Saturday, May 30, 2009
When regular journalism is for the birds, Twitter
A few days ago Greek TV ( and I mean with 12 channels showing the same footage, nearly all of it) a "debate" with the leaders of the major parties in the run up to the European elections. I use the "debate" in inverted commas as the format of the event involved questions from a panel of journalist and the politicians' answers. At no point were the reporters or other leaders allowed to query responses. As a result what you had was a dull, lacklustre affair in which those questioned were allowed to simply trot out the party line. There were no opportunities to further probe the answers or engage in anything that resembles the word "debate", at least in English.
I think that the format of the discussion neatly reflects the relationship between the mainstream media and those in power. Yes, you are allowed to ask difficult questions, on occasion, but in the final analysis the politicians have the final word. There is no follow up, and at least for those at the top of this particular greasy pole, no exposure to the harsh wind of critical questioning. The politicians were free to ignore any difficult question and so got out the line set down by the party hacks, PR experts and God knows who else in the wings.
The whole programme was less an exercise in democracy than a beauty pageant, except I think that nowadays most contestants in, say Miss World would give more convincing answers. I shudder to think what the bikini round would look like, though.
On the other hand I followed the event live on Twitter (use #deb8) and that was a much more interesting experience as the idiocies and inanities of our political betters were ruthlessly exposed and dissected. Not least of which was the almost total absence of European issues in a debate over the European elections.
Waffle, evasion and laughable attempts at manipulation marked the answers by most of those involved. The only funny thing about the debate was the clumsy way in which Georgios Karatzaferis, leader of the far right, LAOS party flirted with the possibility of some kind of political alliance with ruling conservatives, New Democracy. Kiss, but no tongue it seems so far. Still with prime minister Kostas Karamanlis up to his neck in scandals and dire poll results looming who knows if this isn't the start of another beautiful friendship.