoğan goes to Germany | The Economist

From today's Economist:
IT IS no secret that Turkey's efforts to join the European Union have not been going well. But a bout of Europe-bashing this week by Turkey’s mildly Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has exposed just how rotten relations have become since the EU formally began membership talks with Turkey in 2004. All the more so because Mr Erdoğan made his comments in Germany, where he was meant to be shoring up Turkey’s case. If anything his visit has had the opposite effect.

Turkey and Europe: Mr Erdoğan goes to Germany | The Economist
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