It is forbidden to see this picture -by Aris Hatzistefanou

According to the more recent decision of NCRTV 1 the Greek mass media are directed not to show images of poverty. Therefore, if we were in Greece, it would be better that Yiannis Kolesidi’s picture shown above from the food hand-out, should have stayed… between us.


 “There is nothing more mysterious than a television in an empty room. It is as if another planet comes in contact with you”.

Jean Baudrillard-


It was probably a moment of imperial embarrassment: Catherine the Great was inspecting the settlements on Dnieper’s banks in the company of one of her greatest lovers, Grigory Potemkin. Embarassment and fear of course, must have been deeply rooted in Potemkin who according to the story, had built fake villages to impress the empress and to hide the poverty which dominated his province and in many cases led to plague outbreaks.

Many historians, however, support today that this story is most probably an urban legend and that Potemkin simply ‘freshened-up’ the facades of buildings where Catherine the Great would pass by. Almost a century later in India the Maharaja Ram Singh would do the same when he became aware that his excellency, Albert Edward Prince of Wales, expressed his interest of visiting the city of Jaipur. Without a second thought he ordered the inhabitants of the city to paint all the houses… pink. In any case, both examples constitute an effort for the creation of a virtual reality.

Olympic prosperity


Although during the 18th and 19th centuries were the people who were called to hide their misery in favor of the sovereign ruler, the 20th-century – “the century of nations” as some people call it- finds the rulers trying to hide impoverishment from their people.

The Olympic Games,during which authorities remove the homeless and impoverished of the city with giant ”clean-operations”- are always the most typical example.From the United States to China and from Athens to London, the Olympic streets emptied of misery and were filled of fake bliss and sports irredentism. However, even with these historical precedents, the decision of the Greek National Broadcasting Council to indicate to the TV stations not to show footage of homelessness and impoverishment, seems unprecedented for the western world’s standards. Those who have traveled in Olympic Game’s missions from China to Saudi Arabia know the tricks used by regimes in order to conceal the social inequalities and tensions caused by them.

Regarding the indication of the National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV), which according to information, was made by personal intervention of Simos Kedikoglou (Government spokesman in 2004), the Broadcasting Council refers to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Constitution, ”due to which the respect and protection of human dignity is the primary obligation of the state ‘.

Wars without casualties


The decision may bring to mind an old saying of the veteran war correspondent Robert Fisk: ‘If the media, “said the well-known journalist,” were showing actual images of horror from the fields of military conflicts, wars would have ended long ago ‘. Thus in the social war underway in recent years in Greece, media take orders from the regime to conceal images of victims.

Perhaps, again, the Greek case cannot be adequately explained neither by Potemkin villages nor by tales of Robert Fisk. The modern media reality construction will resemble more the movie “Matrix” by Wachowski brothers: A regime of intelligent machines (let’s call them technocrats) keeps people enslaved to exploit their “bioelectricity” (let’s call it labor power). To avoid revolt, the regime creates a simulation of the real world-the so-called Matrix-, a new kind of virtual reality, in which a man can no longer discern whether or not he/she experiences the reality or its simulation. The brothers Wachowski will borrow heavily from the book by Jean Baudrillard “Simulacra et Simulation” -although Baudrillard would probably be pulling off his remaining pieces of hair with the way that Keanu Reeves attributed his theories on the big screen.

For other analysts “Matrix” and the current simulation of reality by the media, may resemble more to the theory of Plato’s cave: A group of people are living all their life chained in a cave with a flame lighting behind them. People spend their whole lives seeing only shadows, and believe that this is the real world. The difference is that now, the flame is replaced by the glow of the television screen.

Whatever theory and historical example we choose however, to describe the virtual reality of the media, media owners should beware: In “Matrix” people revolt when they finally learn the truth. As for the great military man and lover, Gregory Potemkin, his name will not be remembered in history for the fake villages but only because he lent it to the battleship Potemkin, which ignited the first spark of a true revolution.




  1. The Greek National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV) is an administrative authority that supervises and regulates the radio and television channels. It is a seven-member body, consisting of a President, a Vice President and five members, all appointed by the Greek Parliament.
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