Cafes rife with rumor

Dimitris Koufodinas’s surrender to police last Thursday focused attention once again on terrorism and the arrest of members of the November 17 group, just when the public was becoming weary of the endless television debates on the subject. All over Greece, wherever the finger is on society’s pulse, from power lunches in Kolonaki to ordinary people’s conversations in cafes in the port districts of Drapetsona and Keratsini, the main topic of discussion has been the significance of the surrender of a man who had been public enemy No. 1 for over two months, and the significance of his statements. «Can these be the people who comprise November 17?» is the question that is being asked in many quarters. The State’s failure to wipe out terrorism over a period of 27 years has permitted obsessive ideas to take root in a society already given to conspiracy theories as to the composition of terrorist groups. For weeks the issue has been the subject of debate by «theorists» at sidewalk cafes in fashionable Kolonaki. These people have expounded on all possible ideological aspects of the issue, since, for some years now, a considerable sector of the right and center-right believed that terrorism had its roots in the anti-dictatorship struggle of the Panhellenic Liberation Movement (PAK) and was connected, directly or indirectly, with the functioning of PASOK. At the other end of the spectrum, other cafe «intellectuals» have not failed to point out that a large sector of the left believed that terrorism in Greece, contrary to what occurred in other European countries, was the brainchild of the American secret services, set up to further Washington’s interests. This conviction still prevails and accounts for people’s doubt that the people now in custody are behind November 17, particularly since Koufodinas was only 17 years old in 1974, the year of the end of the dictatorship. It is a question that has been heard echoing in discussions all around Greece. People do not understand that it was people just like these who were active in terrorist groups in Europe during the 1970s. Mario Moretti, the man who kidnapped and assassinated former Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, was 18 years old when the Red Brigades were founded. He had no connection, at that time at least, with any powerful organization nor, of course, power games in Rome. Obviously none of that has anything to do with the arguments being put forward by Greek journalists and politicians and which are having an effect on public opinion. «Can Koufodinas, Savvas and his brothers really be terrorists?» is what people are asking, against a backdrop of two parallel power games being played out in the media and the political arena. The government is trying to exploit its success against terrorism to boost its image, sorely tried by the effects of the recent flooding of the Kifissos River in the south of Athens. The opposition, playing down the elimination of November 17, is persisting with its fixation that terrorism is somehow linked to PASOK, raising questions that are not likely to be answered. An even tougher game is being played out by media organizations that are fighting for survival, in the midst of the greatest crisis in the sector’s history and when competition is at its toughest. The ratings war has led journalists to embark on the most outrageous analyses of terrorism, characterized by the most arbitrary and superficial of approaches. However, it is these same analyses and comments that are being rehashed in the conversations of ordinary people and those playing power games in Kolonaki Square and its environs.

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