A medical doctor in Turkey by the name of Bilgin Ciftci has lost his medical license and is facing two years in prison because he posted this meme.
You might be wondering why a Turkish citizen would be sent to prison for that meme, and the reason is because Ciftci compared Turkish President Recep Tayyip to a Lord of the Rings character. Well, so what, you might ask?
In Turkey it is against the law to insult a public figure.
Well, that’s dumb. But what’s insulting about that meme, anyway?
Having given up fighting the case on free speech grounds (a no-starter in Turkey), Ciftci’s lawyer is trying to argue that he wasn’t insulting the Turkish president because he wasn’t comparing the President to Gollum, as the prosecution argues, but to Gollum’s split personality, Smeagol. As everyone knows, Smeagol is a lovable character and anyone would be honored to be compared to him.
Or so goes the argument.
In fact, Peter Jackson and his LOTR screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have come to Ciftci’s defense issuing statements on the matter to clear up confusion, reports Deadline:
“If the images [in question] are in fact the ones forming the basis of this Turkish lawsuit, we can state categorically: None of them feature the character known as Gollum. All of them are images of the character called Smeagol.”
Walsh, who is responsible for most of the scenes involving the character, went further. “Smeagol is a joyful, sweet character. Smeagol does not lie, deceive, or attempt to manipulate others. He is not evil, conniving, or malicious — these personality traits belong to Gollum, who should never be confused with Smeagol,” she said. “Smeagol would never dream of wielding power over those weaker than himself. He is not a bully. In fact he’s very loveable. This is why audiences all over the world have warmed to his character.”
I hate that a man is facing two years in prison for maybe insulting his President, but I love that the case is coming down to an interpretation of LoTR. I suspect, even with Peter Jackson’s statement, that Ciftci is going to have a difficult time overcoming that ridiculous law, although you have to admit that the resemblance is striking.