Posted in books

‘Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data’ By Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

I must confess that I have learned a lot from this book. The more I learned about the true nature of the human beings, the more I have experienced a wide range of feelings… I felt disgusted, scared, then as the stories moved along, I felt surprised and started laughing! Then I felt angry again. The author used Google searches to measure racismself-induced abortiondepressionchild abusehateful mobsthe science of humorsexual preferenceanxiety, son preference, and sexual insecurity, among many other topics. This great emotional roller coaster book is written by the internet data expert Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.

Davidowitz worked for one-and-a-half years as a data scientist at Google and is currently a contributing op-ed writer for the New York Times. He is a former visiting lecturer at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his BA in philosophy, Phi Beta Kappa, from Stanford, and his PhD in economics from Harvard.

His 2017 book that I will review today, Everybody Lies, published by HarperCollins, was a New York Times bestseller; a PBS NewsHour Book of the Year; and an Economist Book of the Year.


For this study, Davidowitz downloaded all of Wikipedia, pored through Facebook profiles, and scraped Stormfront. Plus PornHub, gave him its complete data on the searches and video views of anonymous people around the world.

Google Trends, a tool that was released with little fanfare in 2009, tells users how frequently any word or phrase has been searched in different locations at different times. The everyday act  of typing a word or phrase into a compact, rectangular white box leaves a small trace of truth that, when multiplied by millions, eventually reveals profound realities.

RELATIONSHIPS: On Google, the top complaint about marriage is not having sex: Searches for “sexless marriage” are three and a half times more common than “unhappy marriage” and eight times more common than “loveless marriage”. Relationship themed most searches are “abusive relationship” 😦


Sometimes new data reveals cultural differences: The writer gives the example of different ways that men around the world respond to their wives being pregnant. In Mexico, the top searches about “my pregnant wife” include “frases de amor para mi esposa embarazada” (words of love to my pregnant wife” and “poemes para mi esposa embarazada” (poems for my pregnant wife”. In the United States, the top searches include “my wife is pregnant now what” and “my wife is pregnant what do I do.” (Blogger’s note: Nope. Not as romantic.)

After daters took some recording with them and data analysts digitized these audios into words, we had an interesting set of information about how to have a successful first date! On the first date, for instance, one of the ways a man signals that he is attracted is obvious: he laughs at a woman’s jokes. When speaking, they limit the range of their pitch. There is a research that suggests a monotone voice is often seen by women as masculine. The scientists found that a woman signals her interest by varying her pitch, speaking more softly, and taking shorter turns talking. A woman is unlikely to be interested when she uses hedge words and phrases such as “probably” or “I guess”. Also, a woman is likely to be interested if she is using “I” and self making phrases such as “Ya know?” and “I mean”. This research revealed that men are more likely to report clicking with a woman who talks about herself. If there are lots of questions asked on a date, it is less likely that both will report a connection.


Among the Facebook data scientists’ findings, Christmas is one of the happiest days of the year BUT Davidowitz doesn’t trust Facebook data very much: He thinks Facebook is digital brag-to-my-friends-about-how-good-my-life-is serum. In Facebook world, family life seems perfect, in the real world, family life is messy. So don’t trust relationship posts very much.

Compare, for example, the way that people describe their husbands on public social media and in anonymous searches:


So human beings are liars? NO WAY! haha!

FEMALE-MALE: Parents are 2.5 more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” Parents show a similar bias when using other phrases related to intelligence that they may shy away from saying aloud, like, “Is my son a genius?”. Which is funny is that in American schools, girls are 9 percent more likely than boys to be in gifted programs. So what are the most searches about daughters?: “Is my daughter overweight?” This phrase was searched roughly as frequently as they Google “Is my son overweight?”

Parents are also 1.5 times more likely to ask whether their daughter is beautiful than whether their son is handsome. And they are 3 times more likely to ask whether their daughter is ugly than whether their son is ugly. (Author’s note: How Google is expected to know whether a child is beautiful or ugly is hard to say 🙂 ) (Bloggers note: Maybe parents are the ones who were causing females’ insecurities about how they look?). In general, parents seem more likely to use positive words in questions about sons.

Another interesting male/female difference: women use the word “tomorrow” far more often than men do. Adding the letter “o” to the word “so” like “Sooo” is one of the most feminine linguistic traits.

