What’s Scary About Gülenists?

Here’s an interesting and disturbing essay by Margaret Spiegelman about her time teaching at a Gülen school in Istanbul. Click here. A brief excerpt:

…Every day, during and after school, teachers at Fatih College are modeling – largely without question – a society where women’s behavior is closely monitored, and where they have no voice in leadership….

The government has banned has 138 keywords words from use on the Internet. As a result, the insouciant Istanbulites whom she described as “beautiful girls, sexy and free” might not be able to read what she wrote about them. Among the offending words in that quote? “Girls” and “free.”

[Thanks, Rukiye.]

13 Responses to “What’s Scary About Gülenists?”

  1. Did you not know these things Jenny?
    .
    The fanfare and manufactured reality the cemaat had skilfully cultivated abroad was so far removed from reality as of, say, five or six years ago (you yourself may have gotten much grief from me and other commenters here back then) that against that backdrop their possibly improving but nonetheless real situation now looks bad.
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    Dani Rodrik and Pinar Dogan have recently been digging stuff up too[1], and yes, while all kinds of respected sycophants, questionable but heavily advertised pundits and duly funded Western social scientists were writing accolades to the cemaat, ordinary Turks were puzzled because what was being advertised was unlike the things they knew or sensed about the cemaat, their thinking, their doctrines etc. This produced conspiracy theories [and even friction here on this blog]. Now that things that have been true all along are getting coverage in English, I fear the discourse will swing to the other direction (and be wrong/exaggerated again) and ordinary rank and file of the cemaat volunteering abroad will be hurt as a result.
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    The real news [as it were] here is that the English language coverage of this movement and Turkey in general has been extremely weak and frequently counter-factual. This might indicate a systemic failure of the press and English-speaking intelligentsia dealing with these things in general.
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    [1] Click here for an example and the check the first comment for an explanation. I distinctly remember making noises about an attempt by a colleague of yours to outright tell a bunch of excited Turks who/what Gulen/his movement was w/o giving any sign that he could even read Gulen’s Turkish. It was the kind of stuff that now interests DR&PD that I had in mind, since, clearly, folks who had seen those publications wouldn’t be that keen to buy into — much less relay/regurgitate — what the propagandists were feeding them in English.

  2. Of course I know this, but as I’ve said many times, as a social scientist I’m not interested in taking sides, so I’m not interested in opinion, but in what the Gulenists and their supporters say as much as what their critics say. I’m interested in the complexities of the Gulenist experience. I posted this because it gives a relatively rare look into the back rooms of the schools. Berna Turam has written about the Gulenists dorms.

  3. Bulent,
    Contrary to what many have been saying, “ordinary Turks” are not stupid or “bidon kafali” or “gobegini kasiyan adam.” Despite the serious and sincere warnings by people like you and other enlightened Turks and Kurds (like BDP-PKK propagandists), Ak Parti has been increasing its share of votes in the Turkish elections. By the way, If you do not trust cemaat propagandists, then how can you trust Dani Rodrik and Pinar Dogan? Aren’t they propagandist too? Can they be objective about their own father (or father-in-law)?

    Jenny,
    It is amazing to see how pro-AKP and pro-Cemaat people on the one hand, and anti-AKP an anti-Cemaat people on the other, have been trying to convert you to their causes:)

  4. I have never said any of the things you say or imply I have said, Anka.
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    I don’t trust cemaat propagandists because they tend to spread verifiable falsehoods on things I know about (just like yourself right now about what I said above and elsewhere). I don’t need to trust PD&DR in this particular instance since I already knew what they say on the entry I linked to above. Yes indeed propaganda is propaganda, but it can be merely slanted or outright mendacious. If you care about the truth the distinction is meaningful. At any rate, it is fairly easy to spot bullshit (your attempt to impute dumb motives to me for example).
    .
    The point wasn’t that Gulen had said things or his web site had things that go counter to the image that they now wish to project, but that things that have been true [and known by many Turks] for a long time are getting noticed and getting coverage in English now. You see this w/ Davutoglu and Turkish foreign policy too. The picture previously drawn was so unrealistically rosy that the present situation where the reality of a tough neighbourhood and a lot of legitimate problems in or with the neighbors is being felt ends up looking like a failure in comparison to that false picture. If these things appear novel, then the question to ask isn’t one about the AKP or Gulen movement but about why/how the previous image could be established.

  5. Karl Marx answered your questions in 1852: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”

    The present circumstances, too, affect our stances. We constantly change but we want other people to remain static.

    Let’s take Davutoglu an example. We had ridiculed him for his “zero problem” policy when it had been working. Then, when the Syrian Revolution started, we started criticizing him for not sticking to his “zero problem” policy. I am sure we would have criticized him for supporting a cruel dictator in Syria if he had stuck to his “zero problem” policy when the Syrian Revolution started.

    Basically, our ideas change but when Davutoglu changes his policies “under self-selected circumstances,” we blame him for not being able to control local, regional, and global circumstances.

    Why don’t we be honest and say we do not like AKP and “ordinary people” who support AKP despite our warnings, that is it.

  6. A correction: Basically, our ideas change but when Davutoglu changes his policies NOT “under self-selected circumstances,” we blame him for not being able to control local, regional, and global circumstances.

