The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Turkish doctor Bilgin Çiftçi lost his job. He's been put on trial. And whether he goes to prison hinges on one thing:
Is Gollum a good guy?
According to the Turkish news agency DHA, Çiftçi was expelled from the Public Health Institution of Turkey in October after sharing a meme comparing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the creepy creature from "The Lord of the Rings…."
But when he appeared in court, Çiftçi insisted that he hadn't insulted anyone at all. For all his slimy skin and questionable syntactic habits, many say Gollum is not a villain. He may even be a hero….
When Çiftçi's lawyer Hicran Danışman challenged the chief judge for his reading of the complicated character, the judge admitted he'd only seen parts of the movies…
With that, the judge called for an expert panel to determine whether Çiftçi's defense is valid. The group will comprise two academics, two behavioral scientists or psychologists and an expert on cinema and television productions…
As the author of several articles on the depiction of political issues in science fiction and fantasy literature (including one analyzing aspects of The Lord of the Rings), I would be happy to set the record straight by testifying that there is no insult to Erdogan here, because his record of human rights violations and supporting terrorists is far worse than anything Gollum ever did. If anything, Gollum is the true aggrieved party whose reputation has been unfairly slurred here. However, Erdogan does deserve some modest credit for standing up to Vladimir Putin, a ruler with an even worse record of violating human rights and waging unjust wars than Erdogan's own. Readers can decide for themselves whether that's a greater achievement that Gollum's (largely unintentional) scuttling of Sauron's plans for world domination.