Clear messages of public disapproval

The results of an opinion poll published in last Sunday’s Kathimerini reveal some very important messages which are quite clear and indisputable. For example, an overwhelming majority of the Greek public (99 percent) believes that destroying public property and going on destructive rampages are unacceptable ways of showing opposition to government policies. Further, 79 percent of those polled object to the occupation of government offices and road blockades as forms of public protest and 72 percent do not agree with sit-ins at schools and universities. On the other hand, 76 percent believe that demonstrations and strikes are acceptable forms of public protest. Many will interpret the results of this survey as being indicative of a conservative shift in society. Although it may be true that the Greek public has become more conservative, this is not reflected in the particular survey. Most of these commentators will repeat the cliche about the negative influence of the media, which spends an excessive amount of airtime broadcasting images of violence from street protests. But this is probably one point on which most of us would agree – namely that the role of the electronic media is pretty despicable in this regard. Television channels only broadcast tense situations when they have sensational images to run alongside their commentary. The savage beating of a student by a group of plain-clothes policemen, on the anniversary last November of the 1973 student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic, would not have been covered if there was no scintillating camera footage to accompany it. One thing is certain: there is no great conspiracy by television channels to abolish university immunity – the constitutional provision barring police from entering university grounds without prior permission. A cynic would say that channel heads should adore this system of asylum as it is a source of abundant material for them. Every now and again, a group of hooligans gathers inside a university building, clashes with police invariably follow and TV channels cover the thrilling developments. The vile aspect of the channels’ role is not that they adopt stance A or B. In any case, all the channels show more or less the same images – masked youths throwing Molotov cocktail bombs in clashes with police. The saddest thing is that the news agenda is dictated by the images channels capture on camera. A topic of lesser significance with good images is more likely to run. Without images, even the end of the world would be relegated to eighth on the news line-up, above the sports. Last Sunday’s survey showed that Greeks are fed up with widespread lawlessness being justified by many different alibis. And the media haven’t hesitated to exploit this public exasperation with the images they broadcast.

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