How and why do presidents become dictators

Erdogan and the satire song : Why Dictators Don't Have Fun

Fancy a boss joke? A man comes to the pet store and wants to buy a parrot. But they are all very expensive because they can also speak foreign languages. So he asks about the little gray bird in the corner, which is even more expensive. What can he do? The man wants to know. Says the seller: I don't know either, but the others all say boss to him.

A boss joke like this can quickly become dangerous - if the boss hears it. And if the prankster doesn't live in a democracy where humor and irony are just a part of it. As a valve to let off steam in hierarchical structures, as legitimate blasphemy towards authorities and dignitaries, be it the boss, the chancellor, the king or the pope. Boss jokes obey the fairytale logic of “The Emperor's New Clothes”, according to the motto: don't be afraid of him up there.

Dictators don't have fun. Some paid with their lives for a Hitler joke

It is the powerless who tell jokes about the powerful. A small, quick act of anarchy, and afterwards it's easier to obey. If, on the other hand, the joke-teller lives under a dictatorship, the fun is over. Whispering jokes about Hitler could cost their narrators their lives. When Hitler enters a town, a girl holds out a tuft of grass towards him. Hitler: “What am I supposed to do with that?” The girl: “Everyone says, if the Führer bites the grass, better times will come”. The singer and cabaret artist Robert Dorsay told the joke in the restaurant of the Deutsches Theater Berlin, a spy was there, he was sentenced to death. A more recent example: The North Korea film satire “The Interview” triggered cyber attacks on Sony and terror threats against US cinemas at the end of 2014.

Now the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not a dictator. But when the song "Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan" from the "Extra 3" broadcast on March 17th causes diplomatic tensions, Erdogan summons the German ambassador and demands the cancellation of the less than two-minute satirical video, he does not behave like a democrat.

That legendary 14-second sketch that Rudi Carrell broadcast in February 1987 in his “Tagesshow” quickly comes to mind. In it, veiled Iranian women threw underwear at the Ayatollah, the text added: "Ayatollah Khomeini is celebrated by the population and showered with gifts". The consequences: German diplomats have to leave the country, the Iranian ambassador is expelled from Bonn, Iran-Air cancels its flights to Germany, the Goethe-Institut in Tehran has to close and Carrell receives death threats. In 2010, Radio Bremen did not approve the spot for a satire exhibition in the Haus der Geschichte in Bonn.

"Der Protz vom Bosporus": The clip is a hit online

This time the federal government is committed to public law ridicule as a "natural" part of the German media landscape. At the time, the reference to freedom of expression was not exactly convincing. And there was no internet yet. Erdogan's action against the mocking song has increased the popularity of the song immensely. including the knowledge of Erdogan's understanding of freedom of the press. Lines like “A journalist who writes something / Erdogan doesn't fit / is already in jail tomorrow” on the arrest of the “Cumhuriyet” editor-in-chief now know far more people than just the “Extra 3” audience. Or "He lives big, / the swank of the Bosporus" as a reference to Erdogan's presidential palace with a thousand rooms and without a building permit. The rhyme “Equal rights for women / they are also spanked” is not invented either: the video clip merely gathers together news images and video documents.

The TV comedians are not squeamish about Merkel and Co. either

The rewritten Nena song was clicked on over three million times on YouTube, and Turkish and English subtitles have long existed. Cartoonists respond with their own Erdogan cartoons, and there are numerous other jokes on Twitter under the hashtag #Erdogan. The editors of “Extra 3” thanked for the involuntary PR with Erdogan's appointment as employee of the month.

The right to political satire is a precious democratic good. The appointed ambassador also defended freedom of expression, according to the Foreign Office, diplomacy sees “neither a need nor the possibility of influencing reporting”. After all, today's TV comedians are not squeamish about Merkel and Co. either. In the Erdogan spot, the Chancellor shakes hands with her Turkish counterpart on issues relating to refugee policy, on the line "Be beautifully charming / because he has you in his hand".

The left-wing cabaret artists from Dieter Hildebrandt's blissful "windshield wiper", on the other hand, seem almost harmless. In 1986 there was still the memorable case that the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation dropped out of a nationwide broadcast because the BRFernsehdirektor disliked the Chernobyl number “The Radiated Grandfather”.

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