You might have noticed earlier today that Prospect‘s main website, as opposed to our blog, was hacked. Visitors around 11am this morning —those lost souls perhaps searching for something to do during what will surely become known as The Great UK Gmail Crash of late Morning Tuesday February 24th June 2009—would have found our front page replaced with capitalised foreign text. Who would pull such a trick? Have ruled out other, rival magazines and facebook addled youth, we quickly deduced that we, too had been the victim of an increasingly famed Turkish hacking collective.
Cue much irritation at Prospect towers, as my colleague Tom Chatfield scrabbled to reset the site, replace our passwords and so on. But as the day wore on, anger gave way to puzzlement: why had the young Turks come after us? It is, on the face of it, an odd choice. No publication in the UK, or indeed in the Anglosphere perhaps, has done as much as we to promote Turkish intellectual culture. Last year, we even put one Turk—the Sufi cleric Fetullah Gülen—on our cover, despite his victory in our public intellectuals poll coming from an obviously rigged campaign orchestrated by a mid-market (but very pro-Turkish) Turkish newspaper. Gülen himself, and Turkey in general, have us little credit for this gesture of friendship between the English liberalism and moderately conservative Sufi-influenced Islam. But at least we thought it might buy us a little protection from Turkish originated abuse. For Turkish intellectualism, closing down our website does smack somewhat of biting the hand that feeds.
But events got stranger: we discovered that we had not been alone. Equally, we were also able to remove from our plausible list of rationales that the hackers had it in for tolerant, secular magazines, with the news that the hackers had also taken out the website of Hezbollah, the Islamic militant group, in 2002. But, we wondered, why had the hackers also done to the website of Sheihk Nasralla what they had done to ours—namely bafflingly replace all of our web categories with either the category “TURK TURK TURK”, or, even more bafflingly, “1923, TURK TURK TURK.” Answers, if you know, in the comments below–we’d love to know.