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I’ve been meaning for a long time to compile a list of English-language blogs about Turkey that I read regularly. This is an important list, because this is where you’ll see a much more free exchange of ideas–especially in the comments–than you will in either of the two major English-language newspapers here, and certainly a deeper and more realistic treatment of Turkey than you’ll get in the US mainstream media.
First, a word about those two English-language papers. Hürriyet Daily News is the country’s oldest English-language daily. It’s owned by the Doğan media group, which the AKP nearly selectively-taxed out of existence. I’ve written about this here, although that article is now out-of-date; the landscape of the region has changed a lot in a year, and so has the domestic landscape in Turkey. (This fact seems to elude many commenters in the West who are perfectly happy to draw upon events that took place at the beginning of the AKP’s time in power–or even well before that–to form an assessment of the nature of the party and the Turkish political scene today. That’s a huge mistake.)
HDN is a useful paper: It’s relatively cautious in its reporting; some of its columnists are excellent, and I don’t usually see outright, obvious lies. But it won’t touch the real third-rail issues in Turkey. All of the major media bosses have been too cowed, or are too deeply in the tradition of going-along-to-get-along, to do the kind of work we would think of as “rigorous investigative journalism.” They don’t, in other words, act as an effective Fourth Estate–especially since there aren’t exactly three other estates here. There’s at most two: the state and the deep state.
There are plenty of hysterical (Turkish-language) opposition newspapers, but none are capable of earning my trust by regularly providing reliable news, as opposed to “opposition hysteria that’s sometimes true and just as often not, so take it with a grain of salt.” (Bianet, in English, is worth reading in this vein, and they’re getting better these days.) Frederike Geerdink, another freelancer here, has written a good piece about journalistic standards in Turkey in general here. I’ve written about them here, too–but that piece is also very out of date.
Then there’s Today’s Zaman. Zaman is part of the Gülen media empire, and Today’s Zaman should basically be read as the daily newsletter of the Gülen movement, although there is definitely real news to be found in there, sometimes even breaking news–the problem is that you don’t know which part is real, and often, you know for sure that it isn’t. You can tell by the tone, but it takes some getting into the spirit of things. If you read it daily, you’ll begin to get it.
Contrary to reputation, not everyone at Today’s Zaman is a microchip-implanted cult-follower, and there are some hardworking journalists there who do their best to report the news accurately. But the jokes about the paper being Turkey’s Pravda are not for nothing. It’s highly disturbing that Anne-Marie Slaughter didn’t know this–but I have to say, I haven’t noticed a deep commitment to fact-checking when it comes to Turkey from Michael Rubin, either.
Right. With that said, let me point you to some English-language blogs that I read regularly. I don’t necessarily endorse them, but I think you’ll get a much deeper sense of the important debates going on in Turkey from reading them than you will from, say, Rick Perry, or from the host of American commentators who tried to defend his comments.
Jenny White’s Kamil Pasha blog serves as a hub for some excellent debate, in the comments, about Turkey. I check it daily, and some of the commenters in particular are excellent, though I don’t want to call attention to them by name. I include in the category some of the commenters who have been critical of things I’ve written. Sometimes they have a point.
Jeffrey Gibbs writes Istanbul and Beyond, which is beautifully written and observed. In his words, “I am a swamp cracker from rural Florida living in Istanbul where I’m trying to write a book comparing the South with Turkey. I also do stuff on the side. And sometimes things.” Most importantly, his father-in-law has been swept up in one of the latest rounds of arrests, and his descriptions of this are an important record of what so many people here are going through.
Istanbul Notes, written by my friend Aengus Collins, has gone on hiatus. A real shame, because he was doing the kind of rigorous, unemotional analysis that’s so deeply needed here. I wish he’d come back. The past entries are invaluable. Yigal Schliefer writes Istanbul Calling, which I also read regularly, and I trust his commitment to accuracy, although I sometimes find his reporting a bit timid.
I wish James in Turkey would post more often, because when he does, as he says, “it has some credibility.” He knows the country very well. I don’t always agree with Istan6ul Altı, but it’s very much worth reading, though it seems to be fracturing into several independent blogs now. Erkan’s Field Diary should receive special mention. As he puts it, it “evolved from a dissertation project on Turkish journalism and the European Union. In addition to the original topic, the blog monitors socio-cultural happenings and cybercultural emergences in Turkey.” And it’s more interesting than that sounds.
Changing Turkey in a Changing World is a reasonably good guide to the state of English-language academic research on Turkey, and the extensive blogroll an even better guide.
Alexander Christie-Miller’s Turkey Etc.–highly recommended. He often posts the parts of his reporting that were cut out by editors who didn’t have the space to run the whole article he submitted. Often those were the best parts. Jim Meyer’s Borderlands is quite interesting–scroll down to Borderlands Classix on the bottom-right. Istanbul Musing is curated by Hans A.H.C. Dewitt, who knows Turkey as well as any expat is apt to. (It could use better organization, Hans.)
Tarlabaşı Istanbul does the kind of reporting I deeply admire: He focuses on one neighborhood in Istanbul. He’s really trying to understand and trying to observe. This is the level at which reporting should be done–one story, over time, deepening it–but so rarely is.
Ragan Updegraff’s Turkish Politics in Action is really worthwhile. (His latest post, Division in the Ranks, is important–everyone here knows it, but I don’t sense that anyone in the US is grasping it.)
Turkey Emergency is written anonymously, as many blogs here are. I suspect he, or she, is often very right about things. I understand why many people feel they have to blog anonymously. But I’m also suspicious of anyone who does: I like my agendas out in the open.
Speaking of anonymous blogs, CASILIPS is a fairly level-headed guide to the Gülen movement’s activities in the US. I suspect it’s either written by a Turk who is hostile to Gülen or by a member of the kind of organized enemy he has never even imagined facing—the American teachers’ unions. I have to say, if it’s the latter, he has no idea what he’s up against. Taking on the Turkish military is child’s play by comparison. For balance, here’s a blog defending the schools. Judge for yourself.
Emre Kızılkaya is the chief editor of the foreign news service at Hürriyet. I like his blog much more than his newspaper. I don’t always agree with him, but I sometimes do, quite strongly.
I just discovered Letter from Turkey, written by an American who’s been here since forever, and loved it. He’s living in the same Turkey I live in. For those without patience, his Twitter feed manages to sum up Turkey remarkably well.
Last and definitely not least is Carpetblogger–one of the funniest blogs on the entire Internet, at least if you live here.
There are so many more–and this is just the English-language blogosphere, mind you–but this is probably a good start.
For those of you who aren’t that interested but just want to know whether Turkey’s a reliable NATO partner, the answer is: They’ll work with the US when it’s in their interests, and in many cases, it is. That’s how it’s always been.