TV plays November 17 card for all it’s worth

Many a televised tear has been shed for 12-year-old son of jailed November 17 terrorist suspect Angeliki Sotiropoulou. A TV commentator even burst into sobs while accusing Sotiropoulou of using her child as a means of gaining media attention. The television host launched a diatribe against Sotiropoulou as the camera zoomed in on the child, his face digitally disguised. Then there were details of how, when still a child herself, Sotiropoulou and her two sisters had watched their father kill their mother. Newspaper archive clippings, details of Sotiropoulou’s statement at the time, and all these scenes were possibly being watched by the boy, his aunts and their own children, but who cares in the race for ratings? The brother of police officer Christos Matis, one of the November 17 group’s victims, pleaded desperately with the television anchorman: «Please don’t show my brother’s funeral again. We have to relive it over and over every time you show it. Our family is grieving all over again,» he cries, oblivious to the glee in the studio. These are only a few of the cheap tricks used over the past three months to create a television culture of the lowest common denominator. The tone of television news in the post-Xeros era is typified by headlines such as «Giorgos’s tears» (referring to television host Giorgos Trangas’s emotional outburst for the 12-year-old), «Sotiropoulou’s thoughts,» «The spider-woman,» «Sotiropoulou’s childhood secrets,» or «The give-away hair.» Recently, Mega television screened a duel between TV personalities Nikos Kakaounakis and Liana Kanelli, who turned their fire on each other after playing detective, policeman, investigating magistrate, judge, psychologist and secret agent. The two exhausted every means of attack on the truth, on our intelligence and sensitivity, but above all on those people at whom they pointed their finger so readily. The stage had been set for some time, based on the tolerance, if not the consent, of the State and its representatives, who only managed to swing into action when Savvas Xeros gave lengthy telephone interviews from prison. The Athens Journalists’ Union (ESHEA) decided to protest to the media minister only a few days ago and only when reports were published that one of its members, a journalist on the daily Eleftherotypia, was the third «mystery woman» (involved with November 17) and that she was about to be arrested. Until then, about 100 people knew the woman’s name; the next day thousands knew it. It was only a few days ago that the National Radio and Television Council (ESP) discovered that Sotiropoulou’s son was being pilloried and issued recommendations to television stations not to publicize «the movements of the 12-year-old child of a woman accused of criminal acts, since these programs include comments on the child’s family situation.» These programs and the comments, said ESP, concerned the child’s private life and as such could «harm his moral development.» The statement was obviously a warning that if certain fundamental rules were not followed, the station’s license could be revoked. «The presentation of news programs should not be a platform for directly or indirectly judging criminal acts or making a spectacle of the accused,» it said. However, these reactions were three months late in coming and have more than a whiff of selectivity about them. Over the long hot summer, when the television channels began to create the terrorists’ star system and attendant scenarios, pillory certain individuals and give legitimacy to any shred of a story, the State did not realize that eventually television cannibalism would make even the State itself simply more grist for the mill in cheapening one of the most serious events in the country’s recent history. Unless, of course, in the innermost depths of our social consciousness we accept the premise that every country has the television it deserves, perhaps even the terrorists it deserves.