OPINION

The media and the message of hate

The dilemma of democracies facing those who would destroy them is how much they must damage themselves to fight back. As long as a democracy persists in providing equal rights to all, its institutions are obliged to treat all citizens as equals, but, at the same time, they must be on high alert to protect the democratic system and its citizens.

The mass media play a decisive role in democracy. They cannot focus only on reporting, without evaluating, nor should they judge without reporting. The fact that they are as responsible as other institutions for today?s crisis in Greece does not mean that they should not try to play their role now.

For political and state institutions, the great question is whether the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn — with its bigotry and violent acts by senior officials and supporters — has the right to remain a legal party. The news media are obliged to present the organization for what it is, so that citizens can form their own conclusions and so the necessary institutions can take the appropriate action.

That is why Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos?s public appearances are so interesting. They are a mix of simplistic, anti-systemic rage and conflicting arguments. He complains that the news media ignore him, just as he insults them and brags that their boycott strengthens his support; he pretends to renounce his party?s Nazi roots, saying simply, ?Let?s talk about 2012,? as if Golden Dawn does not act in accordance with those ideas; he accuses everyone else of corruption, as if, by extension, that purifies Golden Dawn; he presents his party as protector of the Greeks, when its actions have sullied the name of the nation around the globe.

The problem is not that Michaloliakos spouts his verbal violence without any substantive rival, but that we seem not to hear what he is saying: His supporters bask in his bravado, while the rest of us accuse the medium that gives him his say — because we are unable to deal with his message.