Techno-nationalism: AKP’s secret weapon

Recently, the Turkish government has adopted a discourse surrounding technological advancements, such a potential space program, to drum up nationalistic unity. It seems to be working, especially among young people. Thus, the ruling alliance of AKP and MHP will likely continue to use this new form of techno-nationalism to rally people around the flag, and it appears they may do so effectively.

Turkey’s Transportation Minister Karaismailoğlu recently stated that soon solar-powered planes and flying taxis would be part of our lives. Futurists often talk about such issues, but recently, AKP politicians have adopted a similar discourse.
 
The current Turkish government has been interested in such technological advancements for some time, as it has learned how to use technology to drum up nationalistic unity.
 
It all started when Selçuk Bayraktar, a Turkish drone producer, joined the Erdoğan family. He is now the husband of the family’s youngest daughter. He already ran the family business before getting married, as Bayraktar’s family is in the defense industry. Predictably, the business grew after the marriage.
 
Turkey’s first Teknofest, an aviation and aerospace technology festival, was organized by the Bayraktars. At the most recent Teknofest, the latest defense industry inventions were presented and younger visitors were given the chance to see such technological developments up close.
 
The Bayraktar firm has been attempting to keep itself and its productions out of politics. Selçuk Bayraktar sometimes shares verses from leftist poets on his twitter account. He has curated a profile not intertwined with the ruling AKP, but the Turkish State. Even opposition mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, has praised Selçuk Bayraktar on a number of occasions.
 
The success of the Bayraktar drones also received praise during the Nagorno-Karabakh war, as they were used successfully by the Azeri Army. The Turkish government has been using Bayraktar drones to gain both national and international leverage. Questioning why Turkey is investing so heavily in its defense industry is considered unacceptable. No one questions what kind of a backing the Bayraktar family gets from the state. There is no such atmosphere in which anyone dares to question such things. To do so is to be labeled as unpatriotic or anti-Turkey.
 
Another move in the same vein by President Erdoğan had been Turkey’s space program: Erdoğan revealed the “details” of the program and delivered the “good” news that Turkey would land on the moon by 2023. Experts have highlighted that it is impossible for Turkey to produce such technology within two years. Additionally, experts have pointed out that, no specific details were given, only words. However, the government and the government’s communication team have been pushing this point. Pro-government pundits started singing their excitement and praises as a choir. Whoever questioned the space program was ‘against Turkey,’ because it was considered to be above daily politics and partisanship.
 
This new technology discourse seems to be working, especially among young people. There is an interest in recent technological developments among young people. Thus, it seems the government has been successful in utilizing this as a tool to reach young voters. The reactions among young people to the space program is one of excitement and, as a result, it is welling up feelings of national pride.
 
The opposition has been confident in its becoming more popular among younger voters. Which is why they have been so sure of a future election victory. However, it might not be so easy. The AKP and MHP will continue to use this new form of techno-nationalism to rally people around the flag, and it appears they may do so effectively.

February 25, 2021 Is Boğaziçi a turning point?