When state propaganda turns on itself

Erdoğan government’s propaganda, depicted as being led by a group of patriots, has helped legitimize much of the criminal work of some of the members of these informal governing circles. Everything has been permitted for a small group of ‘chosen ones'. However, the propaganda machine did not prepare for the possibility that one of the chosen ones might turns against the system and begin using the same propaganda against them.

Turks have been religiously consuming the corruption revelation videos of mafia boss Sedat Peker. The government, which was already pushing ‘deep-state’ propaganda via state TV series, has now fallen into the trap they were digging.
 
The latest series lockdowns in Turkey have prompted a new entertainment trend among the public. Glued to their screens once, sometimes twice, a week, Turks have been religiously consuming the bombastic revelation videos of Turkish mafia boss Sedat Peker. Via the videos, which are comprised of solo rants and alleged confessions, Peker has captured the country as is evident by them receiving around 5 to 6 million views each. The content of the videos is exciting enough to be a Netflix thriller series. In his latest video, Peker claims that he was hired to kill a Turkish Cypriot journalist. Along with these outrageous confessions, which are presumably aimed at establishing credibility for his revelations, Peker mixes in countless accusations. In the same video, he accuses ex-prime minister Binali Yıldırım's son, current Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, and ex-interior Minister Mehmet Ağar, of being the leaders of a massive drug trafficking network. Peker further claims that the network has been shipping drugs from Venezuela to Turkey. He also claims that Mehmet Ağar ordered multiple killings of Kurdish businesspeople in the 90s.
 
In his videos previous videos, Peker has primarily been targeting Süleyman Soylu and Mehmet Ağar. Some of the accusations are quite shocking. However, since illegal activity has been par for the course within recent Turkish history, many of these claims are not unbelievable. Like most illiberal countries, corruption has become an intrinsic part of Turkish politics. Back in the early 2000s, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power by promising to fight corruption and the mafia, but, like many preceding governments, it quickly realized the lucrative and practical value of incorporating crime and corruption into the system, even more so if you’re facilitating said corruption.
 
Some of the allegations of Sedat Peker were well-known before, as they had been raised by human rights defenders and Turkish civil society. However, nobody has been able to garner interest for these issues like Sedat Peker has done over the past few weeks. People are watching Sedat Peker with mouths agape. Many, finally, seem to believe these allegations.
 
Even before his latest dramatic public communication style, Peker has always been focused on his PR and has maintained a base of support. He often had young people around him and he presented himself as an ‘educated’ gangster, frequently quoting philosophers, authors, and poets like Nazım Hikmet and revolutionaries like Che Guevara. He is often featured on his wife’s Instagram account and does not hesitate to show their family life with kids, in a reality show-like format.
 
At the same time, the Turkish government, with its circles of supporters, has fallen into the propagandistic trap they have been digging. The infamous Communications Directorate and pro-government pundits have already been promoting this concept of a ‘deep-state structure,’ in which a group of old men govern the country, working either legally or illegally for the state. It is easy to see this pattern of ‘deep-state’ propaganda within Turkish state TV series. Not long ago, there were a number of Ottoman-style Turkish TV series. Some are still very famous globally.  Now the state TV and pro-government channels have engaged in the production of series promoting this deep-state, nationalist propaganda. The propaganda pattern is the same in almost all of them: behind closed doors, a group of men, consisting of bureaucrats, soldiers, police officers, and spies, work for the state, devise plans, and make decisions regarding how to run and protect the Almighty Turkish State.
 
Peker's videos somehow find their place in this government-sponsored narrative. In each video, Peker claims that all this time he has been working for the state and then he as sidelined, which made him decide to air out their dirty laundry. In every story he tells, he paints the same picture that the new propaganda pattern does, and puts himself in the middle of the plot as an integral part of a secret group governing Turkey behind closed doors.
 
The government’s propaganda, depicted as being led by a group of patriots, has helped legitimize much of the criminal work of some of the members of these informal governing circles. Everything is permitted for a small group of ‘chosen ones,’ because ultimately, their main mission of protecting the state is sacred and therefore, their actions should not be questioned. However, the propaganda machine did not prepare for the possibility that one of the chosen ones might turns against the system and begin using the same propaganda against them. It seems this new narrative is working for Sedat Peker. Peker is showing that he understands how the new media works. As his list of accusations grows longer, he is increasing his audience, as he is getting more clicks on his videos than those Turkish propaganda series’ creators could ever dream of.

May 12, 2021 A refutable lockdown