Every time you think that the thin-skinned
, insecure freakouts of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can't get any more crazy, they do. If you don't recall, Erdogan has a notrious thin skin, and a long history
of views he doesn't like. But since becoming President, this has gone into overdrive, with him filing over 1800 cases
against people in Turkey for insulting him -- including the famous case in which someone passed around an internet meme comparing Erdogan to Gollum
That kind of nuttiness jumped international boundaries recently, when Erdogan's lawyers discovered a long-forgotten German law that made it illegal to insult the head of a foreign country, and demanded that the law be used
against a satirical German comedian, Jan Bohmermann, who purposefully read an insulting poem about Erdogan, in order to mock his thin skin. Some might find suing over that poem to be... well... a bit on the nose in making the point the poem was intended to make. But, to Erdogan, it appears that suing over insults is just something he can't stop doing. More recently, Erdogan discovered that Switzerland has a similar law and went after
people there too (while also getting a Dutch reporter arrested).
Apparently, the fact that the most commonly mocked aspect of Erdogan these days is his inability to handle people mocking him hasn't made Erdogan realize that the more he freaks out, the more people are going to mock him. His latest move is especially crazy. It appears that the CEO of German mega-publishers Axel Springer, Mathias Dopfner, wrote an "open letter" in support of Bohmermann, which stated that he "laughed out loud" at Bohmermann's poem, and suggested that the case against Bohmermann is a problem for free speech. This is obviously a reasonable opinion held by many.
Erdogan's response? Apparently, it's to use the same law that was used against Bohmermann, to demand an injunction against Dopfner
for publishing the letter, in order to get it taken down. Thankfully, this request was quickly rejected
by a German court, saying that the open letter was "a contribution to building public opinion in a controversial debate."
Erdogan and his lawyer, Ralf Hocker, seem to only want to double down on this. In one article he says (prior to the injunction being denied) that if it were denied, he would appeal the decision to a higher court. And Hocker has some weird ideas about free speech and human dignity:
“Mr Erdogan is a human being and human dignity is inviolable,” Hocker said, adding that this was placed above the freedom of press, art and opinion in the German constitution.
Uh, no. Dignity is very much violable. If you do something that trashes your own dignity. Like suing comedians for making a joke about you. Or suing nearly 2,000 other people for making jokes about you. The loss of dignity is not from the poem or the insults. It's from Erdogan's own actions.
In the NY Times link above, Hocker, makes some even more ridiculous statements:
Ralf Hocker, a lawyer representing Mr. Erdogan in Germany, said he had a mandate to seek an injunction against anyone who publicly insults the Turkish president, to try to stop what he described as an “avalanche” of scornful abuse.
“Everyone thinks they are allowed to insult Mr. Erdogan in any way that they want because they do not find him very sympathetic,” Mr. Höcker said. “But this is not about sympathy, it is about human dignity, namely to protect it.”
Of course, seeking an injunction against people mocking Erdogan for trying to silence all this criticism isn't going to stop the avalanche. It's just going to make it bigger. And, no, the reason people think they are allowed to insult Mr. Erdogan is because they believe in freedom of expression and
that Erdogan has done things worthy of scorn. Stop doing those things -- like suing people over meaningless jokes -- and the scorn goes away. And, again, suing over "protecting human dignity" seems like an odd way to improve your dignity.