This is almost too silly to even mention, but it’s Friday and it’s late, so here you go:
Now a Turkish court has summoned a group of experts in psychology, behavioral science, and other fields to help determine if — beyond being creepy, clammy, and possessed by his desire for the ring — Gollum is actually evil. The fate of Bilgin Ciftci, a physician from the Turkish city of Aydin, will depend on what they decide.
In October, Ciftci was fired from the Public Health Institution of Turkey for sharing photos on social media comparing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Gollum. After Erdogan caught wind of the widely shared meme, his lawyers decided to sue the doctor for insulting the president, a crime that could earn him two years in prison in Turkey.
There’s actually a serious problem here, namely the fact that, in “democratic” Turkey, “insulting the president” can get you two years in the slammer. Imagine if there was a law like that in place here in the United States; every Republican in Congress would’ve headed up the river about five minutes after Barack Obama was sworn in. On the way there, they could’ve crossed paths with every Democrat in Congress, just getting out of prison after serving their sentences for sharing some George W. Bush chimpanzee photos or whatever. “Insulting the president” is a bullshit “crime” whose presence in a nation’s legal code runs contrary to any standard of freedom.
But I’m afraid the sheer ridiculousness of this particular case overshadows the serious point at its core. What is now happening in Turkey, a country that has plenty on its plate between meddling in the civil war on its southern border, waging war on its own biggest ethnic minority, shooting down Russian aircraft and then dealing with the repercussions, and selling out war refugees for a diplomatic pat on the back from the EU, is that an actual court of actual law has been gridlocked because the judge has no idea whether comparing somebody to Gollum is actually an insult. And, I mean, the very comparison itself is so absurd that it simply boggles the mind why any–
Wow. Um, are we absolutely sure these guys aren’t related in some way? Distant cousins maybe?
Well, anyway, the court trying Bilgin Çiftçi has now had to adjourn so that “experts” (I wish I were joking but I’m not clever enough to make this up) can study J.R.R. Tolkein’s works to determine whether or not the Gollum comparison really is insulting. Peter Jackson has chimed in, saying that the comparison isn’t insulting because those are pictures of Smeagol, not Gollum (oh for fuck’s sake), but to his credit Elijah Wood actually gets his response just right:
National Review even got in on the act, in that “kind of weird nerdy person who sucks the fun out of any joke because they over-analyze it” way, with at least (I stopped looking) two pieces on the story, “Turkey’s President Is Worse Than Gollum” (OK, I’ll buy that) and “Erdogan Is Saruman, Not Gollum, and He’s Turning Turkey into Isengard” (please stop, you’re actually physically hurting me).
Anyway, we haven’t seen a “world leader negatively compared to fictional character” scandal like this since 451, when Flavius Aetius noted that “My man Attila looks like Jasper from the Simpsons after his face got run through that damn pencil sharpener.”
God help us all.
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