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Open Grave: Western Media Memory Hole Pre-Dug for Turkey

Turkey would seem to have every element that makes the heart of an idealistic Western journo go pitty-pat:

Democracy under attack, journalists getting detained and beaten up, fascism on the march, moderate, middle-class protesters getting shredded by Islamic suicide bombers with alleged government connivance, rampant skullduggery in the run-up to a crucial election on November 1, Turkish government backing ISIL and murdering Kurds in northern Iraq, the overall horror presided over by a sinister supervillain from a palace with the size and aesthetic of an Atlantic City casino…

…add to that brave, eloquent and, most importantly, English-speaking local journalists desperate to get the word out.

Whaddya get today with a Google search for Turkey?

Turkey ‘shoot out with ISIS’ leaves police and suspects dead via the Beeb, with the Guardian, Reuters, ABC News & USA Today running the same story.

This action, I suspect, was a PR op meant to deflect attention from Turkey’s “soft on ISIL” rep, solidified by the fact that one of the suicide bombers who been able to perpetrate the horror at the Ankara train station thanks to zero security provided by the Turkish police was the member of a “well-known” ISIL cell, “well known” because the cell had also harbored his brother, the suicide bomber who had killed 32 Kurdish activists at Suruc on July 20.

What else did the Western media give us?

A couple stemwinders on Erdogan’s coalition options if the AKP doesn’t win an absolute majority on November 1;

And some joshing about Turkey playing with the idea of postponing daylight savings to avoid confusion on election day.

Inside Turkey, the “slaughter the usual suspects” ISIL story didn’t even make the top 3 at Hurriyet Daily News.  Readers continued their love affair with the account of the bizarre musings of a pro-Erdogan pundit in Canada:

A pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) columnist has claimed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would be the ‘caliph,’ or leader of Sunni Muslims in the world, under the much-anticipated presidential system.

Yeni Akit columnist Abdurrahman Dilipak said the rooms of the controversial presidential palace would be reserved for the representatives from nations under the caliphate, adding that Turkey’s caliphate had never been abolished.

“If Tayyip Erdoğan shifts to a presidential system, he will probably assign advisors from the regions under the caliphate and open representative agencies of all Islam Union nations in that 1,005-room [the presidential palace]…

Meanwhile, here’s some stories that showed up on Twitter in the last three days:

On Sept.2 #Turkey‘s @todayszamancom reported on gov’t plans to seize critical media. It happened today http://www.todayszaman.com/anasayfa_govt-plans-to-seize-critical-media-group-ahead-of-election_398081.html …

UNBELIEVABLE: There is not even a court judgement ordering a seizure of major conglomorate that owns TVs & newspaper. Sheer banditry.

The judge at Ankara 5th Penal Court of Peace, a year old court dubbed by #Erdogan as special project, orders seizure of #Turkey media group.

Those tweets courtesy of Abdullah Bozkurt@abdbozkurt , a Zaman journalist.  Follow him!  Retweet him!

Here’s some interesting items I tweeted courtesy of Today’s Zaman (follow me! retweet me! @chinahand):

RTÜK may cancel contracts with stream providers over censorship http://www.todayszaman.com/national_rtuk-may-cancel-contracts-with-stream-providers-over-censorship_402290.html …

Only 25 percent believe ISIL responsible for Ankara bombings, survey reveals http://www.todayszaman.com/national_only-25-percent-believe-isil-responsible-for-ankara-bombings-survey-reveals_402175.html …

ISIL members housed in state-owned guesthouses, CHP deputy claims http://www.todayszaman.com/national_isil-members-housed-in-state-owned-guesthouses-chp-deputy-claims_402368.html …

CHP has secret Oslo documents that Kılıçdaroğlu claimed to have seen http://www.todayszaman.com/national_chp-has-secret-oslo-documents-that-kilicdaroglu-claimed-to-have-seen_402377.html … (this concerns rumors of a secret deal between Erdogan and Kurdish militants)

Bombs sent to ISIL by truck being exploded in Turkey now, says former deputy http://www.todayszaman.com/national_bombs-sent-to-isil-by-truck-being-exploded-in-turkey-now-says-former-deputy_402387.html …

And that’s in addition to the big bang/disappointing squib…

CHP deputies: gov’t rejects probe into Turkey’s role in Syrian chemical attack http://www.todayszaman.com/diplomacy_turkey-says-new-wave-of-syrian-refugees-will-head-for-europe_402329.html …

That’s the allegation by opposition lawmakers that they have a dossier documenting Turkey’s organization of the notorious 2014 sarin gas attack at Ghouta, Syria, as a false flag operation, organized with the purpose of drawing the US into direct military action against Assad.

