Particularly following the Turkish government’s response to the Gezi protests this past summer, an increasingly bright spotlight has been trained upon Prime Minister Erdoğan’s managerial inclination to micromanage seemingly small and insignificant details, his blanket rejections of things with which he does not agree, and his efforts at social engineering and shaping Turkish behavior. He is in the news this week for something he did that touches upon this portrayal of the prime minister, so in the style of the Bluff the Listener game on the NPR radio show Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, guess which one of the following three stories about Erdoğan is the real one.
Story One: Prime Minister Erdoğan has threatened to sue the makers of Turkish Taffy, a candy which he says is not authentically Turkish and is harming Turkey’s image. Turkish Taffy, invented by a Turkish immigrant in New York after WWII, has been gaining popularity in recent years and came to Erdoğan’s attention when a visiting business delegation from the U.S. inquired where in Ankara they could find some “authentic native” taffy. Erdoğan insists that visitors to Turkey should be interested in lokum and baklava and instead are getting the impression that Turkish confection consists of corn syrup-based candy. In comments to reporters, Erdoğan said, “Taffy is not a Turkish sweet. This American company is using Turkey to further its own economic interests and defaming our proud legacy. We are looking into the appropriate legal steps to make sure that Turkey’s name is not used in connection with this foreign product.” The makers of Turkish Taffy say that they have been using the product name for more than half a century and have no intention of giving it up.
Story Two: On a trip to Finland, Prime Minister Erdoğan paid a visit to Rovio, the Finnish company behind the mobile gaming phenomenon Angry Birds, but let the game developers know that he has a problem with their game’s basic premise. In a meeting with Rovio’s CEO, Erdoğan asked, “Why are these birds angry? Doesn’t it have a negative effect on children?” The CEO explained that the birds are angry because the pigs have been stealing their eggs, and that Rovio has not received any reports of children being adversely impacted by the birds’ emotional state. Erdoğan has repeatedly voiced concerns about negative social cues that may be affecting Turkish youth, and with mobile technology very prevalent in Turkey, there is speculation that Erdoğan’s comments might be foreshadowing a new push to control mobile content. Previous governmental efforts have been launched to censor Internet content such as blocking Youtube and filtering websites that the government deems morally objectionable, and the government’s attacks on the evils of social media – and Twitter in particular – during the Gezi protests may be moving even farther afield to video games.
Story Three: The popular U.S. television program American Idol has spawned copycats in a number of countries, and Turkey is no exception. The producers of Turkstar, which was a singing reality competition that lasted only one season in 2004, are trying again in light of the popularity of American Idol, and their new show Türk Idol is right now in the midst of holding tryouts across Turkey. They have run into a serious obstacle, however, which is that Prime Minister Erdoğan has already declared his opposition to the show’s name. In remarks to AKP deputies in a party meeting this week, Erdoğan noted the notion of an idol offends religious sensibilities, and he hinted that the show’s title and the implication that it will create a figure to be emulated could even be used to prosecute the producers for insulting Islam. “Social entertainment is important,” Erdoğan was reported to have said, “but it must be done in a culturally appropriate way. We reject the idea that anyone who sings well should be venerated or that this person should be called an idol. We have received numerous complaints about this show, and we are not interfering in lifestyles but acting to protect concerned parents.” The show’s producers have indicated in light of the prime minister’s concerns that they are open to changing the show’s name, and stressed that the show’s title is not meant to make any religious claims.
Which one of these stories is the real one? For the answer, click here to read the actual news item describing what has the prime minister upset.