German and Arsenal footballer Mezut Ozil is drawing ire after he took a few photos with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Succumbing to the media criticism and racist innuendos of those serving in the German Soccer body, he resigned from international football. But does taking a few photos with Erdogan merit a media meltdown?
Yes, Erdogan jails critics.
Yes, Erdogan is corrupt and plunders state resources.
Yes, Erdogan is terrible at managing the economy.
Yes, Erdogan has the nerve to name universities after himself.
Yes, Erdogan supports religious fundamentalism.
But so do the Saudi and Emirati princes that Mezut Ozil took photos with, where was the outrage then? Compared to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Turkey (even under Erdogan) is a liberal bastion and a civil rights utopia. I would post Leo Messi’s photos with Middle-Eastern dictators but that would be blasphemy.
There are legitimate grounds to criticize Ozil; why is he still at Arsenal instead of a real football club or does he even know that blonde streaks went out of style when his mother was still in Turkey? But those bitching about Ozil taking a photo with Erdogan, ought to look at with whom the 1936 Olympics athletes were posing. And the less said about Dennis Rodman, the better!
Erdogan got 53% of the vote because Turks believe he is the right man to lead the country forward. If he won the election outright, it is because values such as free press are dispensable to the Turkish people. Culture, history, and communal psychology produce a different set of values for each society. Democracy does not cease being a democracy if the values of a people are unaligned with traditional western values and interests.
But how much do the Western democrats care about the traditional western democratic values themselves?
President Barack Obama, the most perfectest President of the most perfectest country to have ever existed, prosecuted 3 times as many journalists as all previous 43 Presidents combined. Years before Erdogan would jail Turkish dissidents, Obama was already calling hits on American citizens without any due process. And unlike Erdogan, he charged a hefty $10,000 for a photo opportunity. You couldn’t afford that on Ozil’s salary now, could you?
Some Western leaders have even suggested booting Turkey off of NATO because ‘it is not a stable democracy anymore’ while they support Madrid’s efforts to curb any chances of a national referendum by imprisoning Catalonian politicians.
But Turkey was never a ‘real member’ of NATO to begin with. Turkey is just a cork into the orifice of a Pandora Box that keeps the evils of Middle East from reaching Europe. To keep Syrian migrants from flooding the European Union, Turkey was asked to set up migrant camps and resettle 2.2 Million refugees while other ‘real European’ nations express reservations about resettling less than 1500.
Even repeated missile attacks on Turkey prompted much less of a NATO response than if terrorists with flu so much as coughed in the direction of the non-NATO nation of Israel.
Erdogan’s rule is a threat to institutions that apply checks and balances to those in power, but Erdogan himself is democratically elected and thus enjoys the mandate to undermine those very institutions. But he is hardly the only European leader on this course. The Polish government is purging the Supreme Court, Hungary sets Israel as its’ role model as it chooses identity over democracy, the Austrian administration’s nativist outlook as it makes life harder for immigrants, Salvini and Luigi’s remarks about the Roma, and refusal to ensure the safety of migrant boats.
While the media uses the term ‘Eurosceptic’ to describe White/Christian nations defying the liberal world order when it comes to the unrest in Turkey, it’s all because of Erdogan. The same neglect and trail of broken promises that are making Europeans Eurosceptic (except the British, they are just being assholes) made the image of an authoritative Erdogan more appealing to Turks.
But where the media uses the ‘populism’ to explain the rise of authoritarians like Trump, Orban, and Duda, (and even Le Pen) it uses ‘religious fundamentalism’ and ‘Islamist insurgency’ to describe what is happening in Turkey.
Turks voted for Erdogan for the same reason Americans voted for Trump, Italians voted for hardliners, Austrians voted for Sebastian Kurz, and Hungarians voted for Orban; it’s a scary world out there, you cannot trust anyone, every nation for itself. Or as the old Turkish saying goes: The only friend of a Turk is a Turk. You can use this saying to describe the political scene of any country experiencing a populist wave.
So if you were Ozil (and hopefully at a better club), would posing in a photo with Erdogan be any different than smiling in a photo with Poland’s Andrzej Duda, Hungary’s Orban, Saudi’s Salman, Italy’s Salvini, Israel’s Netanyahu or even America’s Trump?
Or would it piss you off that no one criticized Gundogan for the same photo and his club actually competes for the Premier League and Champions League every year?