Sunday, October 26, 2008

By Posting This, We are Now Criminals in Turkey, by The Wehkamps

For the past three days anytime Chris and I try to get on Blogger to create a post we get a message saying the server has timed out.

We have tried everything.

We tried the computers at school, nada.

We tried changing our settings at home, nada.

Saturday we finally started googling "blogger outage" to see what the news reports said.

We were stumped.

Then this morning Chris typed into Google "turkey bans blogger" and lo and behold...

"Turkey Bans Blogger
October 24th, 2008

Since today, whoever tries to access Blogger or any * domain from Turkey will get the following message on their screen:

This is the same message we get if we try to visit YouTube, which is also banned in Turkey. In the past blogging platform has been banned as well (read more), to much dismay of many Turkish bloggers.

It is suspected that the reason for this has something to do with Adnan Oktar, by some considered the leading Muslim advocate for creationism, who has in the past managed to get Wordpress, Google Groups, as well as Richard Dawkins’ website banned.

Turkey’s EU ambitions seem paradoxical to the infringement on the freedom of press and speech of its citizens, residents and visitors by banning sites like this. This is not China. This has to stopped. Good thing the EU’s making a blacklist of censoring countries and are creating software for people in censoring countries to use to overcome the censorship (Global Online Freedom Act).


So of course we immediately wiki-ed this Adnan Oktar guy...

"Blocking of Internet sites

In April 2007, Oktar filed a libel lawsuit against the owners of ek$i sözlük, a virtual community similar to everything2. The court reviewed the complaint and ordered the service provider to close the site to public access. The site was temporarily suspended so the entry on Oktar could be expunged and locked. Access to another news Web site was also restricted following Oktar's complaint.

In August of the same year, Oktar was able to get a Turkish court to block internet access to to all of Turkey. His lawyers argued that blogs on contained libelous material on Oktar and his colleague which staff was unwilling to remove.

On April 10, 2008, Google Groups was blocked in Turkey following a libel complaint by Adnan Oktar. As of May 5, 2008, the ban remains in effect for TTNet users.

On September 19, 2008, a Turkish court banned Internet users in Turkey from viewing the official Richard Dawkins Web site after Oktar claimed its contents were defamatory, blasphemous and insulting religion, arguing that his personality was violated by this site. In response, Dawkins posted a Turkish translation of his "Venomous Snakes, Slippery Eels and Harun Yahya" article ("Zehirli Yilanlar, Kaygan Yilanbaliklari ve Harun Yahya") on his website. Then one week later a complaint by Oktar led to the banning of the internet site of the Union of Education and Scientific Workers (Türk Eğitim Sen). This was followed by a block of the country's third-biggest newspaper site, Vatan, in October."

Absolutely unbelievable.

One man, one rat, can ban entire websites and communication forums throughout an entire democratic country?

How does this country think it is going to become a member of the EU when it allows gross violations of free speech like this?

What's even more unbelievable is that four minutes after reading this Chris and I turned on our hotspot shield (Hotspot Shield creates a sort of secret tunnel so it's not clear where you are trying to get internet access from, for example, I think right now the Internet company thinks I'm in San Diego) and voila, we're on Blogger.

Anyone with even a slight interest in getting around the Turkish ban could do so within four minutes. So what's the point?

Essentially, this guy Oktar is a radical Islamic propogandist whose "revolutionary literature" all center around his really original idea that everything in the Old Testament is perfectly accurate down to the tiniest detail, and therefore all these dinosaur bones we keep finding are a hoax and the theory of evolution is just a fairy tale that Western scientists cooked up. Probably just to hurt his feelings.

"In September 2008 Oktar issued a challenge offering '10 trillion Turkish lira to anyone who produces a single intermediate-form fossil demonstrating evolution'.

Biologist PZ Myers responded: 'The US government should immediately send a plane to pick up Mr Oktar, bring him to our country, and take him on a guided tour of the Smithsonian and the American Museum of Natural History, accompanied by Niles Eldredge, Kevin Padian, Jerry Coyne, Sean Carroll, and the entire scientific staff of those museums.

Afterwards, they can accept the check from Mr Oktar, run down to the local bank and cash it, and use one trillion dollars to resolve the current financial crisis, seven trillion can be sunk immediately into the American educational system, and they can send the change left over to me as a reward for coming up with this brilliant plan.'

Oktar's offer is similar to creationist Kent Hovind's $250,000 offer, which has been dismissed by creationists and scientists as a misleading gimmick where those who applied for the challenge have questioned his sincerity about paying and understanding of evolution."

I'm going to be real honest with you here for a minute (mom and dad cover your eyes).

Chris and I bathe in tea-colored water.
My doctor, he told me to "eat all the vegetables" for a sore throat I was having.
The other night, Chris and I had to listen to gunshots fire off at random intervals for about 2 hours.

None of that really bothers me...

but banning Blogger?

I'm not sure I feel safe here anymore.

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Chris adds...

There are a whole lot of problems with America.

But this level of censorship isn't one of them. That an entire country's blogosphere could be shut down because one wealthy man could afford to hire as many unethical lawyers as he wants to is not only a disgusting breach of public trust, it's also evidence of fundamental flaws in governance.

It's still not clear why all of Blogger was shut down over a few blogs one guy didn't like. Why not just block those few offending blogs (which would still have been wrong, but less so)? The government's response is like dropping nukes to prevent the flu. Look, we have flu shots! You could just block the sites that he's brought charges against!

To an American, it's difficult to understand how something like this could happen in a country that claims to be democratic. If I was living in Saudi Arabia, or China I would just be happy to have internet access at all. But I don't live in those places, and Turkey loudly proclaims to anyone who will listen that they are different. And then they drop a deuce in their pants. And we stand there nodding politely, listening hopefully to Turkey's democratic aspirations, smelling the sad truth all the while.

Why can't Turkey just potty train itself already? Nobody will take this country seriously as a member of the global community until it stops messing its trousers. Listen, we don't care how many UN guidelines you adhere to or how open to trade you are. If you can't walk into the EU staff meeting without smelling like excrement, nothing you say is going to matter. The whole time your colleagues are going to be sitting there asking themselves 'who let the hobo in' and the awesome speech you spent all that time preparing is going to fall flat.

Not pooping yourself is considered a basic skill. How could anyone ever trust you with more important matters if you can't relieve yourself without an instruction manual?

Maybe you need a refresher.

Your job is to allow free and unfettered access to whatever communication your country's little heart desires. If they want to build big metal poles to climb up every day so they can shout across the rooftops at each other, you help them do it. There's nothing else to think about. Let them talk.

Ah ah ah! Don't say "but, but..." There is no 'but.' You're making it too complicated. Here's what you do: you just let them talk about whatever, however, whenever.

Got it? Are you sure? Okay. Go.

And you crapped yourself immediately.

Sarah and I have a hard time swallowing this precisely because we really like this country and its people. We see how open and accepting they can be. We see the same potential that everybody keeps talking about. It's exciting to think of Turkey as a beacon of real freedom in a region so stifled by religious suppression and ignorant policy. This place actually has a lot to offer this region and the world at large both from a historical perspective and as a working model of a thriving melting-pot of cultures.

After this week, unfortunately, we have seen evidence that Turkey's potential will not soon be realized. And it's kind of a bummer.

Oh well, at least the Turkish version of the FCC was extremely incompetent in their attempt to block Blogger.

Stay tuned for more posts from Turkey, the land of fake democracy.

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