Merry Christmas to All, and Some Thoughts on Turkish Thugs

 

Merry Christmas, Ricochet! Or Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it and, otherwise, merry day in which you eat Chinese food and go to the movies. To those I’ve offended by mentioning Christmas, I apologize for my insensitive remarks. I promise I will learn and grow from the experience.

Speaking of things one must not say, I just published a piece in City Journal about the recent news from Turkey. As I stress in it, it’s not just news from Turkey, but news from America — news from the Poconos Mountains, in particular — and thus properly filed under “domestic news.”

It’s normal that Americans view news from Turkey as less important than other stories in the headlines. After all, Turks aren’t doing anything quite so attention-grabbing as hacking Sony, destabilizing the postwar European order, or rampaging through the Middle East as they behead, rape, crucify, and enslave everything in their path. Thus, the reader who has noticed the news from Turkey might believe the story goes something like this: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the authoritarian thug running Turkey, has been rounding up journalists who bravely exposed his corruption.

That American readers now understand that Erdoğan is a corrupt authoritarian is an improvement. (They may vaguely recall that not long ago, he was viewed by the large parts of the Western intelligentsia—and by the very same news organs reporting the latest developments—as a liberal-minded reformer.) But this is actually a story about two thugs.

That double-thugged aspect tends to be downplayed in much of the reporting on the matter, which makes me a bit berserk: so much so that my City Journal editors rightly suggested I “tone it down” a bit. I am sure they were right and I’m sure I would have done so in their place. I guess the piece didn’t really need seventeen uses of the word “thug.”

I was a bit surprised to learn that we’re no longer allowed to use the phrase “oriental subtlety” in America, though. But if we’re not, we’re not. So don’t for a moment imagine that I might be the kind of person who originally prefaced the word “subtlety” with “oriental.”

Anyway, you can read all about it in City Journal. I’m sure that paying attention to the details of Turkish news is precisely what you feel like doing on Christmas Eve. (And, alas, I suspect very few Americans are paying attention to those details, where the devil is to be found, as usually he is.)

But — if you’re in a hurry to get back to your family and think about pretty much anything else — here’s the short version: to anyone who follows the news from Turkey, it’s obvious that the country is in the grip of a hysterical and paranoid power struggle between two thugs (Islamists both, of mildly different strains), and probably a number of other thugs, too. But one thing’s for sure: if you read an article on the matter that doesn’t mention at least two thugs, and stress that one of them — for reasons no one understands — is in the United States, it’s not serving you well. That there are two key thugs and many key details is not obvious from the way this story’s generally been covered. I think that’s a bit of a shame.

That said, some Americans, like Reuben Silverman — a graduate student in San Diego — do pay close attention. His blog is proof that it’s at least theoretically possible to mind these details carefully, and that doing so is not literally beyond the intellectual capacity of a Westerner. If a bright graduate student in San Diego can do this, I assume someone within the collective employ of Western governments can do it, too, and is. But I may be mistaken, because we are showing no sign of it.

This is unfortunate. So I did my best. Anyway, if the press had been doing its job, the tweet below would make you laugh until your eyes water. If it doesn’t, keep reading until it does. Because it will.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

There are 42 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    I guess the piece didn’t really need seventeen uses of the word “thug.”

    Claire, if it helps any, here are 17 synonyms for “thug”:

    Assassin, bully, criminal, gangster, goon, hooligan, mobster, murderer, rioter, rowdy, troublemaker, delinquent, hood, killer, punk, ruffian, professional killer.

    • #1
  2. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Well, people already find Turkish names a bit challenging to remember, so I figured it was best to stick with “simple and accurate.”

    • #2
  3. Capt. Aubrey Inactive
    Capt. Aubrey
    @CaptAubrey

    I think that calling a thug a thug is an excellent example of occidental obtuseness…or perhaps directness or lack of b.s. would be better but at any rate it is a quality I fear we may be losing and one that I personally hold in high regard.

    • #3
  4. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Capt. Aubrey:I think that calling a thug a thug is an excellent example of occidental obtuseness…or perhaps directness or lack of b.s. would be better but at any rate it is a quality I fear we may be losing and one that I personally hold in high regard.

    Yes, but as usual they were right on strictly editorial grounds. Putting it in the headline and several times in the text was sufficient; repeating it another dozen times just wordy.

    • #4
  5. Marion Evans Inactive
    Marion Evans
    @MarionEvans

    Claire

    Here is something to raise one’s blood pressure. Erdogan says birth control is treason:

    “One [child] would be strange, two means rivalry, three means balance and four means abundance.”

    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-president-erdogan-declares-birth-control-treason.aspx?pageID=238&nID=75934&NewsCatID=338

    • #5
  6. user_88846 Member
    user_88846
    @MikeHubbard

    Claire, how accurate about Gulen is this old Takimag article?