On Facebook, among the words used much more frequently by men than women are “fuck” “shit” “bullshit” “Fucking and Fuckers ” (Blogger’s note: Dear men, take a chill pill! haha) Whereas for women it is “shopping””excited” “cute” “happy””family” “soooo” “yay”(Blogger’s note: Soooo happy to be a woman! Yay!”)

SEX: Data science makes many parts of Freud falsifiable – it puts many of his famous theories to the test. For example: Freud’s theory of the phallic (shape of male genital) symbols in dreams. According to big data, the substance that is most dreamed is water. The top twenty foods include chicken, bread, sandwiches, and rice – all notably un-Freudian. Bananas are the second most common fruit to appear in dreams. But they are also the second most commonly consumed fruit


Consider all Google searches of the form “I want to have sex with my…” The number one way to complete this search is “mom”. 😮 Overall, more than 3/4 of searches of this form are incestuous. Again, according to Google and PornHub Data, men retain an inordinate number of fantasies related to childhood (including mom, babysitter, wearing diapers, breast feeding, etc.)

Americans search for “porn”more than they search for “weather”.

There are twice as many complaints that a boyfriend won’t have sex than that a girlfriend won’t have sex. By far, the number one search complaint about a boyfriend is “My boyfriend won’t have sex with me”.

Do women care about penis size? Rarely, according to Google researches. More than 40%
of complaints about a partner’s penis size say that it’s too big. For every search women make a partner’s phallus, men make roughly 170 searches about their own! Men’s second most common sex question is how to make their sexual encounters longer. Once again, the insecurities of men do not appear to match the concerns of women. Women’s concern isn’t about when or how long it happened but why it isn’t happening at all.

However, women still outpace them when it comes to insecurity about how they look.


In 2004, in some parts of the US, the most common search regarding changing one’s butt was how to make it smaller. Beginning in 2010, however, the desire for bigger butts grew. Does women’s growing preference for a larger bottom match men’s preferences? Interestingly, yes. Again internet says men show a preference for large breasts. But natural ones: About 3 percent of big-breast porn searches explicitly say they want to see natural breasts (Blogger’s note: Thank you Beyonce, J-Lo, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian!!)

Men make as many searches looking for ways to perform oral sex on themselves as they do how to give a woman an orgasm (This was among authors favorite facts in Google search data) (Blogger’s note: How is it even possible?? And nope, I won’t Google it!)

RACISM: Roughly one in every hundred Google searches that included the word “Obama” also included “kkk” or “nigger(s)”. There was a darkness and hatred that was hidden from the traditional sources but was quite apparent in the searches that people made. Places with the highest racist search rates included upstate New York, western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, industrial Michigan and rural Illinois, along with West Virginia, southern Louisiana and Mississippi. The true divide, Google search data suggested, was not South versus North; it was East versus West, and racism was not limited to Republicans.

Black Americans told polls they would turn out in large numbers to oppose Trump. But Google searches for information on voting in heavily black areas were way down.

You can see on Google, where users ask sometimes questions such as “Why are black people rude?” or “Why are Jews evil? Below, in order, are the top five negative words used in searches about various groups:

Top 5 negative words used in searchers for specific groups

Shortly after the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015, the top search in CA with the word “Muslims” in it at the same time was “kill Muslims”.

What is super interesting that as Obama gave more speeches on TV about ‘equality’ and ‘racism’ it created an opposite effect. In his speech, he said “It is the responsibility  of All Americans – of every faith – to reject discrimination” Searches calling Muslims “terrorists” “bad””violent” and “evil” doubled during and shortly after the speech (But then one of Obama’s speeches succeeded, to find out which one, keep reading!)

Guess when are searches for “nigger(s)” or “nigger jokes” most common? Whenever African-Americans are in the news. Among the periods when such searches were highest was the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when television and newspapers showed images of desperate black people in New Orleans struggling for their survival. They also went up during Obama’s first election. And searches for “nigger jokes” rise on average about 30% on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Davidowitz claims that there is a hidden explicit racism in the USA.

Victims of Hurricane Katrina argue with National Guard Troops as they try to get on buses headed to Houston, TX on Thursday morning, September 1, 2005.

POLITICS: Nate Silver,  an American statistician and writer, noticed that the areas where Trump performed best made for an odd map. Silver looks for variables to try to explain this map. Then he found that the single factor that best correlated with Donald Trump’s support in the Republican primaries was that made the most Google searches for “nigger”.

