Umut Özkırımlı is a Senior Research Fellow at IBEI (Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals), a professor at Blanquerna, Ramon Llull University, and a Senior Research Associate at CIDOB (Barcelona Centre for International Affairs). He is also the Academic Director of the Barcelona Summer School of the Mediterranean and the Middle East. He is the author of the acclaimed Theories of Nationalism: A Critical Introduction, currently in its third edition. His writings appear frequently in The Guardian, openDemocracy, Times Higher Education, Huffington Post, Al Jazeera, among others.
The Left Way Back from Woke
Right now, someone, somewhere is being cancelled. Off-the-cuff tweets or “harmless” office banter have the potential to wreck lives. The Left condemns the Right, and the bigotry of the old elites. The Right complains about brain-dead political correctness, and the erosion of liberal values. In reality, both sides are colluding in a reactionary, exclusionary politics that is as self-defeating as it is divisive. Can the Left escape this extremism and stay true to the progressive ideals it once professed?
The anatomy of a cancel campaign
On June 1, 2020, I became the target of a premeditated and carefully orchestrated cancel campaign in Turkey. The false allegations made in a series of nine tweets were seized upon and amplified by pro-government media which branded me a “terrorist pervert”, among other things. At the end of a protracted legal battle in Sweden, I was vindicated. The Lund District Court Criminal Division found the perpetrator of these allegations guilty on 6 counts of “gross defamation” and 1 count of “defamation” (out of a total of 11 counts) on October 13, 2021. This decision was slightly revised, but upheld by the Court of Appeals of Skåne and Blekinge which the defendant guilty on 3 counts of gross defamation and 1 count of defamation, and increased the amount of damages to be paid by 50 percent. The ruling deemed that “there is no obligation, legal or employment-wise, to submit the information”, and stated that the employee “is convicted of a crime which is punishable by imprisonment”. The decision entered into legal force on November 3, 2022, when the Swedish Supreme Court decided not to review the case.
2013-03-18 — 2018-07-05
In February 2014, one month before his first birthday, we noticed that our son Luca’s gums were swollen. We suspected that there was a problem with his teeth coming out and took him for his first dentist appointment. The dentist examined him, suspected it could be something more serious, and sent us to the jaw surgeon, who eventually sent us on to the oncology ward. They booked an MRI scan for the next morning, and on Tuesday 21 February 2014 at 15:00, an atomic bomb went off in our hearts. Having suspected nothing only 24 hours before, we were told that he had a malignant tumour in his jaw. Cancer.
Umut’s Newsletter and Blog
“You are driving through a series of tunnels”, she said, referring to my fickle mood. Excruciating pain, outbursts of anger, interlaced with fleeting moments of numbness. “These are all tunnels”, she continued. “You will go through them, one after another. You will always see the light at the end of each one, only to plunge into another. Eventually, you will find the light.” I had just started driving through my third tunnel, a thick, acute depression, convinced that I would never see the light again. I was becoming more and more aware that I was the partisan who had to go on — alone. No one, nothing could fill in the void. I knew that I had to first reclaim myself, to reclaim him. But I was confused. I read, I listened to other people’s stories. But they all got mixed up in my head which had turned into a giant cocktail shaker since he was gone. Crosby, Still, Nash and Young who are “Helplessly Hoping” that they would see “The Beautiful Boy” surrounded by a “Halo” again, either here or there, if there is indeed a “there”. But it was Chavela Vargas’ words that were echoing in my mind as I set foot in what used to be my — our — home:
I never saw my mother, I didn’t even know where she was. I didn’t see my father. I didn’t see anyone. And I started feeling, not fury or hatred, but every artery and vein in my body started to fill with a rage that was so strong, I swear I could have ripped the walls of that house with my bare hands.