    • #6
  7. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Marion Evans:Claire

    Here is something to raise one’s blood pressure. Erdogan says birth control is treason:

    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkish-president-erdogan-declares-birth-control-treason.aspx?pageID=238&nID=75934&NewsCatID=338

    Erdoğan has stumbled onto a truth: to have a society, you have to have productive members, and to have productive members of society, you have to have children. When my parents were in college, one professor said it was educated people’s moral responsibility to have large families. As a teen hearing this, I was shocked. Now I’m shocked that the majority of so-called conservatives have bought into a toxic Neo-Malthusian doctrine that presupposes that human beings are dead weight, if not necessarily ecologically, then at least economically.

    • #7
  8. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Mike Hubbard:Claire, how accurate about Gulen is this old Takimag article?

    Accurate, especially since he’s basing it on my work. (As you’ll see if you click the links.)

    • #8
  9. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    I had never heard of Gulen before, or else don’t remember him from your complaints about Erdogan a year or two ago. Gulen sounds like a dangerous person who has already established the necessary political connections to remain rooted in America.

    What do you suppose is his endgame? What is the power he is amassing in Pennsylvania for? Or what are the likely consequences of that power?

    If he is truly an Ottoman attempting to subvert American culture, then that deserves national attention. But if he’s just a hungry wolf trying to make himself rich, then that seems like a local problem and not so very different from home-grown bureaucrats.

    • #9
  10. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Claire,

    Thank you for the Turkish update. As usual it is more interesting to listen to the professional than the amateurs.

    Where to begin. First, I am not going to the movies or eat chinese. Our synagogue rents an ice rink on the eve of the 24th and we go have pizza and skate. Originally, we referred to this as “Jews on Ice”, however, the latest synagogue administration has less of a sense of humor so they call it “Chanukah on Ice”. Actually, Chanukah is over but they are a little too stiff for the original title.

    Second, The Poconos. When I was 6 my parents would rent a little tiny cottage by a little tiny lake in the Poconos. The farmer who owned it had made a little tiny club house and a little tiny golf course. I loved this place and was very disappointed when we went to more luxurious vacation spots. My father liked the little tiny price but he got out voted.

    Third, Turkey. I get the picture about Gulen. As embedded as he is with his charter schools in America maybe we all should be reading your columns more often. As there is a now a full scale power struggle on between Gulen and Erdogan it reminds me a little of High Stalinism. The motto should have been “He who purges last purges best.”

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #10
  11. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    I have long held Western intelligencia as my yardstick on positions to take – if they are for it, I’m against, and vise verse. It has served me well over the years.

    Being an American-born ethnic Serb I have long been leery of Turks, for obvios cultural reasons. For a while they seemed to be making some progress towards “normalcy”, but the inherent evil o islam in the form of Erdgen appeared to have raised its head some time ago. He has, unless I know less about Turkey than even I think (and that’s precious little), been replacing honest career military men with islamic cronies for some time. He hs also been systematically purging the government – and the neighborhoods – of Christians.

    The birth control stance is simple demographics which Erdogan has recognized. To wit, in about 15 or so years about 75% of ALL military age-eligible males will be Kurds. And Turks and Kurds don’t get along s well. Guess where that leaves Erdogan.

    BTW, nice article, Claire. And Merry Christmas.

    • #11
  12. user_409996 Inactive
    user_409996
    @EdwardSmith

    For Heaven’s Sake!

    Claire, at this time of year, you should be casting your thoughts in the direction of Turkish Delight, not Turkish Thugs.

    • #12
  13. user_358258 Member
    user_358258
    @RandyWebster

    Claire, Claire, Claire. You can’t call people thugs in polite society. You have to call them miscreants, or some such.

    • #13
  14. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    When Ricochet was only a month old I ran into Rob at a party. He was talking with Drew Klavan and Andrew Breitbart. Yes, it was the equivalent of one of those oil paintings of the Founding Fathers in solemn conversation. And they were saying things like, “Wow, you got Claire on board! How’d ya do that? Uh, right on, dude!”

    Turkey is a big deal; it needs more attention of the kind you’re doing. A fine writer, Mustafa Akyol’s changing attitudes towards his government are marked in each stage by his op-eds in the NYT, and it’s a pretty sad progression.
    …Edward, you’re the wise SoCon who knows that our senses are rightly captivated by perfect works our Master has created…we care for nothing on Earth below, but ah, we’re not made of stone, you know…

    • #14
  15. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Gülen’s Goons. I like it: it sings.

    • #15
  16. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Yes, you’re right. As usual RTE (as we Turkish-politics-followers call him) is running circles around everyone with this comment and everyone’s falling for it. He does this reliably. He says something wildly weird, and everyone looks in that direction–as opposed to where he doesn’t want them looking, which is at the expected verdict on his former ministers’ corruption.

