NEWS

The donkey, the goat and the news item

The thaw, Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi’s on-camera kiss on one of New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis’s cheeks, the visits by European friends and comrades, the television interviews of the two party leaders and the price of greens were last month’s television themes. This column again presents a selection of the most interesting and idiotic moments of the pre-election period (as seen on TV), which, full of laughter and memorable lines, cranks and talented people, had nothing to envy in the serials and talent shows of the «Super Idol» type. – The right-wing bogeyman was replaced by a party fearful of what is new. «New Democracy is xenophobic, it is a closed party that wants a closed Greece,» warned PASOK MP Eleni Kourkoula (Mega channel). In an interview on the same channel, PASOK leader George Papandreou mentioned, several times, the «phobic» traits of the conservative faction, with its tendency to go into its shell. – A «continuous school» was what PASOK’s chairman promised the party will be, and the politicians, who got the message, used teaching aids to drive the lesson home. After a wall of colored Lego blocks used by Stefanos Manos (leader of the Liberals who joined PASOK’s cause with great noise) on Antenna channel, Thessaloniki prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis (ND) appeared on the screen waving model cars about, one green and one red and white, to support his claim that PASOK resembled a scrap yard with «old spare parts.» Then it was chemistry’s turn. «George Papandreou has chemistry,» said the other former ND member, now independent PASOK supporter, Andreas Andrianopoulos (NET, Feb. 18). No doubt we will soon be hearing about positive vibes, a favorite expression of players in TV reality shows. – «Was there some kind of agreement on policy before your cooperation with PASOK was announced?» reporter Giorgos Votsis asked Andrianopoulos («After the News,» NET channel). On the same show, veteran journalist Stamos Zoulas convincingly demonstrated that one-man rule applies to the ruling party. The dividing line, explained Andrianopoulos for one more time, had not been drawn between socialists and neoliberals, but between modernists and retrogressives, modernizers and hankerers after the past. «The former are open, the latter closed.» In any case, the lineup was guaranteed by Papandreou himself, who had a «troubled gaze.» – Mr Papandreou is a «news item,» said Andrianopoulos. With this characterization, he rejected Zoulas and Votsis’s arguments that PASOK’s chairman has received too much coverage. However, Dimitris Tsovolas, the leader of the Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI), also managed to become a news item. His recourse to the courts over the systematic exclusion of his party from the channels wrought the change. Suddenly, DIKKI was much in demand, confirming, for yet one more time, that everyone needs a gentle prod on occasion. – «You’re neither (Eva) Peron nor (Isabel) Allende,» journalist Nikos Kakaounakis of Alpha channel reminded Dimitra Papandreou, widow of late Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, with asperity. Just as well he didn’t mention Mao’s widow too. «Curb your tongue and be grateful to the world that it made you the wife of a prime minister.» The title at the bottom of the screen, «Dimitra’s Complaint» could have come straight from the serial «Lampsi.» It certainly depoliticized the theme. Mrs Papandreou condemned PASOK’s enlargement, but committed a political foul, since she acknowledged that were she a PASOK candidate, perhaps she would «eat her words.» – «We don’t do transfers, we do enlargements,» Kourkoula explained (Alter channel). Talk show host Nikos Evangelatos capped this with a reminder: «Yes, and Andreas Papandreou did not carry out reshuffles, but restructuring.» Enlargement was a wholly unacceptable term. For Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, «this cooperation boosts PASOK» (Mega). «We’re guests,» Andrianopoulos monotonously intoned, and explained, «We joined Mr Papandreou, not PASOK.» Former Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis (ND) observed, «This must be a global first… for a party to accommodate independent, uneasy voices, when in essence this is a political cooperation with whatever that entails» (Alpha channel). Writer Nikos Dimou (Mega) saw PASOK not so much as enlarging as splitting at the seams. ND deputy Militades Evert on Alpha talked of «mixed pickles.» Transport Minister Christos Verelis (NET) described how an old man of Aetoloakarnania saw the enlargement: «The donkey twined itself round the goat, but it doesn’t matter. We’re the Republic’s hardy souls, and we’ll untwine them.» – «How would you react if at some PASOK rally you heard the slogan, ‘The people don’t forget what the Right means’?» Mr Manos was asked on NET. «I don’t think there will be such a slogan, I think it will be avoided,» was the answer. But the fearful slogan was not shunned, and thundered out triumphantly at both the PASOK conference and rallies. Paradoxically, it’s the Right that could not forget what it means to be Left, not by reliving the divisions of the past but by condemning its exclusion from television debates, which seemed to be developing into a remake of the classic series «He and Him.» The participatory debate did not have room in its embrace for participatory democracy. Then the serial might have evolved into «Him and Them,» but why remind people they had other choices? – Quotidian life cast its dark shadow over discussion of phobic syndromes, the knowledge society and troubled gazes. After the great freeze, the channels swooped on the street markets. Reporters spoke of shiploads of potatoes, onions and fruit coming into Piraeus from Egypt, awakening the Ibrahim Pasha phobia (the Ottoman general who successfully harried the Greek insurgents during the War of Independence.) On the street, the price of Lenten bread was invoked more frequently than the name of the most suitable candidate. That people would not swallow just anything rather overshadowed the coupling of goat and ass.