Last week, a group of around 20 anti-American protesters threw red paint at three U.S. navy sailors in plain clothes and tried to put sacks over their heads in Istanbul's Eminönü neighborhood, near the inlet of Sarayburnu, where their warship was docked after returning from a military exercise in the Black Sea. The protesters were reportedly inspired by an operation dating back to July 2003 when the U.S.'s occupation of Iraq came to a boiling point and U.S. troops detained 11 Turkish soldiers and put sacks over their heads in the northern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah. Following the incident in Istanbul, 12 activists from the group were detained by security forces and the government condemned the attack in a clear and strong manner.
Of course, the protest had broad repercussions in the American media. However, the initial news report covering the incident in The New York Times was rather problematic. Even though the newspaper slightly corrected its piece upon raising criticism, it "carefully" avoided revealing the background of the activist group, almost holding the Turkish government responsible for the attack. It is within the bounds of tolerability that foreigners may not clearly distinguish political groups in Turkey; however, the report was prepared by a Turkish correspondent. So, it was impossible for her not to know the political identity of protestors and their aversion to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.
As is widely known, the group, Turkey's All Youth Association (TGB), is an extremely neo-nationalist group, which has recently grabbed headlines since it appeared before the court for allegedly being a part of attempted coups against the AK Party government. In other words, it is possible to consider this hardline neo-nationalist group among the most radical opponents of the government. The TGB, which often fiercely criticizes the government due to its pro-American policies, also chanted slogans accusing the AK Party for becoming a collaborator with the U.S. during the aforementioned protest. It seems that the correspondent compiling the news report for The New York Times preferred to hide the protestors' background, which would help to explain the true motive behind the protest, due to her personal animosity against the government. This subjective reporting style of hers is not surprising at all, as far as her previous much-criticized and unfair pieces are considered. For now, I would like to leave the question of how much this attitude is consistent with journalistic ethics to American readers and to The New York Times editorial board.
Double standards deepen violence
The following statement by Jen Psaki, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State, constitutes another aspect of debate over principles and ethics. She said, "While we support the right to peaceful protest, this event clearly crossed the line from peaceful protest to violence and threats." Psaki's remark pushes our minds to question the attitude that the U.S. adopted during the months-long Gezi Park protests in Turkey. At the time when the Gezi incidents escalated, many U.S. officials evaluated various acts of vandalism - as well as marching into the Prime Ministry office with a duty vehicle - as "peaceful demonstrations." Now, as the violence is aimed at their own soldiers, this time U.S. officials describe this way of protesting as extremely violent and threatening. Meanwhile, I cannot skip the information that the same TGB was involved in the Gezi Park protests that were actually supported by the U.S.
U.S. media outlets and officials who condemn violence when it targets them but approve of it when it targets others should give up this hypocritical attitude since this double standard deepens violence and often harms those who use it as a political instrument. Even though a great majority of Turkish people do not approve of this type of action, they cannot help but reiterate a thought provoking proverb when they see double standards: Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.