Blame Rhetorics: Affect and Resistance Against ERT’s Closure in Greece

ERT's building
ERT's building Credit © Greeklish, 2013

After the meeting of governmental partners, two opposite blame rhetorics about ERT’s closure or not have their own dynamic. Which are these dynamics and where are they based on?



Two blame rhetorics are fighting it out currently regarding ERT’s closure. The first, which New Democracy, the strongest coalition party and other neo-liberal groups and organizations around the world transcribe to is one of ERT as a corrupt, badly managed organization held hostage by parties, state and unions, unable to offer good public broadcasting, and therefore to be closed down with no public discussion or consent by the coalition partners, in order to create a new organization: the slimmed down, efficient, autonomous and independent (NERIT) set to broadcast from August 2013. The second blame rhetoric comes from all those opposed to ERT’s closure, who blame the state, government, politicians and the Troika of an overall anti-social, neo-liberal agenda which aims to abolish democracy, and create social and political cultures where management speak and the quest for profit become the beacon of successful countries seen as businesses (Greece recently was demoted to emerging market status) and not as nation-states with democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law, which global capital, as well as the state itself have to abide by.


These rhetorics are supported by an amalgam of ideologies. From libertarian -opposing the power of the state on the individual ‘ERT must cut off the umbilical cord with the state, party politics, and become a truly public broadcaster like the BBC; to neo-liberal – privatization of public enterprises to make them more efficient and competitive : ‘Let the market sort out ERT’; to communist – state broadcaster, ERT in this case as ‘propaganda machine for the government sustaining the rule by the bourgeoisie’; to the radical left: the closure of ERT as a coup against democracy in line with other neoliberal coups around the world; to populist ethnonationalim/fascism: ERT as a corrupted machine, enemy of the true Greek nation (Golden Dawn for example was not given airtime by ERT and calls this an undemocratic practice). 

In the case of ERT, affective responses to its closure spread rapidly through social media, also because mainstream privately owned media in Greece did not initially report it.


I am theorist focusing on new media and political communication with a special interest on activism and information technologies. ERT and the affect/resistance against its closure is signifcant case in the evolution/revolution currently occurring in this field of study. WikiLeaks, the Arab Spring,  Occupy, protests across the Med against austerity, protests against corruption and anti-democtratic politics (Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Turkey) have all been considerably supported and accellerated by digital everyday networked media. Far from supporting the idea that social media are responsible for these uprisings, I would like to point to the importance of their use to coordinate, publicize and sustain protests against neo-liberal policies put forward by national governements and supported by multinational corporations serving a transnational capitalist class.


In the case of ERT, affective responses to its closure spread rapidly through social media, also because mainstream privately owned media in Greece did not initially report it: the ERT broadcast was streamed around the world by various organizations and media movements (supported by the EBU and all sorts of international organizations linked to journalism and academic commmunications research condemened its closure), the ERT cause was taken up by Anonymous with hacks on greek state sites, and dramatic mobilizations took place in many cities in Greece, with creative and cultural components symbolically challenging the government’s positions. ERT is broadcast by its unemployed workers globally and the waves of support overall at the symbolic level are too many to mention.


Where does this resistance and overwhelming support leave the two opposing blame rhetorics which inevitably mirror political culture in Greece, but also elsewhere? I never believed in a neutral objective and positivist academia and so as I view it, the anger for Greece’s status in the world is chanelled though an active desire for change, reflected in the support for a new, creative, open, pirate, organically formed ERT, with a commons licensed archive, a public broadcaster to be pround of, or continues to remain a reactive vision implemented in policy terms, as an ERT shut and rebranded an ‘efficient’ modern public broadcaster.


NERIT is not that. It is the creation of bureaucratic state machine eager to blame others for its own failures, inconsistencies and corruption, eager to mimic not lead in communications, in order to prove it can be a successful business state and to regain developed country status. This is a political contest between state/capital/representative democracies and the multitude/direct/radical democracies, in which ERT will remain an excuse for mobilization, a case study on how not to do austerity politics, or an afterthought. Either way it is an event which must sustain dialogue in what kind of societies, based on what principles, we want to live in, irrespective of how well or not the state merely does as a business.


Epideixis and blame rhetoric is about the present, the critical rhetoric needed here has to be about the future of ERT and of Greece more broadly.


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