The obscene and abusive remarks that German satirist and comedian Jan Böhmermann recently directed at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish people on his late night show on German public television ZDF have been hotly debated for several days. Due to Ankara's harsh response to Böhmermann's impertinent poem, German Chancellor Angela Merkel let the comedian face prosecution. Following this development, he announced that he would leave Germany, but there are also those who support him. Recently, Douglas Murray, who writes for the U.K. weekly Spectator magazine, initiated a competition titled "The President Erdoğan Offensive Poetry Competition." Some might think that the critical aspect of humor is under threat. However, the point in question is nothing more than bigotry that is being tolerated within the bounds of freedom of expression.
First of all, Böhmermann did not criticize the concrete practices and actions of the political figure he satirized. He used cases attributed to the Middle East or Muslims with sexual rhetoric. Obviously, this is an essentialist approach that is nourished by prejudices. Second, who Böhmermann attacked in a systematic and continuous manner is a person who was elected president by receiving votes from the majority of Turkish voters. Therefore, Böhmermann putting the ideas and beliefs of a politician who represents the Turkish state and millions of voters in the same equitation as a stream of disgusting remarks, the slightest of which is that Erdoğan is a zoophile, is not just a problem between two people. Naturally, Turkish people of all political views are offended by Böhmermann's insults. The third and most concrete point is that Böhmermann's expletives and bigoted insults are considered to be hate crimes both morally and legally in all parts of the world. However, anyone apart from those protected by political correctness are vulnerable to such attacks in the West. Individual crimes committed against blacks, Catholics, homosexuals or feminists are considered to be collective threats directed against a community. Moreover, legal sanctions are put in place in addition to social reactions in such cases. For instance, if one discusses the extent of Hitler's genocide in a squabble with a Jewish writer, they will face penal laws in Europe and will be subjected to lawsuits as they committed a hate crime against a religion and its followers by denying the Holocaust. On the contrary, insults of an Asian, African, Muslim or Turk go unpunished. When it comes to these people, one is free to choose any label such as pedophile, harasser and tyrant from the colonial era's barbarism tales and lay into the addressee. No one will call it racist or fascist. Moreover, they will obtain the title of a taboo-breaking liberal. We do not know why Böhmermann wastes his energy insulting Erdoğan and Turks. Perhaps, he is a patient whose psyche and intelligence is stuck in puberty and fails to balance his Oedipal complex due to a severe trauma. Or, as some claim, he is an average comedian who acts in accordance with the orders of wealthy supporters who have good persuasive skills. Who knows, perhaps he is no more than a familiar, simple anti-Middle Eastern fascist.
Regardless of what Böhmermann's problem is, his indifference has already caused great damage. Europeans, and particularly the people of Germany, where millions of Turks, Muslims and Middle Easterners live, have to take up a principled attitude against this bigotry, which eliminates the minimum conditions for integration and inter-societal dialogue. If not, the perspective of the brotherhood of people, which is one of the universal values of humankind, will decline further. Social polarization, which is nourished by those who hide bigotry behind freedom of expression like Böhmermann, will make many of our unbounded problems, including terrorism, chronic. Mind you, bigotry is never funny no matter what mask is put on it.