It is difficult to follow news in the international media without reflecting on the fact that America is different than other countries; in that American’s live in the greatest democracy in the world because of our Constitution, and the First Amendment. The American forefather’s had the wisdom to know that true enlightenment can only happen when people are allowed to have debates that are based on open, fair, and unhindered discussion, where everyone has an equal right to express their viewpoint. Other countries, democratic or not, do not hold this high esteem for public discourse, and therefore foreign media tend to present skewed and biased information.
Recently, the government in Turkey blocked access to the website YouTube, a powerful and growing medium on the internet that allows video images. If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the power of streaming video. The government’s rationale for blocking this medium was that a video insulting Atatürk was being posted. The obvious thing that we must notice from this action is not that government can “protect” Atatürk, but that the government has the power to control all media. If the government truly wanted to “protect” Atatürk, the youth would know about Atatürk’s achievements: his military brilliance, his contributions to the Republic, and mostly his commitment to humanity. If the government wanted to protect Atatürk, every person that cherishes the Turkish flag would know that the flag and Atatürk are one and the same, and that without Atatürk there would be no Turkey. The children of Atatürk do not need to be protected from a video, for they know that an insult to Atatürk is an insult to each and every person that says “Ne Mutlu Türküm Diyene.”
Atatürk’s legacy can withstand a YouTube video, what it can not withstand is an assault on the principles of democracy and secularism on which he built the Republic. Atatürk’s legacy is well established in history. Dr. Arnold Ludwig, the keynote speaker at our May 19 event, published a book in 2002 entitled “King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership.” As an independent scientific researcher he analyzed all of the leaders of the 20th Century, and concluded that Atatürk was the greatest leader of our time. Mr. Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives and former history professor, also cited Atatürk as a positive role model for himself during his keynote speech for our organization two years ago. The legacy of Atatürk is not only assured in history, but leaders from every corner of the globe, from the United States, to Austria, to Pakistan, to New Zealand, all knows of the greatness of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
From the YouTube action, it is now obvious that the government has the power to control the media, and therefore the unhindered and enlightened debate as envisioned by the American forefathers is not possible in Turkey. Irrespective of whatever reason the government may give for its action, it is an obvious conclusion that when you control the media (the print media, the broadcast media, and now internet), you control not only the debate, but the Truth.