Google searches for “how to vote” or “where to vote” weeks before an election can accurately predict which parts of the country are going to have a big showing at the polls.

The most important year for developing political views is age 18 (Blogger note: I guess voting age being 18 was the right decision).

STRESS: Google searches reflecting anxiety tend to be higher in places with lower levels of education, lower median incomes, and where a larger portion of the population lives in rural areas.

The author was surprised with one fact. you would think that people would search for more jokes when they are sad or depressed to cheer themselves up. However, data shows that searches for jokes are lowest on Mondays, the day when people report they are most unhappy. They are lowest on cloudy and rainy days. They actually seek out jokes when things are going well in life.

In winter months, warn climates, such as that of Honolulu, Hawaii, have 40 percent fewer depression searches than cold climates, such as that of Chicago, Illinois.

HEALTH: In Google, searching for a back pain and then yellowing skin turned out to be a sign of pancreatic cancer; searching for just back pain alone made it unlikely someone had pancreatic cancer. These weren’t listed as symptoms before.

We tend to overestimate the prevalence of anything that makes for a memorable story. People rank tornadoes as a more common cause of death than asthma. In fact, asthma causes about seventy times more deaths. But deaths by asthma don’t stand out- and don’t make the news. Same goes for flu and shark attacks.

Search rates for self-induced abortion were fairly steady from 2004 through 2007. They began to rise in late 2008, coinciding with the financial crisis and the recession that followed. They took a big leap in 2011 jumping 40% – when 92 state provisions restricted access to abortion were enacted. The state with the highest Google searches for self-induced abortions in Mississippi, a state with roughly three million people and, now, just one abortion clinic.

UNEMPLOYMENT: Google engineers created a service: Google Correlate that gives solitaire-logooutside researchers the means to experiment with the same type of analyses across a wide range of fields. One day Davidowitz put the US unemployment rate from 2004 through 2011 into Google Correlate. Of the trillions of Google researches during that time, what do you think turned out to be the most tightly connected to unemployment? “New jobs”? No. It was “Slutload” That’s right the most frequent search was a pornographic site. Many are stuck at home, alone and bored. The second most common search: Spider Solitaire. Again, not so surprising.

More rich people in a city means the poor there live longer. Poor people in NYC for example, lives a lot longer than poor people in Detroit: Contagious behavior maybe driving some of this (Behaviors like healthy eating habits, exercising, less stress, etc.)

SPORTS: The data tells us that in worse-off families. in worse-off communities, there are NBA-level talents who are not in the NBA.

Internet data shows that the most important year in a man’s life for the purposes of cementing his favorite baseball team as an adult, is when he is more or less 8 years old. This peak age for women is 22.

HOW BIG DATA WORKS: In prediction business, you just need to know that something works, not why. For example: Before a hurricane hit Southeast in 2004, Walmart (the biggest supermarket chain in the US) suspected -correctly- that people’s shopping habits may change when a city is about to be pummeled by a storm. They pored through sales data from previous hurricanes to see what people might want to buy. A major answer? Strawberry Pop-Tarts. This product sells seven times faster than normal in the days leading up to a hurricane. We don’t ask why, we care about what.


By using Google Ngrams, you can search through millions of digitized books for particular words or phrase. This way, you can see how the popularity of a phrase changed among hundreds of years.

If you type “Why is…” the first two Google auto-completes currently are “Why is the sky blue?” and “Why is there a leap day?” suggesting these are the two most common ways to complete this search. The third: “Why is my poop green?” And Google auto-complete can get disturbing. Today, if you type “Is it normal to want to…” the first suggestion is “kill” If you type in “Is it normal to want to kill…” The first suggestion is my family.

People are seven times more likely to ask Google whether they will regret not having children than whether they will regret having children. Adults with children are 3.6 times more likely to tell Google they regret their decision than are adults without children.

MARKETING: One day, across the internet, the researchers found 949 scanned yearbooks from American high schools spanning the years 1905-2013. Americans, and particularly women, started smiling as the years pass by. They went from nearly stone-faced at the start of the twentieth century to beaming by the end.

