Sunday, May 22, 2016

Boris Johnson, Free Speech Champion of Erdogan Offensive-Poetry Contest

Turkey’s Islamist president earned well-deserved poetic mockery.

By Andrew C. McCarthy — May 21, 2016
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (left) and Boris Johnson. Photograph: PA

This is my favorite story in some time. And it’s not even a “narrative” — it really happened.

First, though, the disgraceful background: Just when you thought German chancellor Angela Merkel had run out of nails to hammer into the coffin of Western liberalism, she permitted a criminal prosecution to proceed against Jan Böhmermann, a young German comedian, for the “crime” of insulting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, our Islamic-supremacist, jihad-supporting NATO “ally,” who — if we may borrow a phrase from a good friend of his — has “fundamentally transformed” Turkey from a Western-leaning democracy to a suffocating sharia state.

Herr Böhmermann performed an edgy stand-up routine that featured a poem in which he described Erdogan as a “goat f***er,” among other not-niceties. A few months earlier, the comic had similarly poked fun at the Turkish president as a way of illuminating the obscenities of Erdogan’s dictatorial rule. This prompted the thin-skinned despot’s government to lodge a formal complaint with Berlin. Böhmermann’s latest skit was intended to draw attention to the fact that, with all the talk of bringing Turkey into the EU, Erdogan — far from embracing Western liberalism — was seeking to impose his blasphemy fatwa on Germany.

In Imam Erdogan’s emirate, which was the main focus of my book Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, such insolence lands a person in jail — as, by the way, does political dissent and what used to be known as news reporting.

As previously noted here, Erdogan is one of the pioneers of the Muslim Brotherhood–crafted “integrate but don’t assimilate” strategy for overrunning Europe and, in time, the United States. The plan urges Muslims to relocate to the West but maintain Islamic mores while pressuring the home governments to accommodate sharia (Islamic law).

A few years back, Erdogan gave a speech to a throng of Muslim migrants in Cologne, decrying Western pressure on Muslims to assimilate in their new European homelands as “a crime against humanity.” His goal is to transport repressive Islamic standards to the West, where they will snuff out free speech and other liberties inconvenient to tyrants. The game-plan is working to a fare-thee-well, feeding the explosion of Islamic enclaves that gradually assert their autonomy from Western governance while serving as incubators of jihadist radicalization.

Merkel is supposed to be part of the West’s defense against such aggression. But she is not the West. She is modern, feckless Europe. So when Erdogan complained about a harmless comic bit, she snapped to. Under an antiquated German law, Böhmermann could be sentenced to five years in prison for a “deliberate insult” of a foreign head of state.

That was too much for an actual champion of Western liberalism, our friend Douglas Murray. As he wrote in the Spectator:
The very possibility of putting someone on trial for being rude about Erdogan is as illiberal or rather anti-liberal as these things come. It will be hardly more of a relief if he is found ‘not guilty’ than if he is found ‘guilty’. The fact such a trial could even be contemplated demonstrates that Germany is becoming little more than a satrapy of Erdogan’s.
Just so. When roundly rebuked by Germans for rubber-stamping such a noxious abuse of prosecutorial power, Merkel burbled in her best Orwellian EU-ese that the case would vindicate liberal principles since it would be decided by a court pursuant to the rule of law.

As we used to know in the West, however, the rule of law is when representative government vindicates the principles of liberty by protecting its citizens from abusive process. The point of making free speech aguarantee is to spare one from having to defend oneself in court for speaking. The fact that one may stand a decent chance of beating the rap after enduring the anxiety, expense, and obloquy of indictment is cold comfort.

But the EU is like the Soviet Union without the NKVD. After all, you don’t need secret police when you’ve got “the rule of law” — meaning the specter of legal process as a weapon of intimidation.

Happily, there are still a few classical liberals across the Atlantic, fighting the good fight. Which gets us back to Douglas Murray, who declared:
Well I’m a free-born British man, and we don’t live under the blasphemy laws of such despots. So in honour of this fact I have spent the weekend writing rude limericks about Mr Erdogan. And I would hereby like to invite all readers to join me in a grand Erdogan limerick competition. That isn’t to say that entries which come in the form of Iambic pentameters, or heroic couplets will be completely discounted. I think a work in the Homeric mode, for example, about the smallness of Erdogan’s manhood could (if suitably disgusting) stand some chance of winning. But I recommend limericks because almost everything insulting that is worth saying can usually be included within the five lines of that beautiful and delicate form.
It is the perfect response: Defying the tyrannical suppression of speech with even more defiant speech; in good fun, sure, but nevertheless making a powerful point: We understand this is a hill worth dying on if we are to save what makes the West the West.

Well, the competition has been held, the votes have been counted, and the winner of the Offensive Erdogan Poetry competition is none other than . . . Boris Johnson, the intrepid former mayor of London. Johnson took time out from his current worthy day job, leading the Brexit charge, to answer the call. Here is his submission:

There was a young fellow from Ankara
Who was a terrific wankerer
Till he sowed his wild oats
With the help of a goat
But he didn’t even stop to thankera.

Can you hear Erdogan seething? And given the hand-in-glove fit Erdogan’s Turkey appears to be for Merkel’s EU, Johnson’s five lines may do more for the Brexit cause than can be overcome by daily stacks of fevered op-eds from the “Stay In” camp.

It makes my day . . . except to think about how low we’ve sunk when it’s necessary for freedom to make a show of facing down a two-bit Islamist extortionist. Plus, the story won’t have a happy ending unless Chancellor Merkel does the right thing and shuts down the Kangaroo court prosecuting Jan Böhmermann. Unfortunately, her idea of a submission is a good deal different from Boris Johnson’s.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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