Perhaps his greatest dream was to one day have his portrait replace that of Atatürk in people's offices. Perhaps schools would have busts of him cast in bronze, overlooking assembly courtyards. And if you had never watched 1984 or V for Vendetta (John Hurt is brilliant in both), you would never make the eerie connections that millennials have made between the concept of a dictator and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
It is too early to describe Turkey as post-Gezi, since many forums continue to meet, gatherings occur, and there are still many police troops and armored vehicles in Taksim Square. But considering the impact the initial Occupy Gezi movement has had, "post-Gezi" would still be an apt categorization of Erdogan's personal mindset. Fervent support for the prime minister has increased within certain camps, but his own base stands divided due to the schism between Erdogan supporters and Fethullah followers.
The prime minister of Turkey has recently cried on national television, during the dramatic reading of a poem that Mohamed Al-Beltag, one of the Muslim Brotherhood's leaders, wrote for his deceased daughter that was killed by the Egyptian army this month. He wept for Egypt. His tears could not suffice to wipe away the memory of his irreverent and perhaps even slightly smug attitude after the initial Gezi protests in June.
The tragedy in Egypt has been convenient for Erdogan, who has been relentlessly focusing on the issue in an attempt to divert attention from his awful human-rights record at home. In the typical fashion of his political party, the AKP, Erdogan assigned blame to French thinker Bernard-Henri Levy when assessing the coup in Egypt. Levy recently spoke with Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, laughing at the accusations.
I have mentioned before that Turks are a vengeful people, and AKP has proven once again that it will not rest until all protesters are accounted for. Memet Ali Alabora, one of the most talented Turkish actors of our generation, had spoken to CNN during the protests. He is currently under investigation by the Justice Department on grounds of "inciting armed rebellion against the Turkish Republic." Feel free to watch the video below to decide for yourself if he has committed such a crime.
One of the rising, pro-AKP TV networks, Beyaz TV, will be airing a special program with Erdogan on September 3. The advertisement for the special includes interviews with Turkish celebrities ranging from actors and singers to soccer team directors, and they all stress how humane Erdogan is.
The possibility of this reinvention propaganda succeeding hinges not on the Istanbul audience, nor on the West, but the Southeast and Eastern Anatolian regions, whose primary coverage of the Gezi movement was delivered via television. Combined with the lack of internet infrastructure in many of these regions, the framing offered by big TV channels effectively dictate reality. And they are about to be presented with a narrative that glorifies Erdogan and conservative Muslims yet again.
It is also interesting to note that Beyaz TV has started to refer to Erdogan as "Usta," meaning "master." Is it crazy to think that Erdogan wishes to establish his own global network of followers as a contingency plan, in case his government finds itself in trouble? Think of it less as a conspiracy theory and more as the next logical step in the journey of a man who has been gaining more and more power but may no longer be able to wield it in the political arena.
The best part? Our humane leader just eschewed the court-mandated cease-and-desist order and has resumed construction on Taksim Square.
It may be tough for Prime Minister Erdogan to reinvent himself, but stopping him from doing what he wants is harder.