Master and Apprentice

I don’t see what the problem is here, frankly:

Turkey’s electoral body has been condemned for ordering Istanbul’s local elections to be re-held after an opposition victory in March.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party had claimed there were “irregularities and corruption” behind the opposition CHP’s slim win.

But CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu, who was confirmed as Istanbul’s mayor in April, called the decision “treacherous”.

The vote, which will be held on 23 June, has sparked protests in the city.

Maybe the good citizens of Istanbul didn’t really know what they were voting for? Or perhaps the election was merely advisory? Maybe people were lied to (was there a bus involved)? As Erdogan says, there were “irregularities” and now everyone is better informed, isn’t it only right they go back for another vote “just to be sure”? After all, it’s a big decision and people have a right to change their mind. That’s what democracy is all about, isn’t it?

The European Parliament also said the decision to re-run the election would end the credibility of democratic elections in Turkey.

The EU has always encouraged Turkey to catch up with the rest of Europe. Maybe this is what they’re doing?


Jamal Khashoggi

This story seems to be creating quite a stir:

Jamal Khashoggi, a well-known journalist and critic of the Saudi government, walked into the country’s consulate in Istanbul last week to obtain some documents and has not been seen since.

His fiancée fears that he has been kidnapped or killed. The authorities in Istanbul believe he was murdered by Saudi agents. Saudi Arabia insists that he left the consulate shortly after he arrived.

So a Saudi walks into a Saudi embassy in Istanbul and doesn’t come out again. The Turkish government, led by the oh-so neutral and trustworthy Recep Erdoğan, says he’s been murdered. Sorry, why do I care?

Mr Khashoggi is a prominent journalist who has covered major stories, including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of Osama Bin Laden, for various Saudi news organisations.

Okay, it’s not good that journalists are being killed but Saudi Arabia has been oppressing or jailing journalists for decades. And the Turkish government complaining about the treatment of dissident journalists is a bit like the mayor of Las Vegas complaining about light pollution in upstate New York. So why the sudden fuss in the west?

He went into self-imposed exile in the US last year, and has written a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he has criticised the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Ah. So he’s a darling of the US media establishment, and anti-Saudi. Now there is much to criticise Saudi Arabia for, but let’s also remember that their fiercest critics are Iran and, more recently, Turkey who are both locked in an ideological religious power struggle in the Middle East. Perhaps a little skepticism is in order here? How much of this media coverage is being paid for by state-funded lobby groups?

There’s also this:

In truth, Khashoggi never had much time for western-style pluralistic democracy. In the 1970s he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, which exists to rid the Islamic world of western influence. He was a political Islamist until the end, recently praising the Muslim Brotherhood in the Washington Post. He championed the ‘moderate’ Islamist opposition in Syria, whose crimes against humanity are a matter of record. Khashoggi frequently sugarcoated his Islamist beliefs with constant references to freedom and democracy. But he never hid that he was in favour of a Muslim Brotherhood arc throughout the Middle East. His recurring plea to bin Salman in his columns was to embrace not western-style democracy, but the rise of political Islam which the Arab Spring had inadvertently given rise to. For Khashoggi, secularism was the enemy.

Between the uncertainty over the claims, the fact that it’s a squabble between competing Muslim factions in the Middle East, the untrustworthyness of everyone involved, and the journalist in question being a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, I’ve concluded I don’t really care. There are other, more worthy things to get outraged about (this, for example, especially when considered alongside this), and I don’t think either the US or UK should entangle themselves in this mess, let alone burn political capital posturing over it.


Corbyn isn’t the problem, his supporters are

Sometime last year three Turkish people I knew visited Jordan on holiday. Everywhere they went they found the locals, upon learning they were Turkish, would get all excited and say:

“Oh we love Erdogan! We love how he stands up to the Israelis!”

