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Turkey on the brink as Erdoğan struggles to win re-election in Sunday’s polls

Erdoğan’s re-election and grip on power undermined by growing economic crisis

Alexander Mercouris

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Sunday’s elections in Turkey are being widely seen around the world as an important test for Turkey’s longterm leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Unusually Presidential and parliamentary elections are happening in Turkey at the same time, with Erdoğan – currently Turkey’s President – looking to consolidate his position in the new office of executive President he has created for himself.

Erdoğan however also needs his AKP grouping to win a clear majority in the Turkish parliament if he is to continue to govern Turkey in the unchallengeable way to which he has become accustomed.

Turkey’s elections were in fact due to be held in November 2019.  However in April Erdoğan brought them forward because he sensed that Turkey’s economic position – upon which his popularity depends – was becoming weaker.

Crash of the lira

In the event the Turkish currency the lira has crashed since the elections were called, losing 20% of its value this year and some 40% of its value since the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

The crash of the lira has in turn resulted in a sharp rise in Turkey’s inflation rate, which now stands at 12%, whilst Turkey’s Central Bank has been forced – against Erdoğan’s wishes – to raise its key rate to 18%.

Not surprisingly, as Turkey’s people reel from the bad economic news support for Erdoğan and his AKP group has tumbled, putting their prospects of success in the elections in jeopardy.

Erdoğan’s electoral prospects – still commands much support in Turkey

Most observers of the Turkish political scene still expect Erdoğan to be re-elected President.  There are suggestions that he might be forced into a second round run-off by his main rival Muharrem Ince, who is reported – at least in the Western media – to have run a successful campaign.

However predictions in the West that Erdoğan may be heading for defeat need to be treated with care.

As becomes immediately obvious from even a brief perusal, articles in the Western media which either call for or appear to expect Erdoğan’s electoral humiliation or even outright defeat are very much the product of the Western political establishment’s intense dislike for him (see for example this article by Simon Tisdall in The Guardian and this article by Alanna Petroff for CNN).  As such they are not reliable guides as to Erdoğan’s standing in Turkey.

Though Erdoğan is a deeply polarising figure in Turkey – as shown by the bare majority of 51.4% his proposal to convert Turkey’s Presidency into an executive Presidency won in the constitutional referendum last year – he retains strong support in Turkey’s conservative and deeply religious interior, where he retains a devoted following amongst Turkey’s conservative and religious rural voters.

In addition Erdoğan’s forceful and aggressive personality enables him to dominate his opponents, strengthening support for him, and making his opponents look weak and unconvincing by comparison.

Needless to say recent moves in the US to block the transfer of F-35 fighters to Turkey will do Erdoğan’s reputation in Turkey no harm at all.

AKP prospects hinge on success or failure of Kurdish HDP

As for the possibility that Erdoğan’s AKP group might lose its absolute majority in parliament, to an extent that is perhaps not fully recognised in the West that depends on whether the predominantly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) – which strongly opposes Erdoğan – wins 10% or more of the vote.

If the HDP wins less than 10% of the vote it will not get seats in parliament under Turkey’s list-based allocation system.

If it does get 10% or more of the vote, then it will do so, in which case the AKP may struggle to win a majority.

Whilst the HDP does have a strong base of support in Turkey, the deterioration of the security situation in Turkey’s Kurdish areas may affect its ability to bring out its voters, whilst the HDP is also hampered by the fact that its leader Selahattin Demirtaş is actually in prison in far away Edirne in Turkish Thrace, forcing him to direct the HDP’s election campaign from there.

Mismanaging the economy to achieve electoral victory

Moreover the deterioration in the economy has manifested itself only relatively recently.  In the first quarter Turkey’s economy actually grew 7.6% year on year.

Though that was a direct product of prime pumping as Erdoğan artificially boosted the economy in the run up to the elections, the subsequent weakening of the economy caused by the crash in the lira may have come too late to dissipate fully the political effect of the previous period of rapid growth.

Erdoğan’s prime pumping of the economy in the run up to the elections does however illustrate an important fact about him and about the way he runs Turkey.

Grandiosity at home and abroad

This is that Erdoğan’s exercise of power is whimsical, with little regard for expert opinion, and is excessively focused on himself and on his own needs, with justification being provided by objectives which he sets which are often impossibly grandiose, and which are therefore neither achievable nor in Turkey’s long term interest.

