In the quest to find a scapegoat for the sorry state that Greece finds herself in the Greek media continues hot on the trail of…their own politician. Move aside Merkel, Schäuble, Lagarde and Draghi – Varoufakis had a Plan B to safeguard Greece and is therefore to blame.
The duplicity and sheer insanity of this narrative is, unsurprisingly, not being conveyed with much force by the despot-ruled Greek media. Suffice to say that the UK also had a plan B in the event of a Grexit as did Schäuble (pathetic though it was in the latter’s case). Fortunately – or indeed unfortunately depending on perspectives – the UK and Germany have not placed their respective politicians noggins on a chopping block for treason.
In continuing with the narrative of Part I of this article – asking where the buck stops and blame starts for Greece’s current predicament – we need to shift our attention away from Varoufakis for a while and approach the question more dispassionately as a mathematician would.
What do the bailout countries share in common (aside from the clear pitfalls of eurozone membership) that may have led them all to economic disaster? Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal share some significant features in common. For example, historically they have higher levels of clientelism and political mobilization, both of which can contribute to how an economy is managed.
Ireland is the anomaly, sharing little in common with the Mediterranean countries, but that is telling in itself because the Irish economy managed to recover faster and stronger where the others did not.
Among the bailout cases (excepting Ireland) there is one overriding common denominator – the media. In the multi-award winning book ‘Comparing Media Systems’ the authors Daniel C. Hallin and Paolo Mancini, study the media in 18 Western democracies and from this surmise three models of media and politics.
One of the three models is the Pluralized Pluralist model and here sit five countries - none other than Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and France. It makes sense that France is there too because had France not received its backdoor bailout (courtesy of Greece) they would have quite possibly been in the biggest mess of all by now.
ThePressProject spoke with one of the authors, Professor Mancini, and asked, “Is it a coincidence that these countries share the same kind of media and all needed bailouts?” His answer was “No,” its not a coincidence, “there is a connection.”
Mancini went on to explain that the pluralist model in these countries and especially so in Greece whereby the media is largely controlled by a small elitist group means that, “The state is not protecting its citizens [because] the wealthy Greeks who own the press are looking out for their own values alone.”
This is in stark contrast to the other media models. Germany for example has a media that works more in line with the states narratives as do the UK and US. Tellingly this is absent from Greek media. The bulk of output is whatever suits the purposes of the handful of elite owners at any given time. The rest of the population, quite simply, does not matter.
To demonstrate fully the culpability of the media’s role in the ‘Greek-crisis’ and indeed Varoufakis’s largely walk on role, would require a comprehensive comparative study of the Greek and German media from the start of the crisis until just before Syriza was elected – since everything thereafter is allegedly the fault of Varoufakis.
It just so happens that such a study does exist. Yiannis Mylonas, an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen and external lecturer at the University of Lund, analyzed hundreds and hundreds of select Greek and German news articles from 2009 until 2014.
Unsurprisingly, Mylonas’s findings of the German narrative (which focused exclusively on the respected Der Spiegel) found that: “Like the political and economic elites’ discourse, Spiegel does not perceive the so-called Greek crisis as part of a broader systemic crisis, related to the construction of the Eurozone and its asymmetries…austerity [is represented] as the only solution to the crisis of Greece and other Eurozone countries.”
What is surprising however is how damning Mylonas’s findings on select Greek press are: “The main crisis-narrative underlining these publications is the same culturalist narrative [as the] German media…this time though, the culturalist-orientated critique comes from ‘within’…The crisis is thus understood again as a matter of ‘our’ corrupt and backwarded self.”
In other words, Greek media was more or less exporting the same message to the world as German media. This localized “Greek bashing” narrative was then picked up and “launched by global media against the Greek people presenting them as lazy, corrupt and scoundrels of a supposedly innocent and benevolent Europe.”
The debate on “structural inequalities…degrees of responsibility and the international dimension of the crisis” that the muzzled media of Greece should have been pursuing was in effect “silenced.”
A prime example of silenced or missed debate is the much-underreported role of the credit agencies. Professor Alexandra Ouroussoff, an anthropologist who spent six years interviewing people involved with credit ratings agencies, tells ThePressProject;
“As far as the current situation in Greece is concerned, the lending policies leading up to the Greek debt crisis (2009), were not only sanctioned by credit rating agencies; they would have been insisted upon in return for an investment grade rating. Unfortunately, the political impact of this point - an unelected body imposing policy on elected officials - is diminished in the Greek case by the perception that the Greek National Statistical Agency lied about the figures.”
Had the Greek media been able to function effectively there would have been a discourse on this to steer the narrative that Greece had fiddled the figures into a more balanced debate, one that included Goldman Sachs shady shenanigans.
Ouroussoff continues: “The argument that they had no idea of the extent of corruption doesn't wash either. Corruption is a factor in the assessment criteria of any country and credit analysts have been working with Greek policy makers since 1988.”
Unfortunately for Greece none of this matters now, because ‘If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.’ Goebbels infamous quote is more relevant today than it has ever been.
Domestic and international media manipulation and propaganda have taken Greece on a disastrous journey for the past five years. It has been so very successful because the Greek media has been so very unsuccessful. When push comes to shove other countries have their media’s shoring up their national interests, Greece, in contrast, was murdering its national interest.
If you are reading this article, it means that you have found your way to ThePressProject because you already know (along with 86% of the Greek public) that the Greek media is dangerously compromised.
You may therefore, understandably, assume that you have filtered the news output, possibly you have chosen to ignore all Greek news and have thus reached your conclusions on Varoufakis in a fair and balanced way.
But this is not the case because there is a little deadly something called the “time-bomb” effect. An LSE study proved that if someone is bombarded and exposed to one-sided, bias news for long enough they will eventually succumb to the message.
Their research focused on die-hard anti-Europeans and proved that even their political views could be changed over time by the media and political institutions if they were, in essence, worn-down by opposing views.
Even social media can no longer claim to be the one place of refuge where media mind games hold no sway. Here techniques far more direct and sinister are increasingly at work. Documents published by the Intercept (from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden) revealed that a unit of the UK’s Government Communications headquarters (GCHQ) are hard at work finding ways to warp social media discussion and (in their words) foster “obedience” and “conformity” in the public.
Some of the techniques discussed include the uploading of fake videos to youtube to “discredit, promote distrust, dissuade…or disrupt” and “establishing fake online personalities” to support the communications. All of this is backed up by psychological research into how human thought and behavior can best be influenced.
There is no way of knowing for sure whether the EU also employs such creepy tactics to control public thinking, but anything is, quite literally, possible. Tsipras and Varoufakis, armed with only their ideology and their staunch belief in the truth of it, never stood a chance.
The mine-strewn ground had already been laid long before Syriza and the villain of the moment Varoufakis arrived at the scene of the crime. Greece’s media, rather than pointing the finger towards themselves, are wrapping all their fingers around the neck of Varoufakis. Unfortunately, trapped in our echo prison of lies and manipulations it’s almost impossible to decipher the reality of it all.
But there is hope. We know there is hope because for one seminal, surreal and sublime moment the people of Greece broke out of their echo prison and said “No”.
It is difficult to convey the staggering defiance of this to anyone who was not in Greece at the time of the referendum. The intense and invasive bombardment of the “Yes” campaign sent society into a tailspin of panic. Yet despite all the odds, in that one moment, Greece chose Greece and if it happened once it can happen again.
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