28 September 1996
The panel discussion on the subject of “Violence Simplified by the Media” was held at the Istanbul Dedeman Hotel on 28 September, 1996. The powerful effect of the media in our country, where TV in particular rules daily life was discussed with views from the panellists.
Mehmet Ali Birand
Prof. Dr. Ipek Gurkaynak
Panel Discussion Script :
Ipek Gurkaynak: Dear guests, I also would like to congratulate our young friends for their success and achievements on behalf of myself and all who have attended this panel discussion. We wish them continued success for future. Now, dear guests, I have been invited here as the panel discussion director - or lets say the session director - and as a speaker. It appears that I will initiate the discussion to establish the theoretical base of the subject as a social psychologist. Therefore, I will not follow my regular method. Usually, we introduce the speaker and let him speak. But here I will introduce myself and speak first. In order not to divide the discussion with speaker introductions later, I would like to start by introducing valuable speakers of the panel discussion. In fact, this is not really necessary, but we merely follow the procedure. You all know these three speakers well and there is not much to say. The cartoonist Ferruh Dogan is on my right, he was born in Istanbul in 1932. He has been drawing for 45 years. He works for the Dunya Newspaper. I think this introduction is enough. You already know him from his work. On my left is Mehmet Ali Birand. Mr. Birand was born in 1942. He is a journalist, a journalist – a television or a real journalist. He has written many books; about Cyprus, about the Armed Forces and is also widely known for his work about the Common Market. And of course you know him with his TV programs. Next to Mr. Birand is Semih Balcioglu, a cartoonist. He was born in Istanbul. He studied at Isık High School and the State Academy of Fine Arts. His first work was published in 1943. You can see how long he has been drawing. We already know him very well from his work. He currently works for the Yeni Yuzyil Newspaper. And myself, I am a faculty member in Ankara University’s Educational Sciences Faculty. My area is Social Psychology. Social Psychology is a branch of science which includes studies on human relations and the relationship between people and society. In this sense, violence and aggression happen to be subjects of our area, as they play a role in human relations. And a brief introduction of myself; I was born in 1947 in Ankara. I have always lived in Ankara apart from 7-8 years which I spent abroad for my Masters and PhD studies. I deal with relations between people and the environment, particularly the physical environment, environmental psychology, communication and the like. I would like to make a start now if my friends here let me. Mr. Birand is asking how long I am going to talk. I will take about 10 minutes, not more; our two cartoonist friends say that they would prefer a corresponding talk with each other. So they may take the word together, not with separate timing, as they wish. Anyway, we may take 10 minutes each, maybe at most...
Mehmet Ali Birand : We can carry on with a questions and answers session if you agree; the guests may have things to ask, what do you think?
Ipek Gurkaynak : Of course, that would be very nice, we didn’t think like that, but if we can that will be very good, no problem. Okay then, then I will keep it short and say a few things very quickly. I will now start by reading the words of a media person. He says “TV may lead to knowledge, emotion, boost creativity but at the same time it may make you dumb and insensitive, alienate, humiliate and mislead. Don’t forget that you will be losing the good along with the bad if you turn it off. Here is an interesting point. We shall not deny the power of TV. We shall not deny that it is incredibly powerful as a tool of education and entertainment by which people can spend their time and rest. Therefore, we shall ask how to prevent television from ruling us with programs containing violence, and instead of searching for ways to protect ourselves from television, I would emphasize here that when I say TV I also mean the whole media. I think Mr. Birand will talk about the ratings issues and express the opinions of a journalist. Yet, I am a scientist and I don’t know much about ratings and so on, and see things from a different point of view. Here is how I think. Is there a child who’s never been to a zoo? There is. Is there a child who’s never seen a library? There is. Maybe many. Is there a child who’s never been to a concert? Of course, there are many of them. Is there a child who’s never watched TV? That number is very small. Certainly there are some, but not very many. This TV is a part of our homes and people, especially children, are in front of the television for long hours. Let me tell you something, as a small note. In the USA, they asked one single question to hundreds of children for research. They asked whether they would prefer to have their TV or their Father taken away for a month. The majority of the children responded with “take my father”. This is the USA, of course. I don’t know if the result would be repeated in our country, but it could also be worse. Take my Mother with him. I agree that. This really tells us something about the strength of the bond between a child and the TV. This is something a child cannot stay away from. And those who prepare programs must feel huge responsibility for these children and these teenagers. What do we do? We have such a tool to affect people. So how can we best use this tool? I am not sure if they feel this responsibility, or even if they are responsible enough, it is not possible to say that they are as we see all these programs. Recently – actually, for the last few months, I’ve been paying attention to when is shown in newspapers. Strangely, there is a kind of campaign as to deny the negative effects of violence on TV on children. Take a newspaper column for instance. Someone says; are we going to show our children only good behaviour, always smiling people, thinking and doing good all the time, never relating to bad acts? If we do so, is that a reflection of real world? Isn’t that unfair? Someone says; the feeling of violence is impossible to avoid. This second one is totally wrong. Violence is not a feeling impossible to avoid. It is something learnt; if it is not, taught it may never be felt. I mean this is scientifically incorrect. Someone else goes like this; when we try to remove violence factor from TV, we may come face to face with a result to hand in power to authorities for censoring TV, hide the political, economic, cultural factors which are the sources of violence and prevent society from following actual social events. See how that looks so rational. That really makes sense in a way. However there is a problem here. Nobody says that violence on TV is the only reason to direct people to violence. No research shows such result. So a child watches the TV, rushes out and does something violent – it doesn’t matter whether it is a teenager or an adult. People get socialized with effect of thousands of factors and behave accordingly. The important point here is whether or not TV affects people’s values, culture, knowledge and view of the world. The answer to this question is clearly given by scientific studies. There is another important question: Does watching violent content on TV push a child to imitate violence, be tolerant and insensitive to violence and accept violence as a common way to manage human relations? The answer to this is also a very clear “yes”. Many subjects in social sciences are not clearly explained like this. There are many studies on this subject and most of their results complement, support and strengthen each other. Now, I will stop here, as we said 10 minutes was the limit, and we’ll have a question and answer session, so here I pass the floor to my friends. I have some more things to say, one topic to mention in particular, but perhaps I will touch on that during the question and answer session or ask for a few minutes later. It is about some answers and recommendations to the question “Is there anything we can do to minimize the negative effects of TV, especially the negative effects about violence?” I’ll talk about this later. So now I pass the floor to Mehmet Ali Birand, please Mr. Birand.
Mehmet Ali Birand : Thanks a lot. I, you know the phrase you set the stage and you get into it, and then a phone rings. We can continue after the gentleman finishes his telephone conversation. I think we will get used to this mobile phone culture. The disease we are talking about is not peculiar to us. This is a disease, and believe me, these kind of conferences, discussions are continuously being held in the USA and Europe in particular. On one hand, there is the issue of ratings, and reading and watching very irresistible things; I mean programs and films with violent content. Meanwhile, there is the awareness and fear that we are creating generations of people who are constantly fighting and slaughtering eachother by making them watch such violence. Take a look around when you board a Turkish Airlines plane. It is just like an army handing over their guns. There are at least 4-5 guns taken. I have travelled around the world but never seen this sort of thing. Never have so many guns been left to pilots for safekeeping. We are talking about a very difficult subject. On one hand is the viewer potential brought by daily life, daily TV and newspapers, such a potential everybody is pleased to death. Take the movie Rambo or Robocop, one insisting on his own rights, especially in a country like Turkey, which is lacking in justice and law and order. He gets what he is after, when he gets the gun in his hand his personality improves. Think about it! The power of this man in the suppressed society, someone who noone had even heard of until he had a gun. If we move further on this example, we see the process of how PKK managed to enrol militants so easily. We are facing something of incredible potential. Let me give an example. It is just an example from our daily life. It is on TV, and not unique to Turkey but a phenomenon seen throughout the world. Turkey is now where the USA stood 20 years ago and Europe 10 years ago, because private TV is so new. We are so young at this. Our history of TV is effectively limited to four years. The discussion goes like “go ahead, air shows like ‘Hot and Fresh’ (a reality show)”. It is very hard to make a ‘Hot and Fresh’ version of the 32nd day, for example. On the other hand, you may show bloody scenes from the Palestinian Territories. People enjoy watching these. Yes, it is true that people enjoy that, but we don’t know how we’ll be able to break this vicious circle. Are people going to relax and give up when the media stops providing it? This is a very critical vicious circle. We give what the public wants, then we give more, and somehow the cycle cannot be broken. We see it when we watch violent action movies on TV. Today’s topic was discussed at a very important panel discussion in Europe two weeks ago. Movies from the USA based on violence and terror have already captured European TV and cinema. They are trying to apply quotas but they cannot. Monetary issues are also problematic. American movies are cheaper. European cinemas buy these movies because they can make more profit out of them. So the wheels keep turning. The strange thing is that people are crying “Oh, yes we are doing wrong, we are pushing our kids to think that weapons are very natural and become killers by letting them watch this stuff.” But on the other hand, there is a profit of US$100 million. Later on, those profit makers start to put up a front against arms. However, it seems insincere. Be sure that I have not brought up this issue on TV or the media so far, and not dealt with it especially in the press because the press has very little influence in this matter. The press addresses people who think like we do, and we are afraid of all this. This is mainly being discussed by the media. We had many discussions in the media about it. Yet, we never had a chance to break the vicious circle. Channel D says that Star TV uses it, and Star TV asks us to look at Show TV, saying that all their new movies include violence. If I do not broadcast a show like ‘Hot and Fresh’ I am going to lose 1% of the ratings, and will lose a month’s work. If I lose it I will get lose US$10 million in advertising revenues in a year. I am not here to cure or educate the society. I’ll do my own business, others do their education business. Will Turkish society drop the guns when media stops presenting these and keeps silent? No. What is this? This is education. This is to establish law and order. This is about creating an environment where people won’t have to find justice on their own. Then comes the media. It means; “first the state shall do what it has to and take preventive action, and then media will be in charge”. See? We are in the vicious circle again. It is a matter responsibility; the media has a lot of responsibility, for sure. But I want to reflect on the truth a bit. Do not expect such a thing from the media. The media will be staying behind in the coming years. It will present the use of weapons with movies and shows. For sure, it does not say ‘use weapons’, but that is the result. The kid watching Robocop or Rambo is drooling. Well, sometimes we also do. I don’t think the media will be able to make a responsible contribution to Turkish society. I am sure the media is not the only solution, but we shall not be expecting even the slightest contribution. This is because what we call the “media”, especially television, is now struggling for its life. During its struggle, it ignores everything. The media just says “alas! nobody... no weapons please, parents be careful, somebody do something” and that’s it. As Turkish society, we are all raised with a lie about weapons. It is said to be heritage from our fathers, it is said to be very important for us. It is a symbol of men, a symbol of personality. And as the media we have continuously boosted this approach for sure. We will keep doing so. Maybe someday somebody will try to change some things. I guess they will face very critical resistance. A very important weapons lobby exists in Turkey today. There is a considerable amount of weapon smuggling. And there are people who make immense sums of money out of this business. We can only move forward as we fight them. But please, at this stage and for some time more, do not expect anything from the media. Thank you.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Thanks a lot Mr. Birand. Mr. Dogan, are you available now, may I pass the floor to you?
Ferruh Dogan :Teşekkürler. Thanks.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Buyurun efendim. Please sir.
Ferruh Dogan : Here, we see that.. can you hear me? We see that the media is not a joke. Just like weapons. Many nice things have been said so far. We understood that the media is no joke. We are not expecting anything from the media. That is what Mehmet Ali Birand said. You may remember that Turkish society cranked into action in what we considered a polyphony with “I want my radio, I want my TV”. This time it is not that polyphony we are after, it is a monophony. I mean, the media in Turkey is already monophonic. Mehmet Ali Birand emphasized television. It is true. Television is the reflection of the press on screen. Turkey does not know enough about TV, does not know about TV production, but will learn. Now, I have to move the subject to cartoons. The Umut Foundation organized a cartoon contest entitled “Weapons Don’t Joke” for the next year. Cartoons are the art of joking. The special feature of cartoons is that they stand in opposition. What do cartoons oppose? Unfairness, ugliness, immorality, war, violence – this is what the cartoons oppose. In a sense, cartoons are also a defence. What does it defend? It defends goodness, beauty, justice and peace. In other words, it is opposed to violence. In this sense, I hope to see cartoons with the “Weapons Don’t Joke” topic from young cartoonists, which explain, condemn weapons and encourage disarming, and have some effect in this area with this communication tool just like young writers do with their articles. Let’s see what we will receive, the rules and conditions have been explained. Our duty is to evaluate them. Weapons are a kind of alienation. People have created weapons, just like money, and became slaves to them. Mehmet Ali Birand put that very well. Massive sums of money are flowing in this business. How can we correct this? What can we do? This is up to experts of course, up to the state and the law. We always hear the same thing, “we are being globalize”. I don’t understand what this means. And there is something else. We are integrating with the west. It is the same in the USA. When we have discussions with journalist friends we hear; USA also has that, Europe has same kind of newspaper, TV is like this, like that, no such thing! A scientist on a TV discussion said that television stations in the USA have to prepare the verbal and visual content in a way that an 11 year old child can understand. I guess Mehmet Ali Birand knows about this. I mean he will confirm this. You must have seen foreign newspapers, they pay attention to this. You can not see the picture of a woman stabbed or with split legs - it is forbidden, and anyway they don’t use such material. Not because it is prohibited, but because of their traditions. In the past, old people will remember news about suicide was prohibited. Now prohibition does not work. In those days, papers would write something like “yesterday someone died because he drank iodine by mistake”. You know it is suicide - nothing is being prohibited. Prohibiting something brings different results, and strange results. Of course, TV, the media, newspapers, and the press are such tools, just like Mehmet Ali said; when they are used for goodness, for education, they are incredibly useful. Ipek is right with her point not to stop it. It can very useful for the advantage and improvement of humanity. With all these good wishes that we all agree upon there is a truth, the ratings monster and money. Please accept my regards, thank you.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Thank you very much Mr. Dogan. Please Mr. Balcioglu.
Semih Balcioglu : I would like to thank the Umut Foundation for their interest in cartoons and for next year’s contest. Young people have a passion about a few things. One of these is surely cartoons. It is an art which directly goes to the result. It is an art which says things quickly and in short, like a pill. That is why I can’t find more words, apart than to express my gratitude when weapons, a subject: “Weapons Don’t Joke” is concerned. As we take a look at societies, we see violence diminishes while culture and freedom improves. The media clearly validates terror. It grows intensely among people. It strengthens notions of power and violence. I hear the children of some of my friends taking karate, taekwondo courses, learning martial arts and then using weapons. Of course, you will be aware of this sort of thing. This is a way of violence, this is a fight. In our country, there is a cruel economic system. Upon this stands cultural degeneration. When cultural degeneration is taking place, one stays far from books and prefers weapons. You all hear that sales of books are decreasing and publishers are struggling. However, it is not the same for weapon sales. If newspapers were able to give guns for promotional purposes, I guess their circulation would surge. In Turkey, actions against goods and properties are strictly punished. One can receive a serious penalty if they burn down a house, for instance, but the rate of convictions for crimes against the person and for murders is not the same. This is a symbol of injustice. One gets a gun, the other says “hey brother, it looks good on you”. As he sees it as if it is a tie or a pair of shoes, and feels sorry if he doesn’t have one. If we go further, I want to discuss an experience I had recently. Mehmet Ali also mentioned it. Last week, I was going to Trabzon, and I arrived at the airport in Yesilkoy, I checked in my luggage. Three or four dark, short haired moustachioed men in dark suits were standing beside me, with cigarettes between their teeth. The police asked me to leave my gun if you had one. I replied that I didn’t have one and that I did not use them. Those guys honestly looked at me with pity because I didn’t have a gun. This is a symbol and we can increase the number of these symbols. Now how widespread is that? How far will this weapon issue go? It has moved to a place where it should never go. We even see it in the Turkish Parliament, a place which is supposed to represent esteem. A member of parliament shot another member with a gun. Again in the same place, a lady secretary injured a member of the parliament. Of course we watch these incidents with regret, like you do. But unfortunately it has gone too far. I am a person who enjoys football and go to games every week. However, when I go, I really feel sad. A chorus of 20,000 to 30,000 people are shouting aloud “we came to die, die, die”. It is not so easy to die. Where are you going to die? We came to die, die, die. They say “ if you don’t win we do this, that, we kill you”. The sound of a gun is what we hear after the game, as my friends mentioned. And a few people actually died. We really felt so sorry. Someone from the authorities came out with a completely unacceptable comment; “Well, they shouldn’t have been standing in the balcony.” This is a true story - you must have read about it, we live in such a country after all. It is a miracle we are alive - we survive by accident. The picture changes when weapons are involved, especially when athletes use them. A bright young boy came from Samsun, he was awarded the goal king of Europe. Then we saw him with his gun in the media. “I have a gun” he said, “I have an embroidered gun”. That was his end. Then he spent years in prison. This is the point where you reach with weapons. When he was released, he was in great demand by the media. Newspapers fought among themselves to write his story, TV stations fought to broadcast his comments. Moreover, they started filming his life-story. Here, I want to tell you a short story. I think it is an important story. Weapons are not only for killing or injuring, they are also for defending oneself. This is not true of course. You may have heard the story; when our ancestor came to Turkey from Central Asia, they went to the Aegean coast, they saw people taking things out of the sea. “What are these?” they ask. The answer is “These are fish. This is an anchovy, etc.” the name for each kind of fish was explained. “Ah!” said the man, “We could not name these two, would you?” So, those two fish were named by our ancestors; swordfish and turbot. Here I end my speech, and I will answer your questions later, if there are any. Thank you.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Dear Balcioglu, thank you very much. We all heard Mr. Birand’s suggestions at the beginning of our discussion to hold a question and answer session. Are we all willing to proceed with it? Let’s start then. But before then, I would like to have a word. First of all, Mr. Birand, I will not be able to expect anything from the media. It seems to me that, of course you are right, I understand your intention to say that, what you see, how you think and what you mean. There are ways to go without expectation from media. We may teach our children to think in a critical manner and they can judge the right and wrong about what they watch. Still, we have to expect something, we have to show our expectations and insist on it. I want to touch another point, and that is the argument of ‘the public wants it’ may not be true. At least for the children’s programmes we have an example: Sesame Street. Until then, children’s shows did not go beyond ‘Punch and Judy’ style shadow plays or ‘Baldboy’ (Keloglan) stories. Sesame Street is more expensive, more costly, but why? Because consultants are involved, because they take it seriously, it requires educational features, it is checked more than once to avoid mistakes. Thus, it attracts a huge audience. I mean, when people see the good thing they will buy that. You may have an answer to this.
Mehmet Ali Birand : No, I just want to add one thing. Not an answer at all, I just tried to put forward a truth when I said don’t expect anything from the media. But I don’t mean that the media should be protected from pressure; surely, the media needs pressure. We shall not see the solution in convincing the media to remove such content. First of all, the media will not totally remove it, but the media can be controlled. We have no objection to this. No matter how much we talk, I always say that the Umut Foundation shall not be perceived as a reaction of pain. We must internalize and accept such organizations, individual reactions are not enough; an article of mine, one reaction from you won’t work by itself. However, if such an organization stands up and exerts its authority, it surely creates pressure. All we need to know is where to start. If we set the strategy well then we can start moving. This is what I meant.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Of course sir, thank you. Mr. Dogan, Mr. Balcioglu, anything to say? OK, we will proceed with questions. I am asking you because we spoke twice. Just for the sake of justice. OK, please, if you have questions. Let’s see if we need to use the microphone. I also think we can hear, please.
Mehmet Ali Birand : No, we can hear. The Saloon is good enough.
Sibel Savaci : Ipek and Mehmet Ali have already answered my question. Yes, regarding the media, I am wondering if it is right to expect all solutions from the state or the law. And my opinion is that we cannot ask them not to use images of violence or war on TV stations, but I would say that this must have some autocontrol. That is the way in the whole world, in the USA, in Europe. There needs to be research and consultancy, in the sense of social science services, behind these programs and movies including violence, just like Ferruh said. I believe TV stations or producers must perceive it as their responsibility and use this support. My question is for Mehmet Ali Birand, because you are the related authority here. A law or social pressure is important, but I think you also must do something. What can that be?
Mehmet Ali Birand : Oh, please don’t open way for a law. If a new law is enacted, you know, we have a strange thing called RTIC (Radio and TV Inspection Committee).
Sibel Savaci : No, we don’t want a new law. I mean what are we going to do with the laws in action, like USA. How can that be balanced? It must be legal, not lawful.
Mehmet Ali Birand : Now, there is not such thing in the USA and Europe. It is all about that. They don’t enact new laws, they control issues at their source. They ask about where the trend is coming from – it is not coming from the whole world, but from the USA and Europe. In fact, the source of all trends is the USA. It passes through Europe and spreads to other countries. You will remember “Love Story”. At the time the movie “Love Story” was released, the world was dealing with important terror issues and suddenly people were amazed with the love and lovemaking of two people. Incredible... after this, the trend was soft movies, movies based on love, and then the tide turned again. Increasing violence. Look at children’s programmes. Star Wars and Ninja Turtles. These sympathetic creatures called Ninjas show you how to destroy one another. This violence increased especially after the collapse of the USSR, after the Cold War ended. What Europe is doing now is to limit it at the source as much as possible. What is the source? It is the USA. The European Union is able to place quotas and minimize programming from the USA, and can set specific percentages for European TV stations to buy European and American products. For one thing, they try to protect themselves and put limitations with such fine tuning. Then, they follow cynical ways which are nevertheless not illegal. When they see some very bloody show, organizations like the Umut Foundation take action and tell their members: “use letters, the telephone, faxes, oppress the TV stations, arrange groups to protest with banners in front of the TV studios, continue for 10 days”. Society asserts its own rights, and this is stronger than the law. Especially in countries like ours, where laws are so easy to break. But our society does not speak for its rights and that is my problem. The society watches and likes it. Our people have concerns about protests, they are afraid of being blamed as a communist, a PKK supporter, a weapon smuggler, etc. We shall do something for the society to accept such actions. The Umut Foundation plays a role in this. You, members of the foundation, or even those of you with no connection, may transfer the idea to your friends after this discussion. Someone may pick up the phone and call Show TV, ATV or another channel. You cant imagine how important this is for them, you call the TV station and say “I protest against the show you aired today; you ruined me, my family, why do you show such programs” . All newspapers and all TV stations received calls like this. For instance, the Hurriyet newspaper receive at least 20 calls. The editorial department gets confused, “Oh, mine, 20 calls. What a reaction! What an effective headline”. If 1,000 calls were made by the Turkish audience of 60 million, see how the TV stations start to shake, no matter how good their ratings are. Go fight with the advertisers, tell them: “we, as eight foundations - or maybe only one- are not going to advertise when these programmes are being broadcast”. Struggle with them, there is no other way. Just don’t do one thing - don’t prohibit.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Yes, dear Savaci, I guess you had an answer. Thank you. This is what I also tried to say. Yes please, I am not sure if I can see everybody. Would you help me please? There is a lady over there, please.
--- Hello, I am attending these meeting as a member of Freedom Again for Children Foundation. I don’t agree with Mehmet Ali on one point. The Umut Foundation was founded as a result of sorrow. In his final words, Mehmet Ali mentioned that we are an inert society, and that we are extremely motionless. When I call and criticise radio and TV stations, I come across very funny things. We are still watching Reha Muhtar, for instance. Sometimes I think the USA is a degenerated country but their non-governmental organizations and their reactions in particular are very effective. I believe our citizens can also do everything through non-governmental organizations. Thank you.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Thank you. We also accept your short comments along with your questions.
Mehmet Ali Birand : May I add one thing? I am sure you feel uncomfortable with the replies you get when you criticise. But if 10 more foundation presidents call them, if you arrange a small press conference, even if one tenth of one percent of your members called them, many things would change, you can be sure about it. I don’t want to say this. Turkey can indeed be moved by civilian actions, but there is huge potential that you are not aware of. It will increase as we raise public awareness of this. You are the leaders, you will have a hard time to be heard, but eventually you will see if we can move a little forward, if we insist, many things will change.
--- Question not heard clearly
Ipek Gurkaynak : We can expect many things and we are trying to talk. Let’s wait, another question please, from behind.
Ferruh Dogan : I want to make an addition, I have to. Now, dear Mehmet Ali... can you hear me? Now, Mehmet Ali Birand knows that as a journalist of many years of experience, and just like us, he seems to have given up expecting much from the state and the law. In fact, in a country where the law has superiority, I mean being legal and being lawful are different concepts. Yes we can call them to criticise, but structure of the state is based on the principle of the superiority of civil law. And when we ignore this as journalists or regular citizens, and say “laws are useless, justice does not work”, this country will collapse. Therefore, relying on the superiority of civil law is the first rule. OK, a law can be broken, even the constitution can be broken. Remember when he said that “breaking it once is no harm”. We are still following a constitution drafted by soldiers. But I never give up my hope about civil law. Just like you can make calls to whoever you like, you can call the parliament, send faxes, disturb parliamentarians and maintain the superiority of civil law. We have had a legal parliament since 1923, and what we need to do is focus on this issue along with all other actions, this is my opinion. Thank you.
Ipek Gurkaynak : I would like to thank Mr. Dogan for bringing up this subject. It was necessary to bring up the subject of superiority of civil law. It was necessary to mention that these calls can be made, and that this pressure can be applied to Parliament. With such pressure for example, in the USA a few months ago, they presented something called V Chip. This is completely based on legal ground. “V” stands for violence. The aim is to control movies with violent content. From 1998, it will be a requirement for all TV stations of a certain size and with this they try to take control of the matter. Then these kind of things should no more be problematic. Please, my friend behind, I couldn’t see you.
--- I am a member of the Cartoonists Association. I ask the speakers, no one in particular, whoever may answer. So far media is being blamed for violence. The media plays an important role, but we are people sticking with our traditions, and many of these traditions involve weapons. For example, there is a saying that the three things crucial for the Turkish man are ‘horse, woman, weapon’. On the other hand, religion also involves factors of violence. I mean, children watch when we slaughter animals for the Feast of the Sacrifices. How is that possible to achieve peace and disarming in such a society? I am expecting an answer to this.
Ipek Gurkaynak : I’ll ask my friends if they want to answer, but I would like to say something while I have the microphone. The subject of this discussion is “Violence Simplified by the Media”; that is why we are discussing the media. Otherwise we have no intention to blame media as the source of violence in this society. If anyone wants to add something...
Mehmet Ali Birand : I will say something. Of course, it is not only about the media - of course it isn’t. The subject goes like ‘Is it the chicken or the egg?’ Nonetheless, someone has to stand up and speak, or we will continue to cut and shoot eachother. Someone must draw attention to these issues.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Any other questions? Yes, please sir.
--- Could the function of weapons and violence, could violence in media be softened? The media has to soften violence, but how?, maybe it is a very important task. Tintin does not kill people, RedKit never does - he even quit smoking. Violence exists in adventure. Children are after adventures and excitement but maybe it can be softer. They gave the example of ‘Baldboy’ (Keloglan) example. The media can do it by removing violence and presenting adventure. Shifting their focus in scenarios may bring big achievements.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Thank you.
Mehmet Ali Birand : Let me quickly ask if it can it be softened? Yes, a bit, no doubt but the child does not watch Tintin or RedKit. If you are switching to these after views of people cutting throats of victims and throwing them away in Chechnya, the child will start punching around more. The Tatemi show is very popular in Turkey. Can you imagine? It is a horrible show. A show based on people fighting in a way to hurt their self-respect and honour as well as to win money. Yet it is popular, but you can’t prohibit it to stop this violence. What has happened? The public reacted to Tatemi, and ATV had to stop broadcasting the show for a while. It is now on again, but not in the same format. As you said, they are trying to soften it a bit. That is why I say that the civilian reaction is extremely important, and it works.
--- I want to add something to the gentleman’s question. You are right about Tintin and RedKit because many subjects are given to children through cartoons and comic strips in every country, for example in the USA and in Europe. They became easy and useful tools of education. It is the same with comic books, like videos which make teaching easier. So these type of comics, cartoons, illustrated educational stories will be helpful. And you are right about the role of families. We buy them toy weapons when they are so young. This is another reason. The child develops sympathy for them. Thank you.
Mehmet Ali Birand : In fact, educators should inform us. The main problem lies within education.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Yes sir, please.
--- My name is Ali Yilmaz. I won the prize in last year’s contest. I tried to present the subject as well as I could with my professional experience. I worked an attorney and judge in Anatolia. Civilian initiative and non-governmental organizations have considerable function in this matter. Still, I think Parliament and the government have priority. That is, they can make arrangements and put serious limitations with legal arrangements. Crimes committed with weapons may be reduced. For example, the Ministry of Internal Affairs is responsible for issuing permits for weapons to individuals. It is almost automatic. Maybe most of the guests here aren’t aware of it, but today it is theoretically possible for anyone to obtain a gun. But a licence is necessary. If one has connections with the political parties, especially the party in authority, a licence is also easy to obtain. Even if that is not possible, one can get a hunting rifle. That is easier. I followed the progress of this issue, this year. A change in law 6136 was being discussed, I thought some positive arrangements would come out of it. However, the arrangement was about rangers in regions to get only one licence for a gun, when they actually keep many. I don’t think they carried out any other important arrangements. Thus, there is a lot to be done by Parliament, the Government; they have responsibility in this.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Thank you sir. I guess this was an important contribution without a question, I see two hands over there. First, the young friend in front, please. You want to add something. Please take the microphone.
--- They mentioned guns in Parliament. Guns are on the top of the gift lists for high officials. I don’t know how many gifts they give and take in a year. They also mentioned reaction. We only got a response to the reaction when 12 people died during the hunger strike. I want to indicate the importance level of civilian reaction in Tırkey.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Yes, thank you, I wish we never heard such a depressed comment from a young friend. OK, yes sir, I see the hand of a gentleman, can you? Yes, young friend, please.
--- I have a request from Mehmet Ali Birand. Your programs are among the most popular ones. I wonder if you could invite the owners or authorities of media companies to a discussion on television, to the ‘32nd Day’for example, and discuss these subjects of what shall and shall not be done, and request them in front of public opinion to reach a solution. Isn’t that appropriate? Can you do something about this matter?
Mehmet Ali Birand : We can easily do that. All bosses will join and emphasise with more excitement than you and I have, that this weapon disease must be ended. The morning after they go to their offices, their directors and producers will come. They will say; “sir, you said so but the rating s will go down like this”. He will reply; “anyway do something, soften a little, I couldn’t have said weapons are necessary for everybody, it is the best thing on earth, in front of millions. Ahmet, you can take care of it” and leave it there. I know this very well, I am sure it will be like this. It may be useful – you may at least get an advantage from asking them; remember what you said but look what you have done. But if you need a result, this wont get you anywhere. Just an impressive factor maybe. I have another suggestion. If the Umut Foundation asks and initiates it, all the press will be here. Because you know we consider these meetings bosses join very important. All news programs will talk about it. Moreover, Umut Foundation would not let it be any regular news. They pick the key quotations of bosses. I am also against violence, it must be stopped but the way to stop it shouldn’t be another fight, another war, I am not trying to get rid of the responsibility but I think it will be interesting so I suggest this to the Umut Foundation with keeping a question mark as to whether bosses join or not. I believe they can do this. Otherwise, we will be using a natural birth control method with traffic and weapons. I see many useful points in that.
Ipek Gurkaynak : Thank you, sir. Yes, any more questions? Please, a final question. Yes, please.
--- Hello, I am Serpil Kurt. Just as you explained earlier, non-governmental organizations offer a solution to violence in society and many other problems...
Mehmet Ali Birand : We are all from the same origin. Are members of parliament different? Are judges and lawyers different? Who is the police officer that we are blaming time to time? Your brother, my cousin, someone’s uncle. We mustn’t lose our hope. Societies should look back once in a while, what a pleasure that you are so young, you don’t remember the 1950s and 1960s. We are never interested in recent history, it is already in the past. We always look forward. There is no need to be hopeless. Society evolves by itself. We are rediscovering Turkish society. We believed that Turkish society is so nice, a society with faith in Ataturk and his principles. Now, we see it differently. We cannot accept this image and we will not. We are such a young society, with two third of total population under the age of 20, can you imagine that? The other portion is constantly changing. A society that never stops. Therefore, we have to give direction to this society which is flowing crazily like a river by slowly constructing sets on the sides. We have just started enduring welfare, just getting to know and endure it, and we will. We will give soothe the edges and we will go somewhere. When is it going to happen? No one knows. But it happens. It is the same all over the world. It is impossible that it won’t happen here.
Ipek Gurkaynak : I will be closing the discussion if my friends don’t have any final words. We thank you so much. I am not going to summarize anything. We expressed our views and had a discussion. We thank you all for being here and listening to us.
After the panel discussion, the awards ceremony of the essay contest concerning Individual Disarming “Violence and Weapons in Youth” was held in the Istanbul Dedeman Hotel.