Consider for example the bizarre speech Erdoğan delivered in October 2016, in which he appeared to claim for Turkey some sort of paramount position across the whole of the Middle East, the eastern Mediterranean and Central Asia.

The result is that apart from Russia and to a certain extent Iran, Turkey under Erdoğan now finds itself in conflict with virtually all its neighbours.  Though Simon Tisdall in the Guardian writes about this from a rigidly pro-NATO and Atlanticist perspective, his description of the state of Turkey’s relations with its neighbours is by no means wholly wrong

The rift with Cairo endures. And Erdoğan has also fallen out with the Gulf monarchies over continuing links to the Muslim Brotherhood, Ankara’s perceived military ambitions, and its de facto alliances with Iran and Qatar. Prince Salman, the Saudi crown prince, says Turkey is part of a “triangle of evil” that includes Iran and Islamic extremists…..

…..the current election campaign has seen escalating Turkish military operations inside northern Iraq, on the Kandil mountains border with Iran, where the outlawed Kurdish group the PKK is based. Neither Tehran nor Baghdad has given permission for these dangerous armed encroachments – but, in his hubris and arrogance, Erdoğan does not care…..

The pattern repeats around the region. Erdoğan has picked a fight with an old enemy, Greece, in recent weeks, sending aircraft to buzz Greek islands after Athens refused to hand over suspects in the 2016 coup. This confrontational behaviour has brought talk of war – a not wholly improbable outcome, given the escalating dispute over energy exploration rights off still-divided Cyprus.

Similarly, past attempts to improve relations with Israel have been abandoned in favour of resumed, politically expedient enmity, justified most recently by Erdoğan’s claim to care about dead Palestinians in Gaza.

Tisdall’s account is in fact both distorted and selective.  Erdoğan’s most egregious and extensive intervention – ignored by Tisdall because of Tisdall’s intense dislike of Syria’s President Assad – is in northern Syria, where Erdoğan has carved out by force a large Turkish controlled Jihadi protectorate in north west Syria.

As for what Tisdall calls Erdoğan’s “obsession” with the Kurds, no Turkish government would look on with equanimity at the US’s formation of a semi-autonomous Kurdish statelet in northern Syria led by the YPG, a Kurdish militia aligned with the PKK, a Kurdish militia engaging in an insurgency against the Turkish authorities in Turkey, which the Turkish authorities and their NATO allies consider a terrorist group.

Nonetheless the overall image conjured by Tisdall of a Turkey which under Erdoğan’s leadership has been throwing its weight around in pursuit of objectives which are both grandiose and nebulous – and which are therefore deeply alarming to Turkey’s neighbours – is not a wholly wrong one.

The most dangerous flashpoint currently is the eastern Mediterranean, an area where Erdoğan in his October 2016 speech laid claim to various Greek islands, and where his military has recently been involved in a succession of dangerous confrontations between the Greek military, with none of the big external powers (eg. the US, Russia and the EU) so far acting to restrain him.

Putin and Erdoğan: not fellow dictators but political opposites

Whenever the Western media brings up the subject of Erdoğan a comparison with Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin is always made.

In reality, though the two men nowadays work closely together, the differences between them are far greater than the similarities, with Erdoğan approximating far more closely to the Western cartoon image of “Putin” than the real Vladimir Putin does.

I have described some of these differences in the past, but I will do so again because doing so is actually a good way of understanding the difficulties Erdoğan to those who must deal with him

Erdogan is someone who far more closely resembles the Western image of Putin than Putin himself does.

Where claims that Putin is corrupt and a billionaire are wholly unsubstantiated and almost certainly untrue, that Erdogan is a billionaire is an acknowledged fact, as is the involvement of some members of his family in shady business dealings.

Contrary to his Western image Putin’s manner and language is polite and restrained. Erdogan by contrast is often aggressive and confrontational.

Putin is highly calculating and always consults his chief advisers before making a decision.

Erdogan is impulsive and arbitrary, and is far more likely than Putin to make decisions on the hoof.

Unlike Putin, who puts up with everything, Erdogan is a notoriously prickly character who reacts badly to criticism.