  7. Anka, there is no ‘we.’ Certainly not one containing me and you + various sock puppets you have.
    .
    We had ridiculed him for his “zero problem” policy when it had been working.
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    I did not. What I did ridicule was the ahistoric narrative that got pushed along with it by others and repeated uncritically.
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    Then, when the Syrian Revolution started, we started criticizing him for not sticking to his “zero problem” policy.
    .
    No. Assad sr. or jr. was or is a problem. They were problems before and the fact that they were problems was not — as previously implied by many pundits — based solely on the stupidity of the pre-AKP policies. That take itself and the ease with which it was parroted was problematic, not Davutoglu himself. Same way with Libya. Gaddafi was the same guy when he was giving Erdogan awards as when he was killing his own people.
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    Basically, our ideas change but when Davutoglu changes his policies “under self-selected circumstances,” we blame him for not being able to control local, regional, and global circumstances.
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    Not at all. At the most he can be blamed for keeping people in the dark about, say, what the other options were at the time the Turkish government made the decision to get involve in Syria the way they did. I imagine that all the other options were worse then what they opted to do.
    .
    Why don’t we be honest and say we do not like AKP and “ordinary people” who support AKP despite our warnings, that is it.
    .
    This is ridiculous. You (and your sock puppets/ilk) are the last people to say anything about honesty.

  8. I do not think Gaddafi and Asaad were same before and after they started killing their own people in masses.

    We think that Davutoglu and AKP should have predicted the Arab Spring and the fact that Asaad would kill his own people in masses and should have stopped “zero-problem” policy. Who predicted the Arab Spring?

    But I understand it created a great opportunity to attack the government, if you hate AKP.

    I wonder, for example, if Jenny hates Obama and Clinton for trying to have close relations with Syria before the Arab Spring and for cutting the relations with the same government when Asaad began killing his own people?

    As for your style, please try to express yourself without vomiting insulting words.

  9. Anka, the rest is not worth responding to, neither is this incarnation of you for that matter but we started once.

    As for your style, please try to express yourself without vomiting insulting words.
    .
    Tough. They are descriptive and accurate and you are choosing to be what I call you.

  10. What a smart excuse to avoid answering.

    Look at the mirror and you will see why “ordinary people” in Turkey vote for AKP, and then keep vomiting.

    Jenny I really would like to hear what you think: Your Turkish informants hate their government because Turkish government changed its stance toward Syria. I wonder if you hate Obama and Clinton for the same reason? Obama and Clinton had tried to have close relations with the Asaad regime before the Arab Spring. But like, Erdogan and Davutoglu, Obama and Clinton cut the relations with the Asaad regime when Asaad began killing his own people. Do you ridicule Obama and Clinton for the radical change in their stance against the Asaad regime?

  11. Anka, you do not even understand what I am saying, or pretend you don’t. The point isn’t that anyone is or should be hated, but rather the coverage and attitudes towards them might swing from very positive to very negative because the positive attitudes previously fostered tend to be based on falsehoods and fallacies. It was about counter-factual stuff gaining credence initially, and then the reality manifesting itself and looking worse than it is.
    .
    As for ‘informant’ that goes with the PKK/BDP reference above, I suppose. I’m perfectly ordinary as far as these things go BTW, I have nothing to do with social science or political organizations. My curiosity isn’t about the fact that AKP gets the votes (at these levels I actually like it) but about why they don’t get more. A version of you was around — and AFAIR acting in a way that invited confirmations of Godwin’s law just like now — when it was talked about here.
    .
    What Jenny does I wouldn’t know, but ridiculing politicians is a fine thing that’s often done in the US among, yes, ordinary people. Americans I knew (mainly techies, many with some kind of a left/right libertarian bent) disliked politicians and those who hang around them — for defensible reasons too. (I could relate from the Turkish experience — AKP or CHP or ANAP or whatever doesn’t matter — even worse than slippery partisanship is actually benefiting from it.) State worship which is somewhat common in Turkey, is rarer in the US, AFAIR, but of course you can sense power worship in thinly disguised forms from the outside in the overtly political classes.
    .
    Anyway you can see some American attitudes on the ‘net too. I’ve been away too long to have a sense of what jokes are cracked about Assad now but about Saddam people would say “We know Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction: We have the receipts.” (Google-able).
    .
    On Assad, in particular, we know what advice his regime got from a US PR firm and it is relevant to what we see happening in Turkey and the kind of stuff I had in mind. I quote:
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    The campaign should create a reform “echo-chamber” by developing media coverage outside of Syria that points to the President’s difficult task of wanting reform, but conducted in an non-chaotic, rational way. The conditions for reform include peace and stability. These stories can be developed through direct interviews with the President and other senior advisors, op-ed and commentary articles written by credible third parties. This coverage will rebound into Syria. (emphasis mine)
    .
    This sounds very familiar. We have seen how that “echo chamber” works in the Turkish context with people abroad regurgitating what was fed to them and figuring out what to say not by looking at the facts on the ground but at what others around them are saying. We have also seen how the rebound effect works. You first get something to appear in a respected column or publication abroad and then publicize it here. In case of Gulen etc. I’ve seen foreigners who cannot even read a word of Turkish attempt to tell Turks what they ought to think of the movement/teachings and even give them lip using pre-packaged responses (eg ‘Kemalist elite’ etc.). Thus, when DR&PD simply translate stuff from FG’s books, it looks worse against that illusion and the propaganda effort ends up hurting the movement. Anyway the strategy letter I quoted from can be found here: http://wikileaks.org/syria-files/docs/2089956_political-communications.html

  12. I trust President Obama to act with our best interests in mind. (I voted for him because I think he’s intelligent and honest.)

  13. A very interesting and a very meaningful photo for the attendance :

    http://haber.gazetevatan.com/ilginc-bir-kare/497578/1/G%C3%BCndem

    Regards,

    Hasan

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