By William K. Black
Bloomington, MN: January 24, 2015
The New York Times’ coverage of the eurozone crisis remains execrable. Sometimes, however, it is so bad that it achieves brilliant, albeit unintentional self-parody.” The latest example is a column that, for the NYT, is in the top 5% of its efforts on Europe. Even at its best (least worst) the paper cannot help itself.
The January 23, 2015 column is entitled “After an Anxiety-Filled Campaign, Greek Voters Consider a Turn to the Left.” It does admit that Greece’s economic condition is horrific.
“After five years in which the country’s economy has shrunk by 25 percent and the number of jobless has risen far beyond what its creditors ever predicted….”
The column offers no explanation for why Greece was forced into a Great Depression by those “creditors.” Indeed, it does not provide the unemployment rate or note that seven years after the onset of the Great Recession Greece is trapped in a Great Depression that exceeds in length and severity its Great Depression of 80 years ago. The column later notes:
“[I]t is a measure of how beaten down Greece is that voters, polls say, may be on the verge of [voting for Syriza] despite a threatening drumbeat from European officials saying that Greece must abide by the creditor-friendly austerity policies laid down by Germany.”
At this juncture, the reader learns that Germany has inflicted austerity on Greece. The alert reader would also know that Germany did so to aid “creditors,” but not that those creditors were Germany and German banks. The reader would know that Greek unemployment “has risen far beyond” what Germany had predicted. The reader would not learn from the column that it was Germany’s insistence on the economic malpractice of responding to a Great Recession with austerity that (predictably) forced Greece into a worse-than Great Depression. The reader would not learn that the overwhelming majority of economists consider austerity as a response to a Great Recession to be the equivalent of bleeding a patient to make him healthy. The reader would not learn from the column that Germany also insisted that the Greeks engage in a war on their workers’ wages.
But most of all, in a column that purports to address why a plurality of the Greek people may vote for Syriza, the reader would not learn a key aspect of Syriza’s popularity. As in the sickest sadomasochistic relationships, Germany insisted that the Greeks humiliate themselves by inflicting sadistic acts against themselves. Greece’s ruling New Democratic Party (NDP) gave in to Germany’s sadistic demands that it act as a masochist rather than protect the Greek people from Germany’s depraved demands. Indeed, the NDP embraced masochism and claimed “there is no alternative” (TINA) to the masochism of embracing self-inflicted austerity. The sadomasochistic relationship was so sick that the Germans and their Greek puppets running the NDP created a cult that openly praised the necessity of using austerity to inflict “pain” and “suffering” on the Greek people. Two important reasons for Syriza’s popularity are that it has refused to become a German puppet inflicting austerity on the Greek people and it promises to end Greece’s slavish masochism and reassert that the Greek nation is a sovereign state dedicated to the welfare of the Greek people rather than German creditors and entitled to international respect.
The German leadership is “threatening” the Greek people because Syriza could, as in Latin America’s rejection of the austerity inflicted by the Washington Consensus that led to its “lost decade,” spark a series of democratic votes rejecting Germany’s hegemony and its sadistic and incompetent economic demands.
The NYT Fears a Rift Between Greece and its Sadist should the Greeks Reject Masochism
One might think that in 2015, with Germany’s insistence on using austerity to force Greece, Spain, and Italy into Great Depressions revealed as a catastrophic and even (grossly inadequate) stimulus in the U.S. having been shown to be a success, the NYT’s reporters covering Europe could shake their devotion to TINA or at least read Paul Krugman. Instead, the column on Greece contains this gem.
“For many [Greeks], the past few weeks have been brutal, not only because of the danger of a rift between Greece and its creditors….”
Yes, we wouldn’t want a “rift” to arise between Germany’s sadism and Greek masochism. Sadomasochism is the key for a healthy relationship.
The NYT Cannot Even Feign Objectivity in Covering Syriza
The column describes Sryiza’s party leader as the “leftist firebrand, Alexis Tsipras,” and proclaims that “he is untested, a leap into the unknown….” First, he is not “untested.” Tsipras has consistently met the test, for years, of refusing to support inflicting Germany’s sadistic austerity demands on the Greek people despite blandishments that Syriza could share in political power if it were willing to be a German puppet. Second, what has been “tested” for many years is Germany’s austerity demands and the willingness of its Greek puppets to embrace masochism. The result of the test has been a catastrophic failure.
The NYT’s Blindness about Media Control by the “Oligarchs”
If the NYT, in a purportedly straight news story uses the term “leftist firebrand” to describe Syriza’s leader it should provide what it considers an appropriate label to describe the NDP’s leader, Antonis Samaras. The reader is invited to develop such labels.
But none of us expect the NYT or the Wall Street Journal or the rest of our corporate media sources to play it straight when the issue is the struggle between elite corporations and the people. Ironically, the NYT column acknowledged that fact – but only in the context of Greece.
“Newspapers and television stations, under the control of Greece’s oligarchs, have fed Greeks a daily diet of frightening stories about what would happen should Mr. Tsipras prevail. His victory would mark the first time that a eurozone country would be led by a non-centrist government, and columnists warn on a regular basis that his ideas and inexperience could have dire consequences for Greece.”
Guess what – “newspapers and televisions, under the control of non-Greek oligarchs (such as the NYT’s Carlos Slim and the WSJ’s Rupert Murdoch), have fed Greeks, Europeans, and Americans a daily diet of frightening stories about what would happen should Mr. Tsirpras prevail.” Indeed, part of those daily diet attempts to frighten us include calling Tsipras “a leftist firebrand” and warning that Syriza’s success would be the first time a eurozone country was run by “a non-centrist government.” As I have explained, the NYT has described Syriza’s core principle as putting “ordinary Greeks” first. It is hard to imagine a more “centrist” principle. Embracing the sadomasochism of “austerity” is not a “centrist” policy, but an extreme ideological embrace of economic malpractice rejected (as Paul Krugman keeps explaining, and the NYT reporters keep ignoring) by the overwhelming majority of economists.
The “centrist” eurozone leaders are, in terms of their economic ideologies, wildly radical right. Syriza’s rejection of austerity is centrist in terms of economics. As I explained in another prior column, Greek wages were already so low before the crisis that even the troika’s austerity plan admitted that many full time workers were in poverty. The austerity plan for Greece sought to reduce workers’ wages substantially, creating for example sub-minimum wage categories such as young workers and the long-term unemployed. Lowering already very low wages when a nation is in a Great Recession not only increases human misery, it reduces the workers’ consumption, reducing already grossly inadequate demand and pushing a nation toward a Great Depression. Is that a policy the NYT consider “centrist?” In November 2014, five U.S. states voted on measures to increase the minimum wage. The measures all passed: in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
“There have been 15 states with minimum-wage ballot measures since 1996, and all 15 passed, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.”
Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota are controlled predominately by the Republican Party. Syriza’s economic positions are “centrist” even in terms of Red State America.
A Final Note
A corporate press owned by oligarchs makes a mockery of the term “free press.” It’s good that the NYT admits that fact, even if it cannot admit the implications of that admission.