When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

On Coups And Croissants, Why The News Is All About Me
Alidad Vassigh

What kind of a world do we live in, when Turkey can't even give us a proper coup anymore?

Unable to sleep for the summer heat in Valencia, I remember that twisted thought coming to me as the July 15 coup — or at least its broadcast version — was unfolding on the radio.

Typically with such stunning events, it takes a moment to grasp what is happening: watching the 9/11 attack on television, I initially thought it was a simulation of what a terror strike on New York could look like. But with the Spanish radio practically shouting the latest details from Ankara and Istanbul, this could have been a soccer match. Still, I understood immediately that a coup was underway in Turkey, and my heartbeat stepped up.

"Come on," I thought. This'll be the chance to be rid of him — Turkey's own Khomeini without a turban. But a voice inside warned me that it was too good to be true. Sure enough, the next morning, the elected despot was back in charge. Back to gnawing away at the secular Kemalist institutions in a dismal emulation of my own country, Iran, which replaced its Westernizing monarchy with a gang of "illiterate Bashibazuks," as Tintin"s Captain Haddock might say.

I have only an emotive response to news, as I believe most people do. I do not find politics or current affairs inherently interesting. The news is really about you and your aspirations, and in some cases, your savings. It raises your hopes one moment, and dashes them the next. As a Reuters tutor told our group of Middle East stringers in 1999, if you want to know what is newsworthy, look for fear and greed. It's personal, in other words.

I trust my middle-class instincts.

Some of my views have changed over the years, but broadly I remain a social and cultural conservative. I tend to trust my middle-class instincts, conditioned I admit by a 20th-century Western education. I feel (surely "we all" do?) there was something suspect about Tayyip Recep Erdogan right from the start, like Putin or Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega. It is not so much their left-wing populism or "national socialism" that disturbs as their dirty, treacherous, insidious methods. Dostoevsky must have based his Demons on similar individuals.

I remember spotting a New York Times item around the time of the Turkish coup, about how closely it was being followed in Egypt. The title suggested to me the Egyptians were hoping Erdogan would fall. What a fine item I thought (I didn't read it), imagining a nation's entire middle class, eager like me to see a Turkish version of General Sisi send the mullahs packing.

The rectification of history in Turkey, a country my family and I had become fond of in recent years, as an agreeable place to visit, geographically close and similar to Iran in many ways. I wondered about the Istanbul hotel owner who always received us like family: clean-shaven, fond of a drink, speaking excellent English, and now having to witness the triumphant mob.

Further back in 2001, I remember listening to the BBC World Service as it announced the brief overthrow of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez. I felt elated, and a trifle guilty as one does. I went out to celebrate with a coffee and a chocolate croissant ("That's how you celebrate?" a Moroccan friend of mine asked. He'd probably opted for a gay orgy.)

The next day, I had another chocolate croissant, to dull the pain of the coup's failure.

More recently I was perturbed by an odd coincidence. It occurred to me one evening in Valencia, that with "our luck" in Iran, the next mullah to die off will be Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president many thought might moderate the regime at the top. Seconds later, I saw on my television the news-ticker announcing his death.

I had better distance myself from news, as it brings out the worst in me. I am living proof of the Indian thinker Krishnamurti's opinion that wars start in our minds. Perhaps news in its present form, is designed to generate just enough anger and stress to make us come back tomorrow, hoping for "better" news. Like gambling.

But if nothing else, reports of far-flung events may also provide you with valuable if not-always-flattering information about yourself.



*Alidad Vassigh was born in Tehran and educated in Britain and France.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