The name is the message

There are at least three ways of reading the political manifestos that crop up every so often in a bid to appeal to political parties, movements, recognizable figures and ordinary people.

They can, first, be read as proper texts (and thereby be judged with due strictness given that their aim is to provide food for thought, not invite applause or sarcastic smiles). A second way is to approach them based on the sum of the signatures they carry. Thirdly, they can be approached on the basis of the recognizability of their signatories.

To claim that the three approaches are equally valid would be to give too much credit to the actual process of reading, to the process of carefully evaluating a written passage on the basis of what it actually says, rather than on what other people say it does.

It happened again on Monday with the release of a declaration signed by 58 citizens (some non-aligned, some PASOK officials and fewer from Democratic Left) calling for the regeneration of the Greek center-left. It’s value was weighed, on one hand, on the basis of any (a priori) agreement or disagreement with its self-declared goal (in which case any reading was unnecessary) and, on the other, on the fame of its signatories – in which case reading was, again, unnecessary: a quick look at the names was enough for those who are familiar with the world of spectacle.

True to form, the interest shifted from what they are saying to who is saying it. Of the group of 58 personalities, most were quick to distinguish a small group of catchy names. That small group, of course, included those who make the most noise in the media and on the Internet regardless of their literary worth (for example authors Thanassis Chimonas and Soti Triantafyllou) or famous TV actors like Yiannis Bezos. There is no shortage of their portraits on the web. As a result, it was no surprise that the name of the academic Alexis Politis did not get much attention.

The manifesto assumes that the regeneration of the center-left can be achieved by bringing PASOK and DIMAR together under the same roof. One problem is that DIMAR chief Fotis Kouvelis, in the wake of his bitter experience from the conservative-led coalition government, refuses to cooperate with PASOK. PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, on the other hand, rushed to embrace the manifesto, but his move appeared to do less good than harm. Also, the key role of vague politicians like Nikos Bistis – who has already taken part in dozens of similar initiatives – also raised eyebrows. It would be a safe bet to assume that this uncomfortably mobile politician will be the one to represent the new movement, because he is the most recognizable. And because, as they say, this is how the system works.