The media truck is out of control

on . Posted in English texts


About a month ago, the news was dominated by the Christos Zachopoulos case. Today it has all but disappeared. I don't know if this means anything for the case, but it does say a lot about television bulletins.

Fifteen years ago, the head of opposition PASOK was commonly referred to as "just a kid." Ten years later, he became "George" and in 2004 "George the Savior" (of PASOK, the country etc). Today he is "George, the kid that won't make it." I don't know what this says about George Papandreou, but it says a lot about the way public opinion is formed. A few years ago, unionism was holy and what unionists said was divine law. Today, every strike damages a social commodity and unionists are close to being seen as common criminals. I don't know what this says about the union movement, but it says a lot about the unionist debate.

In 1999, during the Kosovo war, Greek media were considered "among the best in the world." The Avriani newspaper was hailed as being more reliable than The New York Times, and the BBC as somewhere below Alter. Now Greek media are among the worst in the world. This certainly says something about the Greek media, but it also says a lot about public discourse in Greece.

On every issue, Greece looks like a truck on a crazy course. The bliss of 2004 has been replaced by a deep depression in 2008. Back then, thanks to a successful head shot by Angelos Charisteas, there was even talk about "the rebirth of the nation." Today all we have is a nation that has failed to properly manage the "2004 legacy." Back then, we talked about Greek genes making the Olympic Games the best ever, and today those same genes cannot get the garbage off the streets.

If Greece was a person, we would be looking at a classic case of manic depression. But it is not, and these highs and lows, these abrupt shifts in public opinion on various issues, can only be explained by the quality of public discourse: shallow, out of synch and out of place. The electronic media, especially, are introverted and suffer memory loss; they are unable to enhance the debate with their experience or their historical worth. Like a flash in the pan, issues take on preposterous dimensions and then disappear without anyone knowing what happened. For example, what ever happened with the bonds scandal that shook public opinion so profoundly? The virtual reality that blows up and then fizzles out prevents sober discourse and, as a result, change for the better. But, it also leaves behind a bitter taste about the political system and the setup of society. It makes citizens cynical and opinion makers arrogant. Since public opinion seems capable of going from one extreme to the other in no time at all, why shouldn't certain people believe that they can manipulate it freely?

KATHIMERINI English Edition, 13/03/2008