Monday, November 2, 2015

Authoritarianism in Turkey and the United States + Islamic State Responds to Russia

Turkish president Recep Erdoğan's strategy of tension appears to have paid off. His Justice and Development Party (AKP), confounding pollsters who predicted another dead-heat election, has won a majority in parliament. It took the shredding of a ceasefire with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and sowing divisions in Turkish society that will not be bridged anytime soon, but it guarantees that Erdoğan will remain in power for the foreseeable future and that he will take a crack at revision of the constitution to formalize an executive presidency. Right now the presidency is mostly a ceremonial post, which necessitates that Erdoğan rule through cut-outs like prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Tim Arango and Ceylan Yeginsu report in "Erdogan’s Party in Turkey Regains Parliamentary Majority":
With 99 percent of the votes counted, according to the state broadcaster TRT, the Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., captured 49.3 percent of the popular vote, giving it a solid majority of 316 seats in Parliament.

The victory for the A.K.P. came at great cost to the cohesion of Turkish society. Critics say Mr. Erdogan’s divisive rhetoric, by denigrating opponents as terrorists or traitors, helped polarize the country. And a government crackdown on dissent in the lead-up to the vote, with mobs attacking newspaper offices and a recent raid on a media conglomerate opposed to the government, raised concerns abroad about Turkey’s commitment to democracy.
Erdoğan's raids on and closure of opposition media has an approximate parallel in the United States. The Republican National Committee (RNC), following the CNBC-hosted GOP debate last Wednesday, pulled a debate scheduled for February that was to be televised by NBC News and Telemundo. The feeling among the Republican presidential candidates, as well as the RNC, is that questions from the moderators have been hostile. The candidates are seeking to have more control over the process. To that end, they convened in Alexandria, VA in an attempt to articulate a negotiating position towards the networks.

As Ashley Parker notes in "Republican Campaigns Meet in an Effort to Alter Debates":
They emerged with a modest list of demands, including opening and closing statements of at least 30 seconds; “parity and integrity” on questions, meaning that all candidates would receive similarly substantive questions; no so-called lightning rounds; and approval of any graphics that are aired during the debate.
The campaign representatives also moved to take the Republican National Committee out of the debate negotiating process, calling for the campaigns to negotiate directly with the TV networks over format, and to receive information about the rules and criteria at least 30 days before each debate.
Ben Ginsberg, a top Republican lawyer and debate negotiator who was invited to serve as a facilitator at the meeting, is drafting a letter — without the R.N.C.’s input — that the campaigns plan to send to the networks within 48 hours. Mr. Ginsberg called the committee immediately after the meeting to convey the group’s next steps.
It is hard to generate any sense of outrage on behalf of the corporate networks or the sidelined RNC. The media monopoly and the national duopoly central committees are working hard to make sure that the candidates who have raised the most corporate cheddar are waved through to the general election. This means Hillary, and now, with the approval of billionaire investor Paul Singer, Marco Rubio.

Nonetheless, the orchestrated Republican attacks on the liberal bias of the corporate mainstream media reek of authoritarianism.

Sadly, as Erdoğan proved again yesterday, authoritarianism works. It is just in the case of the CNBC debate brouhaha authoritarianism is being used against the font of authority, the mainstream corporate media. So who knows how this is all going to play out in the GOP primary.

I think it is pretty safe to say that the corporate mainstream has successfully circled the wagons around Hillary. With the phony challenge of a Biden bid successfully surmounted, her first debate performance hailed as a commanding victory and the Benghazi committee hearing rapidly receding in her rear-view mirror, Hillary is all set to roll up Sanders come Super Tuesday.

A triumphant Erdoğan means that Europe will come a-calling again in search of a solution to the refugee crisis, a crisis which promises to grow more acute. Turkey's election in June, the one that failed to deliver Erdoğan his majority, was purported to be a referendum of Turkish disapproval of the war in Syria. Now that Erdoğan is in possession of his majority I would imagine that Turkish support for jihadist networks in Syria and attacks on Kurds will be amplified.

The downing of a Russian charter jet in Egypt is clearly the work of jihadists. Islamic State in the Sinai is claiming responsibility. Yet the West is putting up a smokescreen, saying that it couldn't be a jihadist group because such groups don't possess surface-to-air missiles. Poppycock. No such hedging was indulged when it came to blaming Novorossiyan forces for the downing of MH17. What we have here is a reprisal for Russia's forceful entry into the war in Syria.

Russia's reply should be interesting. For what it is worth, if I were a ruling member of the House of Saud, I would be nervous.


  1. Lying in bed this a.m. I listened to NPR's morning show. They said there was some kind of program that monitored all the flights around the world, available, the reporter said, so that grandma can find out where your flight is. They had the destruction down to the second. How come this amazing system, whatever it is, wasn't available for the two downed Malaysian flights?

    1. No doubt the various intelligence agencies have the answer. What the public gets is the information war. The David Kirkpatrick story today is interesting in pointing out the contradiction implicit in the rejection of terrorism as the cause of downing the Metrojet:

      "The Russian and Egyptian authorities have both sought to rule out an act of terrorism even as they have warned others against premature speculation about the results of their continuing investigation.

      "President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt on Tuesday dismissed claims of responsibility by a branch of the Islamic State as 'propaganda' aiming to harm 'the stability and security of Egypt and the image of Egypt.' But in the same interview with the BBC, Mr. Sisi also said that it would 'take time to clarify' the causes of the crash because the investigation was just beginning."