Presidency’s Director of Communications Fahrettin Altun gave a speech at the opening of the university preferences event, TercihFest (PreferFest), organized online in collaboration with Ibn Haldun University, Istanbul Technical University, and Health Sciences University.
Noting that the world at present is very different from 20 years ago, Altun stated that the change and transformation of the world are reflected in the application areas and theories of social sciences as well as in the social world.
Stating that instead of paradigms such as “end of history”, “liberal globalization”, “globalization” of the 1990s, “trade” and “culture wars” and even “hot war” were mentioned now, Altun said, “The Western paradigm, fed by the understanding of the exploitation and occupation of societies other than itself that reached its peak in the 19th century, is facing a very serious challenge today.”
Underlining that Western philosophy and Western social sciences theories that positioned the West as the superior and dominant subject lost their dominance to a great extent, Altun continued as follows:
“We see that the 200-year-old order where the West has exploited non-Western societies from precious mines to qualified human resources has now begun to change and this is now reflected in our daily life in different ways. In the 1990s, when the Cold War ended, it was expressed that wars in the world had ended, there would be no struggle for power, and instead, globalization would dominate as an invisible cultural hegemony. The paradigm we call ‘liberal globalization’ here actually reflected the US-led Western domination as a universal, indisputable, and eternal situation. Unlike the 1990s, this invisible hegemony began to be visible in the late 2000s, and today it has begun to be seriously questioned. The world political scene is no longer a scene where the Western subject can hide its desire for hegemony and domination that was perceived as destiny by the non-Western world. This shouldn't be so. Everyone in the Western and non-Western world is aware of the tough struggle and the actors behind this struggle. Moreover, the dispute and conflict between the actors are felt in every field.”
Fahrettin Altun emphasized that there was a need for new concepts, theories, and systems that offered real solutions to the real problems of the world and that were built on justice and equity.
Stating that the world had changed and science must change accordingly and build the knowledge of the new era, Altun said, “The disclosure of theories that reflect ideological discourses as scientific truth and their reflections in practice is undoubtedly of great importance at this point.”
“Our fight is to save ourselves from the dependency trap”
Explaining that humanity must struggle for the prevalence of truth in every field during this period, Altun said:
“In fact, the fight for truth has always existed throughout history. At the core of the fight is the fight for genuine knowledge. In this sense, our universities are centres for the production of extremely critical, genuine knowledge and authentic science. Our country is in search of positioning itself as an actor, a constituent subject in the political environment of this new and potentially chaotic world that I am trying to outline. In the last 20 years, Turkey has had the opportunity to act on its own behalf and account despite all the regional and global developments, the challenges, the ups and downs and twists and turns, and difficult periods. In this context, it has made use of the opportunities emerging in the national, regional, and global arena and, at the end of the day, has become a regional power. Moreover, our country has not only become a regional power but has also commenced a serious fight to become a global actor. This fight has manifested itself as a real fight for freedom and growth. The fight for freedom and autonomy in the fields of foreign policy, economy, and security has turned Turkey into a regional power first, and then into a global actor. In this context, our fight is to eliminate the heavy costs generated by the Westernization policies that have influenced our country and our region for two hundred years, and the dependency trap, unfortunately, put before us as fate by the Western elites for years.”
“Generating the knowledge of the truth”
Noting that the fight against “truth and rendering visible the hidden” under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Fahrettin Altun said that Turkey currently had every means to generate the knowledge and practice of truth.
Explaining that the field of higher education had expanded and its research capacity had increased, Altun stated that they had to undertake the important mission of “generating the knowledge of the truth” in the new period by using those opportunities.
Stating that philosophers of the Enlightenment era said “knowledge is power”, Altun continued as follows:
“Knowledge is power, yes but when is knowledge power? The knowledge produced by taking into account the issues of the society, country, region, and the world in which we live, that is, real knowledge is power. Custom-made information, ordered information, translated information is not power, it is dependency. There is something we always say: The laboratory of social scientists is society. In this sense, the social structure of Turkey is a great opportunity for our social scientists to generate genuine knowledge. In addition, the importance our country attaches to social sciences as a rising actor is increasing every day, lifting the barriers in front of social scientists. The importance given to natural sciences 20-30 years ago has begun to be given to social sciences today.”
Pointing out that the period and its geography offered Turkey serious strategic opportunities, Fahrettin Altun said, “If we stood by and watched all that has happened during this period of 20 years, regarding the turbulence that occurred in the world as a major crisis, Turkey would currently not be at the point it has achieved. Today, under the leadership of our President, Turkey has covered a lot of ground from health to transportation, from education to security and developed into a prestigious centre of attraction.”
“Turkey has become more powerful since 2002”
Fahrettin Altun noted that Turkey had been very successful and had helped over 100 countries during the coronavirus pandemic where the whole world had paid a heavy price.
Noting that since 2002, Turkey had become stronger, more confident, and more reputable, Altun said, “Our country has progressed in all areas in the last 18 years. Our democracy has gotten stronger by eliminating tutelage and our economy has grown by eliminating dependency. Our foreign policy has become autonomous, and begun to progress in line with Turkey’s interests with original policies.”
Emphasizing that Turkey was witnessing a new paradigm and a surge of development Altun stated the following:
“This is why some people are trying to explain Turkey’s adventure, make sense of Turkey, and explain what has happened in Turkey with the concepts of the previous period, old paradigms, and old theories. Their efforts are in vain. We have to explain the paradigm of the new era with new concepts, original and scientific efforts. The westernization and modernization approach of the previous period has now been replaced by an authentic Turkish style modernization approach. It has to find its reflection in the field of science. It is unimaginable for our social sciences to remain indifferent to this new situation.”
