On this week’s episode, Neil, Natalia, and Niki debate the history of Pokemon Go, the near-coup in Turkey, and the unintended consequences of political reform.
The whole world seems to be playing Pokemon Go. Natalia situated the app game in a history of bug collecting but also the long tradition of fears about technology. Neil noted fears about technology went back to the printing press, but Niki commented Pokemon Go reversed the usual fears about children being stuck inside playing video games to the new worry that Pokemon Go was sending children out into a dangerous world. Natalia added that there were plenty of fears about so many adults wasting time playing the game too, and recommended Gary Cross’s book, Men to Boys, as a history of cultural fears about male immaturity. Natalia pointed out the game’s designers envisioned Pokemon Go as an exercise app that would get people out into nature. Neil connected that to the nineteenth century pastime of collecting, including butterfly collecting.
The staged military coup in Turkey failed, but why are Americans confused about which side to support? Neil argued Americans didn’t know what to make of Erdogan, a democratically-elected leader who had increasingly become autocratic. Natalia situated American responses to the coup in the history of the U.S. viewing Turkey as its most important ally in the region. Niki argued that since the Truman Doctrine of 1947, the U.S. has held Turkey up as an example of democracy and secularism in the Middle East, but had often prized stability over democracy in Turkey and other allied countries. Niki cited Jeane Kirkpatrick’s classic essay “Dictatorships and Democracy” that advocated an American foreign policy that could ignore human rights abuses and align with autocratic right-wing leaders as long as they were useful to American interests.
The Irony of Reform
In the third segment, Natalia, Niki, and Neil debated Jonathan Rauch’s recent essay in the Atlantic, “How American Politics Went Insane.”