Fascism means I do not tolerate difference; a different opinion or a different way of life. McCarthyism means I turn against anyone who disagrees with my ideas and demonize them. This country has seen McCarthyism of the right- and left-wing variety. Self-styled patriots had no qualms about labeling a “traitor” anyone they happened to disagree with and self-styled “rebels” treated their ideological adversaries in the same way. Their ideas were vastly different, but their techniques, their ways of seeking to humiliate the opponent, were very much the same.
The result was that the country often became caught up in delusions and fabricated realities, simply because no one dared speak the truth. The few politicians who mustered the courage to do so had to settle for post-retirement credit.
These days, it’s far harder to express your opinion without being subjected to public ridicule. The news media is caught between clashing rocks. The left-right dichotomy has been overcome. But on the one hand we have the political correctness police, which is ready to shame anyone it does not approve of.
The modern-day Robespierres have substituted the guillotine with trolling and character assassination on social media. The phenomenon is still not that widespread in Greece. Internationally, however, it is out of control. The toppling of statues without a sense of boundaries or moderation is a sign of what is happening. On the other, we have the beast of far-right populism, which is ready to attack anyone who deviates from its gospel.
These are the modern-day clashing rocks that are smashing reason, culture, even democracy. In the midst of such an assault we need to wage a battle to protect freedom of expression, to inject with courage those decent and honorable people who are reluctant to enter the furnace of public conversation. Social media has become a dangerous tool that in theory reinforces the right to free expression but in practice ends up stifling it. Everyone is angry. Fanaticism and paranoia are overflowing. People are becoming targets of harassment. Not everyone can stomach the unbelievable allegations leveled against them.
We at Kathimerini have decided that we will navigate a restrained course between these rocks. We host different opinions and we protect the freedom of our writers, who often disagree deeply with each other. Sure, we sometimes make mistakes. Someone is always carried away by the inability to fill an entire column with profound thoughts and ends up resorting to superficial analyses.
And there have been cases of offensive phraseology that insults reasonable sensibilities. We are open to criticism; our ears are wide open. However, we are obviously not interested in a debate on whether the statue of Eleftherios Venizelos should be knocked down due to some footnote of history.
And we are certainly not interested in the hooligans of public speech, whether they belong to the faction of political correctness or the faction of those who see themselves as the exclusive agents of patriotism. Calls of “kick him out,” “beat the traitor” or “shut up” will be ignored. We won’t allow anyone to impose the fascism of our times.