Your laws are too ‘precious’


Why comparison of the Turkish president to Gollum is as ridiculous as fantasy

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Dec. 9, 2015

In Turkey, insulting, mocking, or showing any dissension to the president is against the law. This case was proven when Bilgin Çiftçi, a Turkish doctor, created a meme of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s face side by side, matching expressions with Gollum, the despicable character from The Lord of the Rings.

Çiftçi has since been fired from his job, but now the courts are determining the next order of action. Since the chief judge—apparently too busy—has never seen any of The Lord of the Ring films, he and the court is turning to some experts of Tolkien’s epic tale in order to determine whether or not the comparison is indeed an insult. The argument in defence of Çiftçi is that Gollum is a hero of the story and therefore the meme was not an insult, but rather a compliment.

Now, I’m going to break this whole situation into two parts.

First off, Gollum, although he redeems himself (in a sense) at the end of the saga, is not a hero of the trilogy. He is a vile creature that succumbed to greed. Gollum is a victim, for sure, but at no point was he a hero. He killed his best friend, Déagol. Gollum is the epitome of a self-destructive addict.

I know what you are thinking: he ended up destroying the One Ring, doesn’t that make him a good guy? No! Because he bit off Frodo’s finger in an outburst of voracity and fell off the edge of Mt. Doom. He had no intention of destroying the ring. While it was the ring that corrupted poor Smeagol and morphed him into Gollum, we cannot honestly say that Gollum is a hero.

The second part of the situation that must be addressed is how stupid the law is. This proves that freedom of speech, no matter how benign it is, is still a luxury in many parts of the world. Moreover, the inability of some to show any sense of humour is even more disturbing than the law itself. The fact that Tayyip didn’t just brush it off and accept the little ball busting is kind of funny, too. You’d think a man with power could poke fun at the fact that his looks are comparable to, say, Orlando Bloom.

Let’s be honest, Çiftçi was not trying to plot Erdoğan’s downfall. Even if he disliked the President, the mere comparison to Gollum did very little harm to the President’s persona. All it did was call attention to the fact that Erdoğan shared similar features to a fictional character—which he totally does! Perhaps Peter Jackson didn’t need to utilize CGI or Andy Serkis. He could have just cast Erdoğan.

I’m sure many in Turkey found the comparison uncanny, too. But when a country has a law that makes it incapable of processing a joke, then it is that country that becomes the joke. Imagine a Canada where we weren’t allowed to satirize our leaders. That wouldn’t be the free country we know and love. Turkey is a beautiful place, one I wish to visit one day, but with a law like that it sounds more like Mordor than Rivendell.

Why You Will Never Win a High Speed Chase

Posted by  | October 16, 2013 | 

Ghostwritten by Elliot Chan
Formerly published in 

vwtouareg-road-blockFirst off, you’re not Vin Diesel and life is not a movie. In our unscripted world, there are just too many things working against you if a high-speed chase is your choice in escaping the law. Plain and simple, you won’t win. But if you dare tempt fate, turning your speeding ticket into a felony might be your best-case scenario. A car can be after all a dangerous weapon.

What You’re Up Against, The Pursuit Vehicles

At a glance, there is nothing spectacular about a RCMP pursuit vehicle. Yes, they have the common police paint job, flashy lights and sirens. But it’s the interior that makes pursuit cars superior to civilian cars. First off, they have engines with more horsepower to compensate for the additional equipment and also to keep up with suspects’ cars.

The common (yet declining use in service) second generation, Ford Crown Victoria has 4.6 L Modular V8 engine. The Dodge Charger Pursuit (the likely replacement to Crown Victoria) has 292 hp, 5.7 L and V8 Hemi engine. The Ford Taurus, another common pursuit car used by the RCMP, can have up to 3.5 L EcoBoost V6, 365hp. Also, an external oil-to-engine-coolant and heavy-duty radiator help pursuit vehicles reach up to 211 km/h (131 mph). Pursuit cars are constantly being reviewed to get the most benefits for taxpayer dollars and reduce carbon footprint… even a smart car?

Pursuit vehicles might have advanced modification, but the real reason you won’t escape them isn’t because of the speedy cop car, it’s also everything else on the road. Even if you are driving a speedy new car with the ability to outrun a Police Interceptor, odds are, someone will see your erratic driving and inform the authority. You’ll hit roadside debris, another car or a pothole—that’ll end your escape pretty quickly.

High Speed Pursuit Strategies

North American authority takes pursuits seriously. With 350 death in the States every year caused by high-speed chases (30% of those innocent bystanders), most pursuit protocols call for the officer to avoid this dangerous form of arrest as best as possible—but often it only works with the suspect’s cooperation. Multiple techniques are used to stun the driver.

A common one is known as The Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) also known as The Tactical Vehicle Intervention. This technique requires the pursuit vehicle to make contact with the fleeing vehicle, by striking it behind the rear wheel. With enough force, the pursuit vehicle will cause the suspect to lose control and spin out. The road must be cleared for police to execute PIT safely, or in the safest way possible.blockade

There are several methods police use to avoid and halt high-speed chases. And if you are like me, you will remember all those blockbuster movies you’ve seen. You know, those with police cars barricading, creating a roadblock causing the fleeing vehicle to stop or to turn off the road, damaging the car in the process. Although this is becoming less popular pursuit intervention technique as it puts several officers in harms way.

Another Hollywood approach to stopping a runaway vehicle is with spike belts. The 35 to 75mm spikes are strategically built to puncture tires, allowing air to slowly expel. Tires don’t burst when they hit the spikes, but soon suspects will be driving on their rims, turning the chase into a slow crawl. Spike belts are effective, yet notoriously dangerous. Since 1973 approximately 20 police officers lost their lives deploying them. Due to the risk, this method of attaining fleeing suspects is banned by numerous North American police departments.

Helicopters also play a large role in high-speed chases, but in Canada there is a more reserved usage of aerial surveillance. The RCMP simply doesn’t see the value in having them. Instead, they rely more heavily on radio communication. Even though they don’t have an eye in the sky, modern vehicles are equip with a built in GPS—so it’s not really a game of hide and seek anymore.

Lesson of the Day

With vehicle, technology and authority aside, driving is still a complicated undertaking. Wrong turns, constructions, detours, dead ends, school zones, traffic jams and everything else that you see on a daily commute will become an obstacle for anyone on a high-speed chase. Overwhelmed with stress, confusion and lack of rational thoughts—a driver on the run is bound to make a mistake. And one mistake is all it takes.