He has jailed opposition activists and journalists and cracked down on the media in ways that Putin never has.

Not surprisingly, the result of this sharp difference in style is that the two men conduct political, economic and foreign policy completely differently.

In Russia Putin has been the great institution builder, carefully observing the constitution, strengthening the country’s legal system, and exercising power through greatly expanded and strengthened institutions such as the Security Council and the State Council.

In Turkey Erdoğan not only largely runs things all by himself, but he has changed the constitution to suit his own needs, treats the law as an instrument to enforce what he decides, and even meddles in the interest rate setting decisions of the Central Bank.

Where Putin’s runs a tight ship economically, keeping the budget in balance, building up reserves and savings, making sure Russia runs a trade surplus with the rest of the world, and leaving operational decisions to the experts in the Central Bank and the ministries, Erdoğan regularly goes for broke, running the Turkish economy with large deficits – both in the budget and in the country’s external trade – whilst making all the important decisions himself.

Unsurprisingly, where Putin seeks macroeconomic stability Erdoğan prioritises growth at all costs.

As I said in a recent article for RussiaFeed, in Putin’s case

……the result is a roughly balanced budget, which is now in surplus, large reserves, growing savings, a trade surplus, a balance of payments surplus, falling inflation, and increasing resiliency in the face of external shocks.

Whereas in Erdoğan’s case the result is a seriously unbalanced economy constantly susceptible to overheating and very vulnerable to external shocks, with very high and before long probably unsustainable debt levels, and with rising inflation and interest rates.

The contrast in foreign policy is even starker, with Putin now all but universally recognised as the supreme diplomat of the age, whereas Erdoğan as Tisdall says is at odds with almost everyone he regularly interacts with with the notable exception of Putin himself.

Prospects if Erdoğan wins

If, as is still overwhelmingly likely, Erdoğan is re-elected President on Sunday and manages to consolidate his position as Turkey’s leader, these disturbing trends will likely continue and will get worse.

The imbalances in Turkey’s economy will become more acute – with the threat of an actual crisis becoming ever more real – whilst political polarisation within Turkey will intensify, and political conflicts will grow, with Erdoğan’s personality becoming the issue around which those conflicts will increasingly crystallise.  Erdoğan himself meanwhile, from of a mix of both political and psychological reasons, will continue to pursue destabilising policies, both externally and internally, with the growing risk externally that they may end in a disastrous clash.

Relations with the West meanwhile will continue to deteriorate, with Turkey’s withdrawal from NATO – until recently hardly a realistic possibility – gradually becoming a real possibility, with Erdoğan, less out of genuine conviction and more because he will have left himself no choice, drifting increasingly closer to Russia and China.

All of this however will always be vulnerable to the sort of sudden dizzying reversals and “diplomatic revolutions” of which Erdoğan has shown himself repeatedly capable, and which makes him – for the Russians and for everyone else – such an unstable and unreliable partner.

Prospects if Erdoğan loses

In the event of the less likely alternative of Erdoğan either failing to win the Presidency or becoming so politically weakened because of a run-off or a defeat in the parliamentary elections that his political grip on Turkey is weakened, the prospect may even be worse.

Erdoğan’s political base would continue to be mobilised and angry, and would certainly resist any attempts by Turkey’s old secular establishment to reverse the changes he has made in his long years of power

The fall in 1960 of Adnan Menderes – Turkey’s right wing Islamist leader of the 1950s of whom Erdoğan is the political heir – provides a warning of what might happen.  It set in train a long period in Turkey of instability, economic crisis, political violence and coups, as Turkey’s secular establishment struggled to contain the anger of Menderes’s large popular base, which remained unreconciled to his fall.  By the late 1970s Turkey appeared to be on the brink of civil war, which only an exceptionally brutal military crackdown in 1980 after a military coup managed at the last moment to prevent.

Illustrating how tense conditions were in Turkey during this period – even during times of seeming calm – are the apparently well founded suspicions that Turgut Özal – a former supporter of Menderes who became successively Turkey’s Prime Minister and President in the 1980s and 1990s – was murdered whilst in office by poison administered to him by members of Turkey’s Deep State as part of what is sometimes referred to as Turkey’s covert coup of 1993 (a subsequent autopsy did indeed find exceptionally high levels of DDT in Özal’s body, suggesting that the rumours of his murder may be true).

