Open society under attack

There is more than one way to review a book, depending on the critic’s knowledge, sensitivities and school of thought. In this country, even in these times we boast of as being liberal and tolerant, the «prohibitory style» in book reviewing has never ceased to exist. Those who feel offended – for ethnic, religious or ideological reasons – and are often guided by rabble-rousing demagogues who aspire to turn a stir into fame and votes, proscribe books often without even having first read them, basing their opinions on vacuous television discussions instead. They even condemn the books to non-existence, banning their circulation with prosecutor’s rulings, setting them on fire, or abusing their authors. Such was Saturday’s attack in the Estia bookstore on journalists Alexis Papahelas and Tassos Teloglou on the occasion of their recently published book on the November 17 terrorist group. Depending on one’s ideas, one can agree or disagree with the content of a political book. But one must accept one principle that has now been undermined: There are many different ways to distance oneself, to protest, and to put forward one’s arguments. They can all be quite forceful without resorting to the use of violence, either corporal (like abusing those who do not happen to share our convictions) or via police and judicial means (such as prosecutor bans). It is advisable to opt for «ideological» forms of violence instead, meaning violence that is exercised through articles, writings, brochures, the Internet, and discourse in general. Paint- and egg-throwing, the use of force, do not constitute a statement. They are not even a scream. They are signs of authoritarianism and intolerance. Moreover, they prohibit – or, at least, undermine – the substantial critique of books, ideas and opinions. And they put even more restrictions on a democracy that they already accuse of being too restrictive.

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