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Grexit and the Greek referendum: Alexis Tsipras snared in right-wing media traps

Alexis Tsipras giving a speech on stage
Alexis Tsipras is doing his best to evade the forces who would seek to isolate him from his own people – Credit: Bloco

Greece’s set-piece referendum on repayments to creditors this weekend has brought to boil the potful of political and economic opiners in the western mainstream media.

The commentariat has wilfully set about demonstrating quite how unfit it is for the current purpose – if we generously assume that, somewhere, the commentariat still retains some vestige of general purpose.

Quartz’s senior Europe correspondent Jason Karaian this weekend wrote: “Those who earn the people’s mandate should know when to lead and when to follow. Tsipras has punted a tough decision to his people, when history suggests that it requires brave, proactive, and potentially unpopular leadership.”

But clearly Tsipras has taken this measure to make absolutely sure that he cannot be retrospectively accused of letting down the Greek people by not reflecting their will. He is absolving himself of the blame that his detractors abroad will direct his way in order to undermine the credibility of the only far-left government in Europe.

To imply that Tsipras is acting out of weakness or cowardice, rather than merely the same political pragmatism that his fellow European leaders routinely deploy, is to make the very calculated, presupposed, agenda-driven condemnations that Tsipras has anticipated by calling this referendum.

Descent into simpledom

The commentariat is trying to make Tsipras the fall guy, whatever he does. Tsipras in turn is not only trying to stand by his election platform, but prove that he still has mandate to do so.

Conspiracy theories are always deliciously tempting, seemingly low-lying fruit. But in this case the only other explanation – unwilful ignorance of a staggering proportion – is so brain-achingly unpalatable in its implications about our society and its descent into simpledom, that conscious mendacity on the part of our media might actually be the more desirable line.

Mainstream critics and commentators are reproaching Tsipras, as though he is merely underinformed, or failing to see ‘reason’. Yet Tsipras sees no less, in reality, than they. There is just an ideological difference.


But we are now so far gone in narrowing our frame of mind – whittling away in an endless quest for common acceptability – that we cannot even accept that an alternate stance exists.

Without that initial acknowledgement of where we actually stand, we cannot pick apart the alternate stance’s merits and its flaws, let alone plot a course to any compromise.

As Gene Kerrigan wrote in his column for the Irish Independent this past weekend: “The media would do itself a favour by examining its commitment to the right-wing delusion that nothing matters more than fiscal equilibrium.”

It remains ceaselessly irritating that anyone articulating anything left of the current dogma is barracked by everyone rich enough to shout loudly. The Left is not (at least, not only) the reserve of mindlessly nostalgic masochists who quite miss being batoned in student protests. It is, and can be, much much more – meanwhile we all suffer for the ignorance of those who continue to buy into this illusion.

The Left must concentrate on demonstrating that it possesses at least as much reason and purpose as any other centrist or right-wing political stance. That is the path to enlightening and moving forward the whole lot of us, at last. Whatever else Tsipras and Syriza are doing, they are at least striving at that.


Still, there is no reason why this damning indictment of the current fallacious entrenchment should make any more impact than the countless others that have passed before it.

Parts of our current society are dead, persisting only as a rotting appendage that has not yet been cut loose and cleaned up.  We must all keep trying to cut loose those dead parts, to advance and embrace at least the possibility of an alternative.

We must keep faith in our reasoning – a maxim that, alas, the establishment is following too.

Words: Sean Gibson

Image: Bloco

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