MESOP ANALYSIS : ERDOGAN ‘S SELFIE: How Erdogan Used Social Media to Save Himself

July 21 – By Scott Lucas – eawordview – Early Saturday morning, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was on the brink of being overthrown by a section of his military.On vacation in Marmaris in the southwest, the President had escaped assassination or detention — by less than 30 minutes — in an attack by commandos. However, he seemed to be cut off. The military controlled the airspace and key positions in Istanbul and the capital Ankara. It was attacking the Parliament building and intelligence headquarters. And it appeared to control the airwaves, having taken over State TV and forced the anchorwoman to read, over and over, the declaration of the coup to restore democracy and human rights.

How to respond, if not through State outlets? Erdoğan answered with an appeal through the Internet and FaceTime on iPhones. He asked the public to take to the streets in protest.

Observers were sceptical, even laughing at a President having to pop up on mobile phone screens to rescue himself. But hours later, with Erdoğan evading the dissident Air Force to make his way to Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport and giving an ad hoc press conference — the public display had rallied security forces backing the Government. The coup collapsed.

This was an ironic 21st-century marker for social media and politics, not just in Turkey but far beyond. Having tried to suppress dissent by cutting off new media’s channels, Erdoğan had taken advantage of them.

From Censorship to A Megaphone

Erdoğan’s Government and the judiciary have long blocked social media that they see as provocative and dangerous. From 2007, Turkish courts barred YouTube, initially over “insults” from abroad of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Atatürk. The ban was lifted in 2010, but briefly reimposed on several occasions. Twitter and Facebook have also been restricted over material deemed offensive or politically sensitive.

Within an hour of the first reports on Friday night of an uprising, the Turkish Government resorted to its tried-and-true methods.