When photographs were first invented, people thought of them like paintings. Subjects in photos adopted the same look. In the mid-20th century, Kodak, the film and camera company was frustrated by the limited numbers of pictures people were taking and ended up with a strategy to get them take more. Kodak’s advertising began associating photos with happiness. (Blogger’s note: SO CLEVER, isn’t it? This reminded me of the increase in dental cleaning appointments since ‘selfies’ became a thing. Although, I’m sure dentists are not behind this whole selfie craziness).


Answer these questions for me:

  • Have you ever cheated on an exam?
  • Have you ever killed someone in your dream?

Were you tempted to lie? Many people under-report embarrassing behaviors and thoughts on surveys. They want to look good, even though most surveys are anonymous. This is called social desirability bias. Why do people misinform anonymous surveys? Roger Tourangeau, a research professor emeritus at the University of Michigan explains: “About 1/3 of the time, people lie in real life. The habits carry over to surveys.”

Netflix was confused because in the beginning, when it let its users to create a queue of movies to watch later, they realized something odd. When the users were reminded of these movies later, they rarely clicked. Because they were filling the queue with award winning highbrow films like black and white World War II or foreign movies. But when they come home from work, they were clicking on at lowbrow comedies or romance films. They were lying to themselves. So, Netflix created an algorithm based on users’ choices. The former data scientist at Netflix, Xavier Amatriain says “The algorithms know you better than you know yourself”.

Also, apparently on Facebook or YouTube, “Content is more likely to become viral the more positive it is”. (Bloggers note: I found this very strange when I think about my news feed which is full of bad news.)

CRIME: For every percentage point increase in the unemployment rate, there was an associated 3 percent increase in the search rate for “child abuse” or “child neglect”. The author argues that it’s safe to say that the Great Recession did make child abuse worse, although the traditional measures did not show it but Big Data did.

BIG DATA LESSON: When we lecture angry people, the search data implies that their fury can grow. But subtly provoking people’s curiosity, giving new information, and offering new images of the group that is stoking their rage may turn their thoughts in different, more positive directions. According to Google researches, Obama’s one of the most successful speech was this: “Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes and yes, they are our men and women in uniform, who are willing to die in defense of our country.”

Here is his speech:


Doppelgangers play a huge role in predicting. Let’s see what it means first:

Doppelganger: an apparition or double of a living person.

Of course, we are not talking about looking exactly the same, but we are talking about correlating the data to find the most similar people in database to predict the future of that person.

Think about a sick person suffering from certain disease symptoms. Her age is 34, her height is 5’5, her weight is 132 lbs, she has no smoking or drinking habits, she had Pneumonia when she was seven. She lives in Kentucky.  If we run the analysis and find once upon a time 24 year old female who lived in Kentucky  with 5’5 height and around 132 lbs, with no smoking or drinking history who had Pneumonia when she was little, suffering from the same symptoms, we can predict what might happen to the patient. Because what happened to her doppelganger(s) will probably happen to her, as well.

ortizLet’s explain it with a real example: 35 year old baseball player Ortiz was about to be fired because of his old age. But, data analysts went through every single information about him and correlated to historical records. They found 20 ballplayers who played like he did when he was 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and 33. Then see how Ortiz’s doppelgängers’ careers progressed. Data showed that Ortiz was about to enter the peak of his career. So Boston decided to be patient with is aging slugger. And they won. He took his team to World series at the age of 37, Ortiz was also voted for World Series MVP.

So how about A/B testing? What is it?

A/B Testing is basically testing two different controlled groups. Google wants to know how to get more people to click on ads on their sites, they may try two shades of blue in ads – one shade for Group A another for Group B. Then Google can compare these click rates. Facebook now runs a thousand A/B tests per day. A former Google employee Dan Siroker, used A/B testing for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. He A/B tested the campaign home page. In 2012, he used 3 different pictures (see below), 2 different slogans and 3 different ‘click buttons’ which one do you think got more clicks and so more donations?


The winner was picture of Obama’s family and the button “Learn More”.

EDUCATION: What makes some places better at allowing a poor kid to have a pretty good life?

  • Areas that spend more on education provide a better chance to poor kids.
  • Places with more religious people and lower crime do better.
  • Places with more black people do worse. Interestingly, this has an effect on not just the black kids but on the white kids living there as well.
  • Places with lots of single mothers do worse.

