Is that there is a distinct push to make sure the Turkey protests become the perfect Twitter revolution , and as a result paint a somewhat false image of what the demonstrations are turning out to be?
Watching the events of the last four days unfold has left me with a sense of eeriness, but not for the reasons one would expect.
To sum up the Turkey situation, protests over the seemingly classical environment versus development debate quickly took a turn for the worse. It is now abundantly clear that this is no longer about saving a tree—tweets and Tumblr posts tell us it is about saving the Turkey from turning into a “authoritarian and Islamist state”.
The eeriness comes in here. The unrests at Istanbul, which quickly spread to neighboring cities, have all the characteristics of a perfect Twitter revolution—the type that technological pundits rave over. You have the hash-tags in place, the Turkish-English “blogs” telling you what this whole thing is really about, the pictures of police brutality and blood-soaked streets, the media blackout and finally social media websites being blocked.
The final piece to the puzzle, of course, is the overwhelming cry of support from the rest of the Internet. Facebook status updates urge us to ‘share and put pressure on the Turkish Government’.
People have even gone to the extent of setting up a donation fund for carrying out a full page advertisement in the New York Times—“We want the world to hear from Turks themselves about what’s happening in Turkey. We want the world to support us as we push for true democracy in our country,” the donation plea says. The campaign has raised, so far, $91,000 ---far greater than its initial $53,800 goal.
The question that immediately comes to mind is this: Are all revolutions not equal? Or are some more fashionable than others?
Bangaldesh wants some love!
Where was this Twitter outrage when the Shahbag protests took place in Bangladesh? Why do we see, perhaps, more support from Indians online for a protest happening all the way in Turkey; but very little in comparison for a neighboring country? If anything, the protests in Bangladesh had the Internet as an even greater central, revolving thesis that involved the murder of several atheist bloggers.
From this we can infer two possible conclusions. One, that the Istanbul unrests satisfy more number of conditions required for a perfect Twitter revolution—the subject matter is simple, it is Euro-centric, Turkey has a greater number of online users and so on.
The second inference, which has slightly more sinister origins, is that there is a distinct push to make sure the Turkey protests satisfy these conditions, and as a result paints a somewhat false image of what the demonstrations are turning out to be.
Why am I a little more swayed by the second strain of thought? For the simple reason that there seems to be a very interesting and subtle social media campaign that is intent on pushing out one message—that the world’s spotlight must fall on the Erdogan-led Government.
It almost seems like we, the world, must put pressure on the Government to step down. There almost seems to be an obsessive hankering for public attention—when protestors raise money not to fight and bring about true change, but instead to start placing advertisements… that should tip one off. The advertisement seems even more confusing when you take into the fact that the New York Times has been carrying front-page stories on Turkey for the last few days.
Not all blues
Let’s pause here and take a look at some facts. Erdogan and the AKP (the ruling party) have won the last three elections, each time increasing their support base by nearly 5 per cent. (Of course, yes, here one could interject that the elections were rigged, but nevertheless, the point still stands.)
What is also interesting to see is that the three major opposition parties, the BDP, CHP and TKP, have also started playing a major role in the protests—taking the overall movement quite a bit way from its initial grassroots origin. Reports coming out of Istanbul now indicate that the protestors now show no interest in engaging in dialogue.
On Monday, interestingly, the ruling AKP party’s offices were torched. Why? Many of the Turkish-English blogs also do not speak about how three of the opposition parties are also holding protests against Erdogan’s recent decision to allow Syrian refugees to enter Turkey. How much of what is going on in Turkey is same to what it started out as?
Of course, at this point I am in no way disparaging the protests taking place, only that there is a lot more going on than what meets the eye.
We need to ask ourselves how this issue has blown up very successfully on Twitter. We need to ask ourselves why there seems to be a concentrated social media campaign against Erdogan of the kind we did not see against even Mubarak! For example, many of Erdogan’s quotes against social media and the protestors make a tad bit more sense when you read the whole interview. He talks about how lies easily perpetuate on Twitter, surely a statement nobody can take offense to? The point being here: The closer one is to the tree, the harder it is to see the whole forest.
This is not to say that all Turks who are tweeting are automatically lying. There are definitely problems of violence and brutality apart from the crackdown on personal liberties. But more importantly we need to ask ourselves: What would a terrorist Turk tweet if a terrorist Turk could tweet? Are we being played like a fiddle?
While Twitter revolutions may one day have the potential to be a true revolution, it is important to now think before acting. And for god sakes, don’t donate money to something unless you know exactly where it’s going!