This despite Jordan’s rather sketchy record when it comes to Palestinian refugees, the PLO, and occupying land. Now there is every chance these locals were Palestinians, but my acquaintances said it is now common to hear similar sentiments in Turkey. In particular, they like this performance:

The fact is, regardless of where you go in the Middle East and certain other regions, bashing Israel is hugely popular. More often than not, this equates to simple Jew-bashing. Yes, there are many legitimate complaints which can be leveled at Israel and criticising Israel does not in itself make one anti-semitic. However, if the only country in the world whose existence you dispute happens to be the Jewish one, and you sound as though you’re reading from a Hamas pamphlet when the subject comes up, people will draw their own conclusions. And for Turks to complain about the occupation and oppression of Palestinians is a little ironic, especially given how much their dear leader admires the Ottomans. As usual, the problem is not that Palestinians are oppressed, but that it is Jews doing the oppressing.

Which brings me onto this:

Jeremy Corbyn said he was present but not involved at a wreath-laying for individuals behind the group that carried out the Munich Olympic massacre, a partial admission that led to a row between him and Israel’s prime minister.

The Labour leader had been asked if Palestinian leaders linked to the Black September terror group were also honoured at a memorial event he attended in Tunisia in 2014, at which victims of the 1985 Israeli airstrike in Tunis were remembered.

Corbyn said “a wreath was indeed laid” for “some of those who were killed in Paris in 1992” and added, in response to a question: “I was present at that wreath-laying, I don’t think I was actually involved in it.”

The hard-left in Europe and elsewhere has always been anti-Israel, partly because they took their lead from the Soviets who had an interest in undermining America’s ally in the Middle East. Coupled with that, you have the left-wing suspicion of Jewish bankers, businessmen, and media moguls who supposedly run the world and conspire to thwart the success of glorious socialist revolutions. The latter is where they share common ground with the hard-right: go on any alt-right or MAGA blog and within three comments someone is writing a thousand-word paragraph on the Rothschilds.

Jeremy Corbyn is famous for being a hard-left outsider, and being anti-Israeli is near enough compulsory in those circles and if this stems from anti-semitism, then so be it. Certainly, nobody’s going to complain. Only now Corbyn has found himself leader of the Labour party people are appalled at his behaviour, but I fear they have missed the point. What they should be asking is why someone who lays wreaths at the graves of dead terrorists is enjoying so much support, and the answer – as our Turks traveling in Jordan discovered – is that this sort of thing is popular among determined and vocal minorities everywhere. There’s no point blaming the preacher when so many people are tripping over themselves to hear the sermon.

Corbyn has never been interested in building a broad coalition, and he wouldn’t know how to even if he was. Like George Galloway, his shtick is to pander to a select audience and thrive on the notoriety it generates. He knew exactly what he was doing when he laid that wreath, just as he did when he defended the IRA and invited Sinn Fein to Parliament. The reason why his denials are so nonsensical is because he needs to say just enough to get rid of the reporter and move onto the next question without disappointing his core supporters who fully approve of his actions. The fact is, Corbyn’s just doing what he’s always done, only now it’s a lot more popular.

So rather than demanding Corbyn resign – why should he? – those concerned should ask how laying a wreath at the grave of Islamic terrorists became a sensible political act for the leader of Britain’s opposition. In other words, who is supporting this stuff, and in what numbers? It’s not difficult to find some pasty white septuagenarian at a protest or online ranting about the Jews, and some younger lefties may have swelled their ranks recently, but these people have always been at the fringes of British political life. So what’s different now? How come blatant anti-semitism in a major British political party is nowadays no longer something over which the leader should resign, but a source of much of their popularity? This is the elephant in the room that, for all their outrage, the media and political classes don’t want to address.

It used to be one had to travel to the Middle East to find people supporting a mainstream political leader solely because they sided against Israel and the Jews. Now we can find it in Britain, and those squawking the loudest about this state of affairs are usually those who did so much to bring it about.


An Optimistic Request

Good luck with this, then:

President Tayyip Erdogan told Turks to exchange gold and hard currency into lira on Friday as part of a “national battle” against economic enemies he said have irreparably ruptured ties with Ankara.

The very reason Turks would be hoarding gold and foreign currency was to give them a route out in the event he cratered the economy. Middle class Turks must be fleeing in droves right now, particularly when their president makes statements like these:

On Thursday, he urged supporters not to worry, saying that while overseas investors had dollars, Turks had Allah.


