History Channel

What happened in Turkey? Look for two words -- 'secular' and 'Ataturk' -- in news reports

What happened in Turkey? Look for two words -- 'secular' and 'Ataturk' -- in news reports

So what was the attempted coup in Turkey all about? It seems pretty clear at this point that no one really knows (or they are not saying). Were experts at the White House and the U.S. state department really flying blind on this one, as appeared to have been the case?

I'm no expert on Turkish history in the 20th century, but I have been to Istanbul twice and heard the local experts explain that nation's unique standing as a "secular" Muslim state. In recent years, Turkey has been swinging in the direction of some form of Islamist regime, under the leadership of President (some would say "strongman") Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

During the modern era, the Turkish military -- with strong ties to the West -- have acted as defenders of the secular state, using blunt power to crush attempts to move toward any form of Islamist rule. Is that what happened this time? Or did some rebel group within the military actually try to take Turkey in a more radically religious direction? That would be a stunning development in a nation under pressure -- in the form of terrorism, at the very least -- from the Islamic State and its supporters.

Read the coverage. Do the experts not know the answer to this question or they are not saying?

As you read, look for two words -- "secular" and "Ataturk." How far did you have to read to hit those crucial terms?

We are, of course, talking about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, not the airport named in his honor. Here is the opening of a History Channel biography on this giant in modern Turkish history.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881-1938) was an army officer who founded an independent Republic of Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. He then served as Turkey’s first president from 1923 until his death in 1938, implementing reforms that rapidly secularized and westernized the country. Under his leadership, the role of Islam in public life shrank drastically, European-style law codes came into being, the office of the sultan was abolished and new language and dress requirements were mandated. But although the country was nominally democratic, Atatürk at times stifled opposition with an authoritarian hand.

That opposition Ataturk and then his followers kept crushing?

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Powers that be at NBC-TV placed a big bet on the Bible, and sorta lost

Powers that be at NBC-TV placed a big bet on the Bible, and sorta lost

What’s the future for quality, religiously themed dramas on U.S. broadcast television? That story theme, which reporters could develop with help from entertainment industry analysts, emerges from the track record  of “A.D.: The Bible Continues.” This NBC miniseries about the birth of Christianity, drawn from  the biblical Book of Acts,  wrapped on June 21.

Broadcasters often relegate religious fare to the Christmas and Easter seasons and the rest of the year may depict devout characters in bit parts that are not always flattering to faith.  However, NBC placed a big bet on a reverential series that was adjudged “handsomely mounted” but “thuddingly earnest” by Variety, the showbiz bible. The first episode ran on Easter Sunday and the programs were then granted another consecutive 11 Sundays in prime time including the May ratings “sweeps.” That’s coveted TV real estate.

NBC’s  innovation made commercial sense, you’d think, given past box-office results and hoped-for viewership among millions upon millions of U.S. churchgoers. Moreover, star producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey had scored an impressive surprise hit on cable TV with their similar 2013 miniseries “The Bible” on the History Channel (jointly owned by ABC-Disney and Hearst).  The first episode drew 13.1 million viewers, others consistently posted above 10 million, and the Easter Sunday conclusion had an audience of 11.7 million. It was the second most popular miniseries the channel has ever carried.

However, NBC’s 2015 outing was a different matter, which probably underscores the difference between cable and broadcast in this era of fragmentation and specialized niche audiences.

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Inside the History Channel's epic TV miniseries 'The Bible'

This is one of those GetReligion follow-up posts where we basically say, “See, was that so hard?”

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