Do Freemasons lead flat earth society?

Jews, Freemasons, the West or the financial corporations - they all populate the conspiracy fantasies of many Turks. Such fear of threats have a tradition in the country. Also among its leading representatives.

The earth is not flat. Tolgay Demir, deputy chairman of the AKP youth organization in Istanbul, finally admitted that. As recently as September 1, he had published an article on the party website that seriously argued that the earth was flat. Freemasons would have fooled the world with their theory of the round planet and made people slaves to a capitalist system.

Conspiracy theories are flourishing in Turkey, and not just since Erdogan. The worldview, according to which secret powers - mostly controlled from abroad - are constantly engaged in their dark machinations in Turkey in order to weaken the nation, are also widespread in left and Kemalist circles: Zionists, capitalists, Freemasons, the CIA, Angela Merkel, Kurds or the Russian secret service - they are all constantly working to weaken the Turkish nation.

Conspiracy theories originated in the Ottoman Empire

These theories have their origins on the one hand in the final phase of the Ottoman Empire and the re-establishment of Turkey, when the country faced a multitude of enemies, and in the later rapid urbanization that tore many people from their manageable village context and threw them into anonymous cities . Istanbul had a million inhabitants in the 1950s; today there are around 16 million. Many of them have barely any education and are susceptible to crude blame.

In recent years in particular, conspiracy theories have also been spread by high-ranking politicians. Melih Gökcek, long-time mayor of Ankara, only repeated his thesis in July that foreign powers - primarily the CIA - were behind the earthquake in the Aegean. The aim is to weaken the Turkish economy.

Attempted coup in 2016 fueled conspiracy theories

The theory that Germany wants to prevent the construction of the new airport because it allegedly weakens the Frankfurt hub is also very popular. Many conspiracy theories were fueled by the coup attempt of July 16, 2016. While some leftists are of the opinion that the coup was staged, Erdogan supporters suspect that the Gülen movement pulled off the strings of America or Germany. Accordingly, Gülen supporters and foreign powers were behind the Gezi protests in 2013.

Erdogan is also fond of conspiracy theses

President Erdogan is also fond of pseudoscientific theses. He stubbornly contradicts the economic fact that high central bank rates are necessary to contain inflation. In his opinion, low interest rates lead to more economic growth and thus to lower price increases. He sees an "international interest lobby" at work, which has increased inflation in Turkey to twelve percent.

A former central bank governor said it would mean "ignoring the economic literature of the past 350 to 400 years." All of this could be dismissed as the crazy noise of an otherwise thoroughly rational society. The Turkish central bank is also formally independent and has so far been able to resist the pressure of the head of state.

The tendency towards the irrational has severe consequences

Unfortunately, the tendency towards the irrational also has tangible consequences. For example, the theory of evolution was removed from the curriculum this year and will no longer be taught from 2019. The President had spoken out in favor of this personally. These tendencies are likely to be exacerbated by the release and imprisonment of thousands of professors and journalists. Last but not least, there has been a brain drain since the failed coup last year and the subsequent "purges". Many young, secular and well-educated Turks are leaving the country.

And finally, the conspiracy theories damage the trust of the Turks among themselves. The country ranks at the bottom on scales that measure interpersonal trust. Nevertheless, there are still many rationally thinking people in Turkey, including in the ruling AKP party, so that "Flat Earther" Demir quickly made himself a mockery of social media. Eventually the article was deleted. Demir says today that he just thought the theory was "interesting".