First of all, this notion can be proven by the fact that Erdogan has taken advantage of social networks during this event, even though he opposed their usage vigorously back in 2013, when the country had plunged into anti-government demonstrations. Back then, Erdogan threatened to block access to all social platforms across the whole of Turkey. Under these circumstances, it’s highly unlikely that the Turkish president, who adheres strictly to conservative views and despises innovations has suddenly “seen the light” of progress and come up with a viable strategy on how with the use of social media he could derail the “coup” within the relatively short time he had.
At the same time, it should be recalled that the White House and US intelligence agencies have been taking advantage of social networks to overthrow unwanted regimes and organize massive civil unrest. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that the US has created an entire industry of disinformation and manipulation of public opinion. Acting on the request of Washington, various activists, both real or virtual, are perfectly capable of launching a “spontaneous” anti-government protest, and engage in psychological warfare, while pretending to be using their rights of freedom of expression on their own behalf.
Those social strategies developed by US intelligence agencies were used to launch the so-called “Arab Spring” and proved extremely viable during the so-called “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia in December 2010. It’s no surprise that Washington has repeatedly tried to employ this tool to launch a number of other “color revolutions”.
American intelligence agencies and the Pentagon have repeatedly pointed out in their private reports the pivotal importance of social networks, in particular Twitter and Facebook, in the organization of the “Arab Spring” protests and the mobilization of various social groups in times of political instability in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, Syria, and Ukraine. However, social networks, in their opinion, can be successfully employed to put an end to undesirable manifestations of opposition forces, since they can take government supporters to the streets, urging them to confront the opposition.
The Pentagon began sharing its experience in this domain with Turkish secret services in Ukraine last June. To facilitate the process of learning the US has even created the so-called “Information Troops” within the Turkish armed forces. This program, in particular, includes “Stop Fake” training, cooperation with journalists and editors within the Digital Future of Journalism program, working by the example of I-ARMY.org project, and a number of other activities.
It is, therefore, no wonder that once the “military coup” started, Erdogan addressed the population through the social networks, urging them to take to the streets and confront the military, even before he took a plane to Istanbul. Soon the streets of Istanbul and other cities were indeed crowded with supporters of the Turkish president and those army and security forces that remained loyal to the government. This speech, along with appeals made in mosques, drove numerous “enemies of the military coup” into the streets, where they managed to force rebel soldiers away from the Ataturk airport and Taksim Square, where clashes between the rebel forces and government supporters were reported. After the suppression of the “coup,” Erdogan addressed the citizens once again and thanked them for their support.
Erdogan’s capability to use social networks to his advantage has drawn the attention of analysts in different countries, including those from Haaretz and Maariv. This fact has already provoked panic in Europe. In particular, Die Welt notes openly that Erdogan’s ability to mobilize thousand of Turks may seriously threaten the stability of the Federal Republic of Germany, since it hosts a considerable number of Turkish citizens.
As stated in a recent interview with Newsweek, one of the most famous world experts in the field of information security and anti-virus protection, Evgeny Kaspersky, is convinced that social networks are being used to manipulate the opinion of the people, and the “Twitter Revolution” is now indistinguishable from propaganda leaflets, which were dropped during WWII from airplanes.
However, while developing new technologies, the international community must not allow them to be used in order to steal people’s rights and freedoms. This is particularly true in respect of various politicians and the dirty political games they play.
Martin Berger is a freelance journalist and geopolitical analyst, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”