Mahir Cagri was a Turkish man who, like many other people throughout the world, created a personal homepage for himself on the web. It included a short discussion of his interests and some photographs of himself.
After having constructed the site, Mahir thought nothing more of it until about a year later when he woke one day in October 1999 to discover that he had become the most famous man on the internet. Millions of people were visiting his site. His phone was ringing off the hook, and newspapers and TV networks were clamoring to interview him.
Why had Mahir's homepage become so popular? Something about its charming naivete combined with its apparent brazenness intrigued people. It made them laugh.
The site opened with the memorable words, "WELCOME TO MY HOME PAGE!!!!!!! I KISS YOU!!!!" In listing his interests, Mahir wrote, "I like music. I have many many musicenstrumans my home I can play. I like sport, swimming, basketball, tenis, volayball, walk. I like sex." Mahir went on to describe his love of travel, noting that, "I like to take foto-camera (amimals, towns, nice nude models and peoples)." He concluded by inviting women to come visit him, "Who is want to come TURKEY I can invitate. She can stay my home."
It turned out that the words written in broken English on Mahir's site were not entirely his own. A prankster, without Mahir's knowledge, had copied the original page, spiced it up with the remarks about liking sex and nude photo shoots, and had then reposted it to a different server.
The Mahir phenomenon dramatized the ability of the web to give voice to individual self-expression in a way that the traditional media never could. It also displayed the increasing power of the amorphous, decentralized internet culture to instantly facilitate the spread of mass fads and create instant celebrities.
Although critics noted that there was a touch of cultural condescension in all the fuss over a (supposedly) sex-craved Turkish guy, Mahir himself didn't complain since he was able to cash in on the sudden, unsought fame through interviews and TV commercials.
- Stephanie Nolen, "Mahir of Izmir, Global Superstar" The Globe and Mail. November 5, 1999.
- "Red-hot Turk lures a million to his web," The Observer. November 7, 1999.
- Tim Hulse, "WELCOME TO MY HOME PAGE !!!!!!!!! I KISS YOU !!!!!: The reluctant playboy of the internet My name Mahir....I live Turkey. I live alone!!!!!!!! I like to be friendship from different country..... Now I am cult!!!! One million of you click on my site... I'm too happy I make lots of people laugh; But please, this is very bad. My life is not now my own! This is not a laughing thing any more!" The Independent. November 12, 1999.
Text copyright © 2002 Alex Boese