Three days ago, Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan underwent a medical operation.
We, as the Turkish media, learned about it only yesterday.
And today, it is reported that the surgery was actually a serious one, as a part of Erdoğan's colon was removed with laparoscopy.
We are getting updated about the health conditions of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez regularly, but not Erdoğan's.
Well, first of all, there are a lot of good journalists who are still arrested! I had written about Nedim Şener and Ahmet Şık before. As he will complete 1000 days behind prison bars tomorrow, I should also mention Mustafa Balbay, who was recently elected as an MP for main opposition CHP. Ergün Poyraz, an author whom I can't describe as a journalist because of his very shoddy work, was arrested in July 2007 and still imprisoned without conviction!
Secondly, Erdoğan is one of the greatest politicians in recent history.
Yes, I really believe that he is better in shaping the public opinion than the modern masters like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, because he doesn't use a spin doctor. He is one of the best himself!
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Erdoğan may not have announced the medical procedure three days ago, because changing the news agenda wouldn't be in his favor then. He had just started to stage "the Dersim apology" spectacle and it was going just as he planned.
For those who may not know, a decentralizing, feudal rebellion by some Alevi Kurdish tribes was suppressed by the Turkish government near Dersim in 1930s. Tens of thousands of Alevi Kurds were killed and thousands more forced into exile. The young Republic considered the rebellion as a deadly counter-revolutionary movement and crushed it violently. It was the interwar period when fascism was on the rise in the world, so the international public remained mostly silent.
Although I certainly believe that the Dersim massacre was an ethnocide that Turkey should have officially apologized long time ago, I'm also not fool enough to fall for Erdoğan's trick here.
Firstly, it is remarkable that Erdoğan has suddenly raised the issue. He came out of nowhere to put the blame on the CHP, even though the predecessors of Erdoğan's party (like Celal Bayar and Adnan Menderes) were also in charge of state affairs during the one party rule of the Dersim decade.
This is why today's main opposition CHP, which is a lot different than 1930s ruling CHP, has just called on the government to release all documents from state archives that relate to the Dersim tragedy, a move that Erdoğan's government rejected in 2002.
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All in all, Erdoğan's apology is empty words, but it doesn't mean that it is not functional. The greatest magicians divert the attention of the audience to do the trick. Erdoğan keeps doing it all the time. If he suddenly raises an issue, one should look elsewhere.
When Erdoğan announced that Turkish warships may start to escort Gaza flotillas, the Turkish government had silently accepted the NATO demand to establish a radar base in eastern Turkey. When the public was busy talking about Erdoğan's latest blow against Israel, the Israeli government was actually happy to have a NATO radar against Iran.
When Erdoğan slammed Germany to help the PKK, it was recently revealed that his government was carrying out secret negotiations with the terrorists. Turks are emotional and proud, especially when it comes to foreign intervention in life-and-death situations like the PKK terrorism, so almost everybody forgot about the negotiations and criticized Germany.
Erdoğan's Dersim apology should also be considered as one of his masterful political tactics. It was just a cheap cloak to hide the potentially unpopular bill which would allow certain young men to buy their way out of military service. For Erdoğan's low-income voter base, the latest bill could be considered unpatriotic. At the same time, the revenue that would be created with the bill could help the government to finance a significant portion of the huge budget deficit. This is why Erdoğan, who was talking bitterly in a nationalist tone against such bills just a year ago, did the trick again.
Tens of thousands of people who can pay 12,000 euro to legally dodge the draft still care about the upcoming bill, of course. However, the vast majority of the public is talking about Dersim now. And when Erdoğan will start using the additional income from the legal draft-dodgers to finance his new populist policies before the upcoming local elections, the same low-income voting base will surely be delighted.
Some international observers who may now naively presume that Turkey is beginning to face the dark chapters in its history should be ready to be disappointed, because Erdoğan's apology is not the beginning of anything but more of classical AKP politics.
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So, Erdoğan sees that he was once again successful in reshaping the public opinion, reaching both of his goals of undermining the main opposition and changing the news agenda without losing anything. Then why should he have diverted the ongoing public debate when it was still in favor of him, because he just had a medical operation? Such news can wait...
After all, whenever we need it, our prime minister is giving us all the information himself, isn't he?
And why should we need journalists, anyway? To point out to such spins?
Jail them all.
Hail to the spin doctor.