There has been a great deal of discussion about the recent presidential election, with many people attempting to understand what made this such a unique moment in our countries history. Some, however, have suggested that although the events of the past months appear so removed from our past they can be more effectively understood when compared to the experiences of other nations. Dr. Ali Erol made just this sort of comparison in this year’s first Social Justice Colloquium, discussing contemporary fascism, the state of affairs in Turkey, and the parallels emerging within our own country.
Dr. Erol, a lecturer in the School of International Service used his research in Turkey to explain certain aspects of Trump’s presidency. Recep Edrogan is the current president of Turkey, and came into office in 2002. Dr. Erol suggested that the policies used by Edrogan to gain and hold on to power can be seen already in use by President Trump. Ultimately, these two administrations exemplify a new wave of neo-fascism in contemporary international politics, identifiable by the strategies employed by leaders such as Edrogan and Trump.
The first strategy discussed by Dr. Erol is the implementation of Neo-Liberal ideology as a tool of a fascist agenda. While Fascism relies on nostalgic memories of a better time from the past in order to legitimize control, Neoliberalism promotes personal choice as the catalyst for making a better future. These two ideas appear at odds, but the tension allowed Edrogan distract those in Turkey from the gradual buildup of power afforded to his position. Here in the U.S. the current administration encourages citizens to join in making a better future grounded in the past—a confusing agenda that is made simple by the call to “make America great again”.
Dr. Erol pointed out further similarities in the creation and treatment of categories of “undesirables”. In the case of Edrogan the term terrorist was used to describe opposition to his regime, simultaneously delegitimizing their authority and giving credence to the constant state of emergency currently in place, giving the administration in Turkey its vast authority. The Trump administration has employed very similar tactics, using words such as vandals, extremists, and paid agents to discredit any resistance.
These similarities and more exist between the two administrations, including the justification of violence and attempts to control the media. Yet Dr. Erol ended the talk by suggesting a number of ways events could go differently here. By learning from the mistakes made in Turkey, we can prevent similar events from taking place. By taking the opportunity now to engage in grassroots movements, to provide alternative narratives through discourse, and by focusing opposition on particular issues history can be kept from repeating itself. As exemplified in the events surrounding the recent travel ban, these steps are both necessary and still within our power.
Join us every Monday at 4PM in the Battelle Humanities Lab for the Social Justice Series.
Check out our Social Justice Series Website to learn about our upcoming speakers.
Check out the Masters in Public Anthropology Website to learn more about the MAPA program.
Meet the Writers: Joshua Schea is a PhD. student at American University researching urban private schools. His research is focuses on the question of how private schools address the issue of inequality as it exists in their surrounding environment. Joshua is currently in his second year at AU.