Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What This Gulen Mess Is Really About

Update: The video referred to below--- the fire on your houses speech--- has disappeared, as I knew it would.  I haven't been able to track down who originally posted it---whether it was a Gulenist outlet or not. If it was a Gulenist outlet, they've been told to take it down. If it was someone else, they got hit with a Youtube copyright strike. I could probably find another posting of it, but I took the precaution of downloading the original for future reference. 

It's a familiar pattern. Gulen says something; it goes out on Youtube. Then word of it spreads beyond the Movement, and suddenly the video is gone. What goes on in the Movement stays in the Movement. 

It's out there, the video. People will upload it until they're told to take it down. I have it, if you want to see it. I'm going to say very bluntly that from my point of view it's bizarre, and I don't blame the Gulenist PR operation for shutting it down. If the company line is now that all of these people are simply "inspired" by this one individual, then it would be important to minimize the bizarre public appearances of this one individual. All very much in keeping with the whole secrecy thing, too. 

The point I'd like to make is that we have a worldwide social-religious-nationalist movement here where you're not allowed to see the Leader speak unless you're already in the Movement. The great scholar Joshua Hendricks would say that this type of secrecy-above-all-else strategy doesn't compute "culturally" in the US, and I agree. 

Except that I'd go further: it's sketchy. It's suspicious. And it's weirdly inept.  They're going to need to come to terms with the fact that this long tradition of secrecy not only doesn't compute culturally, it doesn't add up at all. 

For worldwide coverage of the unfolding drama overseas, see this, this, this, and this.  It's a hot mess, to put it plainly.

I don't question anyone's right to be an actor in the unfolding Turkish drama or to advocate positions about the nature of the modern Turkish state, including the religious character of the government.

I don't question anyone's right to religious beliefs or anyone's freedom to associate with others.

All of these things are fine. And the US certainly has a long, long history of meddling in foreign affairs and trying to determine the outcome of this crisis, or that election, or the long-term consequences of various invasions and conquests.

What's different about this is that somehow American public schools got drawn into it.

Back in the old days, when we were trying to impact the outcome of a foreign civil war, we'd sell missiles to Iran and divert the cash to some really, really violent people in Central America, and then the President would just basically lie about it and everyone would forget.

These days the commodity is the ownership of public schools. And people can't even focus on it because they've been conditioned to feel that there's this existential crisis caused by urban school teachers.

I have no doubt that Fethullah Gulen is living in the United States because the US has taken a position in the Turkish drama. Somewhere, somehow, the people pulling the strings have decided that there's a strategic advantage to the man's presence here.

I just wonder if they knew that his peeps would leap into the great unsupervised abyss of the American public charter school sector and take advantage of the huge opportunities for scandal that exist there. Did that behavior get green-lighted in a meeting? Or did it come as a surprise?

Could anyone even stop it now?

Could Arne Duncan call up Fethullah Gulen tomorrow-- and then hand the phone over to someone with some actual knowledge and an authoritative edge in his voice, and have that person explain to the preacher/tycoon that he's gone too far?

I doubt it.  Our Turkish guest has more juice in Washington than Arne Duncan has ever or will ever have anywhere.

The thing is melting down, and it won't end well.

Gulen posted a video on his website accusing the government of ignoring real issues. "Those who don't see the thief but go after those trying to catch the thief, who don't see the murder but try to defame others by accusing innocent people then may God bring fire to their houses," he said in the video.
It's a cluster. You should see some of the parody videos. I won't link tonight to them because I've already heard from the Movement about copyright. There's a time and a place for everything.

In my experience, when the ally you've favored in a foreign conflict starts talking about God bringing fire into his enemies' houses, well, things are about to go south.

Secrecy, evasions, lies, "strategic ambiguity"---if you study it long enough you learn that these phenomena are considered to be virtues if employed in the service of the larger goal of the Movement.

It's just that they're incompatible with and wholly new to the long history of elected governance of our public schools. Corruption is sort of built in to the wild west that is the charter movement, unfortunately.  It's a movement that would do well to call for more oversight, more sunlight, in every respect.

If I were an actor in a foreign conflict, and I needed an unregulated network and guaranteed income, I would for sure open an American charter school management organization and then expand.

I have no opinion about what kind of nation Turkey should be. I wish them peace and prosperity and democracy and good health.

But I wish Arne could make that call.

NOTE: As for CMSA and Concept specifically, well that's also about local corruption,  overhyped schools, and a financial model that puts taxpayers on the hook for extravagant financing. It's similar the UNO model, where the thing has to keep growing to pay off earlier loans. It's our little gift of love and compassion to taxpayers of the future. And one more thing: it's about the sheer number of Illinois politicians who can't even Google someone's name for ten seconds before getting on a plane for a junket.

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