It took the victory of Erdoğan’s AKP in Turkey’s 2002 parliamentary elections to bring this unhappy period in Turkey’s history to an end.

Uncertain times both for Turkey and its neighbours

Difficult and unstable a personality though Erdoğan undoubtedly is, his critics both inside and outside Turkey need to face up to the fact that given existing conditions in Turkey he may be the only person with the charisma and authority to hold Turkey politically together.  If so then his fall may be more dangerous to the future of democracy and stability in Turkey than his survival.

One way or the other, whether Erdoğan on Sunday wins or loses, the situation in Turkey is uncertain and the future unclear.

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lordbaldrickemerdHamletquest Recent comment authors
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lordbaldric
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lordbaldric

Is Turkey leaves or is kicked out of NATO, look for the US to fund and arm the Kurd militias to the max, while also cutting off support and spare parts for any western bought weapons systems.

Would be a nice FU for all the trouble Turkey has caused in Syria.

kemerd
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kemerd

Erdogan’s demise is real. He also appears to have started losing his mental faculties: his latest speeches contain absurd accusations and egregious lies that are so easy to verify. His rallies are much smaller than Ince’s despite all the local governors and majors bring hundreds of buses full of his supporters from the surrounding towns. Besides, the last year’s referendum results are a result of outright election fraud committed by election committee itself. So, the real result was most probably about 47 for erdogan vs 53 against. Unlike the last time the current two leaders of opposition Ince and Aksener… Read more »

kemerd
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kemerd

And, Menderes was not an Islamist at all: he was an opportunist right-wing millionaire. And, after his removal from power, the country had its most vibrant 15 years until mid-70s. From where do you get your info in Turkey? It is true that both of the opposition parties that are likely to succeed erdogan are pro-west. But, unlike Erdogan they have no illusions about Turkey’s actual power, or that they have any lust for spilling Turkish blood for the foreigners and would never allow themselves to become cannon fodders for the west. In fact, all opposition leaders declared that they… Read more »

Hamletquest
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Hamletquest

Erdogan has few friends if any at all. His rapprochement with Russia was purely born out of self preservation during the attempted coup which was most likely backed by the US through its NATO surrogates in Turkey. The Sultan of Swing is too unpredictable for Russia to consider him a true ally and certainly is a problem for NATO which is the only reason I imagine Putin entertains him. After the shoot down of the Russian aircraft on the Turkish Syrian boarder it was not an easy thing for Putin to drop the sanctions on Turkish products. But the aftermath… Read more »

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New Zealand enacts new weapons ban just six days after massacre

The American left is sure to pick this up and start screaming for an “assault weapons ban” because this supports their agenda so well.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Reuters reported on Thursday, March 21 that the Prime Minister of New Zealand enacted a sweeping change, banning weapons of the type that were used in the massacre of at least fifty Muslims, who were gunned down on livestream while in Friday prayer services in Christchurch last week. We quote from the Reuters piece below, with added emphasis:

New Zealand will ban military-style semi-automatic and assault rifles under tough new gun laws following the killing of 50 people in its worst mass shooting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday.

In the immediate aftermath of last Friday’s shootings at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, Ardern labeled the attack as terrorism and said New Zealand’s gun laws would change.

“On 15 March our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too. We are announcing action today on behalf of all New Zealanders to strengthen our gun laws and make our country a safer place,” Ardern told a news conference.

“All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned.”

Ardern said she expected the new laws to be in place by April 11 and a buy-back scheme costing up to NZ$200 million ($138 million) would be established for banned weapons.

All military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles would be banned, along with parts used to convert weapons into MSSAs and all high-capacity magazines.

Australia banned semi-automatic weapons and launched a gun buy-back after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people were killed.

Ardern said that similar to Australia, the law would allow for strictly enforced exemptions for farmers for pest control and animal welfare.

“I strongly believe that the vast majority of legitimate gun owners in New Zealand will understand that these moves are in the national interest, and will take these changes in their stride.”

