Posted by: Dirk | July 29, 2013

Greek opposition leader Tsipras and the conservative German media

The German conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) has interview Alexis Tsipras. Eight minutes and five questions into the interview Tsipras ends the session. FAZ now provides us with the script. Before I comment on what happened, here is some background information. Alexis Tsipras is the Greek opposition leader and has attacked the German government more than once for causing Greek’s economic troubles. FAZ has attacked him fiercely as a populist. Here is an excerpt from May 2012:

Das ist der ganze Tsipras: Seine Reden und öffentlichen Mitteilungen sind eine einzige Abfolge von leerem Gerede, Gewaltverharmlosung und pseudorevolutionärem Geschwätz. Sein Land sieht er im Kalten Krieg mit Europa: „Beide Seiten halten Atomwaffen in den Händen.“, sagte Tsipras im Gespräch mit  „“. „Unsere Kreditgeber besitzen als Atomwaffe die Einstellung ihrer Zahlungen. Wir dagegen drohen damit, die Begleichung unserer Staatsschulden zu stoppen. Allen ist aber bewusst, drückt einer auf den roten Knopf, dann gibt es keine Sieger. Nur Verlierer.“

Das an sich schon herausragende Ausmaß an Populismus, das die beiden früheren Volksparteien Nea Dimokratia und Pasok in den vergangenen dreieinhalb Jahrzehnten demonstriert haben, wirkt im Vergleich fast harmlos.

The full Tsipras, they say, is the following: his speeches and public announcements are only idle talk, belittlement of violence and pseudorevolutionary empty talk. The next sentences are about the “nuclear option” of creditors and debtor. The FAZ then continues to compare the populism of Tsipras to that of the other two former big parties and finds that Tsipras comes out top.

With this background, it must have been clear that Tsipras would perhaps not face a neutral newspaper, but a newspaper which has attacked him fiercely in the last years. I would have expected any journalist to be aware of this and hence start the interview with some meaningful questions. The problems of Greece, both political and economic, are big and here is the leader of the opposition in the Greek parliament. These are the five questions (I omit the stuff around them) the FAZ journalist posed (my translations, source here):

  1. The first question is maybe a bit odd for a first question of an interview but you will understand it later. Do you have a sense of humour?
  2. Can you laugh about this political cartoon (that I just described to you, featuring HItler and Merkel)?
  3. Do you think that this kind of talk (about Germany as the “Viertes Reich”) is appropriate as political speech in 2013?
  4. If these expressions (about the Viertes Reich) originated only from nationalist, why are you flirting with semi-fascist parties like the “independent Greeks”?
  5. In June 2012 you said that the governing parties humiliated and then delivered the Greek flag to Angela Merkel. What does that mean?

What I see from this style of interview is that the FAZ is not at all interested what Tsipras thinks about a) the state of Greek politics, b) the state of the Greek economy or c) the relation between Germany and Greece. They only seem to be interested in linguist nuances, deconstructing the meaning of things that were said. Now the FAZ says that Tsipras was confronted with his own words (question 5) and then left. I think that it was correct for Tsipras to leave. This was definitely not about journalism, this was a cross-examination by a conservative German newspaper of a left-wing Greek politician that is an insult to the journalist ethos: to find the facts and report them. Let me make that very clear: the questions that the FAZ asked are not off-limits, but they are questions for much later in the interview, after the politician has had a chance to talk about his views on things that are important to the reader. I doubt that the five questions asked by the FAZ were those that the German (conservative) public ranked on the very top.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: