The rabbits and the headlights

The rabbits and the headlights

The controversial Novartis affair has ultimately proven big enough to deflect the interest of most of the traditional mass media and social networks away from the ongoing name talks between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and also turn public attention back to the rather familiar field of scandal.

Just like rabbits that freeze when the headlights of a car bear down on them, so the self-proclaimed experts are struck dumb in the game of communications. The time when traditional media set the agenda, in heavy and often slow footsteps, has passed. In this age of social media and goldfish memories, the agenda is always fleeting and the reactions that it provokes need to be instantaneous.

Leftist SYRIZA tends to play the communications game rather well, but the opposition is also gaining experience and know-how outside the arena of power. Before the Novartis affair and the FYROM name talks, the same ugly game was being played over the Greek bailout review, creditor demands, etc.

Breaking up the agenda of current affairs into bite-size chunks, one at a time, is not an exclusively Greek phenomenon. What does set this country apart, however, is that, here, this shallow approach is not really part of a well-planned strategy. It is not a public relations tactic that could act as a cover to a broader strategy at some point down the line.

This deficit of forethought also explains, to some extent, why so-called “national issues” that are so deeply ingrained in the people’s conscience remain hard to solve, if not unsolvable. For many Greeks, they come to represent the last line of defense.

And while all this is going on in the domestic arena, events are unfolding slowly but surely in the broader region and Greece is at best a bystander. The only thing that concerns the country’s politicians is beating down their opponents and creating a sense of polarization in view of elections that may or may not take place. No one cares if that opponent expresses a position or a proposal that is well founded and in the best long-term interests of the nation. Only popular appeal matters.

One can’t help but wonder how much longer the country’s institutions can withstand such erosion of their foundations.

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