Professor Ryan Gingeras, an expert on Turkish, Balkan and the Middle East history who works for the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in the US, responded on Friday to a Turkish account on Twitter, accusing the owner of attributing a statement to him that he never made.
“Please, folks, be kind. If you’re going to make up and attribute ridiculous statements to me, please make it about the Jets, Islanders, Mets or Leafs. Thank you,” said Gingeras, retweeting the offending post.
The original tweet was by Osman Diyadin, who according to his account is a journalist working for Turkey’s Internet Haber, one of the most popular news sites in the country.
“The Turkish state has given up playing dead; it is carrying out its plans, no power can stop this. Across the world all the cells of the Turkish state have woken up,” Diyadin quoted Gingeras as saying.
Gingeras’s response to Diyadin on Twitter received more than 20,000 likes, mostly from Turkey, with many users calling Diyadin an “AkTroll” – a troll of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“The fact that this tweet registered so strongly can only mean the world really wants to hear my genuine, yet outlandish opinions about my favorite, consistently underperforming sports franchises,” Gingeras later wrote after his first tweet went viral.
Diyadin, on the other hand, accused users reacting to his first tweet of being opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and also, according to him, supporters of the United States.
Gingeras, known for his studies on late Ottoman history, responded again, still tongue-in-cheek: “You know, I’ll admit, I’m not the smartest guy around but I can’t help but ask why a person would quote tweet an American, for any reason, if indeed Amerikacilar [pro-Americans] are ‘RTE dusmanlari [enemies of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan]’?” he asked.
Gingeras also added that despite claiming to be anti-imperialists, the Turkish press is willing to “quote and embrace Americans” when they think doing so will boost Turkey’s image.
While the Turkish government tightens its grip on social media by passing a series of laws restricting the freedom of expression, the ruling AKP uses a large network of social media accounts popularly known as AkTrolls to attack opponents in Turkey and abroad.
“They are spending money stolen from our people through taxes and inflation to feed an extensive troll network,” said Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in January 2022, citing a report prepared by his party.
“With influencer-trolls, astroturfers, bots and retweet rings, government-controlled trolls have a strong presence on Turkish-speaking Twitter. These networks of accounts work in concert to spread propaganda and misinformation,” said an EU report on Turkey’s troll networks in March 2022.