City Journal Winter 2016

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Claire Berlinski
Weimar Istanbul « Back to Story

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What a marvelous piece of journalism. My compliments. I recently became acquainted with a Turkish graduate student from Istanbul doing work at the University of South Carolina who has expressed some sentiments to me about the uneasy political climate of his country and his fear it may gradually will become extreme. I decided to read up on the city and get some background. It is serendipidous that I came upon your expose. I know feel I have in my head an intimate profile of one of the world's greatest cities.
My compliments.
And as a post script - I loved Margaret Thatcher. She was elegant, smart, tough, devoted to country and family and made of blue twisted steel when it came to her convictions.
Thank you for finally telling me at the end of paragraph 7 the city is Berlin. I was dying to know. But too bad, by then I was so annoyed at not knowing I lost interest and stopped.
Really great article with very interesting information. You might want to follow up to this topic!?! 2012
I suppose a little bit of shortening here would work wonders otherwise its alright! i.e. the article on Istanbul!
Claire, I suppose you have a Jewish background but you should really get over it and start loving people regardless of their religion and race.
Exceptionally well observed and articulated!
What a great article! I wrote once that living in Istanbul was often like watching a boy throwing rocks at a hornet's nest. Something's always bound to happen, you don't know quite what, and you want to stick around to see what comes next.
seems fascinating.
I am impressed with your high quality depictions of today's Istanbul. What a light unveiled what I could not say in words. This is an absolute art of observation. Yesterday I watched Szabo's Mephisto once again and awoked in Istanbul. Thanks to ErginYILDIZOGLU of daily 'Cumhuriyet' that gave me the opportunity to get to know you. I feel just washed down from dillusions. Thank you.
Turkey and İstanbul is now a dangerous place after the Ergenekon case .A total of over 600 suspects have been detained, of whom more than 400 have been formally charged in indictments running to thousands of pages and backed by more than a million pages of supporting evidence. Yet the prosecutors have yet to extract a single confession, much less produce any convincing proof that the clandestine network they described even exists. Indeed, far from strengthening the prosecutors’ case, the increasing volume of “evidence” has steadily undermined it. Most disturbingly, not only is much of the material self-contradictory or manifestly absurd but some appears to have been manufactured.
Significantly, much of the momentum for the Ergenekon case came from media organs associated either with followers of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, or with former leftists, such as the fiercely anti-military daily Taraf, which is run by former leftists but has become closely affiliated with the Gülen movement.
However, the reality is very different. The indictments are littered with contradictions and absurdities. More critically, although the thousands of pages of wiretaps do occasionally turn up apparent indications of wrongdoing and distasteful political views, there is no convincing evidence that the Ergenekon organization exists, much less how it was financed and organized.
It is the "western minded Turks" who have fought the AK Party every step of the way in their efforts to enact the necessary reforms to enter the EU. The so-called "secular" elite, led, but by no means confined to the military, can't stand the idea that it is the "ignorant, pious, Anatolian masses" that have brought Turkey closer to becoming a true democracy than at any time in its history. Turkey needs a strong opposition to the AKP. It does not exist here now. Until the CHP accepts the fact that the old strategies don't work anymore and that they must demonstrate to the people, all the people, that they really care about the good of the country and are willing to offer constructive solutions to the problems confronting it, the AKP will deservedly continue to win the confidence of ordinary Turks.
Ms. Berlinkski captures the contradictory impulses that are oscillating throughout Turkey,- not just in Istanbul. Many Western-minded Turks saw the Military as protectors of a secular society. The authoritarian structure was successful(traversing many pitfalls), and Turkey has remained secular. The people supporting an Ergenekon type of conspiracy might come from any group that wants to keep the military in control. There are many people who are afraid of the AKP party. In the end, it is a crapshoot. A defanged Turkish military might allow for genuine democracy or ride what is left of a democracy off a cliff.
This is a fine article -- thoughtful, provocative, well written.
I'm an American living in Turkey. I've been doing business here for twenty-five years. Berlinski doesn't have a clue about what's really going on here and, unfortunately, as shown by Wikileaks, neither do our diplomats...And it's a country we'd do well to get right.
I have not read such a powerful narrative of a city standing at crossroad of history!
I hope the City Journal is sufficiently embarrassed after the grownups have read this. And I hope the Journal will from now on require writers to first demonstrate some elementary knowledge of their subjects.
Claire's a novelist, so... maybe she should stick to novels.
Hasbara at its worst (best?)
Pretentious twaddle.
"Everything moves. The traffic lights change restlessly from red to gold and then to green. The lighted advertisements flash with the pathetic iteration of coastal lighthouses. The trams swing and jingle. . . . In the Tiergarten the little lamps flicker among the little trees, and the grass is starred with the fireflies of a thousand cigarettes. Trains dash through the entrails of the city and thread their way among the tiaras with which it is crowned. The jaguar at the zoo, who had thought it was really time to go to bed, rises again and paces in its cell."