    The reason he keeps harping on about being against birth control and in favor having kids is because he’s not stupid. He’s promised cradle-to-grave healthcare to his citizens and raised the expectation that this will happen. He also knows the only way to finance that is for them all to have four kids.

    But, as usual, all anyone in the West sees is, “Crazy man who uses the word ‘birth control’ and ‘treason’ in the same sentence.” And yes, he’s crazy, but that’s not quite the reason why. Or only part of it, anyway.

    Merry Christmas, anyway!

    • #16
  17. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Devereaux:He hs also been systematically purging the government – and the neighborhoods – of Christians.

    There weren’t enough left after the last purges (well before his time) for there to be systematic purges now. That’s not where I’d focus to understand this–although it is very common and very understandable that Westerners do. If people want to think about religious minorities in Turkey who could use our attention, I’d suggest they think about Alevis, but not one knows who they are, so no one does …

    • #17
  18. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    James Gawron: The motto should have been “He who purges last purges best.”

    Yes. And sadly, I spent enough time in Turkey that my reaction to this news was a deeply unfortunate one. As I said in the article, it truly took me a minute to remember that I am against purges, period. There’s a true hero in this story, a man who is a much better person than I am. Read the piece closely and you’ll find his name. I do not exaggerate at all when I say that he is the hero, and he is someone who made me deeply ashamed of myself: He had the right first instinct, and I did not. He has much more reason than I to have had the wrong first instinct.

    • #18
  19. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Aaron Miller:I had never heard of Gulen before, or else don’t remember him from your complaints about Erdogan a year or two ago. Gulen sounds like a dangerous person who has already established the necessary political connections to remain rooted in America.

    What do you suppose is his endgame? What is the power he is amassing in Pennsylvania for? Or what are the likely consequences of that power?

    If he is truly an Ottoman attempting to subvert American culture, then that deserves national attention. But if he’s just a hungry wolf trying to make himself rich, then that seems like a local problem and not so very different from home-grown bureaucrats.

    I’ve written about him many times, but not enough, it seems.

    • #19
  20. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    It occurs to me that when trying to persuade Americans to think about this, today’s not the best day to do it. … Ah well, back to Chinese food and wondering what movie to go to. We’ll talk about all of this another day. Merry Christmas, Ricochet!

    • #20
  21. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Capt. Aubrey:I think that calling a thug a thug is an excellent example of occidental obtuseness…or perhaps directness or lack of b.s. would be better but at any rate it is a quality I fear we may be losing and one that I personally hold in high regard.

    I just wish we were capable of either occidental obtuseness or oriental subtlety, preferably both, but in this case we’re seemingly capable of neither. I hope I’m wrong.

    • #21
  22. user_645 Editor
    user_645
    @Claire

    Edward Smith:For Heaven’s Sake!

    Claire, at this time of year, you should be casting your thoughts in the direction of Turkish Delight, not Turkish Thugs.

    I should? I feel it’s very traditional, at this time of year, for, say, doctors who come from my “faith tradition” to be on call so that others may celebrate Christmas with their families (that’s what my stepdad always did, anyway). So nothing strange about me working today so that everyone else can spend time with their families. Someone’s got to be thinking about this today, may as well be me …

    • #22
  23. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    Claire Berlinski: And sadly, I spent enough time in Turkey that my reaction to this news was a deeply unfortunate one. As I said in the article, it truly took me a minute to remember that I am against purges, period.

    Don’t worry, Claire. As a Parisian, you’ll soon remember that you’re against everything on principle. C’est la vie!

    But in the meantime, l’chaim!

    • #23
  24. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Claire Berlinski:

    James Gawron: The motto should have been “He who purges last purges best.”

    Yes. And sadly, I spent enough time in Turkey that my reaction to this news was a deeply unfortunate one. As I said in the article, it truly took me a minute to remember that I am against purges, period. There’s a true hero in this story, a man who is a much better person than I am. Read the piece closely and you’ll find his name. I do not exaggerate at all when I say that he is the hero, and he is someone who made me deeply ashamed of myself: He had the right first instinct, and I did not. He has much more reason than I to have had the wrong first instinct.

    Claire,

    The right first instinct is good. Recognizing that you have allowed yourself to be misled and coming back to follow through is the greater integrity. Besides, you know I go for the really good looking girls who aren’t afraid to stand out from the crowd.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #24
  25. Sandy Member
    Sandy
    @Sandy

    This story is too complex for me to sort out, but one of its morals surely is that charter schools are probably a mistake, that when the government gets its paws on something, that something is likely to be mauled. It isn’t even clear whether the ideological and financial damage being done by Gulen schools is much different from or worse than the ideological and financial damage done by ordinary public schools. Islamo-Turkish dogma + lots of money in Gulen’s pockets or Leftist dogma + lots of money in the pockets of the NEA.

