Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Greece and the Neo - Orwellians

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"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth."

Unlike the pontiffs of old Greek prime minister Giorgos Papandreou seems able to be an unlikely follower of the dogma of papal infallibility in which a move from one theological/ideological position to its exact opposite can be achieved without having erred in either case. On 23rd May Papandreou stated categorically to El Pais that Athens would not ask for its mountain of debt to be restructured, a position he repeated in a BBC interview in September and on 16th November to El Figaro, going so far as to say such a move would be a "disaster for Greeks".

Yet just last week the IMF/EU/ECB decided to extend the payment schedule for Greece's bailout out package from five to 11 years and this is now being hailed by the government and much of the media as a kiss of life for the country. It's interesting to see how the state run channels and pro-government TV stations such as MEGA, Skai and Antenna have promoted this latest change of heart without the slightest reference to previous government statements which held that such policies were not in the nation's interest.

In a repelling way it is fascinating to see how the ideas George Orwell espoused in 1984 are still revelent is a seemingly democratic regime with a free press. The truth, however, is the press in Greece is neither free nor independent but rather beholden to powerful political and economic interests which limit the parameters of what is acceptable in terms of political discussion. One only has to compare the rough ride given Ireland's ruling politicians following their bailout with the servile treatment of their Greek counterparts by local media. In many repects its hard to tell the difference between the official government line and that taken by the reporters who are covering domestic political matters.

The reality of the matter is that the press have sided with those in power in the hope of persuading ordinary Greeks that the massive social and economic dislocation they are suffering is inevitable and that any possible protests against PASOK's austerity measures are futile and anti-productive. This may, indeed by the case, but the stiffling of free and open debate about the options Greece has in the face of the current economic crisis is both dangerous and short sighted as it is steadily undermining respect for the government and democratic institutions in general.

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