Discourse on Democracy in Political Campaigns in Turkey After 1990
In 1967, Guy Debord described modern life as a “society of the spectacle” that began in the 1920s. In more recent times, according to Jonathan Crary (2004), certain events have affected the progress of that spectacle. The first is the technological perfection of television. As Crary argued, “the spectacle was to become inseparable from this new kind of image and its speed, ubiquity, and simultaneity” (Crary, 2004:100-101). The second was the screening of the first sound film, The Jazz Singer, in 1927. This new tool meant that spectacle was now part of perceptual consumption. Finally, Goebbels used modern spectacle techniques in the 1930 election campaign in Germany (104). These developments later had an impact on the formation of liberal democracies and their political campaign techniques. After the 1950s, new political campaign techniques came to be used in American presidential elections. From 1970 onwards, these techniques were used in Western European countries, and it was only in the 1990s that they became part of political life in Turkey, as well as in Central and Eastern Europe. As David L. Swanson (1992: 399) suggested, “these and other developments have created a circumstance in which politics, government, and news media are linked in a complicated relationship and combined to create a kind of supra- institutions, the political- media complex”. In short, ‘spectacle’ is now integral to political life and is an essential tool in political campaign techniques. If we define liberal democracy as a process of representation, there is no doubt that political campaigns are very important in the overall democratic structure. This is why political parties and their leaders attach great importance to political campaign techniques. In the society of spectacle, however, everything is ‘hyper-real’. Therefore, in this process, ‘discourse’ becomes a very important element in the structuring of political campaigns. What we witness is that it is not information, targets or realpolitik that shape political discourse any longer, but the ‘image’ and the discourse built around this image. That is why using media effectively has become a strategy in itself. This process was defined by Thomas Meyer (2007) as “media democracy”. Therefore, ‘spectacle’ is a very important concept when seeking to understand how citizens and democratic institutions take part in this process. In this context, this study aims at understanding the relationship between the spectacle as a process and the political campaigns in Turkey after 1990, by specifically problematising the issue of democratic citizenship. I argue that the use of spectacle has drastically transformed the dynamics of representative democracy and citizen participation in the process in Turkey. For that purpose, I will analyse speeches given by the leaders of political parties during their political campaigns by employing discourse analysis.