Hmmmm. Couldn't one have said the same thing about Cleveland in the Twenties? Is there a city where the traffic lights don't change colors? Otherwise, an OK piece.
Margaret Thatcher matters? I suppose so, but not in a good way, at least for me.
Way overdone on the Weimar comparison, a bit breathless, in fact. Berlin is a very exciting, vibrant city now, does that mean its like Weimar?
If there were pregnant prostitutes walking the streets of Instabul, the comparison might have worked a bit better than it does.
Long on fantasy; short on political sociology.
"Ersatz" shouldn't be used as a quasi-hip "phony".
It is a noun, correctly translated as "substitute" or "replacement".
How did you get away from the rug salesmen long enough to discover all this?

Seriously - good, thought-provoking article, but I also like and agree with Rostislav's comments.
I enjoyed this article overall but seriously---
"Yet the women complain to me, in tears, that they cannot understand why the men they bed never call the next day. The poor things, I think. They are so new to this."
Women in the West do the same thing. And I don't really understand how the upper class in Turkey can be any more sexually promiscuous then any other group of people in the West.
One of the best pieces of journalism it's ever been my pleasure to read. Brilliant mind, brilliant writing.
This is one of the greatest texts I have read for a long time!

Looking forward to see Instanbul myself next year!
Wow! That is a brilliant read. Thank you!!
Well done, and, if I can judge by the other comments, provocative. Thank you, Claire.
"I do not wish to make too much of this parallel."

Then why did you construct the article so that every argument you make hangs on it?
This is a great article, and I shall pass it around. I see the many parallels between your city and the liberal leftist enclaves reported around the world, especially as they come to a frothing head in the USA.
It's late, the commentary long but one thing is crystal clear, Claire Berlinski is one hell of a good writer!
As long as it doesn't "happen" to you.
"Yet the women complain to me, in tears, that they cannot understand why the men they bed never call the next day. The poor things, I think. They are so new to this."

How condescending can you get!
A fascinating look at a transforming city.

It is a pity that Erdogan's AKP appears to be swallowing the generous and friendly Turkey that I remember.

The better analogy may be Persia, not Germany, which went from a complex and rich society, into a collection of hooded women and religious violence.
What is the point of this long-winded, purple crap? Is Claire going to somehow slow the tide of history in Turkey by symbolically throwing herself under the tank treads of fascism with her insufferable prose?

Weimar cities comes and go because feckless pseudo-intellectuals like Claire Berlinsky sit around running their mouths in wine bars while men with guns become the whole of the law. Proving yet again that the chattering of cafe culture will always be as useless in the future as it has been in the past, internet access notwithstanding.

That said, unlike previous examples of Berlinsky's phenomena, a socio-political implosion in Turkey will barely register in the western world. Mostly because they don't have anything we want, but also because Turkey isn't really a threat to anyone we actually care about. And while diplomats and wags may say otherwise, who cares? In the end, Turkey will collapse, freak out, and be brought to heel with violence. In the meantime, what is there to write about? When it hits the fan, Claire will move, because she can. Those who can't will reap the whirlwind.

Valley of the Wolves indeed.
I was taken by the title, though I couldn't square it with the Istanbul I visited briefly a good few years ago. A most fascinating and evocative article, I'll now view the city with new eyes. And not a little tredidation as the EU considers Turkey as a potential member.
Fantastic Claire vision as expected. She is a marvel and enlightens and frightens both in this article.
This is political writing of the very first order. In fact it is way beyond most "political" writing. It is to be savored and re-read often.
This is hilarious. You say “Puleeze don’t think I’m comparing the AKP with the Nazi’s” but than you do so repeatedly. Sophomoric arguments splattered with some historical context is supposed to create a good article?

Who says, promiscuous sex and drunkenness is better? Keep your STD ridden societal norms out of Turkiye.

AKP has given Turks more personal and economic freedom since our nation’s Founding and you denigrate it because many of their politicians are practicing Muslims. What should we expect from a writer who does not understand the courtesy of living in a country without denigrating its people.

If you cannot prevent your self from attacking Turks, please do not visit nor make Turkiye your home. Common courtesy and decency is obviously not part of your makeup.
Nice article, but far too long for Internet consumption.
A fascinating, if sometimes confusing, article. You say “It was hyperinflation [etc.] that brought the AKP to power—not Islam, as is commonly believed.” But later you speak of being “in the middle of an Islamic revolution”. Otherwise, Islam itself seems barely a presence in this piece. A casualty of the Weimar analogy? And Christianity –perhaps understandably-- is mentioned not at all. But like Berkowitz, but without the snottiness, I, too, would be interested in the author's take on the Pope’s remarks about Turkey's admission to the EU. In Turkey these days such should be good for a murdered priest or two. Meanwhile, please do keep in mind what followed Weimar: as you are reporting from the uncertain edge of an abyss, I hope you have an exit strategy.
Claire, you state:
"And there is something about both nations'" [Turkey and Germany] "histories and collective political temperaments that makes them vulnerable to extreme nationalism, authoritarianism, and anti-Semitism".