Early last month, he claimed the exclusive power to appoint the bankers that set interest rates – and to cement his control he has put his son-in-law in charge of economic policy.

So Turkey is well on the much-predicted path to becoming a nasty Islamist basket-case. But if they weren’t in NATO, would anyone care?


Turkey Decides

Well this is disappointing, for me anyway:

Turkey’s long-standing leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won a new five-year term after securing outright victory in the first round of a presidential poll.

Election authority chief Sadi Guven said the president “received the absolute majority of all valid votes”.

State media reports put Mr Erdogan on 53% with 99% of votes counted, and his closest rival Muharrem Ince on 31%.

Had Erdogan got less than 50% of the votes he’d have been forced into a second round; I’d hoped the result would at least have been tight enough for this to happen. Whatever claims of rigging and suppression of the opposition there are, this is a rousing endorsement of Erdogan and his policies. It’s worth noting that some 2m people took to the streets in advance of the election in support of Erdogan’s rival, so while he is happy to throw politicians, journalists, and judges in prison Turkey is not some sort of totalitarian police state, at least not yet. The result takes on an additional importance because:

President Erdogan will assume major new powers under Turkey’s new constitution. The changes were endorsed in a tight referendum last year by 51% of voters, and are due to come into force after the election.

They include:

– Directly appointing top public officials, including ministers and vice-presidents

– The power to intervene in the country’s legal system

– The power to impose a state of emergency

The job of prime minister will also be scrapped.

Like it or not, this is what the majority of Turks appear to want. Sure, the educated middle classes are distraught but they had the run of the place for decades, airily dismissing what are now Erdogan’s core supporters as backward and unworthy of their attention. As I said before:

The chattering classes in Turkey had no problem ridiculing Recep Erdoğan during his slow rise to power either, confident they could contain him while dismissing his supporters as backward reactionaries that could be defeated by sophisticated discussions among themselves. At no point did the elites in Ankara and Istanbul listen to his supporters to figure out why they were voting for him, and look at ways to persuade these millions of people to come on board with their own policies. Perhaps they believed that beating him at the ballot box wasn’t necessary and they could just remove someone who didn’t do their bidding by other means? And look how that worked out.

What the majority Turks seem to want is a country run along Islamic principles led by a strongman who isn’t going to get pushed around, can be relied upon to bash Israel, and will keep his boot on the necks of the Kurds. Anything else – the economy, secularism, relations with the west, and ensuring Turkey doesn’t become an oppressive, theocratic basket-case like Iran – is of secondary importance. One would be forgiven for thinking this is all rather normal for the Middle East, and historians may look back on Ataturk’s secular nation as being little more than a quaint experiment held in place largely by force. I have heard some Turks despairingly say that Ataturk put too much faith in the Turkish people, but he had the sense to ensure Islamist strongmen couldn’t take over by having the army step in when necessary. Then the EU stuck its beak in and, waving false promises of membership, told Turkey this safety-valve was incompatible with democratic norms and must be abolished. They complied, and now they have an Islamist strongman at the helm. Well done, Brussels! One can hardly blame this on Ataturk’s lack of understanding of his people; it suggests he knew exactly what would happen if every Turk got a say.

I suspect things will have to get a lot worse in Turkey before Erdogan is turfed out, and who knows what the place will look like by then. As I implied earlier, my guess is in ten years it will look a lot like contemporary Iran. The best thing the western powers can do is let them get on with it – it’s their country and they have decided this is the direction they want to go in. The last thing Turkey needs is western meddling in its internal affairs. However, they should seriously evaluate Turkey’s continued NATO membership; the Cold War is over and Turkey no longer holds the strategic importance it once did. Fears like this I believe are overblown:

Russia and Turkey share a distrust and rivalry for one another which goes back centuries; whatever relations Moscow and Ankara enjoy now are of convenience only. The next time Erdogan starts ranting about the west and invoking holy wars, the Americans should withdraw their military support, kick them out of NATO, and tell them to take their chances with the Russians. It won’t happen any time soon, but eventually they might not have a choice.