This is undoubtedly going to be real red meat (or perhaps real vegetables) for the anti-gun lobby in the United States. This is because New Zealand strongly resembled the US in terms of firearm rights and the penetration of numbers of guns in the populace of this remote island nation. Reuters continues, with statements that would probably surprise, even horrify some gun owners in the States, but which are doubtlessly useful for the application of pressure on such individuals:

New Zealand, a country of fewer than 5 million people, has an estimated 1.2-1.5 million firearms, about 13,500 of them MSSA-type weapons.

Most farmers own guns while hunting of deer, pigs and goats is popular. Gun clubs and shooting ranges dot the country.

That has created a powerful lobby that has thwarted previous attempts to tighten gun laws.

Federated Farmers, which represent thousands of farmers, said it supported the new laws.

“This will not be popular among some of our members but … we believe this is the only practicable solution,” a group spokesman, Miles Anderson, said in a statement.

The main opposition National Party, which draws strong support in rural areas, said it also supported the ban.

The changes exclude two general classes of firearms commonly used for hunting, pest control and stock management on farms.

“I have a military style weapon. But to be fair, I don’t really use it, I don’t really need it,” said Noel Womersley, who slaughters cpoliticalattle for small farmers around Christchurch.

“So I’m quite happy to hand mine over.”

To be absolutely fair, the attack on the mosques was an awful event, made the worse by the shooter’s deliberate attempts to politicize various aspects of what he was doing and what he “stood for” as an attack ostensibly against US President Donald Trump, some seven thousand miles away in the United States.

The immediate reaction of the people interviewed, some among them related or friends with the victims of the massacre, was to embrace the weapons reform laws:

Nada Tawfeek, who buried her father-in-law killed in the attacks, Hussein Moustafa, on Thursday, welcomed the ban.

“It’s a great reaction. I think other countries need to learn from her [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern],” Tawfeek said.

Mohammed Faqih, a member of the Islamic clergy who flew in from California and attended the funerals for some victims on Thursday, said he was “extremely grateful” for the gun ban.

“I wish our leaders in the States would follow on her footsteps and do the same thing,” he said.

One can expect there to be quite the outcry among American liberals about gun control, especially if anything remotely resembling this event takes place or is thwarted in coming days in the US.

It may seem very cold and cruel to focus on the political angle of this story rather than the human tragedy that it is. However, in this situation we have seen signs that the most vile form of human tragedy has actually taken place – the murder of dozens of innocent people for a mere political point. Indeed this thought has been noted and vilified already, as Mr. R.X. Dentith, writing for the New Zealand website Spinoff here quoted:

American paleo-conservative Rush Limbaugh was one of the first to note: “There’s an ongoing theory that the shooter himself may, in fact, be a leftist who writes the manifesto and then goes out and performs the deed purposely to smear his political enemies, knowing he’s going to get shot in the process. You know you just can’t – you can’t immediately discount this. The left is this insane, they are this crazy. And then if that’s exactly what the guy is trying to do then he’s hit a home run, because right there on Fox News: ‘Shooter is an admitted white nationalist who hates immigrants.’”

…[P]eople like Limbaugh… can’t stomach the idea the terrorist action in Otautahi might be motivated by the kind of rhetoric Limbaugh helps disseminate – tend to think there is a culture war going on, and they are on the losing side.

This war has many names, and the enemy is easily identified: it is the battle against Cultural Marxism; the fight against Toxic Feminism; the resistance to Identity Politics; and the fear of the Great Replacement, the thesis at the heart of the terrorist’s own manifesto.

The Great Replacement thesis posits that the majority white European countries are being “invaded” by non-white, non-European peoples. Not just that, but due to declining birth rates in the West, this “invasion” constitutes a wholesale replacement of the white population over time.

Mr. Dentith tries further to knock down this notion of the Great Replacement. However, he misses a much more basic point.

Someone who goes and takes human lives and broadcasts them for any reason is not a mere political operative. The person who does this is a very sick, deranged human being indeed. Evil is certainly appropriately used here.

However, evil is often quite cunning, and despite the intellectual arguments about the reality or non-reality of any particular manifesto statement, in this case, the killer played the media with infernal intelligence, and they took the bait. It is possible that Prime Minister Ardern also took the bait, in this most awful of bad situations, and to give her credit, she took swift actions to try to “correct” what was wrong.

