Tuesday 20 July 2010

Sokratis Giolas and Greece Today

Yesterday another shocking death, that of journalist Sokratis Giolas, broke on an unsuspecting public. Mr. Giolas was executed outside his home by at least two people, apparently wearing bulletproof vests and police uniforms. At least 16 cartridges were found at the scene: he was finished off with three shots to the head.

Giolas’ death adds to the increasing list of meaningless deaths suffered as a result of political violence or terrorism so far this year (and there are probably more incidents not on this list):

·         On March 29th, a 15-year old Afghan immigrant was killed by a bomb outside the offices of the Hellenic Management Association. The boy was rooting through garbage for food or items to trade—his mother and sister were injured in the attack.

·         On May 5th, three employees of Marfin Bank, one a pregnant mother, were killed in a Molotov bomb attach on their branch at Stadiou Street.  

·         On June 24th, a letter bomb exploded in the offices of the Ministry of Citizens Protection, killing a 50-year old police officer.

The international press have carried the story widely. In parallel, a furor has sprung up on the blogosphere and social media as to why this particular journalist would have been the target of a terrorist organisation known as the “Sect of Revolutionaries”, or whether this was some form of political assassination. Mr. Giolas is reported to have been a founder/ contributor of the troktiko blog, which carried a range of stories, some sensationalist, some not, on corruption and conspiracies in Greece.

I have no opinion to express here of Mr. Giolas or his reporting. I can only hesitate to think what could have been so terribly secret that he would have been assassinated: after all, there are great crimes occurring in Greece in broad daylight.

But beyond any kind of attempt to rationalise the event, as I’ve been trying to do since yesterday, there is simply a feeling of emptiness and sorrow. Sorrow that Greece has come to this. And emptiness, because it seems the only way one can inure oneself from the downward spiral that has become an everyday reality is to ignore it.

More and more, life in Greece is resembling something from a Don Dellilo novel I read a long time ago, The Names. In this case, I suppose that nothing has really changed. For anyone who has not read it, I strongly recommend it.


  1. Sokratis was loved and respected by everyday people.

    He could choose to become corrupt, blackmailing his way to power like many other greek journalists, or he could choose to just keep distance from dangerous stories, like even more greek journalists.

    However he chose instead to publish everything with courage and no care about who or what it involved.

    He lived in an average house, drove an average car, had a beautiful, humble family. He was the father of two children, the second not yet born. God, why them?

    His only mistake was that he underestimated the monstrosity that some people can hide.

    We mourn for him, for his beautiful wife, for his little angels.

    But who we should be mourning even more is us. Because through our indifference and incompetence we allowed the domination of corruption and injustice in such a degree that unterrorized, integer voices of truth are so scarce that can be fascistically silenced with bullets.

    If we ever forget Socratis we will be worthy of our dark destiny.

  2. A commentary by Alexis Papahelas in the Kathimerini English edition, which describes quite well how many of us undoubtedly feel.


    A dark new world
    By Alexis Papachelas

    I sometimes feel like Greece is sliding backward but, for some reason, we fail to see this. In May, three bank employees were killed after a group of individuals threw a firebomb into their place of work. The police have not yet found the perpetrators, despite indications that they belong to a relatively known circle. More recently, somebody mailed a parcel bomb to the office of Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, killing one of his close aides. This week, a journalist was gunned down in cold blood in a manner that is more common to Colombia or Mexico. These three incidents have done more to harm to Greece’s image than any number of Moody’s downgrades.

    But can we really understand how the rest of the world sees us? And how strange it must seem to them that we more or less adjust to it all after just a few days? I really don’t think we do – or we would not let every thug or prisoner use their mobile phone to send instructions for the next strike.

    Greece’s pustules seem to have magically joined forces, posing a threat to democracy and social cohesion. A group of people have in recent years turned violence into a profession but we have always failed to react until they went too far, like in the December 2008 riots. Local mafia groups have also expanded, exploiting the overall impunity that has seen civilians installing police sirens in their cars. The shooting of Sokratis Giolias exposed another gray area – that peculiar type of journalism that ranges from revelations to slander-for-money. This is not a reference to the victim or any people who may have indeed broken fresh ground with revelations posted on blogs and so on. It is rather a reference to the exchange of threats, the targeted attacks and other unorthodox forms of reporting that have emerged. As a society, we have allowed this strange dark world to flourish.

    When these three pocks on the face of society came together, it was only natural that we would see vitriol and, eventually, deaths. The police must do what they have to and track down the perpetrators. The rest of us must ask ourselves whether we want to go down a path that is turning Greece into a caricature of a European country.