Tag Archives: The Guardian

Why we need the foreign media

Back in the days of the 1967-1974 colonels’ dictatorship, the free-thinking Greeks were depended on news coming from abroad. The BBC Greek service, the Deutsche Welle radio as well as media from France, were manned with Greek journalists who had escaped from Greece and were transmitting what could not be told by the censored Greek media. It’s sad to admit that we have started to return into a similar dependence when it comes to human rights violations in Greece.

Photo by Kostas Kallergis.

Especially in the past couple of years, there has not been a lack of proofs for a series of stories, yet the mainstream media in Greece have repeatedly and stubbornly denied to report on important stories. With Greece being in the international spotlight, the usual pattern was that a foreign medium would publish a story which would then be translated by some Greek portals back into Greek in a sort of what-the-foreigners-say-about-us kind of story. Nevertheless the Greek public, even through this pattern, has the chance to get informed about what is happening in our country.

I’ll give you two recent examples. Two weeks ago an anti-fascist motorcade protesting against the rise of neo-nazism met a group of far-rightists in a downtown Athens neighbourhood. The police was there too. Several leftists were arrested after the scuffle and spend a horrible night at the Greek Police HQ in Athens. When they were taken to court, some more leftists were arrested among the crowd who went  outside the courts in order to show support. Only a handful of leftist blogs reported the ordeal, despite the witness accounts and the visual proofs of their allegations for torture. Last week, the Guardian published this embarrassing report and suddenly all the mainstream portals and some tv stations have reported it. They were obliged to report it because it couldn’t be hidden any more.

In a similar fashion, some months earlier, the Reuters have published a report on questionable practices within Piraeus bank. There were two reports, one in April and one in July, the latter can be found here. These are stories for which journalists in other countries would kill to break but not a single media over here pursued the story (which would criticise the practices of a bank that has one of the biggest budgets for advertising). Ironically, the April report was based in already published documents by the anonymous blog WikiGreeks.org (which has in the meantime taken off the net for an unknown reason). So the information was there, lying freely on the net and no-one broke the story.

This is why I have been strongly convinced lately that the free-thinking democratic part of our society depends more and more on media like the BBC, Reuters and the Guardian.

The ball is round

The ball is round,

the game lasts 90 minutes,

everything else is pure theory.

Josef “Sepp” Herberger
German football player  (1897-1977)

Although this blog is mostly political, I decided for a change to write something about sports and tonight’s game between Greece and Germany for the Euro 2012. This game is not only about sports anyway, despite the repeated attempts to convince us for the opposite. The way the media work, the lust for a quick joke, a symbolic cartoon or a mere parallelism to the current situation in Greece and its relation to Germany make it extremely political. Imagine the headlines, the cliches…

GERMANY KICKS GREECE OUT OF THE EURO! (there you go, I said it too)

or

[Celtic striker Georgios] SAMARAS SCORES AGAINST GERMANY!

Georgios Samaras, you see, has the same name with our new Prime Minister, Antonis Samaras. There is also a new vice Minister of Justice, Kostas Karagounis, who has the same surname with veteran mid-fielder Giorgos Karagounis.

British comedy group Monty Python were much ahead of their time.

The David vs Goliath match has offered plenty of material for the Greek sport newspapers. Here’s some examples.

Goal News 22/06/2012
“For 90 minutes there is no rich and poor nations”

Sport Day 22/06/2012
“Bankrupt them”

Protathlitis 22/06/2012
“Samaras, tear her Memorandum up”

Derby News 22/06/2012
“Molon Labe” (i.e. “Come and take them” The Ancient Greek phrase μολὼν λαβέ is a classical expression of defiance reportedly spoken by King Leonidas I in response to the Persian army’s demand that the Spartans surrender their weapons at the Battle of Thermopylae).

Metrosport 22/06/2012
“Germany raus aus der Euro!” (i.e. Germany out of the Euro!)

I’ve also come across a series of cartoons that played on the game’s political dimension.

From The Independent

By Kipper Williams for The Guardian

From the Berliner Zeitung

A hard-to-believe report even mentioned that the Greek Tourism Organization have sent a letter to all major media that will be showing the match, asking to lower the volume during the German anthem in order to reduce the effect of possible wooing from Greek fans. Angela Merkel will be present in the stadium and it seems impossible that such an embarrassment can be avoided.

Only a few hours are left for the match. I am writing this post while trying to arrange with my friends where we’ll watch it. And the introduction of this favorite German movie, Lola Rennt (Run Lola Run, 1999) came to my mind.

I guess Greece needs a lot of running if the national team would have any chances of qualifying. But let’s never forget. The ball is round. The game lasts 90 minutes. That’s a fact. Everything else is pure theory.

Information is Beautiful

The Myth of Sisyphus is a philosophical essay by Albert Camus. In it, Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd: man’s futile search for meaning, unity and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternal truths or values. Does the realization of the absurd require suicide? Camus answers: “No. It requires revolt.” He then outlines several approaches to the absurd life. The final chapter compares the absurdity of man’s life with the situation of Sisyphus, a figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. The essay concludes, “The struggle itself…is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

The Myth of Sisyphus from Wikipedia.

I’ve just bumped into a very creative contest which was organized by Guardian‘s Datablog and The Information is Beautiful Awards. Participants attempted to visualize aspects of the crisis in euro zone. I particularly observed in some of the projects the economic size and aesthetic influence of Greece. There were two main categories. The first was Design (for professional graphic designers).

Ready… Debt… Go! by Wayne Do Rego & Alex Seaton

The second one was Napkin (for amateurs). Anita Dembinsky used the myth of Sisyphus to show the possible vanity of the current solutions.

Is the Eurozone living the Sisyphus Myth? by Anita Dembinsky

Visit this page to see more of the entries and have an idea about how much better we could understand the economics of the crisis through such creative graphs.

The far right in the new Greek government

There have been few surprises when we heard the names of those who compose the new Greek government under Lucas Papademos. As a government of national unity, everybody expected to see which members of New Democracy and LAOS parties would be selected and for which posts. New Democracy reluctantly offered its members, afraid that the new government will fail and that this failure could be partly blamed to them during the next general elections (yes, Greek politicians are still playing their little political games at this very crucial time). In this post, I decided to focus on two members of LAOS. Not the South East Asian country but the Greek far right populist party of the Popular Orthodox Rally (laos in Greek is the word for “people”, λαός). They are Mavroudis (Makis) Voridis and Adonis Georgiades.

The logo of LAOS party

Makis Voridis has been very active during his youth years in the nationalist and extreme right part of the political spectrum. Here’s some biographical data collected from already published articles.

LAOS party leader, Karatzaferis (left) with Makis Voridis (right)

He graduated from the Athens College, the same school that was attended by Lucas Papademos and the majority of the Greek political and business elite. Soon after he became General Secretary of EPEN’s youth. EPEN (National Political Union) was a far-right political party which was founded in 1984 by jailed former junta leader Georgios Papadopoulos. He substituted in that post Nikos Michaloliakos who founded and still heads the national socialist party Hrisi Avgi (Golden Dawn).  “EPEN was the main vehicle for the the national, popular and social right to express its views, and it had elected a Eurodeputy. As a youth activist in the national, patriotic circle who wanted to be active politically, it was the only outlet,” Voridis has stated. He later enrolled at the Law School of Athens University and founded a group called Student Alternative. The Law School Students Union expelled him in 1985 because of his fascist activity. Greek investigative journalist team “Ios” (i.e. virus in Greek) later published a photo of Voridis from those events (9/6/2002 in Eleftherotypia newspaper). He was seen holding an axe. At a later interview, he justified it as self-defence to an attack by leftists.

Makis Voridis holding an axe (photo from "Ios", Eleftherotypia newspaper 9/6/2002)

In 1986 the National Union of Students (EFEE-ΕΦΕΕ) sued him for participation to a fascists’ attack against several Law School students.

The logo of the Hellenic Front party

In 1994 Makis Voridis, together with members of EPEN and ENEK (United Nationalist Movement), found the Hellenic Front party. Originally it was a small insignificant party (“the Hellenic Front’s insignificance illustrates the comparative weakness of extreme right politics in Greece” – The Guardian newspaper) before it disguised itself into more acceptable, but still far right, forms. Voridis headed the new political formation until 2005 when the party was disbanded and its leadership called its members to join the LAOS party. A year earlier, in the 2004 general elections, the Hellenic Front cooperated with another far right party, Proti Grammi (Front Line), which was headed by the most prominent far right politician and author, Kostas Plevris (his bio at Wikipedia is quite informative). His son, Thanos Plevris, is today an MP with the LAOS party.

LAOS party leader, Giorgos Karatzeferis (whose popular nickname among Greeks is KaratzaFührer) once said in an interview to Ethnos newspaper (26/10/10) in an attempt to justify why Voridis wasn’t the party’s candidate for the Athens regional governor in the 2010 local elections:

Giorogos Karatzaferis: I was simply afraid that Voridis has a history which I have managed to cover after considerable effort…
Christos Machairas (journalist): What exactly do you mean by “history”?
Giorgos Karatzaferis: About his relation with Jean Marie Le Pen, the axes and all the rest. I am just thinking that suddenly, on the 30th of October (i.e. a bit before the local elections) some guy from New Democracy or from Tsipras’ team (i.e. SYRIZA leftist party) can throw a video on the air and drag me explaining about all these things.

Makis Voridis is now the new Minister of Infrastructure, Transport and Networks.

Adonis Georgiades speaking at the Greek Parliament

The second prominent member of LAOS who joined the new national unity government is Adonis Georgiades. He founded Georgiades Publications and he is Director of two magazines: History of Greeks (Ελλήνων Ιστορία) and Greek Education (Ελληνική Αγωγή).

Adonis Georgiades presenting his books' show at TeleAsty channel

He later started his own tv show in TeleCity (TeleAsty) channel, which is managed by Giorgos Karatzaferis’ party. There, Adonis Georgiades presented a show about books which was practically a 1-hour advertisement of publications that glorified the Greek past. A lot were related to ancient Greek literature and several had historical or even political subjects. Eleftherotypia (mainly the Ios investigative journalism team) and Ta Neanewspapers have accused Georgiades’ show of being a means for the promotion of nationalist and nazi-friendly content.

Kostas Plevris' book "Jews: the Whole Truth", published by Electron Editions (June 2006)

One example was his repeated advertisement of Kostas Plevris’  book “Jews: the Whole Truth”, an anti-semitic publication containing outright praises for Adolf Hitler and calls for the extermination of Jews, published by Electron Editions in June 2006. Shortly after its publication in June 2006 the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and the Greek Helsinki Monitor brought a suit against Plevris for “insult of Jews” and “injury to Judaism”. On December 13, 2007 the court found Plevris guilty of inciting racial hatred and handed him a 14-month suspended sentencePlevris appealed and was eventually acquitted on 27 March 2009; his acquittal caused international reactions that were very unfavorable towards the Greek judicial system, as the Greek justice system failed to enforce Greece’s antiracist legislation

In 2007 and 2009, Adonis Georgiades was elected MP with LAOS party. In 2010 local elections he was the party’s candidate for the post of Athens regional governor (after Voridis was thought to be too risky a candidate – read above).

On 11 November 2011, Adonis Georgiades was appointed Deputy Minister of Development (his sector of responsibility is Shipping).