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Balyoz (Sledgehammer): Everyone's a Little Bit Conspiracy Theory

December 20, 2010

We’ve (and be “we” I mean “Rebecca”) have written previously about the Balyoz Plot and the ensuing investigation here. The basic crux of the story is that there are many generals, admirals, and other such high-up military men being tried for an attempted coup, which is, as you can imagine, a very serious crime. But there are serious reservations about the procedural legality of the case and a serious possibility that a lot of the evidence was made up whole cloth.

Alex Christie-Miller, a British Journalist, has started taking up a look at it and it is worth reading his recent blog entry to see what’s up:

Operation Sledgehammer’ came to light after a suitcase of CDs, documents and audiotapes were given to the Taraf newspaper in January. One of the CDs contained a blueprint for a coup plot hatched back in 2002, including such sensational plans as the bombing of mosques to provoke an Islamic uprising that would create a pretext for a military coup d’etat.

The CD was created on 5th March 2003, according to its metadata. However it contains references to several organizations and institutions that either did not exist at the time or else had a different name when the disk was supposedly created. This can only mean that the CD was not made in 2003, but much later. Someone faked the metadata (which is very straightforward to do) to make it appear it had been made earlier.

This leads to an obvious question: Is the plot itself fake? Yet until very recently, remarkably few news organizations have even mentioned these anachronisms.

As I said, it’s worth reading in full.

What I find interesting (besides the bombast and ridiculousness of the case, which is awesome in its own right) is how difficult it is to cover, especially as a foreign correspondent. In order to truly cover the story, one must dive into a murky sea of conspiracies, he said-she said, and other such grunge. If you can really find a story, great. If not, you risk coming off sounding pseudo-cynical or even hysterical. I like to imagine Christie-Miller (who is, I swear, like 6’1″ and lanky) as Danny DeVito’s character in L.A. Confidential when he says this stuff, or like a journalist version of Craig Murray. And yes, Murray is different as a diplomat, but the same issues come up. It is rough to be portrayed as a sympathizer or as a rabble-rouser.

He’s really like (R) but let’s pretend it’s like (L)

But that is exactly how a certain sect of Turkey-watchers view this sort of conspiracy-reading. As if, because its uncorroborated, its unworth the newsspace. I couldn’t agree with this less – and there’s arguably some sort of old/young divide on it, but it’s interesting to follow. His concern on the underreporting is, to me, a lot of people unwilling to do the legwork for little payoff. He’s doing great work and the allegation Rodrik charges ought to be taken more seriously than it is.

I am not saying this to try to knock Christie-Miller or Rebecca off the trail. There’s something terribly underreported coming out of Balyoz, and it’s absolutely worth reporting on. It is just difficult to report on conspiracy theories. Both of them are doing a very good, very incredulous, job of trying to sift out facts from the outraged allegations. I merely wish them both luck with what they’re doing.

Talking about Turkish politics without talking conspiracy theories is both a bit dishonest and more than a bit unfun. We just need a different word to discuss them, because nobody wants to be That Guy Who Deals with Conspiracy Theories and Generally Acts Like a Nicholas Cage Character. What we call them, I have no idea. The Backseat drivers of the political world?

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 21, 2010 9:00 pm

    I’ve uncovered evidence of deliberate fabrication in your post, Asher: I’m 6’3″ not 6’1″
    Or have you been hacked by the shadowy Ergenekon-Gulenist movement?

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