Reuters: “Turkey’s Erdogan says U.S.-based cleric a pawn backed by a ‘mastermind'” The following may be of use to those not familiar with the oratory and posturings of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Turkish citizens, perhaps even more so among those who dislike Erdoğan, remark on his remarkable powers of oration. They cannot find any other public figure of comparable power of speech. Perhaps only Adolph Hitler was as great a spellbinder. This is noted without any suggestion that their ideologies are comparable. Turkey, after all, is a country where hidden agendas are commonplace.
It is also a place of both imagined and real conspiracies. If the ratio of imaginary to real were 1000:1, the reality of some conspiracies juices the imagination for the rest. In the midst of this, Erdoğan has a characteristic shared to some extent by the most forceful of leaders, but particularly, of demagogues. The science fiction writer L Sprague de Camp, whose interests included extreme beliefs, described a personality trait he denoted as the “Right Man” hypothesis.
Quite simply, the right man is always right, never wrong. This delusion promotes accession to power. Since one is always right, one never anticipates in one’s self the “Peter Principle.” Hence, the higher the better, at whatever the cost to the body politic. Because, the right man can never be wrong. It takes a lot of chutzpah to think of one’s self as the best choice for head of state. A properly functioning democracy attempts to harness the drive in a productive way, with statutory limits on the rightness of the Right Man. The Turkey of today lacks this.
The “mastermind” theme was most notoriously used by Erdoğan and the AKP on March 18, 2015, when an AKP propaganda outlet broadcast an “expose” that revived the myth of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. AL-Monitor ran an excellent article, “Unraveling the AKP’s ‘Mastermind’ Conspiracy Theory”. It perceptively notes that the antisemitism appeared to be a drop-in conspiracy theory, while the real target was Gulen.
Combined with overall vagueness, this indicates a desire to fabricate conspiracy theories that can be devoured by the public, while ignoring odd tastes, by appealing to their prejudices. This bears directly on Erdoğan’s current problem. Fethullah Gülen may be responsible for the coup, but it is unprovable, and likely to stay that way. How can Erdoğan fashion a response to root out the conspirators, and perhaps sympathizers, considering that considerable numbers of innocents are likely to be victimized in the process? Turkish propagandists have a sophisticated strategy, to fabricate a conspiracy (meaning different from the real one of the coup) that will both agitate the masses, and make them tolerant of oppression.
The coup had leadership, which has yet to be named. They may be named and punished, or simply punished. Not naming permits creation of a new propaganda myth, or augmentation of the one of the 6/18/2015 broadcast, a permanent imagined threat to Turkey.
Reliance on this elaborate propaganda to sustain Erdoğan’s power base is a likely strategy. We may then hear more of a caliphate in Turkey.