Unshaken habits

The earthquake does its job as we do ours. It shakes the earth as we cling to our timeworn habits. Relieved that the tragedy that had been foretold did not come to pass on Sunday, we hastened to air the same minor melodrama, as predictable as the seismic aftershocks. The headlines remain unchanged, with the term «brawl» changing in the subheadings for the sake of specification: «Brawl between government-seismologists,» «brawl between seismologists,» «brawl between seismologists-journalists.» Only the airtime of the so-called VAN group of Greek seismologists has shrunk. Every time has its myth. The brawl between the government and a group of seismologists is not just over funds. It’s also about politicians’ reactions to scientific warnings, their tendency to file them away in a bureaucratic maze, believing as always that their will is stronger than any scientific views. The scuffle between seismologists and geophysicists has been ongoing for nearly as long. The arguments from both sides are not, however, always scientific. Except for differences between the different schools, the struggle for funds and power, fame and publicity is ever present. Such friction tends to obscure. It is also a source of tension despite repeated reassurances that there is no cause for concern. The conflict between experts and journalists is no less vague or tense despite the fact it is meant to inform and appease the public. The question here is: Who is an expert? Judging by the scornful, prosecutorial gaze of various stars of TV journalism, one must conclude that a true specialist is the one who has access to the media rather than the one who is invited because of his expertise. And if the gaze of the academic is frightening at times, it’s nothing compared to the rage to be seen in the gaze of some people when there was no drama in the end and therefore no spectacle.

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