Nice and Turkey, how much do we really know?

This week's editorial questions the truth behind certain news and government stories.

How much truth is there to the widely used quote “Perception is everything”? Are we blinded by our prejudices, misconceptions or by simply what we are led to believe without questioning, thanks mostly to official information and social media?

Last week, the world was shaken by two events, first the death of 84 people in Nice, France by a truck driven onto them by a man of Tunisian origin and the failed coup attempt in Turkey that came some 24 hours later.

In the Nice incident, French President Francois Hollande was quick to label it a “terrorist attack”, implicitly associating it with Islamic terrorism, a link that ISIS was quick to jump on to claim the responsibility for the crime.

As the investigators kept working on the profile of the perpetrator of the massacre, however, the picture that emerged was somewhat different from the one Hollande painted in the immediate aftermath of the incident. French police said they couldn’t find any convincing evidence that the driver was radicalized by Islamic extremism and that he was more a man of mental health issues and a lot of family troubles. French politicians keep saying he was radicalized, but can they contradict their president?

When it comes to the attempted coup in Turkey, how much of what we have heard in the news is the reflection of reality? In the news, we have heard that a small splinter faction of the Turkish military staged a coup, which was quickly suppressed.

There are some questions that need to be asked: First, why now? This attempted coup comes at a particularly difficult time for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, with his economic policies failing the population, his attempt to transform the regime from a parliamentary to a presidential system stalled and his international standing in tatters due to his increasingly authoritarian rule. So overnight, he becomes a hero of democracy for having suppressed a military coup.

How conceivable is it that the coup leaders, who are said to be staff colonels and generals, would have done such poor planning and preparation before launching their action? After all Turkish military is very experienced in staging coups, three successful ones between 1960 and 1980.

And how come the government has drawn up a list of more than 2,700 judges, including constitutional and other high court justices, so quickly that they were purged within hours of the government claiming full control of the country? What did the judiciary have to do with the coup?

Can this turn out to be, as some in Turkey suggest, the Reichstag fire* moment of contemporary Turkish political history?

In either of these incidents, we don’t know the truth behind what we are told and there is little we can do to reach that truth other than scanning what is available on the web.

What we do know is that we are feeling more and more insecure as the turbulence of our times continues to generate instability. After every terrorist attack, after every major news story that reminds us that our routine, mundane way of life is in danger, we are yearning for stronger government to protect us from the unknown of the future.

Political instability and violence, coupled with the economic instability and the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor throughout the western world is the recipe for the socio-economic order that has prevailed since the end of the Second World War coming perilously close to collapsing.

And if Donald Trump does get elected to be the next president of the United States, that collapse will be a lot closer.

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* On February 27, 1933 the parliament building in the German capital Berlin burned down in what was later found to be the result of an arson attack, said by some historians to be orchestrated by the Nazi Party. Hitler used the incident to launch a massive campaign of purges targeting political opponents and ultimately to establish his dictatorship.