To see which cities/states have the most successful people the author zoomed in names of the people who are baby boomers and who took a place in Wikipedia. Roughly 1 in 1,209 baby boomers (Born between 1946 and 1964) born in California reached Wikipedia with their success. Roughly 1 in 748 baby boomers born in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, where Boston is located, made it to Wikipedia. Be careful, not ‘went to school’ but ‘born’. The reason for this seems to be early exposure to innovation. Besides, New York City apparently produces notable journalists at the highest rate, Boston produces notable scientists at the highest rate and Los Angeles produces notable actors and actresses at the highest rate.

The greater the percentage of foreign born residents in an area, the higher the proportion of children born there who go on to notable success (Davidowitz’s note: Take that, Donald Trump!) (Blogger’s comment: Ditto that!)

Education spending did not correlate with rates of producing notable writers, artists, or business leaders.

What I found very motivational as a reader was on page 237. Even though you couldn’t finish the best school, you still have an equal chance to be as successful as those people who graduated from Harvard, MIT or Stanford. People adapt to their experience and people who are going to be successful find advantages in any situation. The factors hat make you successful are your talent and your drive.


Davidowitz also discusses other interesting topics, which I don’t mention here such as “who gets loans more easily, who doesn’t” or “How much the casinos let you lose” or what other jaw dropping data analyses are being used in marketing.

In his final words, he emphasizes that social science is becoming a real science (Blogger’s note: Finally!!! I was so tired of people not seeing social science as real science! Thank you Davidowitz!). And this new, real science is poised to improve our lives.

If a violent movie comes to a city, does crime go up or down? If more people are exposed to an ad, do more people use the product? If a baseball team wins when a boy is twenty, will he be more likely to root for them when he is forty? These are all clear questions with clear yes-or-no answers. And in the mountains of honest data, we can find them

This is the stuff of science, not pseudoscience.


I strongly recommend this book! And after you read, please feel free to share your comments below 🙂


Posted in Turkey

Turkey’s Identity Crisis

Think about a country that is 96% Muslim (I believe in reality this number is way lower than the official one), and although alcohol is forbidden by their religion, their national drink is ‘Rakı’; a hard liquor with 40% alcohol. Imagine a country that ranks in the top 5 most Facebook users, top 10 most YouTube users, and top 6 most WhatsApp Users  in the World, and yet still prefers socializing mostly by going out with their friends, no matter how broke they are, and paying random visits to their neighbors or family members. A country that follows the latest technological trends, buys the latest version of their favorite cellphones, but still uses a printed plane ticket rather than a QR code at the gate because it feels ‘safer’.


Think about a country that admires, respects  their gay and transsexual music stars deeply, but when their own family member admits that they are homosexual, it is (in most families) absolutely unacceptable.

Two famous stars of Turkey, Bulent Ersoy (on the left), who is the first very well known transsexual singer in Turkey and Zeki Muren (on the right), who was openly gay.

When I tell you ‘think about China’ or ‘Think about the USA’ or ‘Think about Kenya’ or ‘Think about France’ what do the people look like? What is the religion like? How about the culture? Which continent are they located in? You have most of the time a somewhat clear picture in your mind. But when it comes to Turkey… The picture gets a little blurry for everyone.

My country, Turkey, has been in so-called identity crisis since its birth in 1923. This makes me sad because Turkey has SO MUCH potential to thrive, to be unique, to be successful in many many ways. However, In my opinion, it is this so-called identity crisis that is preventing it from moving forward.

I’m pretty sure some people will be surprised or maybe even upset that my very first post about Turkey is not about how breathtaking its nature is or how  its history is mind-blowing. I will talk about those later for sure. But first, I chose an issue that I have been wanting to write about for a long time. I’m not a historian, politics major or sociologist. Thus, only my opinions are discussed here. I just want to make sure that nobody gets offended  since I’m going to touch on some sensitive topics here.

Little Turkish girl smiling at the camera 🙂

Turkey is one of the two countries in the world that has its soil on two different continents (the other one is Russia): Europe and Asia. So can we count Turkey as one of the eastern or one of the western cultures? Culturally speaking, it would be safe to say my country is a lot closer to Asian cultures than European ones; highly hierarchical, collectivist, and engraved with very old roots of traditions. Turkey was the home for some of the oldest civilizations that are known:  Hittites, Lydians,  Ionians, and Urartus. Also, it was home to Byzantines, Romans, and finally, Ottomans. Each of them worshiped different Gods, lived under different rulers with different rules. Years of immigration from Asia – including east Asia and the middle east-, European countries such as Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, Hungary created such an interesting mixed blend.

