OPINION

Television distortion

Last week, a week marred by allegations of extortion and the arm-twisting tactics of bodyguards, came to a fitting close with a press conference by AEK club strongman Makis Psomiadis. Audacious and peevish, the big shot of soccer, who is free pending trial, reacted as was expected of him. He tried to question what even a child can see. His attempt, using insults in a show of bravado, was seen on national television and was then commented upon nationwide. «Big Mac» is running the show – an expected and unshakable confirmation of Kathimerini’s claim that the hellhole that gapes beneath the surface of our public life not only reflects the flaws of our institutions but also a progressive state of social confusion. Public apathy saves all sorts of bodyguards, extortioners and underground figures from having to hide in the dark and allows them to come out into the limelight and unabashedly claim the posts of publishers, journalists and chairmen. Television channels exacerbate this state of confusion, not to say give birth to it. This is particularly so in the case of the news bulletins of private channels, which in the absence of any regulatory framework have slipped to the lowest denominator of quality. That common denominator has been set at a very low threshold as there seems to be no budget to sustain high-quality entertainment programs. The absence of such programs is covered by presumed news bulletins that are little more than a pretext for promoting superficial and cheap gossip and the vulgar prattle that aims at stimulating public curiosity. So to a considerable degree, television does mirror the level of our society. And there is more to this. Television leads to trivialization. It has the power to downgrade the level of society by focusing on its basest characteristics. The ordinary Greek may not be spending his free time reading Thucydides, yet he has little, if anything, in common with thugs and extortioners. A democracy of mass production and consumption where spectacle controls commercial exchange, Greece cannot escape the fate of what has been coined «television democracy» – which is common everywhere. But one gets the impression that in leaving television unchecked, we have fed a trivializing mechanism that has grown unstoppable. And we have reached a point where though we know that the «Big Macs» of this world have nothing to tell us, we all turn an ear to them.