Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's recent visit to Cologne and its aftermath sparked much discussion. During his visit, Erdoğan managed to rally a multitude of people in a spacious arena, which can hardly be achieved even by a German leader in his or her own homeland. There was such a tremendous and exhilarated crowd in the arena that some subsequent interpretations proposed Erdoğan inaugurated his electoral campaign in Germany. Truthfully, Erdoğan portrayed himself as an influential leader who is participating in the presidential election with a mass audience.
However, in the meantime, approximately the same number of people who came out to support Erdoğan in the arena also gathered on the others side of the Rhine River to protest him.
All of this is too normal to be faced in any overseas journey. But here is the starting point of the oddity: The coexistence of a jam-packed arena with a pro-Erdoğan crowd on the one hand and anti-Erdoğan protests on the other. Here, the German press seemed to collaborate to launch a common anti-Erdoğan campaign.
As a journalist who follows the German media closely, I don't think I have ever seen such a consensus among them on any other subject. Particularly the Bild newspaper, but also other news outlets from the most respected ones like Die Welt and Der Spiegel to the tabloids such as Frankfurter Allgemeine, they all published against Erdoğan as if they'd taken a vow together. Sure, everyone has the right to criticize. Although the Germans are famous for their ability to manage emotions, I have never seen them as passionate as they were on this matter. I did not happen to see any level-headed analysis regarding Erdoğan or even an attempt from their side to make sense of what is really happening.
Let us assume that Erdoğan is the exact opposite of the familiar Turkish politician that consents to all that Europe stipulates. Let us digest that he is declared persona non grata by the German media as he responded outrageously to German President Gauck because of his reckless criticism during his latest visit to Turkey. Again, let us suppose that they have the right to utter the strictest criticism against Erdoğan by pushing the limits of fair criticism. However, there is one point that I cannot so easily accept.
The onsite press handed the microphone to many people and asked their opinions concerning Erdoğan's visit. They interviewed a number of writers and Alevis living in Germany. All of the interviews had something in common: a hardline anti-Erdoğan stance (also see the article by Akif Pirinççi in the Bild). In this jostle, there was not even a single microphone handed to an Erdoğan supporter.
What is the task of a journalist apart from wondering? As far as I know, an overwhelming majority of Turkish expats in Germany are on the side of the AK Party.
For example, right before me is a questionnaire conducted by Heidelberg Forum. It suggests that the percentage of AK Party voters among Turkish expats is 65. All the surveys fulfilled so far indicate that the AK Party is undeniably the strongest and Erdoğan is the favorite leader. Then, is it not the normal behavior of a journalist to pick everybody's brain and strive to understand the opinions of thousands of people? Unfortunately, this is not true in the case of the German press. If you follow the German media, you will think that no one supports Erdoğan in Germany.
To me, this strangeness is dependent on two things: The first is the disparaging and non-embracing attitude toward Turks in Germany. The second is Germany's tendency to perceive Erdoğan as they wish him to be, by disregarding the fact that his challenging, groundbreaking and sometimes outrageous, and minatory discourse comes as an instant outburst of anger.
It appears that Erdoğan perplexed the German press so much that they disregarded journalistic principles. Germany needs to engage in self-criticism and evaluate this abnormality at length.
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