Last month was genuinely one of the most interesting time frames for internet users (or at least for the ones interested in Turkish politics). A former crime boss currently in exile, started to upload confession videos on YouTube with a motto of “you will eventually lose to a tripod and a camera” targeting his enemies both in and out of the Turkish government. He currently has over 16 million views on a single video and the videos already caught the attention of the public.
What happened ?
Sedat Peker, a known far right mafia leader, left the country in February 2020. At that time, he claimed that he did not run away but went to the Balkans (Eastern Europe) to graduate from his unfinished university education. When these were happening, journalists and many others suggested that he was running off from a conflict with another crime boss who was just released from prison.
Until then, since a month ago, many already forgot he fled the country and also, he was no longer on the public agenda at all. On May 2nd, he published a YouTube video, where he claims to talk about every illegal act that he knows. Just like the old Pablo Escobar story about him burning millions of dollars for his kids, Peker also said it was all for his family, especially for his daughters. This created a huge tension in the Turkish media and the country’s Minister of Interior Affairs even had to attend to TV panels to defend himself and clear out his reputation against the allegations Peker had about him.
Mafia and Omerta
Anyone who watched the Godfather series would know that one thing in the mafia is essential: omertà, the code of secrecy.
But why am I telling these, how come it is interesting? Or what is the problem? Well, I believe we need to go a little back in time, when the “mafia” was born. Sicily was the hometown for the mafia, root of this notion is most commonly believed to be from the Arabic word “muaf”, which is used for the people who are exempted from non-Muslim tax in Sicily during the Aghlabid Emirate rule. As such, anyone excluded from the law of the country would be defined as the mafia. Since that time, the mafia has unavowed close ties with the rulers of the state. There is one reason these relations were and still not disclosed with the public. Anyone who watched the Godfather series would know that one thing in the mafia is essential: omertà, the code of secrecy.
Coming back to today, the crime boss relinquished his omertà; to give his daughters a better future. I mean it really sounds sympathetic. It is not only me who finds it that way, despite the fact that he has far-right ideas and expressions. He gets support and love from all over social media, even from the turnabout. Is this the power of social media? It probably is: YouTube gives an opportunity to Peker to reach out to everyone around the world. The old school confession techniques of the mafia are out and the new trend is social media. Actually, finding a journalist with a newspaper that can publish the confessions without the risk of being shot down or imprisoned is really low (remember Katherine Gun incident even in the most “democratic” country). Now, it is undoubtedly painless for him, all he has to do is just have a camera rolling and a computer to upload the videos.
It is actually huge, just imagine half of the internet agenda is created by certain individuals or groups and know it is the actuality.
It seems like it is effortless to reach out to the masses even without any mainstream media support. I personally see this horrifying; anyone around the world has the ability to lower the reputation of someone or can gain sympathy from everyone. Society has already inured that the social media is the new medium and it is trustable. Also in communities where there is a strong adverse opinion towards the governance, opposition can easily heroise themselves. Using devices such as YouTube in which the audience is relatively young without a steady political opinion, influencing them and their social attitude is easy.
Strong power, high ability to reach to mass society and facile usability makes these devices more powerful than any media cooperation or journalist. The agenda setting is now under the hands of the real people, what they talk about becomes the reality. Reputations, unconfirmed or unproven allegations can be understood as the facts as a result of huge support from the social media users. However, as social media users, we should keep in mind that, being on the agenda or as in the social media jargon: being a trending topic also depends on how much you can pay to internet trolls.
Recent research shows that almost 47 % of the Twitter trends in Turkey and almost 20 % globally is fake. Which means that they have been created by bot accounts and these can be manipulating the agenda like a piece of cake. It seems like the public thinks in a way that one can guide these ideas in a different direction. It is actually huge, just imagine half of the internet agenda is created by certain individuals or groups and know it is the actuality. In a nutshell, this information means that anyone can route social media and eventually the public.
Peker, government relations and his confessions will eventually end at some point; either the old mafia boss will publish real documents or the government will arrest him. Until then, many people will wait till the next video as they would wait for a popular TV series and appreciate how sympathetic the work Sedat Peker does. However, how he became that sympathetic will never be understood. We will eventually wonder, was social media that made him likeable or was it the society?
Edited by: Andreea Rebegea