Secular Muslims

This amused:

Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has accused Israel of carrying out a “genocide” as more than 50 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in one day of protests.

Well, nobody could accuse the Turks of having a consistent understanding of the term “genocide”, so it’s unsurprising their president continues to struggle with it.

The Turkish president accused Israel of being a “terrorist state” and announced he would pull ambassadors out of Israel and the US. The announcement came as the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, inflaming protests on the Israeli border in Gaza.

This is also to be expected. As support for the Palestinians has waned in the Arab world, particularly among those countries on the Arabian Peninsula, Erdogan has stepped in to fill the void. In parallel, he seems keen to turn the once-secular Turkey into an authoritarian, low-level Islamist state along the lines of contemporary Iran. He may not go as far as the Mullahs but his reforms have seen Islam being shoved to forefront in areas such as education where it was previously absent, and I suspect it is a matter of time before women are unable to walk the streets in some areas without a headscarf. I note that Erdogan is in London at the moment on an official visit; strangely absent are protests over his jailing of journalists, persecution of political opponents, gutting of the judiciary, assault on civil liberties, and erosion of women’s rights. Let’s bear this in mind when Trump comes to visit. Personally, I’m disappointed that nobody from the British government has brought any of this up with Erdogan and the press don’t seem interested in doing so either, but between the current government and media it’s a toss-up between which is the more useless.

I was watching France 24 this morning and it showed a protest march through the streets of Istanbul in opposition to the opening of the new US embassy. They interviewed a woman decked out in a headscarf and carrying a plastic model of a mosque, who I suspect was Syrian rather than Turkish (a lot of refugees have crossed the border). She screamed that “Jerusalem was Muslim”, and if she had anything to say in addition, France 24 neglected to share it with us. However, before that they interviewed a man in his 50s who began with:

“As a Muslim, I…”

Us westerners are – correctly- encouraged not to lump all Muslims together as one homogeneous group, but these efforts are somewhat hampered by Muslims themselves.

A year or so back I met a Turkish lady here in Paris who was as westernised as it’s possible to get in terms of education, lifestyle, social relations, and political outlook. She ate pork, drank alcohol, and claimed she was totally secular. Having got to know her quite well, I believed her. And then Trump signed Executive Order 13769 prohibiting entry to the US for people coming from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. My friend bought wholesale into the notion that this was a “Muslim ban” and she was incensed, because she believed it a result of blatant Islamaphobia on the part of Trump and, sooner or later, these policies were going to effect her. I had several lengthy, heated arguments with her during which I pointed out the seven countries were not selected because they have Muslim majorities but because the civil infrastructure has collapsed in each to the point they cannot verify who is coming and going from their end (Iran being the exception). She was having none of it, and believed she had a right to be concerned and angry at what she saw as a blatantly Islamaphobic policy.

I went away and thought about this. What has someone from Turkey got in common with someone from Libya, Sudan, Yemen, or Somalia? Absolutely nothing whatsoever, and the Turks would be first to insist upon it, but with one exception: Islam. The one and only reason a Turk would oppose US visa restrictions on someone from Sudan is out of Muslim solidarity; there is absolutely no other reason which could apply. So my next thought was why somebody claiming to be secular would be loudly championing the rights of people from collapsed nations in a state of civil war on the grounds of Muslim solidarity?

When I tell people I’m secular, I don’t follow that up by denouncing Trump’s border wall on the grounds that Mexicans are Christian. Nor do I back the Philippines in their territorial disputes with China out of religious solidarity. When I say I’m secular, it means my nominal Christianity does not influence my political or social opinions in any way. But to my friend it seemed to mean something else, so I confronted her. Her first reaction was one of utter shock; she didn’t seem to have realised there was any contradiction in claiming to be secular one minute and raving about Trump’s “Muslim ban” the next. When it dawned on her, she got quite upset.

