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One Meme To Rule Them All — And Maybe Get A Man Tossed In Prison?
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One Meme To Rule Them All — And Maybe Get A Man Tossed In Prison?

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One Meme To Rule Them All — And Maybe Get A Man Tossed In Prison?

One Meme To Rule Them All — And Maybe Get A Man Tossed In Prison?
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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/458506911/458573172" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Left: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, in France on Monday. Right: Gollum in the 2012 film Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. i

Left: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, in France on Monday. Right: Gollum in the 2012 film Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images and New Line Cinema/The Kobal Collection hide caption

toggle caption Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images and New Line Cinema/The Kobal Collection
Left: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, in France on Monday. Right: Gollum in the 2012 film Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Left: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, in France on Monday. Right: Gollum in the 2012 film Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty Images and New Line Cinema/The Kobal Collection

A man in Turkey is on trial for creating a meme that compares the character Gollum to Turkey's president. Michael Drough, a Lord of the Rings scholar, talks about whether Gollum is a true villain.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Bilgin Ciftci, who is a doctor in Turkey, has been fired from his government job and faces up to two years in jail. Why? He posted a meme - side-by-side pictures comparing Turkey's President Erdogan to the character Gollum from "Lord Of The Rings," Gollum, that small, slimy creature who lives on raw, blind fish and is obsessed with putting his knobby hands on the one ring to rule them all.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LORD OF THE RINGS")

ANDY SERKIS: (As Gollum) Yes, precious.

SIMON: But the case against Bilgin Ciftci will take time. Gollum isn't as well-known in Turkey as he is in, say, most American middle schools. The judge overseeing the case has postponed it until February to give a group of experts time to answer the question, how evil is Gollum? What would you say? Michael Drout is a professor of English at Wheaton College in Massachusetts and a widely published Tolkien scholar. He insists...

MICHAEL DROUT: Gollum is not meant to be a pure evil character ever. That wasn't Tolkien's intent. And that's not how he comes out.

SIMON: Professor Drout says he sees one argument that might spare the doctor jail time. The ring with which Gollum is infatuated that gives its bearer the power of world domination, Gollum is the character who destroys it.

DROUT: You know, I'm trying to put my best lawyer spin on this, right, is that what the comparison to Gollum is really saying is that from the outside, the president looks evil and grasping and just seeking power on his own. But in the grand scheme of things, he, in fact, will be the one to save us all from domination of an evil power.

SIMON: Or Bilgin Ciftci could just say that he thought Gollum was Leonardo DiCaprio and President Erdogan ought to be flattered.

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