It never ceases to amaze me how the political and journalistic community in Athens interprets the op-eds, reports and cartoons in the media. Behind each, they see schemes and ghosts. You wake up one morning to a message from a veteran politician in the style of: “I know what you’re trying to say; message recieved.”
If it’s too early in the morning and before the first cup of coffee, you feel like answering: “Oh please, nobody wants to send you any messages. The cartoonist was, as always, stinging, the columnist – who may be marginally biased – made a cutting but interesting remark. As for the news or the criticism you disliked, remember how many complaints we heard from your political opponents back in the day.”
A new kind of journalism has emerged recently whose job appears to be – almost exclusively – to monitor other media. This is where all sorts of imaginative stories emerge over business likes and dislikes and other similar issues that ostensibly determine the official line of a newspaper. You read it and you know there is no substance behind any of it. It’s like reading a theater review by someone who has definitely not seen the play and would have written the same things whether he had watched Anton Chekhov or Aeschylus.
Skepticism is natural and healthy in this business. Especially after the economic crisis and the proliferation of social media, people are questioning everything – and rightly so. After all, no one can argue that “contract journalism,” character assassination or paid praise are not flourishing in some dark recesses of the sector.
After all, the last few years has seen the rise of political cannibalism by forces that mistook vulgar extremism in public discourse for political activism. The same forces are now having a taste of their own medicine, but it’s too late. They brought “Trumpism” into Greek public debate, long before Donald Trump became the US president.
Considering that our society faces more difficulties ahead, the need for level-headed news and sober dialogue is great. No country can truly stand on its feet without serious and independent media. The issue of migration and the slow pace by which a sense of optimism for the future is being established within society, will continue to perpetuate suspicion and make toxic rhetoric look more seductive. The best antidote to this, as the late premier Constantine Mitsotakis used to say, is an informed citizen. Only, nowadays, it takes a lot of persistence and patience to be an informed citizen.