A Nightmare on the 51st Street

In an earlier post, I tried to write about my reaction to CAN’s decision to use Turkish Flag on a 9/11 documentary, and Turkey’s close association with Islam. My main point for the former issue was that 9/11 should be seen as a tragedy that deeply affected the humankind and we should all learn what extremism is capable of doing. The latter issue was dealing with Turkey’s image and the recent shift in the country’s image. Well, after receiving thousands of angry mails, CAN decided to change the poster and the cover of DVD……and right now we have the flags of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan and Syria.

In a very ‘noble’ crisis communication attempt, CAN explained why Turkey was chosen at first: “the presence of the Islamic star and crescent on the flag”. They might have overlooked the fact that the aforementioned Islamic star and crescent are a little bit different than the contemporary Turkish flag. Ottoman Empire, indeed, used a flag very similar to that of Turkish Republic – and there you are able to see the Islamic symbols. But even if you find a symbol that perfectly reflects ‘Islam’, do you want to put it on the cover of an anti-terrorism DVD? Or is the documentary anti-Islam? anti-Islamic countries? anti-anything that resonates with Islam? (PS: For instance, Al-Qaeda has a flag)

After their decision to put several more random flags to the poster, it is very difficult to take CAN seriously, and argue rationally. Therefore, I’ll just talk about the impact of ‘crazy’ organizations on nations’ images and their ability to raise hatred among people. CAN made headlines in several newspapers in a couple of countries. In other words, CAN managed to create an image where the collapsed building are associated with Turkey, Islam, and right now with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, and Syria (by the way seriously why not Iraq? I mean the pre-liberated Iraq.). Classical crisis communication strategies advise policy makers to take corrective actions. In other words, Turkish authorities (in this specific case Turkish people who feel responsible for their country’s image) should warn CAN, tell what is wrong about the imagery, and ask for an apology. Most of the time, these strategies reach a settlement point. However, if you are dealing with a crazy organization, what can you do?

One path of action would be to ignore the situation. But as CAN gained publicity, it is a mistake to ignore them. Another strategy is to create a grassroots movement that target CAN’s target audience. So, we can take CAN out of the equation and tell about CAN’s mistake to the people who are going to see or who are interested in seeing the movie.

Lastly, humor or humorous critic might be an effective way of counter-arguing. As I said, it is very difficult to rationally argue with an organization that apologizes for “the use of only the Turkish flag on the cover of the film”. For instance, next time you want to feel like calling some a ‘crazy-ignorant-xenophobic idiot’, you can ask them whether they support CAN or not. Anyway, before ending this post, I would like to suggest some other symbols that should be included: Baklava, Humus, Kebab, Egyptian Pyramids, Republic of Balkavia from American Dad

Long story short, there is a problem with the Turkish image and this documentary is exacerbating the issue. Moreover, CAN is encouraging hatred among American people. This sounds like a perfect opportunity to become active citizens in our societies.


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