Questionable symbolism

When Costas Karamanlis addressed the general assembly of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV) on Thursday, he stood in front of a logo for Intracom, a Greek telecommunications equipment company. This symbolism was powerful enough to undermine the conservative leader’s rhetoric against political and business entanglements. Speaking under the Intracom banner was obviously not his choice. But this is not the point. To paraphrase a famous Chinese saying, a picture is worth far more than a thousand words. Of course, SEV has every right to promote the sponsors of its events. Nevertheless, displaying commercials as a backdrop for political leaders is improper. Having a political party leader speaking in front of an advertising banner shows poor taste as well as a lack of sensitivity to ethical and aesthetic issues. However, no one from New Democracy complained, so the offense is bound to recur. And this is not good for a prime minister who is already in hot water with a prominent businessman. The circle of business tycoon and Intracom owner Socrates Kokkalis, for example, has repeatedly slandered Karamanlis over the years. The fact that the SEV management got Karamanlis to speak in front of the Intracom logo was either an act of provocation or an act of folly. We are not in a position to know the true motives, but it would be interesting to hear what the organizers have to say on the issue. SEV President Odysseas Kyriakopoulos and the other members of the federation committed a major faux pas here. The rest of the blame lies with New Democracy’s spin doctors. It is unacceptable that they did not check out the hall hosting the prime minister’s address. Or, worse, they did check it but found everything to be just fine. New Democracy had a chance to avoid this quagmire entirely. The logo was visible earlier on Thursday during George Papandreou’s speech. It is hard to believe that no conservative official watched at least parts of Papandreou’s speech. Probably many did but no one spotted the obvious problem. And this failure speaks volumes about the effectiveness and political judgment of Karamanlis’s aides.