Meet the Turkish PM’s New Chief Advisor: Yiğit Bulut

Four days ago, Turkey was staggered by yet another development that some thought was a joke. Columnist, financial commentator and TV personality Yiğit Bulut, nicknamed Jöleli (the Gelled One) by young internet users for his over-gelled hair, who lately claimed that he was “certain that in many centers they constantly try to kill PM Erdoğan through telekinesis and many other methods” was appointed as the PM’s chief advisor.

Yiğit Bulut and PM Erdoğan.

Yiğit Bulut and PM Erdoğan.

In fairness, unlike his recent remarks, his résumé doesn’t look like one that of an incompetent comedian. He is graduated from Galatasaray High School, one of the best and oldest schools in Turkey, and Bilkent University’s Banking and Finance department; and he got his MA from the Sorbonne.

Probably it wasn’t only his résumé that helped him with his rather swift rise. Family politics, economic rivalries in media seem to be extensively involved, as well. After marrying to Şule Zeybek who is the beloved niece of media tycoon Aydın Doğan, the head of Doğan Holding which is one of the biggest conglomerates in Turkey; Yiğit Bulut started to host a TV program on CNNTürk and write on daily Vatan. Allegedly, further rise of Bulut who worked for the Doğans for years, was blocked by two important journalists of Doğan Media, Ertuğrul Özkök and the late Mehmet Ali Birand. Turning against his former editor-in-chief Özkök, Bulut took the offer of Doğan Media’s rival Ciner Group and began to write against the Doğans. Later, not surprisingly, he became the editor-in-chief of HaberTürk TV; and worked there until he fell from grace and got fired, most likely because his love of AKP got to a level of worshipping and caused a loss of confidence in the channel. While working at HaberTürk his wife, kind of expectedly, divorced him. Then, in June 2012, he became the editor-in-chief at pro-government TV 24 and was still working there when the big appointment -which he surely had been expecting for a time- finally came.

Before 2009, his writings were more on economy and generally critical of the AKP, especially of its privatizations, relations with IMF and the growing debt stock… In 2006, on Daily Radikal, after fiercely criticizing the government for irregularities in privatization of Park Hotel in İstanbul, he says “In this country, people go to work in the wee hours of the morning, in hope of bringing bread to their children, providing them education; while their government says ‘Solve your own problem’ to nut producers, ‘We can’t listen to you now’ to the families of fallen soldiers, avoids giving money to its own civil servants. But when it comes to Sami Ofer -the late Israeli businessman who briefly owned Park Hotel- they are all ears, they even change municipal plans for him. Seeing what has been happening in municipalities under AKP, the profit and capital transfers, I can’t help rebelling. This kind of obvious favoritism and money transfer that make fools of everybody, cannot be happening.”

The same year, he criticized the government for signing Ankara Protocol that, according to Bulut (and many others), meant recognizing Southern Cyprus as the representative of the whole island. He didn’t like the government’s lack of success in the war against the PKK, either. On a TV program in 2007, he said: “Why can’t they hit Mount Kandil (the HQ of PKK in Iraq)? Apparently, this isn’t only about getting warplanes. Buy those jets, only if you have the guts to do it. But this government doesn’t and that is the problem.”

In an article titled “The Danger Is Very Great”, written in 2008, he lambasts the government for its pressure on media and likens the road Turkey has taken to Nazi Germany. He says “…now this is going too far. Perhaps you’re aware or not, but from democracy, (our) system is going to fascism. I liken the road Turkey entered to Hitler’s Germany. I am very very worried for Turkey. … staffing every institution with their own people, efforts to control everywhere, attempts to get rid of 1923 foundations; and the worst of all, mouthful of attacks to the press that criticizes all this, show the (government’s) goal is clear… Let’s protect our country before it’s too late.”

When there was a closure lawsuit against AKP at the Supreme Court due to its anti-secular activities, in another article titled “The State Said ‘Enough’ to the Government!” written, again, in 2008, Bulut said on the lawsuit: “Last night, the ruling party’s increasing self-confidence and ‘We can do whatever we want and nobody can raise a voice’ attitude have come to an end by a step of a body of the state. The state told the gov’t ‘Enough, the road ends here’.” In the article, he also criticizes AKP’s attempts to impose its own ideology on the state and reminds that votes AKP got don’t make it the owner of all the system. In closing remarks, he, again, touches down selling of public firms: “Turkey has suffered a heavy blow between 2003 and 2007. All telecommunication firms, banks, heavy industry facilities, ports and docks were sold. Now the thing to be done, is to get them all back and say ‘stop’ to liquidations everywhere in Turkey, through building ‘a new national will’.”

And then, came the big U turn – one of the most epic ones Turkey has ever seen. Bulut, from an outspoken representative of the anti-AKP camp, turned into the greatest fan of the very party he often fiercely slammed, went as far as calling the PM “father”.