Two completely opposite faces of Turkey. Of course there is a grey area in between. But this picture illustrates the two ends.

Since the Republic of Turkey was founded by one of the greatest minds ever existed on Earth, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a lot of things have changed. When he ended the monarchy and brought democracy, I think Turks were not ready for this change yet. It was a huge step forward, which I will explain here later. Ataturk changed the alphabet from Arabic script to Latin alphabet so that we could improve in world literature, science and technology. He shut down religious schools so that the focus would be science and there would be equality between women and men. Ataturk reformed the clothing style from a traditional to a western look, so that we could set our eyes on more modern. He knew that how we look represented how we think. So we needed to change. He gave voting rights to women before Italy, France, Switzerland, Japan, or China did.  By the time 19th Amendment granted the ballot to American women, it was 1920. But let’s remember, the USA was founded on July 4, 1776 and when demand for the enfranchisement of American women was first seriously formulated at the Seneca Falls Convention, it was 1848. So America waited 144 years whereas Ataturk did this in just about 10 years. That is why these quick changes were not very welcomed by some traditional and/or conservative Turks.

before ataturk
Ottoman Fashion Before Ataturk’s Clothing Reform
Fashion in Turkey After Ataturk’s Clothing Reform

His reforms, victories and patriotism are the reasons why most of the Turks have been thankful to him. Unfortunately I said ‘most’, because there was a considerable amount of Turkish people who didn’t like what Ataturk did. They didn’t like this change at all. They felt like they were suppressed. Even though there was the freedom of religion, freedom of thought, this group of people  didn’t like the fact that religious schools and institutions were shutting down, the religious outfits were gone, and Arabic script, in which the original language Quran was written, was all gone. All happened in a relatively very short period of time as well and that created uneasiness among people.

Another possible reason for Turkey’s identity crisis might be the ‘Nationalistic Indoctrination’ that Ataturk had to implement those days in order to build a republic from scratch. Because he needed a reason to unite everyone against the Monarchy (Power of Sultan) and knowing the behavior and culture of the Turks very well, nationalistic approach was the best way to go: modern nation had to become homogeneous in terms of culture, religion, language and national identity. This meant bad news for minorities. Especially for the Armenians, Greeks, and Kurds. They paid a price while Turkish Republic was being born. It’s my belief that with the early death of Ataturk at the age of 57, a big void had opened in Turkey’s heart. People in charge thought to themselves: “Everything is still new, Ataturk would have known what to do, how to run the country, how to bring back all those minorities together, but now… He is gone!! What the heck are we going to do??”. This early loss and the dependence of the baby republic to its father created a big big problem later in shaping the identity of the nation.

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The mourning Turkish nation after ‘Father of Turks’ Ataturk dies on November 10, 1938.

Without a ‘father’ figure, Turkey was lost: the baby republic had just lost the only parent it had. Now, it was going to grow up with self-esteem problems, and it will have painful, angry adolescence years… Actually by the end of this post you will have realized that Turkey would never learn from its mistakes or, in other words, would never actually be a grown up due to its relentless search of another ‘father figure’.

1960, 1962, 1971, 1980, 1997, 2007, 2016… Marks the military coups and military coup attempts in Turkey. In one of which, the president of the country was hanged in public. Many arrests, torture in investigations, lost jobs, soldiers wandering around the streets with machine guns and tanks. These caused instability and fear in the nation and as we all know, fear eventually leads to wrong decision making.

Leftovers from the Coup Attempt on July 15, 2016

Since the beginning, we have been divided, constantly: Students fought with police, ‘Sunni’s fought with ‘Alevi’s, leftists and rightists killed each other, military was against the government, Kurdish vs. Turkish, women with veil vs women without veil,  and now, pro-government conservatives versus anti-government democrats. We have been always and we still are…DI-VID-ED.

The assassination attempt for Pope John Paul II took place on Wednesday, 13 May 1981, in St. Peter’s Square at Vatican City. A Turkish extreme nationalist Mehmet Ali Ağca was the assassin who murdered left-wing journalist Abdi İpekçi on 1 February 1979, and later shot and wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981, after escaping from a Turkish prison. This opened a whole can of warms. Later, in the light of a highway accident, the Turkish nation learned about the existence of ‘Secret State’: a combination of nationalists, mafia, police and the rich: On the surface, the government was ruling, but the secret state was the one who was actually running the country.

Journalists who attempted to investigate ‘Secret State’ later, were all going to be assassinated so that nobody else could dare to write about them again.

Many singers, journalists, writers, poets (including the writer of the Turkish National Anthem) were forced into exile. Most of them died far away from their own land.

Now for the past 15 years, the same single party has been ruling us; The conservative ‘Justice and Development Party’ won the elections in 2002, 2007, 2011 and 2015 with almost 50% of the votes (again you can clearly see that we are divided). My country is clearly deteriorating in the hands of a dictator leader and this 50% is OK with that. The current President, and 3-times-elected former Prime Minister Erdogan knows how to manipulate Turkish nation, so well that in every speech of his, he mentions ‘us’ and ‘them’ and each time, the number of his supporters grows. He says: “We are the good ones (conservatives), we are hard workers, we are villagers, laborers, farmers, and they (meaning democrats) are mocking us! they are terrorists, anarchists, OR alcoholics, atheists, OR they are rich and educated, they think they are better, smarter than ‘us'”

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Why I mention Erdogan here is the fact that how well he used this ‘identity crisis’ of Turkey for his own good to become the absolute power:

  • He knew that with the failing coalitions and the former disastrous female prime minister, and for the obvious historical reasons, Turkish people would vote for a ‘self sufficient’ ‘male’ figure with a ‘strong personality’.
  • In the beginning of his term he was talking about reuniting with minorities; he played us well. The first time he was elected, he re-opened an Armenian church in Van after 100 years, he lead the way to open a Kurdish TV channel and a radio station. He seemed friendly, fatherly, kind of liberal-conservative. Economy was improving and unemployment rate was diminishing. Then in just a few years, everything has turned and he revealed his and his party’s real identity. He started to suppress the media, arrested people as he liked, tried to raise drinking age to 24, made the relationship with Kurds worse, opened more and more religious schools, stole money from the government assets, made the judicial system corrupt, and so on.
  • He was aware of the fact that we had been going through self-esteem problems: We were not ruling the world like once Ottoman Empire did and we were not as strong anymore as in those times Ataturk brought us together, we were weakened by military coups and fights between divided groups. Having been rejected by European Union so many times, we were feeling frustrated, degraded. He saw this status quo as an opportunity to promote himself as a hero and in his hate speeches he made it clear that: “We don’t want Europe, we don’t need European Union”. Suddenly everybody was in agreement with him as if they were all hypnotized: “Yeah! Why do we need Europe?” He literally finished almost our all relationship with the West and he pushed us towards the Middle East, where people adore him and he could reign like a king.
  • He was aware of that suppressed anger people had towards Ataturk and his democratic republic. He used this in his speeches, everywhere he went.
  • He knew well that he could divide us pretty quickly. With the chaos he created each time, he knew he would split the opposition parties’ votes.


I feel like Turkish nation has been in some sort of Stockholm Syndrome, which is a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological attachment with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity. Psychologist, former FBI agent Thomas Strentz states, “the victim’s need to survive is stronger than his impulse to hate the person who has created the dilemma.” A positive emotional bond between captor and captive is a “defense mechanism of the ego under stress”. Some of the people who voted for him in the first place want to keep him in power because they are afraid that without Erdogan, everything will be worse, they will lose their jobs, their food, their lands. The sad fact is, everything has already been going downhill, but their denial is blindfolding them.

Turkey’s Problem Explained

Final words… Here comes the question: Now what? When is this problem with our identity will be solved? My answer is when we stop looking for one. Maybe we don’t need to belong west, or east. Maybe we should create our very own identity. Call it ‘Turkish Way’ of doing things. An identity that cares for others, value family, respect people, works hard,  thrives for advancement, improvement, production, believes in religion and respects non-religion, sees people through without labeling them, known as being self-sufficient and self-confident. But most importantly, an identity that doesn’t require a savior, a leader, a father figure to function…

As Ataturk said: “If you feel desperate one day, don’t wait for a savior. Be the rescuer yourself.”

“Şayet bir gün çaresiz kalırsanız, bir kurtarıcı beklemeyin. Kurtarıcı kendiniz olun.”

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk