Forgetting to remember
|Friday, 5. November 2010 1 comment(s)||
Adrian Forty, Professor of Architectural History at University College London, writes that a state-imposed act of pulling down a memorial statue often does not lead to the hoped-for forgetting but remembering. The empty space left behind by the memorial statue reminds people of the regime or leader which the statue was once commemorating. The memory is not erased but reinforced.
Forty’s thesis came to my mind when following the YouTube saga in Turkey. The video sharing website has been banned in Turkey since 2008 because four denigrating videos were posted on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey. The ban was lifted last Saturday after the videos were removed from the site. However, only few days later the ban was reinstated because videos related to the resignation of the former opposition leader Deniz Baykal appeared on the website.
YouTube is not only a functional tool to exhibit videos. It is also a symbol of free speech. Everyone can post on the website and make their messages available globally. Turkey banning YouTube creates a memory image of Turkish state as an actor that inhibits freedom of speech. Moreover, taking down a website does not result in forgetting but remembering the banned content. The Baykal scandal and the denigrating remarks on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk are now certainly remembered. As such, removing a statue or website is largely counter-productive.
Milan Kundera wrote in his novel The Book of Laughter or Forgetting that individuals have to struggle against the state that seeks to erase memory by remembering. Memory is an individual’s only weapon against the state. A ban on free access to information presents itself as a similar type of struggle. Turkish state and Turkish citizens struggle against each other on their right to the memory space.
President Abdullah Gül criticizes the ban. He argues that “the world has already become very transparent. No one can isolate their country with custom walls or through other means. Our self-confidence is immense. Although some problems may arise because of that transparency, Turkey will overcome all obstacles with its self-confidence and resolute stance. There is no need for fear. Restrictions do not bring about the desired outcome, anyway”. With the president on the side of the individuals the struggle is already half won. Now all that it takes is to convince the last warriors of the anti-YouTube campaign to allow the actual process of forgetting to begin.
Texts reflect the opinions of the individual authors