Alexis Tsipras, his aides and their mouthpieces have invested in a very simple but clever political trick: instead of doing their best for the benefit of the country, instead of aiming for national success and consensus, they cultivate a climate in which polarization, mediocrity and failure are presented as confirmation of their policies, of their choices. They create their own reality where what matters is not what one says but who is saying it. And so, when the European Union and the International Monetary Fund believe that the package of handouts announced by the prime minister will have a negative impact on the economy, when the cost of borrowing rises and the stock exchange index drops, this is presented not as a threat to recovery, but as justification of the narrative that SYRIZA pays no heed to any obstacle in implementing its policy in favor of the common voter.
Excessive taxation of the private sector for the benefit of a public sector that keeps growing in cost while remaining unproductive is presented as a success, not as the slippery slope toward certain destruction of the economy and society. The inconceivable expressions of annoyance at the uncomfortable fact of the many dead of the east Attica fires who “cast a shadow” on the government’s successes (as a prominent minister put it), and the successive insults at a political rival with physical disabilities, have prompted no regret from those responsible for them; on the contrary, the culprits reply to others’ reactions with more rage and self-justification. When they are accused of hypocrisy, their answer is to blame their critics of muckraking. They pay no attention to the substance of issues, looking only to exploit them to their political benefit.
Just as US President Donald Trump is continually working to shape reality to keep his followers in line, just as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan forces state institutions to serve his political ends, our government keeps trying to prevent its supporters from understanding that there is a reality beyond the one that they are presented with. That is why state broadcasters and social media figures are tireless in presenting the government’s version of things, why anything shown by other media is judged suspicious. And though the government does not try to win over the supporters of other parties with arguments, it promises handouts from the surpluses that have drained the economy rather than going toward investment and growth.
New Democracy ought to respond with arguments, with policies, with unrelenting seriousness, however risky this may seem in our polarized politics. Because the alternative is more dangerous: the muddy playing field and virtual reality are SYRIZA’s home ground; for everyone else they are a swamp.