Sunday, February 12, 2012

Big brother is watching: A dean, a student, the police and their social media (re)actions

While Prime Minister Erdoğan is constantly on the media for not taking criticism and opposition well, he is not the only one. Dissidence overall in Turkey's public domain is punished, a recent example of which we have reported on GIT - North America about students who would receive university-level sanctions if they participate in protests. One other such example is Yusuf Devran, ironically the Dean of the College of Communication at Marmara University, who read a critique about himself on an urban dictionary type website, eksisozluk written by an anonymous author and decided it was an insult and first legally identified the author who turned out to be the valedictorian of the Department Mikail Boz, and then prosecuted him and implemented disciplinary action against the student and suspended him from school for a semester.  The student is coming from a less advantaged background, and this will likely make the student lose his fellowship essential for him to attend school.

Mikail Boz had criticized Dean Yusuf Devran because according to Boz, 20 days after he received the rank of professorship, he was top-down appointed the head of the department by the university bureaucracy, bypassing other more experienced professors in the department. Mikail Boz made another entry for Yusuf Devran, stating that four months later, Devran was again top-down appointed the dean of the College of Communication. Calling the dean "bugger," Mikail Boz also insinuated that this top-down appointment and rapid going up in the ranks might be due to the fact that Devran has worked in "Samanyolu TV," one of Fethullah Gülen's media flagships. Boz later announced that he had apologized if his language was offensive, but that his apology was limited to that, and that he does not apologize for the content of his critique. Basically, Mikail Boz states he is against top-down assignments for such posts in universities, and that who will occupy what administrative position (i.e., head of the department, dean, etc) should be based on elections and decided by vote.   

It turns out Mikail Boz was not the only target of the dean Yusuf Devran, who apparently also follows other social media such as Twitter and Facebook and detects what people affiliated to the college say, including personal comments and critique on himself, and either bans them from entering the college or prosecutes them. To read another account on this in Turkish, please click here.

This attitude of attempting to control unwanted expressions and to eliminate them from the public domain by intimidation tactics has mushroomed in Turkey, especially with a close scrutiny of the social media. More recently, another incident of police control over Twitter made it to the news:

"A group of people who arranged for a dinner via Twitter for the protest action 'Haydarpaşa should not get dark' encountered a police control [Haydarpaşa is a historic railway station. Some services will be stopped and rumor has it that the intention is to turn the station's historic building into a hotel or something similar, in conjunction with neoliberal policies]. The police was informed due to a related notice on Twitter. In the opinion of lawyer Bolaç, the police are 'closely following the internet'."

To read the full account of the incident, please visit:

This whole bigger picture is reminiscent of the Peter Greenaway film; hence, the entry title. As we watch different persona changing colors and get stigmatized and punished because of their personal expressions on different issues, the means to control expression and association and to target undesired dissidence get multiplied.