Erdoğan’s Reply-giving Algorithm

Tayyip Erdoğan has, over the years, perfected an “algorithm” that he uses to reply to any question he is asked. As someone who has studied communication, I have tried to submit this algorithm to scrutiny.

The algorithm comprises several steps, of which, if time allows, he employs all (from one to seven), but should time be limited, only some (generally one, three and six).

To better explain this algorithm, I will have recourse to an example. Returning to Erdoğan’s tender years, I shall suppose that he broke a vase at home.

Tayyip has been alone in the house, and when his mother returns home, she finds the vase broken.

Mother: Tayy-iiip! Did you break the vase?

Step One: Alter the terms in which the fault has been announced, transform it from being a fault and present it as something positive.

Tayyip: I didn’t break the vase, I merely separated it into parts and made arrangements to allow it to be reconfigured.

Examples of this technique in real life:

“We are not harming the trees, but uprooting and relocating them.”

“I haven’t changed it, I’ve developed it.”

“We are not banning alcohol, we are regulating it.”

Step Two: Insist that you are the last person in the world who would commit that offence/error.

Tayyip: But why would I want to harm the vase? I too, am a vase. I am the best of vases. When you bought that vase, it was I who carried it on my shoulders up four floors—see, I can give you the figures—a total of ninety-eight steps. It was I who suggested putting it in the pantry so its colours would not fade, and I who covered it when friends came so as not to make people jealous and incur the evil eye. I have been that vase’s number one supporter; why would I want to harm it?

Examples of this technique in real life:

“Why would we want to cut down trees? We have planted three quadrillion trees.”

“Why would we want to pressure the judiciary? We are the ones who built the largest courthouses, and who have been the greatest facilitators of justice in the history of the Republic.”

Step Three: Play down the importance of the events under discussion, normalise them, and give examples of why the mistake you made was but a minor one.

Tayyip: Actually, I don’t understand why there is such a reaction to the restructuring of the vase. Vases are ornaments much used in the past in communist countries and now headed for the knacker’s yard. Look at America, at England—are there vases in their homes? Do you see them in modern houses? A vase is a Baroque thing, used only in Ceaușescu-era Romania and the oblasts of the Ukraine before it recovered from socialism. Is there a place for vases in the modern world? There isn’t. This reaction is impossible to understand. I even think the restructuring of the vase is late in coming.

Examples of this technique in real life:

“It isn’t only us who have alcohol regulations. Did we invent it? Look at Scandinavia, at France, at England; there are much more stringent restrictions in all of them. The regulations we have are more beginner level.”

Step Four:  Crush your opponents with passion and virtue. I could have done this if I wanted to but I didn’t.

Tayyip: You come to me now with these accusations, but had I wanted to I could have broken that vase twenty times over. I am at home every day, alone with the vase. If I had such a hostile attitude why did I not break it? If I wanted to, I could have broken it or even destroyed it. But I didn’t. I didn’t because, even though I don’t think the same way as you on every subject, as the owner of the vase, I respect your views. People’s right to like vases is sacred to me. I like vases not because they are vases but because they are God’s creations. In this house, I am the vases’ safeguard.

Examples of this technique in real life:

In fact, not only Erdogan but all parties are using this. The latest examples are: “During the Gezi Park incident, we could have disconnected the internet if we had wanted to, but we didn’t.” Or as Melih Gökçek (Mayor of Ankara) said: “We could have drowned you in a spoonful of water but, dammit, we’re democrats.”

Step Five: Never leave the question unanswered. Give an answer in the form of “Let’s assume what you say is true…” Accept the possibility but also make it clear that you are treating it as questionable.

Tayyip: Let’s assume what you say is true. What you say has indeed befallen the vase. Does this prove that it was all because of me? It could have been broken by a breeze from the window or a cat hitting it as it ran past. I have given strict instructions to the neighbours’ son Mustafa to inquire into this. He will research yesterday’s wind speed, determine the cat’s behaviour and report back to me. If I find any fault, I shall be the first to punish that cat, the first to fix that window. I am following everything closely. I am doing everything for our home, its beauty and its contentment.

Examples of this technique in real life:

“It is true that there have been complaints of excessive use of gas by police in the Gezi Park incidents. I have instructed the proper authorities to look into this. If such a thing happened, it will be discovered, and what is necessary will be done. We do not and cannot permit such a thing.”

Step Five: Question the sincerity of the person asking you the question.

Tayyip: Now there is just one point to be made. The living room vase is not the first vase in the world to be restructured. But since vases are such a sensitive subject, why didn’t you react when not one but two of the downstairs neighbour’s vases were broken by her son? Where were you then? Why did you shed no tears with auntie Ayse who broke her ceramics as she was carrying them? Isn’t the difference with this vase simply that it relates to me? The aim here is to throw mud because it sticks. The vase is a pretext.

Examples of this technique in real life are:

“Since you love trees so much, where were you when I was calling out for them not to build universities in forested areas? Where were these crowds?”; “Since you are shouting so much for press freedom, where were you during the 28 February period?” [This refers to the 1997 “postmodern coup” when the army began manoeuvres that eventually forced Necmettin Erbakan’s Welfare Party from coalition power]

Step Six: You’ve squirmed out of it and you’re looking good. Now use this advantage to make your opponent look bad.

