I’ve never been much of a conspiracy buff. My own experience says people have a tough time keeping a secret. Anglo-sphere countries also suffer from the concreteness of language, which makes it tough to pull off a good conspiracy. For a ruse to work, the mark has to believe things that are not true based on his own mistaken interpretation of what has been said by others. English is not a great language for that.
Arabic is a great language for nuance. Russian is a pretty good language for deception as well. In both there is lots of room for interpretation. Whether culture shaped the language or language shaped the culture is unknown, but a hour working with Arabs or Russians and you figure out that it is nearly impossible to pin them down on anything. It’s why contract law is alien to Arabs.
Anyway, this got my attention today. Since it is probably fire-walled, I’ll past it here.
Barely 24 hours after Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s prime minister, joined millions marching in Paris to pay tribute to the 17 people killed by Islamist extremists, the country’s president struck a much more confrontational tone.
“The duplicity of the west is obvious,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a press conference on Monday evening. “As Muslims we have never sided with terror or massacres: racism, hate speech, Islamophobia are behind these massacres.”
“The culprits are clear: French citizens undertook this massacre and Muslims were blamed for it,” he added.
Although political leaders in Turkey have repeatedly condemned the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, a Jewish supermarket and a policewoman, a parallel narrative has emerged in the country, with conspiracy theorists blaming the murders on foreign intelligence agencies rather than radical Islamists.
This is so Turkish. I’m by no means an expert on Anatolia, but I have strong interest. It is, in part, due to their love of conspiracy. The other reason is the first “fast woman” I ever had fun with as a young man was Turkish.
A similar phenomenon has occurred in Russia, which sent Sergei Lavrov, foreign minister, to Sunday’s march.
Some such theories have been endorsed by pro-government figures — highlighting the growing resentment and suspicion of the west in two strategically important countries at a time of rising tensions over Ukraine and the Middle East.
Russians are not the same sort of conspiracy mongers as the Turks. Russians seem to like the deeper, more subtle brand of conspiracy and intrigue. There’s an assumption that things are not as they seem, but also an internal logic is at work. Turks seem to like chaotic conspiracies that make no sense to anyone.
“In Turkey, at least, it looks dangerously like people are playing a double game,” said Aaron Stein of the Royal United Services Institute, a UK think-tank. “Issue condemnations that play internationally, even as you tolerate supporters pushing crazy opinions that appeal to your political base.”
Melih Gokcek, mayor of Ankara for the ruling AK party, said on Monday that “Mossad [the Israeli intelligence service] is definitely behind such incidents . . . it is boosting enmity towards Islam.” Mr Gokcek linked the attacks to French moves towards recognising Palestine.
Ali Sahin, a member of Turkey’s parliament and foreign affairs spokesman for the AK party, last week set out eight reasons why he suspected the killings were staged so that “the attack will be blamed on Muslims and Islam”.
Mehmet Gormez, director of the state-run religious affairs directorate, described the attacks as a “perception operation” that cynically used the symbols of Islam, although he later appeared to tone down his comments.
In his own remarks on Monday, Mr Erdogan added: “Games are being played throughout the Islamic world”. He expressed bewilderment that French intelligence services had not followed the culprits more effectively. However, he has mainly appeared to hint at a conspiracy behind the depiction of the killings rather than the murders themselves.
That’s the other difference between Turks and Russians. Turks personalize their conspiracy theories. Whoever is pulling the strings is not as important as who is the target of the subterfuge. In this case, they start with Muslims being blamed and work backwards. Russians don’t have the self-pity for this sort of stuff.
In Russia, some pro-Kremlin commentators sought to link the killings to geopolitical machinations by the US.
Komsomolskaya Pravda, one of Russia’s leading tabloids, ran the headline: “Did the Americans stage the terror attack in Paris?” and posted a series of interviews on its website that presented various reasons why Washington might have organised the attack.
In one interview, Alexander Zhilin, head of the pro-Kremlin Moscow Centre for the Study of Applied Problems, claimed the terror attack was US retribution against President François Hollande for a January 6 radio interview in which Mr Hollande urged the EU to lift sanctions against Russia.
Washington used the attacks as “a quick fix for consolidating” US and EU geopolitical interests in Ukraine, Mr Zhilin claimed.
Others repeated a popular Russian conspiracy theory blaming the US intelligence services for a swath of terrorist assaults, from the 9/11 attacks on the US to last week’s Paris killings.
“For the last 10 years, so-called Islamist terrorism has been under the control of one of the world’s leading intelligence agencies,” Alexei Martynov, director of the International Institute for New States, a think-tank, told pro-Kremlin internet outlet LifeNews. “I am sure that some American supervisors are responsible for the terror attacks in Paris, or in any case the Islamists who carried them out.”
The Russians, I think, just enjoy giving the Americans the business by feeding Muslims these wacko ideas. Given what is happening in Ukraine and Syria, it is in the interests of the Russians to angry up the Muslims. That does no mean the Russians don’t think skulduggery is at foot. It’s just that the assume it is rational. So, they throws some logs on the fire to suit their interests.
In all seriousness, I keep wondering when the West is going to wake up and figure out that Turkey is a lost cause. Turks with anything on the ball are heading to Europe. The remaining Turks are trying to figure out how to keep from being outnumbered by the Kurds. Their answer is to go all in on Islam. Supplying these guys with modern weapons and technology is a terrible idea.