Indicating that social sciences were not able to generate sufficient knowledge of that new paradigm, Fahrettin Altun expressed his belief that young social scientists would undertake more responsibility in producing genuine knowledge that responded to the needs of the society.
“Pluralism in media has increased”
Fahrettin Altun stated that in parallel with the changes and transformation in the country that took place in the last 20 years, pluralism and diversity had increased in the media, as well.
Noting that some saw this as a pretty serious problem, Altun said:
“Because the monopoly of some certain circles has been broken. In an environment where the monopoly disappeared, of course, the owners of that monopoly continue to wail for the old order and to express their longing for it. They consider this pluralization, this expansion that has appeared in the new order, as a problem. Their criticisms against the media system of the new era are indeed just their wailing for the past and for that monopoly system.”
Stating that the principled stance of the youth would be their most valuable asset, Fahrettin Altun said, “I would like to share with you the most valuable experience I have gained while working closely with our President: ‘No matter what happens, we will never compromise our upright stance in matters that are against our country, and never take a step back in matters that will benefit our nation.’ This is a very important principle. It is a principle that is at the core of the efforts of our President. It is very important to take this principle as an example.”
Fahrettin Altun said that in parallel with the pluralisation in the field of media, technology and digitalization brought along new opportunities in the field of media.
Pointing out that the media was one of the leading areas where digitalization was felt the most and the fastest, Altun explained that both production and consumption in the field of media were going through a transformation.
Stating that it was seen how new media tools increased their volume and impact over human life day by day, Altun said the following:
“As we use social media, as we consume it, we are building a virtual reality space together. Each of us is stepping in it. Moreover, this virtual reality space almost produces a cyber-homeland. Furthermore, it also creates cyber identities. Besides our real identities in the social world, maybe we have our cyber identities in the virtual space. Thus, on the one hand, social media and digital technologies are turning into life itself; on the other hand, a reality that we call cyber public space emerges. At this point, it is crucial to take part in the cyber public space and develop content and discourse for this field. Integration into cyber processes and proper and effective use of social media is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.”
“We need truth-loving young communication professionals”
Stating that the content produced on social media occasionally “distorted” the truth and created a “scene full of illusions”, Fahrettin Altun continued as follows:
“The spread of social media-based information to very large masses in a short time and the opportunity to receive instant feedback from social media can bring along a cyber-siege. In this respect, it is necessary to emphasize that new media, in general, and social media, in particular, requires conscious and vigilant communication professionals. We need young communicators who are conscious, in pursuit of veritable information and truth-loving.”
Pointing out that the biggest problem of social media was “the reliability of the source”, Altun reminded that users in social media were not only consumers but also content producers.
“Unfortunately, the speed of the spread of fake, incomplete and false information on social media is much higher than the spread of accurate information,” said Altun and continued his words as follows:
“Therefore, I would like to recommend you to be doubtful while viewing social media content and to follow the truth by questioning the source of the posts. Nowadays, the boundaries between reality and fiction have begun to disappear. The reality is almost dominated by perceptions. In this very environment, where social media is used for manipulation purposes, we need some kind of ‘digital media literacy’ for people to differentiate the truth from falsehood.”
Fahrettin Altun said that social media was not a “value-free environment” and that it could not be considered a neutral, impartial, and objective platform.
Altun said, “We are talking about an environment where foreign states, companies, and even terrorist organizations try to collect intelligence, make propaganda and recruit human resources for the sake of their interests.”
Emphasizing that cybersecurity became one of the great struggle areas for states in that context, Altun stated that a great deal of work fell on the shoulders of the young communication professionals and social scientists.
Stating that the dissemination of information and easier communication processes thanks to developing technology were among the advantages of the new era, Altun said:
“However, it should not be forgotten that we are going through a much more challenging period in terms of the authenticity of the information easily-accessible and easily-disseminated, and the knowledge under the guise of information. This is a period when truth, reality, and veracity are ignored, disregarded, and even discredited at times. When the day comes, the politics of lies place itself in the centre of public policies. The most important issue that communication professionals should focus on both today and in the upcoming period is how to establish trust over information. It is the question of how to ensure trust in the truth and reality.”
“It is our mission to fight against black propagandas”
Indicating that the Directorate of Communications, established by the Presidential System of Government, strived to do its part in terms of the “advocacy of truth”, Altun said, as its framework was drawn by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Directorate was established to strengthen the brand of Turkey, to make the communication between the state and the nation healthier, to contribute to the media sector on behalf of the state.
Expressing that they also had a mission to fight unfair accusations against Turkey, Altun said, “As a supporter of the diplomatic activities personally conducted by our President and called ‘Leader diplomacy’, we are pressing ahead with our activities in this area.”
Stating that they attached great importance to the contributions of young people to the works carried out by brilliant minds in all fields of social sciences, Altun made the following recommendations to the young people:
“Whatever you do in the future, in whatever field you will progress, your principled stance will be your most valuable asset. In today's world, the efforts and works of each of us will not serve only our own careers, but will also be an achievement of our country.”
“Trust your own opinions”
Advising young people not to step back from their truths, Fahrettin Altun recommended them to be open to consultation and different ideas, and to trust their own opinions.
Explaining that cultures and the need for knowledge changed with the transformation of technology, Altun said that the experiences of people from different walks of life would shed a light for young people in that period.
“There is always another way, but endeavour is your most powerful weapon,” said Altun and stated that choices at every stage of life would take the country to better tomorrows.