Monday, July 19, 2010

The Guardian interview with Giorgos Papandreou - life style puff piece?

"He cuts through the water with agility and speed." gushes Helena Smith, the Guardian's Athens corresponent, who then goes on to describe Greece's embatted prime minister as "statuesque" and later swoons over his "Olympian stamina". Guys, get a room.

This kind of journalism was be hilarious if the story behind it was not so tragic and didn't involved the suffering of so many people. Yet, the Guardian's interview with Papndreou is yet another example of how shallow the foreign media's analysis of what is happening in Greece really is.

We find out from the hard hitting piece that, "you have to make tough decisions in politics" and that "as long as I feel I am doing what I think is right and just for my country, for the Greek people, that is enough for me." While Smith does mention the enormous problems that Greece faces, many the result of the policies adopted by Papandreou's own PASOK party when it was in power she allows many claims by the prime minister to go unchallenged.

For example Papandreou insists that he was unaware of the true extent of Greece's financial woes before taking power in September 2009, a claim that the governor of the Bank of Greece refuted in an interview with the investigative journalism TV show "Neoi Fakeloi" (New Folders) which aired on the Skai TV channel May 2010. According to Giorgos Pavopoulos both the former and present prime minister were told during the national election campaign that the country's national debt was rising fast and likely to reach 12% before the end of 2009.

On the other hand Papandreou is allowed to repeat without challenge the oft heard claims that his government will help mobilise youth to change the country through the setting up of new businesses, especially those connected with renewable sources of energy and "green" initatives. While the sentiments are admirable no details are given about such programs and how they are to be funded when money for services as basic as hospital supplies are drying up. Nor does it seem to be having effect on the growing problem of unemployment which is hitting young Greeks hardest of all with over 30% without work, a figure set to rise still further as the economy continues to shrink.

At no time is the fact that many economists belive that the current IMF/EU/ECB bailout plan is doomed to failure according to many of the world's leading economists who think that the austerity package is most likely to lead to a long term depression reminiscent of 1929. Instead the government's tired old line that the there are no alternatives to the measures is repeated and that the economy will be "reinvigorated". No wonder the interview was warmly and repeatedly quoted on the state run ERT TV news.

What we see is yet another example of how "access journalism" reduces reporters to little more than stenographers and cheer leaders for those in power and that by making so many compromises to gain access to their subject the whole point of a newspaper interview is subverted and allowed to become little more than a life style puff piece. The fact it makes its appearance in a newspaper as serious as the Guardian makes it all the more depressing.

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