Getting Mr Erdogan’s Goat
I know I promised that this post would deal further with the fallout from Amoris Laetitia, but that will have to wait.
I’ve just read the funniest, cleverest and most startling piece of Brexit propaganda I’ve seen so far, written by the Vote Leave leader Boris Johnson in the British Daily Telegraph, and it’s so cogent that if I weren’t a Brexit man already, I think it would convert me on the spot.
To set the scene. On German television, a young comedian named Jan Boehmermann described President Erdogan of Turkey as a goat ******. No, that in itself is not at all funny, or clever, though I suppose some Germans and others might find it so. But wait.
Mr Johnson relates that the episode has, as they say, got Mr Erdogan’s goat, to such an extent that the Turkish President demanded that Mr Boehmermann be prosecuted under a statute dating back to the days of Kaiser Wilhelm II for causing offence to the leader of a foreign state. The offence carries a penalty of up to five years in gaol.
And yet, as Mr Johnson says, there is surely no one of any importance who seriously believes that there has been any kind of romance involving Mr Erdogan and any other non-human mammal, caprine or otherwise.
But what is truly incredible—indeed what is positively shocking—is that the German government has agreed at the express request of Angela Merkel that the prosecution should go ahead. She did not have to do so. She could have said no. The matter was entirely at her discretion. Plenty of German politicians were telling her that any such legal action would be an outrageous infringement of free speech—an act of censorship that smacked of some of the darkest moments in Germany’s 20th century history.
And yet she numbly decided to kowtow to the demands of Erdogan, who is engaged in a chilling suppression of Turkish freedom of expression. Erdogan only became president 18 months ago—and yet in that time prosecutors have opened 1,845 cases against people accused of insulting him, including a doctor who posted a picture of Erdogan on social media, next to a picture of Gollum.
Mrs Merkel’s decision to appease this Turkish autocrat, thought shameful, makes sense in a cynical sort of way. Because of the German Chancellor’s open-door policy on refugees (which she now bitterly regrets) migrants have been flooding into Germany and other countries, through Turkey. Now a fragile deal has been done, through which Turkey agrees to take back refugees from Greece, in return for cash, and strong hints of possible EU membership. Turkey could renege on the deal at any time, and this, as Mr Johnson points out, could have a devastating effect on EU integration—in particular, it could easily induce British voters to leave the EU.
If I were a very rich man, and I heard that Mr Erdogan was paying a state visit to Dublin, I think I would rent a crowd, dress them in goatskins, and pay them to shout “Maaaaa” all along the presidential route.
Through a little exploration of the Internet I discovered why Mr Johnson has such an interest in Turkish affairs. His great grandfather was Ali Kemal Bey, a highly-principled Turkish politician and poet who fell foul of the Ankara government in the early part of in the last century. Kemal was kidnapped by the authorities, handed over to a mob and beaten almost to death before being hanged. One cause of his unpopularity was his condemnation of the massacre of Armenians during the First World War. Most Turks still refuse to admit this massacre ever happened.
The Leave Campaign did well to choose the witty and extremely able Mr Johnson as their leader. The only criticism I would make of him concerns a rather silly PC television programme he made about the Crusades.