I realised then what I’d probably known since I lived in the Middle East all those years ago: a secular Muslim is quite different from a secular anything else, and often not very secular at all. I’d noticed back then how often I’d meet a very modern, westernised Lebanese, Egyptian, or Arab who would for all outward appearances be very secular. Then without warning they’d start raving about the Jews, or swearing the Koran represents the word of God. And I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard of western or Russian women getting involved with modern, secular Muslim men only to find they’re nothing of the sort.

But the experience with my Turkish friend was perhaps the most interesting. Here was the most secular Muslim you could ever hope to meet, and one would have thought she would have recognised the elected US government’s right to set visa policy and understood their security concerns. Yet when push came to shove, her being Muslim mattered and that came before anything else. It’s worth bearing this in mind over the coming years as Ataturk’s secular republic slowly gets replaced with something else. It’s also worth remembering when we’re told not to treat Muslims as a homogeneous bloc.


Protests in Iran

There are numerous reports on Twitter that protests have broken out in several towns and cities in Iran. There is a video circulating of an astonishingly brave woman chanting “Death to Khamenei” in front of law enforcement officers, and another of posters of Khomeini and Khamenei being burned. There are other reports that the police are no longer enforcing the detested 1979 law compelling women to wear a headscarf in public, and one young woman has taken the opportunity to stand on a bollard, hair uncovered, and wave a flag. What is significant about these protests is that people on the streets are actively preventing the authorities from arresting their fellow protesters, and the police have so far declined to get heavy-handed.

From what I can tell, the protests are mainly about economics, with people asking why Iran is spending so much money on terrorism and political meddling abroad while things deteriorate at home. Apparently some are shouting “No Gaza, No Lebanon, our lives are devoted to Iran”. Interestingly, I recently heard some grumblings from Russians about Putin expending money and effort in Syria rather than improving living conditions at home.

The last time there were protests of this size in Iran was 2009 following elections, and Barack Obama declined to back the protesters, effectively siding with the regime. This time around we have Donald Trump in the White House and, surprise surprise, he’s not fucking about:

This is winning him support in unlikely quarters, with some centrist Democrats now referring to Obama’s silence in 2009 as an “error”. Others have pointed out that far from being an error, this was entirely consistent with Obama’s policy of sucking up to America’s sworn enemies in the hope of avoiding difficult foreign policy dilemmas on his watch, and in the case of Iran, signing that ludicrous nuclear deal in the hope of securing his “legacy”. It would be highly ironic if the despotic Iranian regime is overthrown by its own people while Trump is in charge: a constant refrain from his critics has been that his bellicose language towards the Mullahs is unhelpful and only serves to rally the people around their government. Turns out America throwing its moral support behind people trampled on by their governments actually gives them encouragement. Who knew?

Of course, this is giving a lot of people a headache, for two reasons. Firstly, it shows that Obama’s policy towards Iran was seriously ill-considered, but criticism of the Messiah is verbotten in media circles. Secondly, it makes Trump look good. This is why CNN has barely mentioned the protests, preferring instead to ask why Trump doesn’t own a pet. One would have also thought that certain American feminists might feel a little embarrassed about calling themselves brave while marching in Washington wearing pussy-hats in order to listen to sharia-supporting Linda Sarsour praise Islam, but I think we established long ago these morons are incapable of shame.

It also gives the usual conspiracy-mongers a problem. Normally when protests appear in a country whose population has suffered under decades of dysfunctional government, idiots from both sides of the political spectrum immediately blame the CIA or the Jews/Israel. It never occurs to them that maybe ordinary people can get fed up with a lifetime of misrule, but now they may be forced to. It’s going to be pretty hard to claim that the CIA has been active in Iran and paying Iranians to protest their government, and it’s going to be even harder to convince anyone that a nefarious cabal of Jews has done the same. That said, I expect we’ll still get the usual bollocks about a pipeline within a few weeks.

