Watching the TV debate between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss for the Tory leadership I could not help but ask myself how the political life of a great country like Britain, a country with solid institutions, strong social reflexes and a great history, could possibly come to be dominated by personalities of the caliber of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and David Cameron.
How is it possible that the populist Boris, a liar with an evident lack of moral compass, was able to fool British voters and become prime minister, overcoming all of the institutional barriers that the centuries-old democracy had installed to stop vulgar men of that nature from climbing to power.
I believe that much of the blame for this new phenomenon lies with social media and people’s increasing reliance on anti-systemic media. These media invest in scurrilous scandalmongering, revelations and conspiracies that are supposedly buried by mainstream media.
It’s hard to forget that red Brexit bus which Boris used in his election campaign. The vehicle had a bogus claim splashed on the side that said, “We send the EU £350 million a week – let’s fund our NHS instead.”
Britain’s entire Leave campaign was based on a fabricated, misleading slogan which, helped by social media and the fake news spread by the champions of Brexit, became a weapon against the Stay campaign. It led a large part of non-urban voters to vote in favor of leaving the EU.
So what reasonable man of knowledge, experience, vision and skill would give up his profession to enter politics when the political agenda is dictated by social media and online conspiracies?
Greek social media are not in much better shape either. Hate speech and character assassination are on the rise. When politically expedient people are out to damage the reputation of politically impeccable individuals (as happened in the case of former Council of State president and caretaker prime minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos), it is clear that no one is safe. Anyone who engages in politics risks becoming the target of cyber-cannibals. Greece’s own Farages are not too far away.