What began as a brainstorm erupted into a full blown conspiracy theory when a Politico reporter poured gas on the fire claiming that his Turkish source believed the coup was a staged performance.
Social media is abuzz with new claims that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faked the coup attempt against the government after the country’s leader called the botched overthrow “a gift from Allah.” Posting under #TheaterNotCoup social media users ask aloud whether the whole think was an elaborate scheme for the Turkish strongman to garner even more control.
#TheatreNotCoup We’ll see a change in the constitution for worse, which secularism will be gone and Islamist motifs will be in what a shame
— Aycan Karadag (@karadagaycan) July 16, 2016
The theory originated when Politico’s European correspondent Ryan Heath said that a Turkish source of his believed that the entire debacle was a staged performance citing the fact that the government was able to communicate with everybody in Turkey via SMS text message and that Erdogan would be able to “clean” the military of secularists and install hardline Islamists in both the judiciary and the armed forces stripping away any constitutional check on the leader.
— Ryan Heath (@PoliticoRyan) July 16, 2016
The social media punditry, scoffed at as conspiracy theorists and crazies by most, argue that the hyperbolic Erdogan will use the coup attempt that left at least 265 dead and over 2000 wounded in the same fashion that Hitler used the Reichstag fire – the 1933 arson attack on the German parliament building which Hitler used as an excuse to suspend civil liberties and order mass arrests.
— maria mallas (@MallasMaria) July 16, 2016
There are many reasons to doubt this fanciful theory not the least that President Erdogan was on vacation when the coup plotters first seized the TRT news channel, the bridges, and Istanbul’s Ataturk International Airport. The leader was forced to phone in by FaceTime to CNN Turk to put out a desperate plea to the people of Turkey to take to the streets and put down the coup.
History happening, of mankind and medias: Erdogan speaking via FaceTime on tv during coup of state pic.twitter.com/aojopYB6aV
— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) July 15, 2016
Others point to the convenience for Erdogan who was able to blame his arch nemesis Fethullah Gulen who alleged has developed a shadow government within Turkey – known as the Parallel Structure – with ambitions of ultimately seizing control of the country.
Furthermore, Erdogan had fallen out of favor among Western leaders in recent months after repeated crackdowns on journalists, legal maneuvering to outlaw dissenters, forging a constitutional amendment revoking legislative immunity for opposition lawmakers, and seizure of nearly full control of the country’s executive and legislative powers with the tacit consent of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
President Erdogan has been both a tormenter of Europe and the United States as well as a key linchpin in the strategic plans of both. Turkey agreed to take in an additional 1 million Syrian refugees from the European Union after already housing over 2.75 million migrants from the war-torn country, in return for fast-track consideration within the EU and visa-free travel.
Those plans were summarily shot down by European leaders with former British Prime Minister David Cameron saying that he didn’t fancy Turkey would be prepared to enter the EU for another thousand years at least citing the country’s move towards an autocratic framework.
Who/what was damaged/harmed during #TheatreNotCoup:
– the Turkish parliament
– the Turkish Army (leaders taken hostage)
– the citizens.
— Subsidiarity Man (@SubsidiarityMan) July 16, 2016
Nonetheless, Turkey’s President was emboldened following the events that unfolded on Friday with the very future of Europe hanging in the balance with the EU all but praying that Erdogan would hold on. If Erdogan’s regime fell, Europe faced the specter of several million additional refugees flooding into the continent – a reality that would all but mark the end of the economic union and result in a near immediate end to the Schengen open borders agreement.
The United States found itself in a similar predicament with Turkey serving as NATO’s primary launchpad into the Middle East to attend to the crises in Syria and Iraq. If Turkey fell and the United States lost access to the Incirlik air base the US fight against Daesh would could to a screaming halt.
Faced with those realities, the preview of what a world without Erdogan would look like may very well have been a godsend for the besieged leader of Turkey, but it may also be a nightmare for the United States.
Turkey’s government has already wrangled together over 2,8000 soldiers and 2,745 judges who are claimed to have conspired against the Erdogan regime and who now all face treason charges. It is unknown whether any of these targeted soldiers or jurists were opponents to Erdogan’s strongman form of government, but ultimately not involved in the plot at all. Regardless, the prison doors have now shut on the leaders primary political opponents.
“This means it [the failed coup] will be followed by a real coup by Erdogan himself, and the last remnants of democracy will be lost,” suggested one social media pundit.
The alleged mastermind of the coup according to Turkish officials, Fethullah Gulen, also trafficked the idea that the coup was staged saying “I don’t believe that the world believes the accusations made by President Erdoğan. There is a possibility that it could be a staged coup and it could be meant for further accusations [against the Gülenists].”
Whether the coup was ultimately fact or fiction, the world has been fundamentally changed by the horror descended on the streets of Istanbul and Ankara on Friday with the advantage clearly going to the coup’s survivor.