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US Navy's tweet seen as call to battle in Turkey

The US Navy's birthday tweet of a painting depicting one of its first international battles has furious Turks asking what message the United States is trying to send to the Turkish government.

The US Navy celebrated its 241st birthday on Oct. 13 and sent a few tweets to celebrate. However, one was deleted in less than 24 hours. The deleted tweet contained three images of historical navy moments, with the words “America’s Sailor. For 241 Years: Tough. Bold. Ready.” One of the images was a painting, “Decatur Boarding a Tripolitan Gunboat,” done in 1858 by the artist Dennis Malone Carter. The titular event had taken place 54 years before, and the artist had not been present. The historical accuracy of the painting is a topic of debate, but it is of great artistic and patriotic value for the US Navy, which comes from humble origins.

In the battle scene, a red flag is visible with a crescent and star that most likely belong to the Ottoman flag, quite similar to the current Turkish flag. Turkish social media users immediately started attacking the @USNavy account, posting offensive digitally altered imagery and threats. In a few hours, hashtags about the post were trending and several news agencies shared the tweet with rather negative comments, especially those with links to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). For example, leftist Sol Haber Portali announced a “historic message from the US Navy to Erdogan.” The government-controlled Anadolu referred to it as a “scandalous tweet from the US Navy,” pro-AKP Sabah reported an “insolent tweet from the US Navy," saying its "timing is peculiar.” News portals such as T24, known for being critical of the AKP, were more neutral in their coverage of “The US Navy’s tweet with the Turkish flag.” Overall, there was increased anti-Americanism all over Turkish social media, with Twitter trolls harshly criticizing everything American and even threatening the navy with an "Ottoman slap."

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