The end of the world is nigh

According to recent reports in the Greek media, Washington is not at all enamored by Greece’s energy deal with Russia, after Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and President Vladimir Putin signed an agreement for the South Stream natural gas pipeline earlier this week. In fact, reports from Washington were almost polemic in tone, as if tiny, honest Greece were fighting for its energy independence on Russia’s frozen steppes. This development has irked the American superpower no end, so much so that it decided to circulate a non-paper to journalistic circles rather than make an official statement, according to some media reports. The truth, however, is that the US State Department lost very little sleep over the pipeline deal. Only a handful of Greek journalists asked an American official for a statement and he responded in the usual State Department fashion: that it is not good for any country to depend on any one company for its energy. The State Department circular simply said that it’s good business practice for Greece to seek alternative energy suppliers before becoming even more dependent on a company that already supplies it with 80 percent of the natural gas consumed in the country. In Greece this was interpreted as polemical in nature. But even Greece’s development minister, Christos Folias, agreed with the «non-statement.» As indeed would anyone with an ounce of common sense. Except, perhaps, Greek journalists. Dramatizing a situation has become the only thing we can rely on from some Greek media. Sometimes this goes too far, however, even to the point of distorting reality in order to create and fulfill the need for excitement. Nothing is presented in its true dimension. A win for the national soccer team is hailed as a victory for the nation’s spirit. A defeat is a «national disaster.» When an athlete wins a medal, you’d thing that we’d won a war. If the athlete fails a doping test, you’d think the Nazis were marching in. A deal involving just one more pipeline running through Europe has, according to Greek media, reduced the major powers of the world to nervous wrecks. A disagreement at a diplomatic forum is interpreted in terms of unbearable pressure being brought to bear. Even cucumbers at street markets are a big deal. If someone were to watch the «news» on television, they would think that Greeks are either dying of starvation or dying for want of cucumbers they can never hope to have. What happens though, is that this type of exaggeration either drives you mad or makes you numb. News bulletins have rendered us unable to tell what is important from what is not. George Bernard Shaw said, «Newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilization.» Imagine what he would have said if he’d seen a Greek news bulletin.