The attempted coup d’etat by a faction of Turkey’s armed forces on Friday failed for many reasons, including divisions among the military and repeated missteps by the plotters.
Social media and mobile communications also played an important role. And it wasn’t the first time this combination has enabled citizens to express their will and have a say in deciding who governs them and why.
Judging from available information, the rebellious faction of mid-level army officers sought to implement the classic playbook for military takeovers—what in the old days would have been labeled a “colonels’ coup,” as opposed to one led by generals. They closed key transportation routes, tried to secure both parliament and the presidential offices, and attempted to capture high-ranking officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and top military brass. They also took over state media outlets, and used state television to broadcast their message and prematurely declare victory.
The instigators soon realized that this classic approach was not sufficient, and moved to take control of private television channels, even shutting down the Turkish affiliate of CNN, an event that was broadcast live around the world.
The objective was conventional: By denying citizens access to alternative sources of news, the rebels would be able to control the narrative, dictating the information that was going out and its interpretation. They would also use this control to energize their small group of collaborators and attempt to persuade others to join them, particularly other factions of the military.