Personally, I’m glad the Iranians have taken to the streets. The Iranians are not stupid, bloodthirsty savages bent on the eradication of Israel and the US, by contrast they appear to be relatively sensible people ruled by theocratic despots who I’d like to see hanging from lampposts, upside down and on fire. I would love to see regime change in Iran, but it could only come from within, at the hands of the Iranians themselves; if it came about via external force it would be a disaster. Regardless of what happens now, and I expect the government will break up the protests and regain control before too long, the Ayatollah’s regime is now looking vulnerable. The people have shown the world they are not supportive of the bullshit their leaders spout, and I am confident they want a more modern, open society and less backward theocracy. In a brittle regime, protests like these taken on an importance which far outweighs their actual size and, unlike in the Arab springs, I am more confident what will follow the eventual collapse of theocratic rule in Iran will be an improvement.

Finally, the person who ought to be watching proceedings in Iran very closely is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He seems keen on establishing in Turkey a theocratic Islamist regime similar to that of Iran, and the two countries are keen allies in the stand-off between the various Arab countries in the Gulf. If the Iranian regime falls the one that replaces it might not like him very much. The Turkish people might also get the idea that they have options to resist encroaching religious despotism after all.

All in all, this is encouraging. Let’s see what happens.


Recep Erdogan, leader of Muslims

From the BBC:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged leaders of Muslim nations to recognise Jerusalem as the “occupied capital of the Palestinian state”.

The BBC’s Mark Lowen in Istanbul says the rhetoric at the start of the OIC summit was strong.

But the question is what in practice the grouping can do, he adds, given the fact some members are more pro-Trump than others.

Actually, the issue has little to do with Trump. Every generation a Muslim leader fancies himself as the leader of Muslims everywhere or, to begin with, regional boss: the Saudis, being custodians of the two holy sites, believe it should be their king; Egypt’s Nasser pushed his way to the front during the years when Arab nationalism was fashionable; Libya’s Gaddafi was always blathering about forming some pan-Arab-African union or other, headed by himself of course; the Iranians don’t shy away from the role of religious leadership especially among the Shia, but have now spilled into Sunni areas like Syria and Qatar where previously they weren’t welcome. Now we have Erdogan putting himself forward as the natural leader of the region and, he hopes, Muslims everywhere.

He might as well try putting himself at the head of the Combined Manchester and Liverpool Football Supporters Club while wearing a red shirt. If there is one thing Muslims in the Middle East hate more than Jews it is other Muslims from a different sect or tribe thinking they’re in charge. Erdogan probably lacks the self-awareness and sense of Arab history to understand that any attempt to rally Muslims under his banner will be met with suspicion as to his motives, and have the Saudis calling the Israelis for transcripts of his phone calls.

One of the main reasons Israel has survived for so long is because its enemies are more distrustful of one another than they are of Israel itself. Erdogan is probably going to find this out before too long:

Mr Erdogan instead urged a unified response by Muslim nations to Mr Trump’s Jerusalem decision.

“I invite all the countries that value international law and justice to recognise Jerusalem as the occupied capital of the Palestinian state,” he said.

Good luck with that.


Trump is a Puppet of [Insert Country]!

From the Washington Post:

Erdogan’s government began cultivating Donald Trump’s team before the election. Michael Flynn, then a campaign aide, was hired as a pro-Turkey lobbyist, and his firm continued to receive Turkish money during the transition. After Flynn resigned as national security adviser in February, the Turks began working with Rudy Giuliani, a close Trump adviser.

So, having utterly failed to turn up a shred of evidence of collusion with Russia, those who don’t like Trump move the narrative effortlessly onto collusion with Turkey.

Is anyone sane still listening to this crap?


Minorities and Trump

Via the comments at David Thompson’s place, I bring you this televised discussion from Australia’s ABC featuring our favourite Laurie Penny. Naturally, she kicks things off by pandering to whatever oppressed minorities she thinks are within earshot…

I’d like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land we’re meeting on. I’m really hoping I’m going to say this right! The Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, and pay my respect to their elders past, present and future.

…before addressing the global issues of the day by talking mostly about herself. So far, so Laurie, but this isn’t really what I want to write about.