But the problem here was not the type of weapons used. The problem is the fact that they were used by a person who thought these fifty people’s lives were worth nothing more than a bit of policy change. One of the worst examples of human evil in recent times, this incident shouts to the world that there is a problem, but the problem remains unsolved, even though many people will hand over their firearms out of a genuine wish for compassion to those lost and the hope that somehow this action will prevent a future incident.

But the logic of this emotional reaction is nil. And what is worse is that the American Left knows this, but does not care. The movers and shakers of liberalism will likely milk the actions of sincerely horrified New Zealanders for all they are worth to try at affecting change in American constitutional rights.

And the innocent dead will not rest in peace, because the real problem has not even been examined.

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Upstart Populist Party Shocks In Dutch Election Upset, 2 Days After Utrecht Attack

International reports have described the FvD as receiving “a surge of last-minute support” in the days following the Utrecht attack.

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Via Zerohedge…


Dutch voters have sent shock waves through Europe at the polls on Wednesday in the wake of Monday’s deadly Utrecht terror shooting, in which a now detained 37-year old Turkish man went on a terrifying tram killing spree which left three dead and three injured.

Euroskeptic party, Forum for Democracy (FvD), has emerged victorious in key provincial elections this week, paving the way to making it one of the two largest groups in the Dutch Senate, and representing growing Dutch frustration with the recent unprecedented refugee influx in Europe.

Newcomer Forum for Democracy party is led by 36-year-old Thierry Baudet, who is a critic of the EU and of the Netherlands’ immigration policies, via EPA

International reports have described the FvD as receiving “a surge of last-minute support” in the days following the Utrecht attack, which investigators have since described as having a “terror motive” based on a letter found in shooter Gokmen Tanis’ possession.

Forum for Democracy party leader Thierry Baudet had immediately placed ultimate blame  for the incident on the government’s “lax immigration policies” and provocatively stated a day before the elections (referencing his political rival)

If people want more deadly shootings like the one in Utrecht, then they have to vote for the VVD.

Baudet, riding a wave of renewed Euroskeptic sentiment, and whose party also wants to see more military spending, green initiatives, and an easing on income tax while greatly restricting the borders, said in the aftermath of Wednesday’s vote: “The voters in the Netherlands have spread their wings and shown their true power.”

Referencing the Utrecht attack and other deadly terror incidents on European soil, he added: “We have been called to the front because we have to. Because the country needs us.”

Three were killed and several injured in Monday’s Dutch tram terror attack, which raised the country’s emergency threat level to five as it was unfolding, its highest level.

Interestingly, the 36-year old Baudet and his party continued campaigning down to the last moments even as others stopped in the wake of Monday’s attack which rocked the Netherlands. According to Al Jazeera:

Following the lead of US President Donald Trump, Baudet opposes immigration and emphasises “Dutch first” cultural and economic themes. He opposes the euro and thinks the Netherlands should leave the European Union.

Baudet had continued campaigning when other parties stopped after Monday’s attack in Utrecht, in which a gunman shot three people dead on a tram. The populist leader blamed the incident on the government’s lax immigration policies.

The FvD is now set to take 12 seats in the upper house of parliament, which is equal to Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD Party, a scenario before this week considered unlikely according to many observers.

The FvD slightly outscoring the VVD means Rutte’s government has lost its majority for the 75-seat Senate ahead of upcoming May elections.

In a post-election speech on Wednesday, Baudet described further that what’s now being described in international media as “an upstart populist party [that has] shocked the Dutch political establishment” as punishing the arrogance of elites.

In his pro-Western civilization themed remarks, Baudet added, “We are standing in the rubble of what was once the most beautiful civilization in the world.”

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Will The Trump White House finally punish Facebook for censorship?

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 113.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at US President Trump’s tweet where he has said that he would be “looking into” a report that his social media chief, Dan Scavino Jr. has been censored by Facebook.

Are we finally about to see the Trump White House move to punish social media outlets for their blatant and bias censorship of alternative narratives that dare to stray from globalist neo-liberal and radical left ideology?

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“Conservatives face a tough fight as Big Tech’s censorship expands”, authored by Donald Trump Jr., via The Hill…

As Big Tech’s censorship of conservatives becomes ever more flagrant and overt, the old arguments about protecting the sanctity of the modern public square are now invalid. Our right to freely engage in public discourse through speech is under sustained attack, necessitating a vigorous defense against the major social media and internet platforms.

