Turkish citizens are not a rational or inevitable target
It’s a strange impulse to want to blame a massacre in an Istanbul nightclub on New Year’s Eve on anything other than the person firing the gun.
Veteran hack Robert Fisk has just that sort of impulse. After clearing his throat by alluding to the ‘racist reasons’ why terrorist attacks in Turkey get less coverage than attacks in Paris or Berlin (‘Not our lot, we Westerners said.’ Speak for yourself, Robert), his flippant and rambling Independent article changes tack – and offers an apologia for the slaughter.
Listing the manifold deprivations of the Turkish government, (‘playing fast and loose in the Syrian war’, war with the Kurds, the post-coup-attempt purge,) Fisk writes:
“If a democratically-elected dictator (of which there are a growing number around the world) wants to act as a conduit in a neighbour’s civil war – as Pakistan did in Afghanistan, channelling weapons, funds and fighters to combat the Russians with American and Saudi help and encouragement – what does it expect but massacres in its own major cities? Touch Afghanistan, and the Pakistanis found the Taliban marching on Islamabad. Touch Syria, and the fireworks explode in your back yard.”
Note the confusion here. First the switch from ‘a democratically-elected dictator’, i.e. Erdogan, to the pronoun ‘it’ as in ‘what does it expect but massacres in its own major cities?’ The word ‘he’ would have made more sense, while ‘it’ would better refer to a government or a country.
This grammatical tick points to the larger moral and intellectual failure on display – that of confusing the actions of a government with the fate of its party-going citizens.
Put simply, everything Fisk says about the Turkish government and worse could be true, and it wouldn’t mean Turkish and international citizens are a rational or inevitable target for mass murder.
Indeed, attempts to rationalise such attacks are rather difficult, and tend to poison one’s own reasoning. That’s why we have Fisk saying in one breath that Erodgan has supported Al-Qaeda types in Syria, and in the next that this made those same jihadists so angry they unloaded an AK-47 in an Istanbul dance hall.
(Incidentally, it’s worth noting that Fisk never applies his ‘blowback’ theory to Bashar al-Assad in Syria, whom he presents as a making a firm-but-fair stand against Al-Qaeda types, rather than turning Syria and its population to ash in order to stay in power.)
Fisk’s imagining the Istanbul killer as an automaton without agency who merely responds like Pavlov’s dog to the stimuli of (western-allied) governments is far more racist than his flimsy charge against western media.
But if we’re going to scrutinise the press corp, might not a better target be a hack reporter who manages to write apologia for Assadist fascism in Syria, and for jihadist fascism in Europe?
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.