The concept of post-truth became very popular during the Covid period. Because at that time, when everyone had to stay at home because of the pandemic, it was very easy to manage the perception of reality and truth through the Internet. Everyone had almost all their relationships online and spent most of their day online. In fact, the concept of post-truth began to gain popularity before Covid. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary named it the word of the year in 2016. However, we were able to feel the concept in real terms during the Covid era, as digitalization accelerated.
Post-truth is an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. As seen here, emotions and personal beliefs are prominent. In this way, public opinion can be shaped, and while objective facts lose their importance, the created reality replaces the truth.
In this context, autocratic and dictatorial leaders in the Middle East and North Africa can create a post-truth universe by using the people’s sacred values, with the advantage of technological tools and the power given by their domination over a significant part of the media. One of the best examples of this situation can be seen in Türkiye.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled Türkiye for more than 20 years. Although he claimed to have embraced European Union membership and Western values in the early periods of his power, in the following years he established an autocratic style of leadership. Especially after a failed military coup attempt in July 2016, Türkiye began to evolve into an autocratic regime ruled by one man. With the introduction of the presidential system in 2018, Türkiye officially and de facto became an autocracy.
Of course, this did not happen suddenly. Türkiye has gradually reached this point. Erdogan claimed that he was abandoning the values he had previously embraced in order to gain the trust of the people who made up a significant part of the country’s population and who wanted Türkiye to become a modern democracy that was a member of the European Union. However, it soon became clear that this was not the case. In the meantime, however, he gradually managed to establish his dominance over a significant part of the country’s media. Erdogan first targeted the long-standing military tutelage and broke the influence of the country’s former elites. Later, he turned on his allies who had helped him in this effort, neutralizing them as well. Erdogan made his final move after the failed military coup attempt in July 2016. He declared a state of emergency after the coup attempt and this situation lasted for three years. Although the state of emergency was legally lifted in 2021, it can be said that the de facto state of emergency continues. With the constitutional amendment that took place during the state of emergency, Erdogan implemented the changes that made him the new Sultan of Türkiye through a referendum. The game he played through the Supreme Election Board in this referendum was also very successful.
Erdogan’s whole game plan has turned Türkiye into a post-truth laboratory. Since the beginning of his rule, Erdogan has been able to manipulate the feelings, personal beliefs and sacred religious sentiments of the people for his own purposes.
In chronological order, he first took advantage of the population’s long-term fatigue with economic problems, periods of military tutelage, and failed coalitions. He was able to come to power with a democratic approach that advocated European Union membership and Türkiye ‘s rapprochement with the West. The illusion created here is important. Because he was able to convince a significant part of society. In the first years of his rule, a significant part of society supported Erdoğan as part of the struggle against military tutelage. However, while Erdoğan was destroying the old tutelage, he started to build his own tutelage system. In this post-truth period, while the whole country thought that it was on the way to having a country where democracy, freedom and the rule of law prevail, Erdoğan built his own autocracy.
When the first phase was completed, Erdogan gradually started to get rid of his allies who supported him and started to fill his circle with new companions. In this phase, the rule of law, democracy and freedoms began to take a back seat. In the period of 2012-2013, Erdoğan started to openly carry out his anti-democratic practices. In this period, Erdoğan began to control a significant part of the media and started to use media institutions as important tools of his own post-truth world. After the Gezi events of 2013, a new era began for Erdogan, who no longer wanted to hear contradictory voices. By consolidating his power between 2013 and 2016, Erdoğan was able to manipulate nationalist sentiments during this period.
The date of July 15, 2016 was a milestone for the Erdogan regime in every sense. After the failed military coup attempt, Türkiye has now become a complete autocracy. Hundreds of thousands of people have been fired from their jobs without any reason, arrested, tortured and Türkiye has become a complete police state. During this period, when no dissenting voices were allowed, the people living in Türkiye were hypnotized by the use of fear as an important tool, as well as by the means of technology and media.
During this period, it was spread that Türkiye was one of the few countries in the world, especially in the field of military technologies, that Türkiye was prosperous as never before, that Erdogan’s economic system was the best in the world and that all countries in the world were jealous of Türkiye. In fact, it is possible to compare this period with George Orwell’s novel 1984. Almost all the tools used in Orwell’s world were also used in Erdogan’s Türkiye.
The latest stage of Erdogan’s post-truth world was revealed in the two major earthquakes that occurred in southeastern Türkiye on February 6, 2023. The state organs clearly failed to respond to the tragedy that occurred after these earthquakes. However, the Erdogan regime did not even accept this situation, which was supported by facts, and tried to convince people that the post-earthquake efforts were perfect. However, perhaps for the first time, the people did not believe it and the first breaches were made in the stronghold of the long-standing post-truth empire in Türkiye.
As a result, the polls for the presidential elections, which will be held two months later on May 14, 2023, show that Erdogan could lose the elections for the first time in 20 years. However, Erdogan should not be underestimated. Erdogan still has important tools at his disposal to continue his post-truth empire. Over the years, he and his close circle have committed many crimes, including crimes against humanity. If Erdogan changes power through a normal democratic election, it seems inevitable that he and his close circle will be brought to justice. Therefore, the next two months are likely to be the two hottest months in Türkiye in the 21st century. Will Türkiye continue to be a post-truth empire? Or will it leave behind a dark past to take its place in the modern world? I think we will get the answer to these questions very soon.
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