From “shadowbans” on Facebook and Twitter, to demonetization of YouTube videos, to pulled ads for Republican candidates at the critical junctures of election campaigns, the list of violations against the online practices and speech of conservatives is long.

I certainly had my suspicions confirmed when Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, “accidentally” censored a post I made regarding the Jussie Smollett hoax, which consequently led to me hearing from hundreds of my followers about how they’ve been having problems seeing, liking or being able to interact with my posts. Many of them even claimed that they’ve had to repeatedly refollow me, as Instagram keeps unfollowing me on their accounts.

While nothing about Big Tech’s censorship of conservatives truly surprises me anymore, it’s still chilling to see the proof for yourself. If it can happen to me, the son of the president, with millions of followers on social media, just think about how bad it must be for conservatives with smaller followings and those who don’t have the soapbox or media reach to push back when they’re being targeted?

Thanks to a brave Facebook whistleblower who approached James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas, we now know that Mark Zuckerberg’s social media giant developed algorithms to “deboost” certain content, limiting its distribution and appearance in news feeds. As you probably guessed, this stealth censorship was specifically aimed at conservatives.

Facebook appears to have deliberately tailored its algorithm to recognize the syntax and style popular among conservatives in order to “deboost” that content. “Mainstream media,” “SJW” (Social Justice Warrior) and “red pill” — all terms that conservatives often use to express themselves — were listed as red flags, according to the former Facebook insider.

Facebook engineers even cited BlazeTV host Lauren Chen’s video criticizing the social justice movement as an example of the kind of “red pills” that users just aren’t allowed to drop anymore. Mainstream conservative content was strangled in real time, yet fringe leftists such as the Young Turks enjoy free rein on the social media platform.

Despite the occasional brave gesture, politicians have been far too sluggish in recognizing the extent of the problem. But the Republican Party and the conservative movement are becoming more vigilant against the suppression of our speech, as we saw at last weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Silicon Valley lobbyists have splashed millions of dollars all over the Washington swamp to play on conservatives’ innate faith in the free-market system and respect for private property. Even as Big Tech companies work to exclude us from the town square of the 21st century, they’ve been able to rely on misguided conservatives to carry water for them with irrelevant pedantry about whether the First Amendment applies in cases of social media censorship.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has been making a name for himself as a Republican prepared to stand up to Big Tech malfeasance since his time as Missouri’s attorney general. He delivered a tour de force interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel in front of the CPAC crowd, one that provided a clear-eyed assessment of the ongoing affront to the freedoms of conservative speech and expression.

Hawley demolished the absurd notion that “conservative principles” preclude taking action to ensure free debate online simply because Big Tech firms — the most powerful corporations in the world — are private companies.

Hawley pointed out that Big Tech companies already enjoy “sweetheart deals” under current regulations that make their malfeasance a matter of public concern. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, for instance, allows them to avoid liability for the content that users post to their platforms. To address this problem, Hawley proposed adding a viewpoint neutrality requirement for platforms that benefit from Section 230’s protections, which were originally enacted to protect the internet as “a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”

“Google and Facebook should not be a law unto themselves,” Hawley declared. “They should not be able to discriminate against conservatives. They should not be able to tell us we need to sit down and shut up!”

It’s high time other conservative politicians started heeding Hawley’s warnings, because the logical endpoint of Big Tech’s free rein is far more troubling than conservative meme warriors losing their Twitter accounts. As we’re already starting to see, what starts with social media censorship can quickly lead to banishment from such fundamental services as transportation, online payments and banking.

Left unchecked, Big Tech and liberal activists could construct a private “social credit” system — not unlike what the communists have nightmarishly implemented in China — that excludes outspoken conservatives from wide swaths of American life simply because their political views differ from those of tech executives.

There is no conservative principle that even remotely suggests we are obligated to adopt a laissez-faire attitude while the richest companies on earth abuse the power we give them to put a thumb on the scale for our political enemies.

If anything, our love of the free market dictates that we must do whatever is necessary to ensure that the free marketplace of ideas remains open to all.

Donald Trump Jr. is executive vice president at The Trump Organization.

 

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