Politics and journalism are intertwined; this is certain. The saying “journalism can take you anywhere as long as you quit early” is also true. In debt-ridden, morally and financially bankrupt Greece, many journalists have found that politics is a good job with great pay and excellent benefits. Journalism will take them to the coveted parliament seats.
Why not, a cynic might say. With unemployment at 27%, shrinking newspaper sales and a general climate of economic uncertainty, why not cash in on their recognizability and penmanship to draw voters.
In Sunday’s elections, a total of 57 journalists will ask Greek people to vote for them. In other words, they will tell them, “All these years we were feeding you propaganda and you thought we were informing you; now, can you vote for us, please? We are here to save you; and Greece.” After all, they have the gift of gab. They can use long words most people don’t understand, they can sound serious and knowledgeable and they can trash their partisan opponents in a public debate. If their opponents are not fellow journalists, of course.
Greek journalists appear to know everything about everything. They can tell you what mistakes the pilot made before the plane crashed, what will the U.S. President do to stop jihadists and how baboons mate when the weather is unusually hot. They will say these with conviction and will explain things to people in simple words so that their readership or viewers will understand, if need be.
They were unbeatable during these five years of economic crisis. Suddenly, most of them became experts in finance and international banking. They used financial terms with the ease of a seasoned New York City stockbroker. They analyzed the crippled Greek economy and offered solutions that only the close-minded officials of the Finance Ministry refused to accept.
Others offered their abundant sympathy to the suffering, poor Greeks. They were the shoulder to cry on, the ones to lean on, the ones to go to instead of the appropriate authorities when natural disasters hit.
Some of them were the ones who analyzed the corrupt political system that has robbed Greeks of their wealth and dignity. They acted as the protectors of civil rights, the defenders of democracy, the true voices of free speech, the last bastions against the “system.”
All these years they won people’s trust, while serving the party they belong to. Now it is time for them to collect.
The illness of the Greek Press is that it has always been partisan. Not political, just blindly partisan and one-sighted. A haphazard look at a newsstand, shows a bunch of tabloids with screaming, yellow headlines. Sometimes even the simplest news story acquires immense political significance. A comment by an uneducated politician — and there’s plenty of them — becomes a statement of grave importance, worth analyzing in hundreds of words.
Now, a few days before the elections, newspapers have worn their battle fatigues. The headlines are like those during World War II: We will beat them, their days are numbered, we will punish them, the traitors will die, the reds are coming to steal your wealth, the communists will destroy Greece, the headlines imply. Now you don’t even need to read between the lines.
Then there is the flip side: Greece will change for the best, prosperity is just around the corner, salary raises, less taxes, no more poverty, GDP began to rise, Europe is changing. Headlines alternate between fear and hope, hollow threats and promises that cannot be kept, utopian dreams and distorted reality.
Now the people who are responsible for these headlines, the preachers of polarization, the carnival barkers, the hate mongers (in some cases), come to us asking for our vote. They pose as Greece’s potential saviors. Steeped in corruption and clientelism while pretending they fight against them. For every scandal they exposed, there was another one they covered up because it was against the party they serve.
In other words, just like professional politicians, the people who were lying to the Greek people all along, they come with new lies. Lies decorated with a sprinkle of political theory. With the pretense that all this time, they were the objective fifth estate and friends of the people.
Of course, in a democratic society, everyone has the right to become a parliament member, like everyone has the right to work. After all, the Greek parliament has its share of bad actors, washed-out models and retired athletes along with journalists and talking heads. And right now, the House of representatives is the best employer there is in poverty-stricken Greece.