The US was ready to go to war over this incident, in which 1300 people died.  That’s four times as many people as died in the MH17 shootdown.  Even applying the “brown on the ground” casualty discount rate vs. air travelers, many of whom if not all were Western and middle class, the US intervention angle—and the corroboration the report apparently provides to Seymour Hersh’s story  —would seem to make it newsworthy.

But zip in the United States.  CounterPunch ran my story, basically a stub post blockquoting the Today’s Zaman report; five days later it’s still the top hit when you google “Turkey Syria Sarin”.

There are a multitude of excuses for not running with the various stories concerning Erdogan/AKP/deep state wet work coming out of Turkey.

The stories are coming out courtesy of the CHP, an opposition party hoping for a big day on November 1 that will force the AKP to abandon single-party rule and enter a coalition with it; and they are running in Today’s Zaman, which is associated with the Gulen movement, once a BFF and now arch-enemy of Erdogan.  So there’s that whole election/grudge/bias/mudflinging angle.

But that’s a story in itself.  The AKP refused to enter into a coalition with the CHP after the last general election, in July 2015, preferring a hung parliament and betting on the possibility that “somehow” it would reverse its slide into unpopularity in order to do better on November 1 and preserve its one-party rule.  “Somehow” looks a lot like a terror/repression/suppression campaign against the AKP’s opponents, including bombing of opposition demonstrations, burning down opposition political offices, beating up of journalists, censoring and shutdown of undesirable media outlets…

Even if journos have decided to ignore their liberal bleeding heart leanings and get in touch with their cynical realpolitik side, there are still good Turkey stories out there to be covered.

There’s that story about Turkish consulates showering fake travel documents on Uyghurs to travel to Turkey, and maybe on to Syria to live in and fight from a rumored Uyghur militant colony near Idlib in Syria.  Zero interest; fortunately for posterity,  I blogged the stuffing out of that one.

There’s another interesting story line, about the refugee crisis, the biggest, most heartwrenchingesque thing going, from Hurriyet Daily News, the other big prestige Turkish daily with an English edition and international reach: Turkey must make sure EU keeps promises – DIPLOMACY

The “promises” relate to the long-stalled accession negotiations between the EU and Turkey.  The think tank expert says:

We have had a sudden revitalization in the process, and this is linked to the Syrian crisis and the influx of refugees to the EU…A new effort had to be made; some sweeteners had to be offered to Turkey. So we have some proposals from the EU to convince Turkey of a more cooperative approach.”

The “sweetener” discussions opened with an offer of Euro 3 billion from the EU.

Read any exploration in the Western press of the interesting possibility that there might be more to the outflow of refugees than a seemingly spontaneous hive-mind conclusion that there’s no going back to Syria—and the sudden incapacity of Turkey’s relief and border control apparatus might have something to do with Turkey’s demand for a haven/No Fly Zone for the in northern Syria for refugees and/or militants looking for some rest and recuperation…or else?

Didn’t think so.

Well, Today’s Zaman had this: Turkey says new wave of Syrian refugees will head for Europe 

It contains the quote, “Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey should not be expected to turn itself into a ‘concentration camp’ for refugees,” and goes on to say:

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday there were “strong indications” a new wave of migration was starting from Aleppo and renewed calls for a “safe zone” in Syria to protect civilians, an idea that has won little international backing.

Kinda screams “refugee flows as TK weapon” doesn’t it?  But *crickets*

As I said on Twitter, somebody is doing their job on Turkish news, and doing it well.

Too bad “somebody” is not “journalists”, instead it’s a collective term for diplos and lobbyists inside and outside Turkey doing their best to keep a lid on the story of a US ally, European neighbor, and NATO member whose democracy is threatening to come apart at the seams.

I will resist stepping into the rhetorical minefield of “Is Turkey worse than China.”  But I am willing to say “Western reporting on Turkey is worse than Western reporting on China.”

More articles by:

Peter Lee edits China Matters and writes about Asia for CounterPunch.  

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