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Turkey’s Prime Minister and that pesky social media

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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has officially blamed, drunks, extremists and Twitter for the ills that Turkey is facing with protestors in Taksim Gezi Square. Drunks, maybe…extremists, possibly…but Twitter? Isn’t that like blaming smoke signals for Custer’s Last Stand. It feels like a serious mix-up of cause and effect.

“Worst menace to society”

Erdogan called Twitter and social media, “The worst menace to society,” yesterday, a very interesting development in a place where the unifying complaint by the protestors is Erdogan’s heavy-handed, autocratic style of leadership.

Let me get this straight…while Erdogan is busy defending himself against charges of being a dictator, he’s complaining loudly that the people shouldn’t have such an easy way to communicate with each other. He believes that faster communication (reported on Sunday at 3,000 tweets per second) is anti-democratic. Interestingly, what appears to have driven people into the arms of Twitter is the nearly complete lack of coverage of the protests by established media outlets.

Replacing the press

This may not end up being a Turkish Spring, but it is a very interesting lesson about silencing the traditional channels and in effect, fueling the need for and use of social media instead.

In a very telling quote, the Guardian reported:

Human rights groups have repeatedly expressed their concerns about the lack of freedom of expression in Turkey, and Erdogan routinely criticises media outlets and journalists who do not agree with his views and those of his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP).

Opposition politicians urged Erdogan to listen to people instead of trying to silence them.

Rather than government transparency, the lack of transparency of Turkish media led to protestors becoming the only ‘reporters’ on the scene, streaming out videos of the police overreaction to the initial protests. It’s truly ironic that Erdogan complains about the channel that popped up in response to his suppression of the press. Erdogan points to his government being democratically elected, but in today’s social media age, a majority can’t suppress a minority simply through the ballot box.

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