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Laughable behavior

March 30, 2016

President Erdogan made a fool of himself by summoning the German ambassador over a satirical video. Now, German diplomats are doing all they can to protect him from further embarrassment, says Matthias Bölinger.

Ein Lied für Erdogan extra 3
Image: picture-alliance/AA/V. Furuncu

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a man who knows many enemies. As he sees it, he is in a never-ending battle against every imaginable kind of conspiracy: a preacher in the USA who is pursuing a master plan to bring about his downfall, insubordinate journalists, state prosecutors with hidden agendas, and nefarious foreign powers. The list of those who supposedly desire to do ill to his country is long. Now, the president must tolerate yet another apparent attack on his honor.

Laughing about someone we are dependent upon

The satirical television show Extra 3, from North German Broadcaster NDR, recently dared to poke fun at the Turkish ruler in a video clip. Set to the melody of German pop star Nena's 1984 hit "Irgendwie, irgendwo, irgendwann" (Somehow, somewhere, sometime), the "Boss from the Bosporus" is satirically serenaded with lyrics referring to democratic abuses in Turkey: "A journalist that writes/something he doesn't like/will end up in prison over night." Or another, exclaiming that women have the same right to be beaten by police as men. The lyrics are accompanied by film footage of female demonstrators being clubbed to the ground with truncheons on Intenational Women's Day. The president, it seems, was not amused. He already summoned the German ambassador to complain about the video last week.

Berlin is in a difficult spot. For it is undeniable that Europe and especially Germany are dependent - or better, have made themselves dependent - on Turkey's help in the refugee crisis. At exactly the same time that the Turkish government is losing its grip of the reins in the Middle East, they have now been handed an enormous lever by Europe. Thus, the country has instigated the resumption of EU accession talks, despite the fact that it has done away with any semblance of democratic values at home. "Be charming, for he has you in his hand," as is sung in the Extra 3 video. The accompanying image: Angela Merkel shaking hands with the self-satisfied president.

Bölinger Mathias Kommentarbild App
DW's Mathias Bölinger

Humorless Erdogan displays his insecurity

The foreign ministry in Berlin has confirmed that the German ambassador met with Erdogan to discuss the Extra 3 video. At the meeting Germany's representative made clear that freedom of the press and freedom of expression must be protected. Erdogan can only further damage his own image with such pettiness. A man that elevates a joke to the level of an affair of state shows a lack of self-confidence more than anything else. Moreover, he is directing an amount of attention to the video that it otherwise would never have had.

In his attempt to end the mockery, Erdogan is showing himself to be utterly ridiculous. German diplomacy will never be able to protect him from his own vanity.

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Mathias Bölinger, head of DW's investigative unit
Mathias Bölinger DW-Reporter and head of investigations. Former correspondent in Beijing and Kyivmare_porter