The biggest appeal of conspiracy theories is also their biggest weakness: They seem to have the power to explain everything. And that makes them nothing but irrelevant to explain phenomena in a convincing way. But they remain quite interesting to follow not least to understand the thinking of their proponents.
Today, the name of conspiracy is, whatever the result of the recent Turkish elections, it was DEFINITELY made-in-USA.
Only two months ago quite well informed and smart people were telling me that Washington was bent on destroying Tayyip Erdogan's political future. The framework was simple. When the US declared war on Saddam Hussein's regime, Erdogan had failed to get the famous 'passage bill' approved in the Turkish parliament. US troops amassed at Turkey's naval borders waited in the Mediterranean in vein. The US foreign policy never forgot or forgave Erdogan's failure. And this election was payback time. Washington made a pact with Turkey's powerful military to ensure that Erdogan was put under untenable pressure. Wasn't I noticing the frequent trips of Turkish generals to Washington? Surely, the judiciary was being manipulated by covert agents too. My attention was called to one or other Jewish leader expressing disappointment with the government. Then there was the famous ultimatum by the military. Then we saw massive street demonstrations. If there ever was a conspiracy, this must have been it. Huh. Did Erdogan know who he was dancing with?
Of course there were quite murmurs questioning the logic of the prevalent conspiracies of the time. One columnist could only say 'If this is not an operation to rescue AK, I don't know what it is.' He was basing his suspicions on the very solid and concrete premise that the pre-election bickering was likely to bolster Erdogan's popular support, not chip away anything from it. Yet, as I mentioned, reality and solid facts do seldom sound as compelling as a well-expressed conspiracy theory however shallow it might be.
Monday morning Turkey wake up to the reality of Erdogan snatching a famous victory. Nearly every other voter in Turkey stamped the election seal on Erdogan's candidates for MP. He got nearly 47% of the votes. It sounded miserable when his opponents had the audacity to say 'True, he might have gotten 47%, but do not ignore that he was voted against by 53% of the voters, that's a majority.' One of Erdogan's harshest critics, the operator of KanalTurk TV had to rebuke his own presenter for making that flimsy argument. 'Come on,' he said, 'How come can we continue to say that after THIS'.
Yes, THIS was big. Hence it could not be the work of Turkey's electorate. You are not following? You want the conclusion to follow the premise logically? You can't pass this course on conspiracy theories unless your start to appreciate the value of the art of non-sequitur.
Less than 24 hours after the elections, well-informed and smart people on the line from Istanbul were telling me that they solved the puzzle. You knew it! It was the US that orchestrated the whole thing. Right from the very very start.
As I was already initiated to the counter conspiracy theory, I had to be undone first. Yes, I knew it was the work of Washington but wasn't the US trying to destroy Erdogan? Apparently not. The new theory is quite more consistent.
A wise media guy said
'- Look, dear. It was Demirel in 1970s. Ozal in 1980s. Ciller in 1990s. And now it's Erdogan. You get yourself 4 men and you take the country in your hands for four decades. Don't you see how clever that is?'
'- I do, but I thought Erdogan was crossed out by Washington because it was precisely what you were telling me a few months ago.'
'- Don't be a fool. There's always an inner truth. What you thought was reality was only a cover for it?'
'- Sorry for being a fool. I guess that's me. So how did it work, really?'
'- Oh, it was simple. Erdogan is Washington's man. They'll ask him to do unpopular things about Iraq, Kurds, Cyprus. He could not have pulled those tricks with 25% of the vote as he was destined to get without help.'
'- OK, that sounds reasonable. 25% is a shambles of a mandate.'
'- Didn't you notice Turkish generals visiting Washington quite often.'
'- Actually I didn't but you told me while trying to explain your earlier theory.'
'- Yeah, the outher truth. The visible one. Ostensible one.'
'- Whatever. And what did the generals do?'
'- The generals were instructed by Washington to put pressure on AK so that AK's popularity will increase.'
'- And what about the harsh tone of the opposition? The extreme right wing that went so far as to threaten Erdogan with no less than hanging him for treason? What about the judiciary that caused the impasse on the Presidential elections.'
'- All part of the same operation.'
'- Gee, I did not know social behavior can be so precisely planned.'
'- What is it that you are questioning? Isn't this the same country that toppled Mosaddegh in Iran for oil? Do you think they would be unable or unwilling to work on Turkey?'
'- I don't know really. I like to see some solid facts.'
'- Well, the result proves itself.'
'- I'm sure it does. It must anyway. What's the use of a conspiracy theory if it needs proof?'
That was a long phone call after which the media guy in Istanbul felt relief. It would be extremely wrong to say conspiracy theories do not have any positive impact on us. They help some of us explain unpalatable phenomena and hence provide much-needed consolation in times of despair. That's one medicine Turkish opposition needs now more than anything else.