I would say that Germany hasn't got a history of extreme nationalism. On the contrary. Not until 1870 it was a country, and even then allowing for former kingdoms and duchies to continue their existence.
I left Turkey in 1975 after three years serving as a repair tech traveling around servicing USAF equipment. I spent time in and around Istanbul but you write of a place as mysterious to me as one might find darkest Africa. I look forward to more on this subject.
A very fascinating article! As an editor of the Russian magazine for our furniture industry I visit Istanbul's rich trade fairs rather frequently, and, to judge from the company of my colleagues and business-partners there, I have right the opposite impression of the city: for me it always was (and is) a city of excellent professionals, thrilled, first of all and foremost, with their work. They never mention Palestine, because it’s a zero region in sense of furniture, but they often mention Israel, greatly respected for the diamond woodworking instruments, for their inventive CAM/CAD soft etc. They are extremely proud of their country, but the Ottoman past has nothing to do with their pride – it’s about this day’s thriving Turkish furniture exports, patents, designs, innovative technologies. Of course, they have their opinions too about Kurds, Armenians, Chechens, Jews, Arabs or Azeri, but those are based mainly on the professional abilities of the nations. So, “my” beloved Istanbul isn’t tragic or Weimarish at all. Yet I am sure that Ms. Berlinski’s impressions of Istanbul as a tragic city of pre-Nazi or pre-Lenin years are absolutely truthful also – simply she speaks about quite another company of Turks, who have nothing common with any productive work, but a lot of common with all kinds of protests (animals rape including) religious zealotry, hot party campaigning and other “100% political”, but absolutely non-productive things. For me it’s just a conflict between the hard-working professionals (engineers, technologists, workers, scientists, managers, IT specialists etc) and hard-protesting crowds of different social parasites, - a conflict, which is, sadly, more and more typical not for Istanbul only, but for a lot of other big cities I’m visiting, be it my own Russian capital, San Francisco or London. I understand, that I well may be wrong in this not too sophisticated division, but – well, that’s my opinion. Rostislav, Saint-Petersburg, Russia.
The use of "anomie" when "ennui" is intended is a fine and early warning for those who cannot smell the trans-3-methyl-2-hexenoic acid. She shares Celine's politics, but lacks both his talent and, unfortunately, any likelihood of being stood up against a wall and shot.
A gloomy and downtrodden potrayal of a magnificient city..
This is beyond question the best piece of writing yet found in City Journal by this illiterate non-scholar. It should be auctioned on E-Bay as a treasure of inestimable value. It is worth archiving in the Congressional Library and other such depositories of literary significance.
Living as I do in distant Anchorage, Alaska, I read the prior comments, especially the last one, with a sense of horror. But, on the other hand, I need to keep in mind that Sarah Palin often makes the mindset of Alaskans seem scarier than it really is.

I loved this article. I don't think it was overly long or long-winded at all. Turkey is obviously a complex place and understandably so with such a rich and convoluted history. I have never had much interest in going there, but now I may give it a shot some day.

I would be interested in the author's take on the recent WikiLeaks revelations regarding the Pope.s remarks about Turkey's admission to the EU. He is a major league horse's ass, but I can hardly imagine what the Turkish press has to say about his words, assuming that they are allowed to say anything at all.

Again, a thumbs up to Ms. Berlinski. I caught her appearance on C-SPAN a while ago and was absolutely enchanted. More power to her and to Turkey. I hope she keeps on writing about that fascinating place.
Interesting article but a bit long winded.
Interesting article but a bit long winded.
Hitler would let Jews to open their historic
Synagogues if the paralelity to the current government by the writer has to be believed. Of course these steps are all but Trojan horse.

The writer is drawing parallels like the former ambassador Adelman.

Those days the 90s of Turkey are over when 15000 people got killed in the

We dont want to go back to these days

If anyone does it is their free will.

Noone is holding them back.

Turkey is now far better a place when the assassins of Ergenekin are in prison
I love this try of symbolising a danger to jews resulting from a democrization of Türkiye.

But the psychological projection is imminent. It is so, because the author wants it to be. The 20's of the last century are not comparable to 2010. There is an old saying in Anadolu: "I am talking of a horse, you imagine a donkey..."

No Claire. If you are afraid, then walk away. Jerusalem seems to be a safer place for you... because there are not any fascist settlers trying to invade a land, are they? Any Apartheid over there?

Israel is now the South Africa in the 80's. In the late 80' and the 11 February 90 is not far away. The Palestinians are the nowaday Nelson Rolihlahla 's, all of them...

How about that conclusion? Way better than Weimar Istanbul....