With local elections approaching, the propaganda war on social media has become more pernicious and tense than ever. More than an election campaign and political struggle, the propaganda and counter-propaganda attempts in the Turkish media are reminiscent of World War II radio broadcasts where any black propaganda was legitimized.
In a world war, such excessive psychological warfare can look normal. In a functioning democracy, in a country pursuing accession negotiations with the European Union, such a situation is totally obnoxious and explosive to say the least. Not a day passes by without a so-called "taped conversation" leaked to the social media and immediately relayed by opposition media organs and other networks.
Very much like Signal magazine of the Third Reich during World War II, black propaganda knows no limits, no ethics. From simple private conversations, chatting sequences to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's directives to his collaborators, everything has been recorded, kept, studied, fabricated, falsified and prepared to destabilize the agenda with an ever-increasing number of so-called "scandals."
What really is scandalous is the fact that an unnamed and faceless organization has prepared, unbeknownst to state authorities, security forces and systems huge propaganda machinery, whose authenticity can never be proven, but whose effects are devastating for democracy and can dictate its agenda over the political and intellectual establishment.
It is not an electoral campaign for local governance; it has turned into questioning the dependability of the state structure as a whole. If a prime minister can remain so vulnerable to outrageous propaganda, which one of us can feel safe at home, at work or at all?
The scorched earth policy of the Gülen Movement can be fought through the instruments that any democracy is legitimately entitled to use. But if such an ignominious propaganda war can be accepted as "everyday politics" by the rest of the political elite, it might result in the disappearance of the social contract between the citizens and the state. A simple look towards the Russian Federation can show how dangerous such an evolution can be.
The upcoming elections will no longer be a vote of confidence for the prime minister, but they will be a litmus test for Turkish democracy to deliver a structure where transparency, accountability and participation will become the key principles. It will take a great deal of effort on the part of the opposition to accept the existence of such a danger, but in the aftermath of the elections, everyone should perform a thorough self-evaluation and decide whether Turkey deserves a democratic government and a democratic opposition.
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