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Strategic Defamation of Fethullah Gulen: English vs. Turkish-2

Dogan Koc, July 6, 2011

Data and Coding:

In order to demonstrate strategic defamation, I defined two different Gulen: Gulen1 and Gulen2 and coded articles accordingly.

Gulen1: American/Zionist/Vatican agent

Gulen2: Islamist/Khomeini/New Ottoman/Caliphate

Dataset includes 436 cases in both English and Turkish. These cases include books, journals, newspaper and magazine articles, weblog and website postings. While Turkish versions appear more as printed material such as books, magazines, and newspapers, English versions mostly appear online, especially in weblogs.

English versions in particular use very similar tactics. First a defamatory article appears on a weblog, and then it spreads all over. Similar weblogs post the article and increase the circulation on the web. After a while the same article reappears on the web as if it is a new one. Some websites even give Google advertisements on words “Gulen”, and “Gulen Movement” searches for these defaming articles, such as Middle East Forum.

In coding, I only selected books/articles/news which try to show Gulen in either picture. In other words, articles that are criticizing Gulen or the Movement in a proper way are not included in the data set.

For instance, Karaca’s (2005) article titled “Diyalog meyveleri zehirliyor” translated as “The Fruits of Dialogue are Poisonous” is critical of Gulen, and especially the dialogue activities of the Gulen Movement. However, in this article, Karaca states his own opinions, and implies “dialogue activities are harming Muslim Turkish youth.” Therefore, this article is not included in the dataset.

On the other hand, in his article titled “Diyaloga karşıyız, çünkü…” translated as “We are against dialogue because…” Karaca (2005) not only criticizes the dialogue activities of Gulen, he implies that Gulen is a part of the Vatican’s dialogue project (he defines this project as a project that is developed by the Vatican to Christianize Muslims through dialogue activities). Therefore, this article is included in the dataset.

If an article includes both pictures of defamation, it is included twice and coded for each picture. For instance, in an article titled “Gulen Movement Paves Way For New Islamic World Order, Billions Pour Into Gulen’s Coffers From Drug Trade,” Paul Williams says:

Gulen is a Turk, who is intent upon the establishment of a universal caliphate, and a militant Islamist who seeks to indoctrinate youth in the political teachings of the Qu’ran.”

Due to the above description, the article is coded as Gulen2.

However, in the same article he also claims that:

“The CIA has allowed the flow of heroin from Afghanistan into Europe and the United States in order to fund the Gulen movement.”

Because of this claim, the same article is also coded as Gulen1.

Especially in the English versions of these articles, there is quite a large amount of reposting the same article on different weblogs. In data coding, if the same article is posted as exactly the same several times on different weblogs, only the original article is included in the dataset. However, if an article posted on different weblogs with some additional comments, each article is included in the dataset and coded accordingly.

Data Analysis and the Results:

Table-1: Descriptive Statistics of the Data

#Gulen1          #Gulen2          %Gulen1         %Gulen2

Turkish            340                  7                      %98                 %2

English            10                    79                    %11                 %89

TOTAL             350                  86                    %80                 %20

Graph-1: % Graph of Gulen1 and Gulen2 according to Languages

The above statistics and graph show that in 98% of the Turkish articles Gulen is portrayed as an American/Zionist/Vatican agent (Gulen1). In only 2% of the Turkish articles is Gulen shown as an Islamist/Khomeini/New Ottoman/Caliphate advocate (Gulen2). But in the English articles, the case is the opposite. While Gulen is portrayed as Gulen1 in %11 of the English articles, he is presented as Gulen2 in 89% of the English articles.

Overall, Gulen is presented as Gulen1 in 80% of the articles, and as Gulen2 in 20% of the articles. This is because the number of the Turkish articles is more than the number of the English articles. When we look at the graphs below which show the time line of the articles, the Turkish defamations started earlier than the English versions. However, there is huge jump in the number of defamations in English in recent years. If this continues, the amount of defamation in English will equal the amount of Turkish defamation in a short time.

Graph-2: Gulen1 in English

Graph-3: Gulen2 in English

Graph-4: Gulen1 in Turkish

Graph-5: Gulen2 in Turkish

Graph-6: Both Gulen1 and Gulen2 in both Turkish and English

Correlation between the language and the picture of Gulen

(obs=436) (t=38.093) (p<0.0001)

Language        Gulen

Language        1.0000

Gulen              0.8776             1.0000

Gulen1 is coded as 1, Gulen2 is coded as 2; Turkish is coded as 1, English is coded as 2

Correlation for 436 cases is .8776 which is a very strong positive correlation. It means that most likely when the language is Turkish, Gulen is defamed as Gulen1, when the language is English, Gulen is defamed as Gulen2.

Graph-7: Sunflower Graph of Language and Gulen

Darker points show the concentrations of the observations. The above graph shows that the concentration of articles in Turkish are at the point where Gulen is Gulen1, and the concentration of articles in English are at the point where Gulen is Gulen2.  It is another way of saying that Gulen is mostly portrayed as Gulen1 in Turkish and as Gulen2 in English.


Both literature review and the statistical analyses show that the defamation of Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen Movement is strategically operated. Gulen is simultaneously portrayed as an Islamic danger who is secretly trying to resurrect the Ottoman Empire and Caliphate and as an American and Zionist puppet who is destroying Turkey and Islam with his ‘moderate Islam.’  It appears that these strategies have been developed over time in order to convince specific and different audiences. While the depiction of an Islamic danger who is secretly trying to resurrect the Ottoman Empire and Caliphate  is more alarming for English-language readers, the depiction of an American and Zionist puppet who is destroying Turkey and Islam with his ‘moderate Islam’ is likely aimed at manipulating Turkish-language readers.

It is difficult not to agree with Turker’s (2009) claim that:

“One wonders how come these critics can contradict each other this much even though they use the same sources. How come they criticize Gülen for being an American and Zionist puppet (Turkish versions) but at the same time as an Islamic danger who is trying to establish an anti-American, anti-Semitic Islamic state (English versions)?

In fact, it is not that difficult to understand because they are addressing different audiences. It makes more sense to warn Turkish speakers of an American imperialist danger which is supported by Zionists. But, on the other hand, for English speakers, you will find more buyers if you use an Islamic danger argument. However, those who can read both languages will see the hypocrisy therein.”


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