Inflating the trivial

What would have happened 25 years ago if a ruling party MP had criticized his government through a local newspaper for being «light»? What would the reaction have been had a bishop called an ex-premier «diminutive in size and spirit»? At best, such incidents would be briefly mentioned on the inside pages of the publication. And yet the comments by Achaia MP Nikos Nikolopoulos and Bishop Amvrosios received extensive media coverage for over four days, giving fodder to all TV talk shows. Hordes of pundits pondered the deeper meaning of the remarks, analyzed the causes and the personalities of the protagonists, and explored the repercussions. Could the attention be due to the importance of these figures? Again, the answer is no. Nikolopoulos and Amvrosios were both jolted by the din that followed and immediately retracted their statements. The two incidents were played up in accordance with the criteria of television, not journalism – high ratings (the goal that motivates all private channels) and interference with political affairs driven by the hidden agenda of some media barons. The sensationalist element is common across the world and need not detain us here. It is political interference that poses the gravest danger. The recent furor is a typical manifestation of the latter objective. The media have not yet reached the point of fabricating the news. But they are already blowing insignificant events out of proportion, pushing them high on the political agenda. The recipe is plain. A news anchorman presents some trivial news piece and invites a couple of commentators to evaluate it. They explain why Nikolopoulos’s remarks threaten to topple the government, or why Amvrosios’s remarks should spark a separation of Church and State. Then comes the usual army of pundits, who parade across television screens inflating an insignificant event.