The old game of politics and scandal

Via their endless scandalmongering, Greek media organizations are effectively helping the major political parties attain their chief goal, which is none other than to divert the attention of citizens away from the essence (their own inefficiency and lack of credibility) and confine political dialogue to the «safe» arena of the debate on corruption. This is a classic politician’s tactic which, however, has a boomerang effect as those who are actually guilty of corruption end up more exposed to public scrutiny. The politicians who exploit this tactic, and there are many, condemn (only to be condemned themselves) as they believe they will attract votes by tarnishing the image of their rivals. In reality though, the electorate is only really influenced by scandals in very extreme situations, and even then not for very long. All that happens is that public debate dwindles, citizens distance themselves from the political wrangle and become mere observers, entertained by the general hair-pulling and routing of individual politicians and parties. One side attacks and the other responds by digging up old accusations. One side revives the structured bond scandal, the other side responds with accusations of funds illicitly obtained from the European Union. Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, his deputy Petros Doukas and Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis are at the center of one swirl of allegations. Opposition PASOK’s general manager Yiannis Papaconstantinou is at the center of another. Politicians, journalists and television viewers have been having a field day. There is a complex hypocrisy afoot here. This applies firstly to politicians who have been exchanging fire within the established framework of political morality and the classic power game. In front of voters, these politicians appear intransigent, accusing one another of immorality and deceit. But in each other’s company, they are on first-name terms, exchanging smiles and courtesies. Meanwhile, journalists (despite their knowledge that history is repeating itself once again) try to present developments as new and unprecedented in order to make their bulletins more titillating. Viewers chastise the misconduct of politicians; but it actually suits them to poke fun at the large-scale corruption of the ruling classes as this eclipses the petty corruption within their own ranks. Deep down, these citizens doubt everything, the honesty of the politicians, of their commitments and promises, but they accept them as stereotypes in an ancient game. The worst thing of all is that widespread scandalmongering ensures that public interest remains superficial and fails to have an impact on the general political apathy.