By commodifying Turkey, British lifestyle journalism manifests existing economic and political inequalities, and suggests an unequal power relationship between Turkey and Britain. This is one of the outcomes of the PhD thesis ‘Representing Turkey: An Analysis of the Power and Politics of Turkey’s Representation in British Lifestyle News’ by Nilyufer Hamid. Lifestyle news are not necessarily uncritical by definition; they shed new light on how national identity is projected in such news texts, says Hamid. She defends her thesis at Erasmus University Rotterdam on Thursday 28 May 2015.
Lifestyle journalism, like hard news journalism, has ideological power to re-present the nation. This journalism practice is inclined to facilitate traditional inequalities, to commodify countries with new practices of consumerism.
A remarkably reach body of literature analyses the political media representation of Turkey. The scholarly debate is limited to scrutinize the dominant media discourse on Turkey’s potential inclusion to the European Union. Little, if any, effort has been made to move beyond politics and engage the socio-cultural field in order to dig deeper for an understanding of Turkey. Consequently, the potential to show another picture of Turkey is being lost. Hamid aims to disrupt the conventional ways of thinking about Turkey’s media representation by academics. She moves beyond this merely political debate on Turkey-EU relations, and questions what other competing media discourses, fantasy images, clichés and stereotypes are available in the British press.
Traditional as tourist destination
Even though the British print media organizations have generally framed their image of Turkey in terms of “a positive Other”, Hamid uncovers that travel journalists commodify Turkey as just another sun, sea and sand destination in Europe. Turkey is marketed as just another safe, yet different, European or Mediterranean travel destination. It is happily portrayed as an “exotic”, “oriental”, “authentic”, and “stunning” travel destination that the British tourist can dream about. By adding symbolic images, e.g., moustache, headscarf and bazaars, journalists promote the traditional and oriental atmosphere a holiday in Turkey offers. Interestingly, Islam is branded merely as an oriental religion. Both British broadsheet and tabloid newspapers market Islam as an unthreatening religion with beautiful mosques and minarets.
Furthermore, the journalists working for the British tabloid press are inclined to socially construct the exotic Other. The young Turkish man, so-called toyboys, are orientalised and introduced to the Western reader as Others. Especially, in human interest stories dealing with romance tourism, exotic and easily consumable young Turkish toyboys are commodified; they are passively presented, if not exploited, as men available on the market for mature British women. The Turkish men are mostly invisible and usually classified as “peasant’s son,” “chicken factory worker,” or “waiter” and “barman.” The journalists depict much mainstream discourse on toyboys as characteristic of an Orientalist prejudice. This shows us how romance manifest a far older pattern of discrimination and Othering.
Football players vs fans
By way of contrast, Turkish national football players, who are coming from a different social class, are largely associated with Europe and depicted as successful players in prestigious European clubs. Especially the broadsheet press almost always positively presented the Turkish footballers as “excellent”, “physically strong” and “quality” players. This stands in stark contrast to the representation of the Turkish football fans. I found in this dissertation that the aggressive behaviour of the Turkish fans is occasionally associated with violence. Similarly, sport journalists portray the Turkish national team as weak, uncompetitive and unworthy of being taken seriously by England. Particularly in the tabloids, Hamid reveals that the Turkish national team is crudely denigrated as inferior.