During the July 15 process, the tendencies to violate the rules of democratic politics, which has often been seen in various attempts to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Erdoğan, reached its peak. The process encompassed preparing a convenient atmosphere for a coup for months, providing practice for and discourse to the coup, and the efforts to obscure it after its failure.
Preparations for the coup
The discourses such as authoritarianism, radical Islam and corruption lost their influence since AK Party had an outstanding victory in the Nov. 1, 2015 general elections and the counter-terrorism fight stood out as the number one agenda topic. The disappointment caused by that lead to the circulation of a new discourse, which highlights that violence and chaos would rise across the country and the army would seize power as the political will loses its strength. Some grounded the calls to stage a coup on the claims that the political power is weak and ineffective, while others sought to justify the coup by asserting that the army would intervene in politics again with the rising prestige it enjoyed as part of the fight against the PKK.
An article entitled “Turkey’s Next Military Coup” by Gönül Tol, which was published by Foreign Affairs on May 30, sets a good example of this discourse. Michael Rubin, who is a former Pentagon employee, published an article in March at the American Enterprise Institute, which points out that a convenient ground was formed to stage a coup in Turkey, and that the new U.S. presidential candidates would ostensibly react against the coup but they would end up cooperating with the coup plotters. Turkey’s left-wing media outlets applauded this article, asserting that the allegation of a military coup in Turkey, which has been whispered for a while, is explicitly articulated in this article. Besides, some journalists at dissident media outlets in Turkey, including Rıza Türmen and Tarhan Erdem, began to emphasize that it is not possible to overthrow the government within the realm of democratic politics and party politics, so a “democracy front” which would organize street demonstrations must be formed for this purpose. Such a “civilian” formation was reminiscent of the psychological and social support received at the previous “successful” coups. The silence of Western states and politicians during the coup attempt were noticed. The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry acted as a representative of the West. He repeated the outdated remark that Turkey must respect democracy, human rights, and fundamental liberties. Also, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal basing on some U.S. officials, intelligence units conveyed to the White House that the coup attempt was legitimate. Afterwards, Kerry threateningly remarked that Turkey’s NATO membership would be at stake in response to the criticism of the U.S.’s silence to the incident. Kerry also tried to make things difficult for the extradition of FETÖ leader Gülen to Turkey. The U.S. authorities demanded evidence from Turkey and emphasized that they had not received an official request. The EU meanwhile threatened Turkey to suspend its EU membership process if the death penalty is reintroduced.
Western media sides with coup attempters
Various interesting analyses appeared in Western media, which displayed a disgraceful performance during the coup attempt. While the coup attempt was still not fully overcome, representatives of prominent Western media outlets conducted an interview with Gülen in his house in Pennsylvania. The interview highlighted that Gülen has no ties with the coup. Speaking to Fox News, former military officer Ralph Peters talked about the Islamization threat to Turkey and added that a coup is the last hope for democracy in the country. Some claimed that Erdoğan’s authoritarian and repressive policies lead to the coup, thus attempting to conceal the real actors behind the attempt. In another article, written by Alev Scott and published by The Guardian, anticoup protesters were represented as a “violence-prone gang.” Another article published by The New York Times after the coup also humiliated the people repelling the coup by referring to them as a “herd.”
Western media outlets put the coup plotters and the AK Party government in the same equation and commented that democracy in Turkey is under a twofold siege. According to an analysis also shared by dissidents in Turkey, the coup was plotted by Erdoğan himself in order to enable the introduction of a presidential system and to consolidate his power. Some Erdoğan dissidents went even further and claimed that there might be a covert cooperation between Erdoğan and Gülen. Lately, the U.S.-based intelligence agency Stratfor attempted a perception operation asserting that Erdoğan issued an asylum request to Germany during the coup attempt and provided information via twitter about the route of Erdoğan’s plane which took off from Marmaris and tried to escape the assassination attempt.
The West obscured the coup attempt
After the coup attempt failed, a great disappointment prevailed in the Western media. It was emphasized that the failed coup consolidated Erdoğan’s power, and conservative politics and secularism were endangered. For instance, the BBC Turkish represented the cleansing of state organs after the attempt as a pincer movement of the conservative-religious government against the liberal-secular segment. In his article published by The New York Times on July 18, Tim Arango pointed out in yet another Orientalist response that Turkey is drifted to the swamp of the Middle East with the failure of the coup attempt. Writing for the blog OpenDemocracy, Cihan Tuğal defined the repellence of the coup as a victory of neo-fascism. Some calmer criticisms were also released regarding the failed coup attempt along with the ones seeking to obscure it. For instance, Stratfor underlined that Turkey would be defenseless against the threats in the region after the coup. Similar analyses were made inside the country. According to some arguments, the control and cleansing operations of the army weaken the latter in the fight against the PKK.
All in all, it can be seen that some Western politicians and media outlets had prepared ground for the coup. The normalization of the country’s politics is constantly hindered by states of exception and the grounds for anti-political interventions are kept prepared. The West’s approach towards the coup was disrespectful. For the sake of some interests, the fundamental principles of the West, including democracy, were disregarded. The West lost a substantial part of its prestige, while democratic politics and social bonds were consolidated in Turkey.