Tayyip: Breaking that vase is the sort of thing (my brother) Ali does. He always does these things. Who broke the window of the glass cabinet last year, or threw that ball at dad’s record player? Ali. Only Ali’s mentality could break the vase. He is behind this too, let me tell you. You know the time is approaching when dad will decide about our allowances. He can’t beat me at schoolwork so he has come up with this way of throwing mud at me. Dad always sees these things. Dad will make the right decision; my mind is at ease. I always talk to my father.

Examples of this technique in real life:

“These demonstrations and disturbances are all a product of the CHP [Republican People’s Party: Turkey’s main parliamentary opposition] mentality. They are behind all of this; the election is approaching, of course, and it thinks it can use this to attack. It is trying to organise marginal groups and three or four looters [the famous çapulcus/chapullers] to make trouble. But we know the people, and the people don’t respect them. The people see everything.”

Step 7: The subject is closed and a response has been given. End your speech on a winning note by praising yourself and your achievements.

Tayyip: But I’m not paying any attention to these things, mum. I’m minding my own business. Look, I was the hardest working kid in the class for my two years of middle school. It’s come about that everyone points to me as an example, and other kids’ mothers say to their sons “be like Tayyip, my child.” This is the situation we are in: Religion: ten out of ten, PE: ten out of ten, maths: ten out of ten. That’s where we are. I’m concentrating on my work, on studying my lessons. I’m trying to be a good son, and, as my father said too, to make our family, god willing, spoken of as an example in the apartment; and I’ll keep trying.

Examples of this technique in real life are:

“How great the economy is, how low the IMF debt, how much GNP has increased, etc. etc.”


A few extra details are also added to augment these seven steps. I gave the pattern, my friends followed it:

For good things say “we”, for things you do not wish to be associated with, use institutional names like “the state,” “the police,” etc.

For good things:

“We have constructed the Galatasaray stadium and we have given it to Galatasaray.”

“In Kayseri, we have made the galaxy’s largest water pistol” [reference to the Çılgın Project, Erdogan’s vision for a vast shipping canal between the black sea and the Mediterranean]

For subjects with which you do not wish to be associated:

“The police’s use of gas may have been excessive.”

“The state is talking to Imralı [the island on which PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is imprisoned], and it is talking to everyone else.”

Don’t answer questions or accusations with your own values, but with the values and weapons of your accusers.

For example, “It is written in the constitution that the state protects its people from alcohol and drugs. This is a duty given to me; we didn’t add this article.”

For people or organisations whose name you don’t want to mention, say the name differently or, if it can’t be said differently, make one up.


For example, don’t say Ataturk, say Gazi Mustafa Kemal. Don’t say Öcalan, say Imralı. Don’t say “CHP” [Jey Hey Pey], say “the CHP [Jey Hah Pey] mentality”

Ask questions that need long answers in passing, as if they were as short as yes/no questions; if your opponent can’t answer, you will look good.

For example, when talking to a group of journalists ask one “what message do you think I should take from these protests, tell me?”

When asked questions of the form “X criticised you in such and such a way,” always begin directly with an ad hominem argument.

“Since X is such a democrat, why was he silent about such and such an injustice? Why did Y skirt the issue of Japan? They are simply mudslinging…”

Always speak highly of what you’ve done, but never praise yourself directly; on the contrary, downplay your importance.

For example, say that “this government has made the boldest advances in the history of the republic” or “we have again made Turkey’s greatest x”, etc., and at the same time downplay yourself with sentences like “I am not your sovereign, I am your servant.” For instance, when speaking about Van, do both at once: “With the investments we have made we have virtually constructed a new Van. Why are we taking all these steps? We are custodians, servants, we are not efendis

Put even your smallest achievement in a wider perspective and give it great significance.

For example, mention the alcohol law and say “We have to broaden our children’s perspectives, show them new aims, raise new Mehmet the Conquerors and Mimar Sinans,” or say “We are aiming for 2023” at the opening ceremony for an intersection.

To distinguish everything you have done, present everything done previously as having been, in your opinion, mistaken.

Create an exaggerated contrast between every pair. For instance, “In the past, children were made to drink beer for breakfast; this was recommended. Now, however, we protect young people from the harmful effects of alcohol.”


Create the impression that you judge everything, that you know all; that way you indoctrinate people into self-surveillance as they act with the knowledge that they are under observation.

Examples of this are “We know perfectly well who organised x” or “we know all those who funded the NY Times announcement” (anyway everybody who gives money on indiegogo has their name written there like a sitting duck). Another example is giving off a general air of knowing everything down to the last whole number with no remainder in every speech.

Give a line of reasoning for whatever you say.  Above all, say “because.” The actual reason you give is not that important, but don’t for a minute allow people to think “what for?”

“We want to turn Haydarpaşa (train station) into a hotel because there is a huge shortage of hotels in Istanbul.” What is important here is to say what you want to do first. Otherwise it can be understood that what you have said is illogical. For example, if we turn the sentence around and say “There is a huge shortage of hotels in Istanbul and for that reason we have decided to turn Haydarpaşa into a hotel” it won’t convince anyone.

When applying such “reasoning,” it can easily be observed that, in the absence of an actual reason, you can say absolutely anything following the “because”, as in “We want to pedestrianize Taksim because that is what the nation expects of us.”


That is all for now for this poor servant’s findings. Should other incredible evidence come to light, I will update this text.


Translation by Translators of Translate for Justice

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