Double standard in Western perception of freedom

"The word 'freedom' is used by Western governments in ways to their liking and manipulation – a tool not accorded to the rest of the world"

Double standard in Western perception of freedom

World Bulletin/News Desk

One man’s freedom is another man’s repression.

The idea can be seen, according to some, in the way Eastern and Western countries are viewed when they take steps to curb what they see as abuses on the limits of certain freedoms, such as free speech and expression.

Case in point: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was harshly criticized last year when he lashed out at Twitter for not closing the accounts of users who shared hacked top secret audio recordings of a meeting that included then-Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu, National Intelligence Organization chief Hakan Fidan and top ranked soldiers. 

By denying Erdogan’s request, Turkey temporarily banned Twitter and YouTube sites in the country. Erdogan, who was prime minister at the time, said, “We never aim to restrict freedoms but hatred and racist discourse under the mask of freedom. Twitter and You Tube should abide by Turkish law as they do to laws of other countries.”

Davutoglu reacted to the leak by calling it an “open declaration of war against the Turkish Republic.”

The U.S. and Europe pounced on the band and called it a violation of freedoms of speech and expression.

But in the U.S., social media sites of the military’s Central Command, or CENTCOM, were hacked earlier this week by a a person or persons that went by the name of CyberCaliphate. Messages were posted on CENTCOM’s Twitter account. One read, “American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back. ISIS.”

The U.S. requested that the CyberCaliphate account be deleted. Twitter immediately complied. There was no backlash. At the time of this writing, however, the account appears to have been restored.

"The double standard is very clear on how imposed restrictions are applied,” said Hatem Bazian, a professor of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Berkeley in California.

Bazian takes the argument beyond a mere double stand as he says the idea is to alienate and marginalize an entire group of people. “What a Western leader does is immediately translated to defending ‘the civilized world’ while a Muslim leader’s action is deemed to be an indication of despotic and transhistorical tendencies uniquely suited for Muslims."

The point the professor makes can be illustrated in comments made by British Prime Minister David Cameron in the wake of last week’s Paris attacks.


Cameron said this week that he will seek to ban popular chat applications such as WhatsApp and iMessage if his conservative party wins upcoming elections in May. The prime minister wants the government to be allowed to access encrypted data from users.

“In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?,” he rhetorically asked during a speech this week.

"My answer to that question is: 'No, we must not.'”

Some see the remarks as a veiled attempt to allow legal spying on Muslims, although law enforcement agencies have said criminals have long used encrypted apps to communicate.

“The 'otherization' of Muslims has no limits including constructing walls revolving around language and creating unwanted online content based on supposed Muslim languages," said Bazian.

While Cameron’s desire to ban encrypted media can be viewed as a campaign promise in order to curry favor with voters at a time of very high emotional sensitivities, the U.S.’s request to suspend the social media account of a hacker who posted messages on its military page was met with swift compliance, and no public outcry.

But after Turkey’s government restricted access to social media sites where highly classified information was shared regarding a meeting with top officials, the move was condemned as an obstacle to freedom and democracy.

That word “freedom,” as Bazian puts it, Is used by Western governments in ways to their liking and manipulation – a tool not accorded to the rest of the world.

Professor Salman Sayyid, professor of sociology at the UK’s Leeds university ad author of "Recalling the Caliphate," agrees. 

"According to the principles of Western exceptionalism (or Eurocentrism) when Mr. Erdogan tries to restrict social media it’s despotic, when Western governments do, it’s democratic," he said.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Ocak 2015, 12:28