The term “narcissist,” which has become almost a permanent fixture in any description of Yanis Varoufakis – in tones ranging from the deliberate and angry to the lighthearted and playful, sometimes to the point of absolving him of his sins – is inadequate. A man who writes a book while simultaneously envisioning himself as a big-screen hero does not simply fall into the category of garden-variety delusions of stardom because his actions are rife with intent.
Viewing reality through the realm of fiction neither clears nor burdens an official of complicity with regard to how he managed the country’s economic affairs and the stance he adopted more generally, and especially when this concerns an exceptionally crucial period. Walking down the red carpet does not instantly transform Varoufakis from a former finance minister (who is co-credited with a memorandum and capital controls) into a movie star. The Venice International Film Festival – the glamour, the camera flashes, the gowns – and the reviews of critics neither erase nor transfer political responsibility.
The publicity shone on Greece as a result of Costa-Gavras’ film “Adults in the Room,” based on Varoufakis’ book of the same title, shifts the focus of the conversation from the intentions and rules according to which officials with institutional responsibilities ought to abide, to the rule-free realm of art. It takes it away from the need for political figures to answer for their actions and omissions, to the extremely capacious realm of film production and artistic creativity.
That Yanis Varoufakis taped talks at the Eurogroup meetings of eurozone finance ministers is common knowledge. What we recently learned is that he gave these recordings to the filmmakers and – more importantly – may also leak them online. He has even said as much, arguing that it would be good for Europe’s historical records.
The issue here is not just the crime stemming from the fact that he recorded conversations without the knowledge and permission of his interlocutors. That is just phase one. The next step he has indicated he is pondering sounds a lot like a threat, despite his assurances that his intentions are driven purely by the desire to enrich the annals of European history. Perhaps it is a warning to the Europeans and the Greek government against any possible intention to start digging into what was dubbed a “proud negotiation” by the SYRIZA-led government of 2015.
However, just as red carpets don’t safeguard you from culpability, so the rules of political immunity for lawmakers do not prevent an investigation into an issue.