The Ankara mayor who does not like blondes
A recent exchange of e-bursts of anger on social media has shown that politicians and even diplomats are not immune to the malady of expressing their feelings, state of mind, emotions and beliefs on the internet for the world to see.
Given that American politicians are quick to criticise use of force by police in other countries, when given a chance to retaliate politicians in other countries will not hesitate to fire back. Those who have been on the receiving end of America’s holier-than-thou criticism seem to take great pleasure in pointing out that the United States is far from the perfect Eden-like paradise it professes to be.
So when something goes wrong in the United States such as riots on the scale of an intifada in Baltimore, many people love to rub Americans’ noses in it. As television cameras began broadcasting live coverage of police battling protesters in the streets of Baltimore, just a short drive from Washington, the somewhat maverick and often loose-lipped mayor of Ankara, a close ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did not hesitate to point out America’s shortcomings.
But the mayor of Ankara went about it quite awkwardly, shall we say, addressing the issue more like a high schooler rather than the elected official of a major capital city.
Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek had earlier in the week fired off what some described as an “extraordinary diatribe” on Twitter over the Baltimore rioting. He implored US State Department acting spokeswoman Marie Harf to “Come on, blonde, answer now.”
“Where are you stupid blonde, who accused Turkish police of using disproportionate force?” he added, alluding to US criticism of the harsh response by Turkish police to demonstrations.
Harf, on the receiving end of this rather bizarre “diplomatic exchange”, kept her diplomatic cool and refused to take the lure from Ankara’s mayor. “I really don’t think I’m going to dignify them with a response,” she said.
However, if the State Department’s spokeswoman chose to remain mum over the incident, John Bass, the US ambassador to Turkey, took his fight to Instagram, where he posted a picture of himself with his normally brown hair turned blond. “American diplomats: We’re all blonde,” said the caption in English and Turkish.
What remained a diplomatic secret, however, is whether the US ambassador had actually dyed his hair or doctored the photograph using picture-manipulation software.
Using the Twitter name @06melihgokcek, Ankara’s mayor is quick to take on anyone who dares to challenge him.
In days of yore gentlemen could settle a dispute by challenging each other to a duel at dawn using pistols or sabres. In present time opponents take their quarrels to the internet where the weapons of choice are Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Granted, it’s a far less romantic approach to resolving disputes and conflicts. Facebook at ten paces at dawn is somehow less threatening.
In closing, the mayor’s words may shed light on previous controversial statements by Erdogan, who, while still prime minister, said in November that women should, because of their frail nature, hold different jobs than men.
“You cannot make women work in the same jobs as men do, as in communist regimes,” he said.
His statement was misconstrued as meaning women cannot be engineers, cosmonauts or let’s say US State Department spokeswomen.
In hindsight, it seems he was reserving his remarks to blondes. Now, Turkish feminists can rest at ease.