The stench of public vulgarity

The stench of public vulgarity

It started with mean-spirited comments about the body weight of Elena Paparizou, the winner of the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest for Greece, during her performance at the festival’s latest edition in Rotterdam. The talented, pretty, cool and funny Paparizou brushed off the barrage of negativity with a witty response: “I was so upset I had to gobble down a burger,” she said.

Then came Aphroditi Latinopoulou’s public criticism of women who do not shave their underarms. It was not the first time that Latinopoulou, a failed New Democracy candidate, sparked controversy in Greek social media, or plain media for that matter. Latinopoulou, who claims to fight for the rights of Thessalonians (“to be afforded the prestige they deserve”), for the country, for religion, for family, against migration, over Greek-Turkish relations and against hairy armpits, instantly became talk of the town. Instead of being reduced to the sphere of irrelevance, the issue was picked up by the leftist SYRIZA opposition to eventually reach Parliament’s equality committee. Latinopoulou’s remarks were also condemned by the ruling conservatives.

A third person to get caught in the spotlight was Nikos Karanikas. Karanikas, who served as a top adviser to former prime minister Alexis Tsipras from 2016 until 2019, was propelled into the limelight at the time for all the wrong reasons: his “appreciative” comments for female TV host Eleni Menegaki and his ugly feuds on Twitter. In a recent television interview, Karanikas actually kept a more moderate profile. But his statement that he had in the past experimented with cocaine and heroin stirred considerable controversy, notwithstanding the fact that he stressed that the drugs did nothing for him and said that “every person must look inside oneself and work on oneself and love oneself.” Karanikas also talked about things that did not get much attention, such as “his very good meeting” with his political rival Adonis Georgiadis to discuss medicinal cannabis. The meeting was initiated by the conservative minister and regardless of whether it was a genuine gesture or a PR stunt, it still marked a rapprochement.

Condemning the insignificant is as easy as reproducing it. In both cases, we actually become engaged, and this means something. Unbearable lightness is not necessarily less toxic than vulgarity. The former may be seen as a more “normal” way of venting frustration while the latter as an expression of barbaric polarization. However, that does not mean that they do not overlap. In both cases, no amount of deodorant can cover the stench.

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