    • #25
  26. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Claire Berlinski:I should? I feel it’s very traditional, at this time of year, for, say, doctors who come from my “faith tradition” to be on call so that others may celebrate Christmas with their families (that’s what my stepdad always did, anyway). So nothing strange about me working today so that everyone else can spend time with their families.

    One Christmas Eve over a decade ago now, my Jewish wife was horribly ill. She felt terrible that she couldn’t cook for me. I’m hopeless in the kitchen and this was pre-home-ownership-and-backyard-grill, so I did what any good Lutheran in Los Angeles who needed to dine out on Christmas Eve would do.

    I went to Jerry’s Famous Deli in Beverly Hills, along with, I reckon, every Jew in Beverly Hills, i.e. more than the population of Eretz Yisrael. As an added bonus, I got to see Alicia Silverstone and her entourage (yes, guys, the blue-eyed blonde girl is Jewish). So I wound up with a good yarn to take home along with the leftovers (the chicken soup with kreplach and a super Reuben are too much for one sitting, even for me).

    So Merry Christmas, and thank you to my Jewish brothers and sisters who have worked for me and welcomed me into their establishments when I needed their help. :-)

    • #26
  27. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Gödel

    Gödel’s Ghost

    Claire Berlinski:I should? I feel it’s very traditional, at this time of year, for, say, doctors who come from my “faith tradition” to be on call so that others may celebrate Christmas with their families (that’s what my stepdad always did, anyway). So nothing strange about me working today so that everyone else can spend time with their families.

    One Christmas Eve over a decade ago now, my Jewish wife was horribly ill. She felt terrible that she couldn’t cook for me. I’m hopeless in the kitchen and this was pre-home-ownership-and-backyard-grill, so I did what any good Lutheran in Los Angeles who needed to dine out on Christmas Eve would do.

    I went to Jerry’s Famous Deli in Beverly Hills, along with, I reckon, every Jew in Beverly Hills, i.e. more than the population of Eretz Yisrael. As an added bonus, I got to see Alicia Silverstone and her entourage (yes, guys, the blue-eyed blonde girl is Jewish). So I wound up with a good yarn to take home along with the leftovers (the chicken soup with kreplach and a super Reuben are too much for one sitting, even for me).

    So Merry Christmas, and thank you to my Jewish brothers and sisters who have worked for me and welcomed me into their establishments when I needed their help. :-)

    GG,

    Now I’m really hungry.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #27
  28. Devereaux Inactive
    Devereaux
    @Devereaux

    Hmmm…. ?Any possibility that Gulen is setting up more Madras schools.

    • #28
  29. user_409996 Inactive
    user_409996
    @EdwardSmith

    Now that Christmas is behind me, I feel up to taking up the Erdogan and Gulen question.

    I am sadly unsurprised and not even shocked by what Erdogan gets up to. Like Vladimir Putin, he has been lucky in that both Europe and the United States have insisted on being so supine that Europe really should be put down like a toothless, crippled old dog, and the United States insists on acting like a crippled old dog. Like Vladimir Putin, Erogan is president of a country that proves what our Founding Fathers wrote and thought about Democracy – worthless stupid people elect greedy and evil men capable of being smooth the way serial wife beaters often are, and often at the right moments.

    Unlike Vladimir Putin, or the Mullahs of Iran, Turkey is a crossroads, through which resources pass from the source countries to the client countries. So he is lucky. Then again Turkey has always been if not the center of empires then a key province of them, the way Palestine was. If enough of the right roads pass through a place it has more value than a place where mere raw materials are to be found. Erdogan gets away with more because he can, and the peoples who once upheld a great civilization have abandoned all aspirations of ever being something other than glorified Welfare Queens, and the Petty Emperors of Thieves who steal what little wealth is being produced by others far more worthy and morally upright than them to burnish their own ultimately tawdry images and egos.

    I would go to Turkey for the glorious vistas of the ruins where wonderful events, specifically those surrounding the work and journeys of Saint Paul and the Early Church took place. The food I can get here in New York City, where I have a better chance of meeting Turkish-Americans more interesting and more worth meeting because they might just take that “-American” as seriously as they do following the old family recipes.

    I have the wake and funeral of a friend who until Christmas Day was battling Stage IV Cancer

    … and have learned that a fellow congregant who’s former girlfriend (and mother of his only son) has after 3 years of hounding him obsessively in Family Court to strip him of custody of his son been asked if they could, perhaps only at least for the sake of their son, enter Couple’s Therapy.

    A life to mark the ending of and celebrate, and the possibility of a new life lifted from maddening strife … makes Erdogan and Gulen and even the people of Turkey and all of Europe less worth noting and discussing than the cat poop I scoop up from the litter box to throw out.

    • #29
  30. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    If Gülen runs a charter school in the US, isn’t the problem not Gülen, but whether he has any students?

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.