Now new Yiğit Bulut advocates a worldview where there’s an evil “global establishment” that has its extensions also in Turkey. Those extensions are connected to Turkey’s business class, media, mafias, terrorist organizations and Ergenekon and had been controlling Turkey through financial and political manipulations. And Erdoğan is the hero fighting against these villains to restore “the rule of the people” which Turkey has lost in 1930’s. In 2010, a day after interviewing the PM, Bulut says: “…there’s one question for the Turkish people: Are you with the establishment’s order that has been sucking this country’s blood, or not? …Since the beginning of 19th century, those who want to take over this country under disguise of modernity theses, have been showing the same movie of ‘modernization-bigotry-partition’ and building an incredible structure where only the elites control everything. …In these lands, now there’s a war of independence and, the one true matter for the people, is not to be on side of party X or party Y but being on the side of the establishment order or not.” To him, Turkey can be an alternative to all this evil order. Again in 2010, in an article titled “I Want an Imperial Turkey…” on HaberTürk he says “For years, we were exploited by global imperial order and now we are standing up and going forward on the road of being ‘imperial’ in the new world order. We’ll be the main component of the new world equation… And a note: We will not be cruel and relentless like them.” He ended some of his articles by saying “Long live imperial Turkey” which prompted his editor-in-chief of HaberTürk Fatih Altaylı to warn him. He also thinks that the country should stop its membership process to the EU and show that Turkey is “a structure that is expanding as an alternative to the EU.”

Lately, he used this rhetoric again, this time to explain massive Gezi Park protests that swept throughout the country. He called Gezi Park events a civilian coup attempt which “reveals the fact that there exists an establishment that doesn’t recognize whomever is chosen by the national will and wants to exploit resources of the realm and control it with its foreign masters.” In an article on daily Star, he likens Taksim Platform -a coalition of various local and national NGOs, became a voice of Gezi protestors and spoke to the PM- to a council of coup leaders and he calls prosecutors to immediately act against the platform. On an interview to TGRT, he clarifies the “foreign powers” he mentioned: “The fact that Merkel’s party program has anti-Turkish remarks, the fact that she insults the Turkish state, the fact that Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek was listened (by UK intelligence) and the attitude of the British newspapers, especially of the Economist… all reveal who’s connected to who.” Then the reporter asks “You say Germany and Britain are the foreign collaborators (in this)? That’s what we understand from your words.” to which Bulut answers “Yes, you understand very correctly.” He further argues that Adnan Menderes -the Turkish PM who was unseated by a military coup and hanged in 1960- was executed because he refused to collaborate with capitalists of Germany and Britain. And he thinks that the protests; where because of police brutality 5 people died, many got injured, some lost their eyes; “were handled perfectly by the PM”. He concludes “Turkish people will win this war of independence. They will get rid of the games played on us by the British and Germans and decide their own future. This is a war of independence and in this war the leader of our people is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. We are his followers… and we will make Turkey a world power.”

He is a passionate admirer of not only AKP but also of the PM personally. “He’s the most national leader in the history of the Republic… If standing behind Tayyip Erdoğan and saying that ‘If he wears his shroud (for this cause), then so shall I’ mean that I am a partisan, then yes I am a partisan. It’s not about a party. It’s a leader that I am following. The man who expelled the IMF is my father. The man who chokes the establishment is my father.” he said on an interview. He believes that Turkey has a very flawed political system that creates weak leaders but the system’s deficiencies are currently covered by strong personality of Erdoğan. For him, the country needs a presidential system that produces strong leaders like Vladimir Putin who is the second leader he admires, as he expressed it on a TV show: “There are two and a half true leaders in the world: 1) Erdoğan 2) Putin and 3) Obama -being the half leader-”. He also thinks that Erdoğan and Putin are the two leaders that the global establishment is targeting.

He assisted the PM on many other issues, as well. After Erdoğan criticized Muhteşem Yüzyıl, Bulut also accused some shows of spreading immorality (one of the shows was based on a classical novel first published 113 years ago), implying that they could be organized things and connected to the media extension of Ergenekon. After the PM said that “interest rate lobby” was behind Gezi Park protests, Bulut immediately wrote to prove him right. His reputation as a financial commentator has suffered blows, too. He once even said “The conclusion I have come to, after working all my life about the economy, on my honor I say here, is that interest is a sin.” His views on government control on media are not pleasant, either. At a meeting, Bulut suggested the PM founding a commission that would monitor internet media and could censor and put restrictions like the country’s RTÜK. Ironically, at that time, the title of the show he was hosting, was Sansürsüz meaning “Without Censor”.

It wasn’t only his opinions that dramatically changed. His discourse, his terminology, his appearance changed, as well. It was a too big U turn even for low standards of Turkish media and because of it, he lost many of his former followers and a lot of respect. Yet Turkish politics whose standards are even lower, came to elevate Bulut four days ago.

Yiğit Bulut in his new image.

Yiğit Bulut in his new image.

“Flattery and insults raise the same question: What do you want?” once said Mason Cooley, an American aphorist. With any luck, Yiğit Bulut finally got what he wanted and thus we could expect more sanity from him now. Though, when it comes to the message given by his appointment, one can’t help being more pessimistic. By appointing someone who has been agreeing with the government practically on anything and suggesting even more authoritarian practices, Erdoğan approves whatever he has done so far, dismisses the criticism that the country is getting more authoritarian under his rule and says that this is going to be the way. It also points out that his crazy theories have a following in AKP’s base. In this piece, in general, I tried not to add my personal comments directly. So I’d like to conclude my opinion on the matter that way, by quoting again Yiğit Bulut, but 2008’s Yiğit Bulut: “…now this is going too far, (our) system is going to fascism. …I am very very worried for Turkey…. Let’s protect our country before it’s too late.”