Feb 22 2018

Turkey example shows threat to democracies: academics

The Turkish government’s crackdown on critics of the government may be a harbinger of things to come in currently democratic nations as authoritarianism is on the rise across the world, three political psychologists wrote in USA today.

David Redlawsk, Masi Noor and Stephen Reicher visited Istanbul to attend the trial of one of more than 1,000 academics charged with terrorist offences after signing a petition in January 2016 calling on the Turkish government to seek a peaceful resolution to the conflict with Kurdish rebels.

Commenting that their Turkish colleagues had done nothing more than they might have done in expressing disagreement with their government’s policies, the authors said: “The Turkish government's agenda is clear: Deprive critics of their livelihood. Deprive them of solidarity with peers by trying them individually. Ensure that they remain on edge, uncertain as to what will happen next. And deprive them of their personhood.”

Events in Turkey also demonstrate what can happen when political leaders demonise their critics, say the psychologists.

“Authoritarians fear the power of ideas, and so they attack, attempting to make critics into pariahs. Their attacks start off as verbal, attempting to silence through contempt. Critics become enemies and reprobates. Terrorists and filth. Next, jobs are taken away, freedom curtailed. All in the name of ‘protecting the state’. Perhaps this can happen in any democracy, as authoritarians rise and institutions fail.”