Twitter, Shmitter and the Overwhelming Irony of it All

"You were warned Melih, enough already. Lots of love, Tayyip"
My own incredibly lo-fi attempts at pictorial satire to one side, it is obvious that the biggest victim to Turkey's Twitter ban will be the Mayor of Ankara, Melih Gökçen, who's addiction to Tweeting has provided comedy gold for at least the past year or so. Here's my favourites:

1) Making the most common mis-spelling in the Turkish language in a tongue-in-cheek style. Many detractors didn't catch the purposeful irony, but it's the desperate cry of 'I INVITE YOU ALL TO SEND YOUR MESSAGES :)' that recalls some the most self-obsessed 16 year old girls on facebook, which really makes me smile.

 2. Stating obvious facts and banal activities like 'hoovering the roof' and 'bathing the plants' can wind up even the most passive of Twitter users like myself (I have tweeted about 10 things in the last year. But Melih breaks the mold with the immortal 'Today is Friday 7th June. Tomorrow it will be Saturday 8th'. As testiment to the fact that Turkish social media users can be the most deliciously sarcastic on the planet, the first comment simply stated 'Melih mate, this is the most sensible thing you've ever tweeted'.

3. And finally, everyone's favourite. On the week when several ministers were forced to resign and their children were being rounded up after a spate of corruption charges, some joker commented on one of Melih's tweets that 'They've got your son', to which, rather than calling his boy or at least checking out the latest news, Melih hastily typed 'WHERE DID YOU READ THAT'. The user replied 'Only kidding, but tell him to stay indoors, it's going down out there'.


The Twitter ban was the talk of the town yesterday at work. Despite the fact that everyone accessed it perfectly fine in the morning it was displays of indignation from everyone who walked in the room. Yes, it is a blatant means of trying to curtail more information being released about government scandals that comes after half the prosecutors and police involved in the scandal have been replaced. That is the essential problem. 

However, this ban is no more enforcable than the ban on alcohol after 10 (which you can easily get if you a) put it in a bag before you leave the shop, or b) go to a bar). It is just as oppressive as the smoking ban, which is only really observed in public buildings. Apart from universities. And police stations. Essentially, these laws are simply symbolic aimed at looking tough, but in effect, actually succeeding in doing very little apart from moving the agenda from corruption, to censorship. Job well done.

And on this point of censorship, is where the Gezi supporters, previously looking so fresh and independent, a rupture in Turkish history, have begun to look like sour janus-faced old-regime conservatives. 

I sat down with a group of colleagues swapping snippy remarks about the ban and interrupted unannounced, with the slightly jolting question of 'Is there a party in Turkey that you think wouldn't do internet censorship?'

After a palpable pause one girl offered 'The CHP'. Yes, Mustafa Kemal's old party, who in 2008 said not a word in protest as their friends in the state prosecutor's office banned Youtube for over two years because of a blastphemous, low-quality video showing the leader in a toilet bowl, were suddenly deemed to be the savours of internet freedom. 

I thus offered that if censorship was the real issue, that it was one for the whole political class to think about.

However, I was cut off by another colleague, who said matter-of-factly, 'But that was about Atatürk canım, that wa reasonable'.

Thus, while Gezi may have represented a break from the past in terms of public partication in Turkish politics, the ghosts of the past continue to linger in the air, and pollute what could otherwise be a genuine beckoning of internalised democratic values. However, despite being, for the first time in Republican history, pushed to the margins of political influence, the old-school 'modernists' may still not quite have learnt the lesson that needs to be learnt, that you cant only complain when your own group's rights are being taken away...

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