What’s more interesting is this statement made by one of the other panelists by the name of Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, an American who is the founder and editor of MuslimGirl, an online magazine for Muslim women:

I think the problem is that people are voting for Trump in the first place. You know, I think THAT’S the problem that we have to address here, not the way that we choose to respond to that. If anything, we should make it so that there’s zero tolerance for those kind of attitudes to exist within our society. There’s no room for that type of intolerance. I mean, look at what happened, right? We started giving Trump air time in the media and giving him an opportunity to present his racist ideologies as a position on a policy platform.

It resulted in him actually getting elected. And now it resulted in white supremacist rallies in the streets, Neo-Nazis going like this again. You know, we really just regressed several generations backward. All this hard work for us to get to this point to make it unacceptable to be racist? Now it’s out in the open again.

Naturally, nobody challenged her on this, with the host preferring to lob soft questions at the panelists, who were all in agreement with one another.

Leaving aside the childish, cartoonish portrayal of Trump, his campaign, and his supporters that contributed to his being elected in the first place, Al-Khatahtbeh is saying that nobody who disagrees with her should be allowed to run for office and present their policies. Sure, it’s dressed up as anti-racism but the definition of racism is now so broad it basically means anyone who isn’t a Democrat or acting like one.

With the election of Obama, the political classes and their lackeys thought the battle was won and their politics would prevail forever. They believed they’d silenced any opposing voices and they had the run of the place. Some may even have equated the silence for satisfaction, but most would be content just to keep the other side silent. As I have said many times, Trump’s election was a warning shot across the bows of the political class that there is no such consensus on the future of American politics and they’d better start listening to people. Having thought the other side had surrendered and laid down their arms, Trump’s election has shaken the likes of Al-Khatahtbeh to the core. This is why they’re lashing out with unhinged statements like the one above.

As I am fond of saying, Trump is a symptom, not a cause. And as I have argued recently, Americans are rather fortunate that the symptom came in the form of an elderly billionaire whose worst habit is shooting his mouth off. It could have been very much worse. What Al-Khatahtbeh and her ilk don’t realise is that it was precisely the shutting down of rational political discourse and putting topics such as immigration and Islam out of bounds for debate that prompted millions to vote for Trump. He said things that no-one else would, and it propelled him into the White House. If the political classes and lackeys like Al-Khatahtbeh succeed in their efforts to silence Americans, they will likely respond by voting in an absolute bastard who will ensure their side prevails in future – using exactly the same methods and laws that Al-Khatahtbeh’s lot used on them.

I’m not about to compare Donald Trump with Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan, but I still think it’s worth seeing how the latter came to power. Put simply, he had the numbers. While the Metropolitan chattering classes dismissed his supporters as uneducated peasants or religious fanatics, he slowly built a movement which catapulted him to almost unlimited power. His arguments didn’t need to be good, because he positioned himself as a man of the people, a leader of those who the elites had ignored and silenced for decades. Sure he preyed on ignorance, but which politician doesn’t? Clinton? Obama? Puh-lease.

Erdoğan’s biggest weapon was the establishment itself: they had neglected millions of rural-dwellers, they were dismissive of their concerns, and they did seem to be running things to benefit themselves in a way which could be argued (and was argued) was contradictory to the character and beliefs of the Turkish people. They also used the judiciary for political purposes: how do you think those suspected of Communist leanings fared in Turkey during the Cold War? It makes it an awful lot easier for the new guy to chuck his opponents in jail if his predecessors have been doing the same thing for years. It becomes a matter of degree, not form.

Again, I’m not endorsing Erdoğan’s policies or comparing him to Trump, I’m merely pointing out how he rose to power, i.e. by pointing to the failings of the established order, using their own techniques against them, and – crucially – having the numbers on his side. Anyone who doesn’t think a nasty bastard could take a similar route to power in the USA is woefully complacent, and people like Al-Khatahtbeh are borderline delusional. From Wikipedia:

Islam is the third largest faith in the United States, after Christianity and Judaism, representing 0.9% of the population.

That’s a rounding error. If I held such a minority status somewhere, I’m not sure I’d be on national television saying the majority should be banned from speaking their minds. I have an uncomfortable feeling that historians may come to view Trump as one of the most benign presidents of the 21st century. As I said, they’re lucky it’s him.