OPINION

Public relations stunts

The calls are loud, angry and universal: «Put the thieves in jail.» And there’s more than that, as people boo politicians and threaten to set Parliament on fire. In the wake of the massive protest which ended in tragedy on May 5, and only a few days after introducing the brutal International Monetary Fund austerity measures, the Socialist government has finally made an attempt to satisfy public sentiment. The switch started with some easy sensationalism. In a symbolic act, the government sent out bulldozers to demolish the remains of the Fantasia nightclub in southern Athens while Prime Minister George Papandreou and Environment Minister Tina Birbili looked on. Without meaning to question the government’s good intentions, we would like to see something of more substance, such as sending out the tractors, backhoes and wrecking cranes to the mountains of Parnitha and Pendeli or the Cyclades islands to carry out the long-outstanding duties of knocking down illegally constructed buildings – in other words, not abandoned buildings but luxury mansions with camouflaged pools. The naming and shaming of tax-evading doctors has similarly been reduced to a public relations stunt. In a breach of individual rights, the government has exposed citizens who have violated the tax code without prior permission from the prosecutor and without any court order. The naming and shaming is obviously aimed at quelling public rage. Meanwhile, the bogus invoices by big companies, the huge uncollected fines, the extensive tax dodging and similar cases are left to pile up. Such public relations stunts are mere populism. But this is not politics; no real solutions can come from this. This will not ease people’s anger, it will only throw more oil onto the flames. Political corruption, manipulation of the media, public relations stunts – this is how the country went down. Because we find ourselves in a state of emergency, we cannot afford to allow public relations propaganda and media spin to replace genuine politics.