Because he did it again!
Dan Bilefsky of the New York Times summarizes it cleverly:
“Magnificent Century,” a sort of Ottoman-era “Sex and the City” set during the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, is wildly popular in Turkey and across the Middle East. But one person who is decidedly not a fan is Turkey’s conservative prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is so incensed at the show’s steamy depiction of the heroic sultan that he has urged legal action against the series.
In order to deconstruct Erdogan's latest outburst, firstly let's analyze what he literally said, then we should put it in context.
What are Erdogan's key remarks?
I believe there are two of them:
1) "That’s not the Sultan Suleiman we know, that’s not the Lawgiver we know, 30 years of his life was spent on horseback, not in a palace like you see in TV shows."
2) “I publicly condemn the directors of those shows and the owners of the television station. We have warned the authorities on this matter and await a decision by the judiciary."
As Emre Peker of the Wall Street Journal noted, these remarks may be a symptom "of the government’s intensifying effort to meddle in people’s daily lives."
The latter remark shows, Erdogan is not only eager to limit the freedom of expression as a conservative autocrat, but also he doesn't even hesitate to draw a line between himself and the judiciary anymore, which is another alarming development for the Turkish democracy. According to the latest report by The World Justice Project, the Turkish judiciary ranks 76th out of 97 countries, considering the fundamental rights.
Especially Erdogan's former remark, on the other hand, may also be hinting about his evolving mindset: From a political peacemaker, say in the Kurdish problem, into an advocate of military solutions.
Horseback riding in the mountains of northern Iraq to hunt the PKK is easily replacable with the reconcialitory alternative, in terms of a neo-Ottomanist rhetoric. After all, the Ottomans were not only a multicultural empire with a relatively higher level of official tolerance, but also a state of conquerors and pillagers.
And, as I explained in a recent post that Reuters quoted yesterday, Suleiman the Magnificent, the greatest Ottoman sultan according to many historians, is the perfect symbol for Erdogan here.
So, this is how Erdogan utilized Suleiman to construct a new manifestation of his political discourse.
But we should also ask: Why did he do it?
The answer should be in timing.
As Nebahat Cehre, who played the part of Suleiman’s mother in the show, observed: "I think the purpose is to change the agenda.”
Once again, Erdogan proves why he is probably the most successful Turkish politician ever. He is a magnificent spin doctor. He directs the public debate like a maestro. Or, in a more accurate term, like a magician.
Erdogan showed us his right hand and it instantly caught our attention for a week.
Meanwhile, his left hand was cloaking a NATO delegation which visited Turkey for a recon mission before setting up a Patriot missile defence system against Syria:
A critical decision which some see as a prelude to an all-out war...
Yes, the public still opposes a war on Syria, but the master doesn't seem to have scared of from such a possibility. He should be confident that he will always have his Suleiman card in a hidden pocket.
Here is a comparison... Which countries the real Suleyman had conquered as of 1566 and in which countries the popular TV show of the fictional Suleyman is being broadcast nowadays: