Please find below:
(1) A note from the American Hellenic Media Project (AHMP);
(2) The letters, commentaries and articles published by the Chicago Tribune in reaction to Longworth's article; and
(3) An important commentary by Newswatch editor Trevor Butterworth on U.S. media coverage of Greece's recent protests.
On November 28th, The Chicago Tribune published an opinion-editorial by senior writer R.C. Longworth ("Whose side are Greeks on anyway?") which began by asserting that "Greece might be the last truly Balkan nation" and concluded with the implied threat that one day Greece's "exasperated allies" might eject Greece from the West to the Middle East. In between, Longworth violated basic tenets of ethical and responsible journalism by attacking Greece and Greeks using factual misstatements and racist stereotypes (click here to view excerpts from Longworth's op-ed, included in AHMP's original protest distribution)
Within a matter of days individuals and organizations mobilized to write, e-mail and phone the Tribune en masse, both to protest the Tribune's publication of Longworth's misograecist op-ed as well as to urge equal space for alternative and more balanced viewpoints. The Chicago Tribune's editorial staff listened and, to their credit, within a week published numerous letters, commentaries and an article (see below). Tribune editorial staff indicated that most of the responses were published on the front page of the Sunday Perspective section, in the same place that the Longworth piece ran, in order to "maximize fairness." According to a 1998 listing by The Editor & Publisher Co., The Chicago Tribune is seventh in national U.S. newspaper circulation, and Bacon's 2000 Media Directories puts the Tribune's Sunday Edition circulation at 1,023,736.
The Tribune protest was an important success, not only for ethical and responsible journalism in America but for also offering us three concrete lessons that we can all learn from.
First, our press and media should not be viewed by Greek, Armenian and other concerned Americans as an indifferent and unassailable ivory tower. While the U.S. media's default is to unfortunately place the burden of proof squarely on our shoulders, experience has shown that the media can and often does listen to intelligent, reasoned and substantiated arguments by Hellenes and other excluded groups.
Second, what made this protest successful was, as the Tribune itself intimated, the "considerable reaction from readers and from figures in the Greek-American community." This success may very well signal an important symbolic milestone for the Diaspora community, indicating a maturing and a coming of age as Greek-Americans pooled their considerable talents and resources together to collectively address an issue of bias. The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) and many other of Greek-America's most influential organizations and individuals joined together to address Longworth's misograecist op-ed. The result should speak to the enormous effectiveness the Hellenic community can have in addressing anti-Hellenic bias when it does two very simple things: Unite and Act. The Tribune protest should serve as an important model to emulate for future collective responses to anti-Hellenic bias -- this is how our voices can be heard.
Notable mention should also be made of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) taking an active leadership role in the protest. Among the central purposes behind AHEPA's founding in 1922 was to counter anti-Hellenic and other bias. Its crucial leadership in the Tribune protest, in supporting Phil Angelides' courageous stand against genocide denial, and in addressing other recent issues involving bias demonstrate that AHEPA has energetically refocused its energies on its important founding mission in response to the marked increase in anti-Hellenic bias over the past several years.
Third, the Hellenic community's universal message of tolerance, human rights, non-aggression, democratic values, and truth and accuracy in media is beginning to be heard by those outside of their community. AHMP has received numerous e-mails that were forwarded to the Tribune by a diverse group of concerned individuals of non-Hellenic descent who were disturbed by the clearly biased nature of Longworth's attacks against Greeks. Moreover, as you will read in item (3) below, the Editor of NewsWatch (of the Center for Media and Public Affairs) wrote an important commentary on U.S. media coverage of Greece's recent protests -- most likely constituting the first time a mainstream American media organization recognized and addressed anti-Hellenic bias in the U.S. press. As with the identification of anti-Semitism with the larger civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s, this ecumenicism of our message is perhaps the most important milestone that can be reached, and is a reminder that so much more can and urgently needs to be done to address bias in our information establishment.
(2) The letters, commentaries and articles published by the Chicago Tribune in reaction to Longworth's article.
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Sunday, December 5, 1999
READERS REACT TO GREECE ANALYSIS
Last week's Perspective article "Whose side are Greeks on, anyway?" by R.C. Longworth provoked a considerable reaction from readers and from figures in the Greek-American community. Here is a selection of responses. They have been edited for space.
In his opinion piece "Whose side on the Greeks on, anyway?" R.C. Longworth uses the excuse of the demonstrations that took place in Athens during President Clinton's visit to indulge in a wild analysis of the Greek psyche. I think even he would concede that it is quite a stretch to connect the actions of about 5,000 demonstrators (out of a total Athens population of about 4 million) on a single day at the end of the 20th Century with the Reformation, Renaissance and Enlightenment. I wonder what fanciful explanation Mr. Longworth has for the behavior of the (estimated) 50,000-plus demonstrators in Seattle and parallel marchers in London. Did they also miss out on the "skeptical and cooler Western mind?" I am sure the AFL-CIO would be fascinated to know.
Even without the pretentious psycho-babble, Mr. Longworth's piece is beset with factual errors. Greece an inconstant ally? How does he account for World War I, World War II (both of which saw Turkey in the hostile camp or neutral), Cold War, Gulf War and Kosovo? Anti-Albanian? Mr. Longworth has clearly overlooked Greece's very helpful intervention (alongside Italy) in Albania in 1996 which prevented Albania from collapsing into civil war in the wake of the pyramid scams. Afraid of Macedonia? In fact, Greece is a major investor in Macedonia and its main trading partner. An awkward member of the EU? Greece is set to join the European Monetary Union in 2001 ahead of the UK. The northern port city of Thessaloniki is also the coordinating point for EU reconstruction efforts in the Balkans.
These are powerful positive factors. During his visit, President Clinton stressed them in describing Greece as the "powerhouse of Southeast Europe." This gets it right. No one, least of all the Greeks themselves, would claim that Greece is a flawless nation, but if criticisms are to be made, let us at least make them on the basis of fact rather than fantasy.
-- Nick Larigakis, American Hellenic Institute
I am deeply disappointed by the violently hostile attitude of your esteemed newspaper against a nation that has paid a dear price in supporting what America stands for. Mr. Longworth doesn't care much for history (apparently only Balkan fanatics and raving nationalists like the Greeks are obsessed with it). This may account for his blatant lack of knowledge (from a historical point of view, a man who speaks of "a millennium of rule by Byzantine and Ottoman emperors" isn't worth much) and his gross misinterpretation of the Hellenic ethos. However this doesn't explain his hatred of Greece (a peasant land! the quintessential Balkan nation!), his admiration for peace-loving "democracies" such as Turkey, or his comic threats. It the right of Mr. Longworth to consider himself a fine specimen of this "skeptical and cooler Western mind" he's so proud of. But when a newspaper like the Tribune endorses his distorted views, it is time to worry.
-- Dr. Ioannis N. Androulakis, Athens
U.S. press coverage has largely misconstrued the nature of Greek protests that contributed to President Clinton's decision to shorten his visit to Greece. Characterizations of the protests as anti-American or as stemming from nationalist sentiments are founded upon outdated notions of a country that has in fact matured into among the most progressive, stabilizing and globally oriented members of the European Union.
Although caricatured by some as reflexively pro-Serb and anti-Albanian during the war in Yugoslavia, Greece took in more Albanian refugees from Kosovo than any other EU country. While the Greeks were among the most vocal in opposing NATO's use of force against civilian targets in Yugoslavia, they were also among the most outspoken in demanding the return of all Albanian refugees to their homes in Kosovo. In fact, the same humanitarian concerns that underlay Greece's opposition to the NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia resulted in the outpouring of support by Greeks for the victims of Turkey's devastating August earthquake, resulting in a much-heralded thaw in Greco-Turkish relations. This is an example of forward-thinking globalism on the part of Greece, not chauvinistic nationalism.
A stalwart NATO and EU member, Greece has served as a valuable bridge between the West and Eastern Europe and has taken a leadership role in both stabilizing and democratizing its region using a sophisticated mix of economic and diplomatic incentives.
Our government's acquiescence to Turkey's military adventurism in the Aegean Sea, Cyprus and Iraq--while pooh-poohing Turkey's severe human-rights abuses against its Kurdish, Orthodox Christian and other minorities as well as against its own dissenting citizens --registers strong disapproval with most Greeks, who see a discrediting double-standard being applied in our foreign policy.
Despite their fiery demonstrations, Greeks continue to share a deeply held allegiance to America and its democratic vision for our world, as evidenced by Greece's fighting side-by-side with the U.S. in every major conflict since 1821. Current Greek frustration with the U.S. stems from the fact that our foreign policy has increasingly served to undermine this vision for the sake of shortsighted, parochial and decidedly un-American agendas.
-- George J. Dariotis, American Hellenic Educational Progressive Assoc.
-- P.D. Spyropoulos, American Hellenic Media Project
A FAIR PIECE
As second-generation Americans of Greek descent, my sister and I read Mr. Longworth's recent piece with interest. We found it fair and timely. Both of us have been troubled by the ambivalent political stand Greece has taken toward the United States. Our grandparents came from the Dodecanese Islands. They settled in Gary, Ind., and grew to love their new "hometown." They would be so sorry to witness the recent hostilities aimed at our president. It's true. Greeks must adjust their thinking before losing their foothold in the civilized world.
-- Michael J. Tsangaris, Kally J. Tsangaris, Merrillville, Ind.
Such ethnic-baiting founded upon derogatory stereotypes should have no place in a newspaper of the Tribune's standing. Broad characterizations such as people who have "tantrums" from "a peasant land" where "reason takes a holiday" and where "passion too often dominates reason" in comparison to "the skeptical and cooler Western mind" constitute racist stereotyping, but even more importantly, completely miss the point. Instead of trying to objectively describe the geopolitical situation in one of Europe's--and the world's--most unstable regions, in which case he would probably have to acknowledge the stabilizing role Greece is currently playing, Mr. Longworth wrote a hostile, anti-Hellenic propaganda piece clinging to outdated stereotypes and offering little insight into the realities of the Balkans.
-- Nicholas Rossis, Napier University
-- Ilektra Tzepoglou, University of Edinburgh
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Monday, December 6, 1999
SEATTLE PROTESTS LEAD TO AN EARFUL FROM ONE OBSERVER
by John Kass
[John Kass is a regular columnist for the Chicago Tribune]
The wrinkled old Greek was angry. He was disgusted by what he'd seen in the news.
"You saw the ugly face of that city. Thousands of screaming protesters. Anarchy and chaos. Private property destroyed. It was sickening," said my partially fictitious and annoying Uncle Theodoros.
"And President Clinton had to sit there, making excuses, humiliated on TV!" cried the old man.
He wasn't talking about Athens and recent protests there against our president for the bombing of Serbia. Instead, he was complaining about what happened last week in Seattle--Bill Gates' enlightened Emerald City and the modern metropolis of the Pacific Rim.
Thousands of frightened and angry Americans gathered to protest free trade and the World Trade Organization meeting.
It was ugly. Tear-gas clouds in the streets, blooming like evil night flowers. Cops in gas masks, insectlike in their armor, hacking with clubs. Young people on the ground, kicking, their faces distorted in screams.
"What's wrong with America? Does passion dominate reason in your country?" asked Uncle Theodoros. "Is yours a peasant land without a vision of a global free-trade future? Are you an emotional people opposed to commerce?
"And one more thing," he demanded. "Whose side are you on anyway?"
Ignoring the childish insults, I tried to explain things to the old geezer. I said the WTO meeting and the protests involved complicated and competing agendas--including investors buying into China and Vice President Al Gore's support from radical environmentalists in butterfly costumes.
But the driving force of the protests was fear.
It's the fear of global trade and good-paying American jobs being sucked into the Third World through deals brokered by multinational corporations that don't give a fig about any country or any people.
So American workers are worried. They're worried about how they can retire and send their kids to college while enjoying their exciting new jobs--cleaning toilets at airports for $5 an hour.
They're not operating out of cool dispassionate reason. Many of them are terrified. So why can't people like Uncle Theodoros understand?
"You Americans get so emotional," he snickered. "You're having a collective tantrum."
I was raised to respect my elders. But I can no longer endure the ridiculous nonsense of the partially fictional Uncle Theodoros.
So I've decided to cut him off forever, and tell an embarrassing story about him.
He's a construct of several late uncles, all Greek immigrants, including the true and actual Uncle Theodore, who ran a restaurant in Guelph, Ontario, during World War II.
One afternoon, a Dutch soldier showed up and pounded his huge fists on the counter. The giant Netherlander was as drunk as a lord and well over 6 feet tall. He was shouting that he wanted a steak.
Unfortunately, with the war on, there was rationing. The restaurant was prohibited from selling meat that day. The huge soldier didn't like the explanation coming from my short uncle.
So the Dutchman started to pound Uncle Theodore's head on the counter and shouted that he'd kill him.
Recently I read somewhere that experts believe Western European types--whom the true and actual Uncle Theodore would call "The Franks"--don't get too worked up and angry about things.
The experts say the Westerners don't let passion dominate their reason, because they went through the Protestant Reformation, the Enlightenment and other great moments of history. It is this pageant, the experts say, which has produced "the skeptical and cooler Western mind."
So how do they explain Robespierre, Fascism, Communism and angry people dressed up like sea turtles duking it out with the cops in front of a Starbucks in downtown Seattle?
Meanwhile, back in Ontario, the Dutchman skeptically and rationally cracking Uncle Theodore's noggin was busy. He didn't have time to discuss the Reformation.
But desperate Uncle Theodore turned, jumped up, and bit off the Dutchman's ear.
Howling, the Dutchman ran off. So did frightened Uncle Theodore. A few minutes later, an entire platoon of drunken but rational and skeptical Dutch soldiers, with fixed bayonets ransacked my uncle's restaurant.
Theodore had escaped. But he left his frightened brother Peter to escape the enlightened Netherlanders by hiding in the garbage can in the alley.
The next day, the local paper, the Guelph Daily Mercury, ran the story about the Dutchman's ear under this headline:
"Greek Eats Meat on Meatless Tuesday!"
And the moral of the story, as Kipling might say, is: If you can keep your ears, while those about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you, you'll be an enlightened man, my son.
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
December 2, 1999
TORONTO -- R.C. Longworth writes in "Whose side are the Greeks on, anyway?" that if the Greeks don't decide "where they belong. . .One day, their exasperated allies may settle the issue for them." How will the "exasperated allies" do it? Throw them into Turkey's gaping jaws? The Kurds will have companions.
NEW YORK -- The answer to R.C. Longworth's "Whose side are Greeks on, anyway" (Perspective, Nov. 28) is simple: They are on the side of democracy.
In a democracy, the citizens of a country have the right and freedom to express their views without experiencing repression by the state. Unlike its neighbor Turkey, Greece did allow its people to express opposition to the policies they deem as detrimental to the stability of the region.
Expressing opposition to certain policies does not necessarily mean that the people of Greece are anti-American. They are against the continued occupation of Cyprus, and they are also against the constant violation of Greece's territorial integrity in the Aegean by Turkey, a country that America supports without imposing any conditions related to compliance with international law and norms.
Forbidding protests that may seem embarrassing to government officials is not a way to solve underlying problems. Past experiences indicate that such repression produces contrary and negative results. The outcome of repression is the eventual disintegration of the democratic institutions of a country.
And a good example of that is Greece's neighbor Turkey, which is totally controlled by the military and deemed undemocratic for membership in the European Union.
To question Greece's loyalty to the West and America is to completely disregard Greece's record and tremendous sacrifices during World Wars I and II, the Cold War, Korea and the Gulf War.
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Saturday , December 4, 1999
Section 1, p. 5
REPORTER PLEADS GUILTY TO LESSER CHARGES
A Chicago Tribune staff writer arrested last weekend while covering a fire pleaded guilty Friday to misdemeanor charges of battery and resisting arrest as prosecutors dropped the more serious charge of aggravated battery to a police officer.
Richard C. Longworth, 64, entered the guilty plea before Associate Cook County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Chambers to one charge of resisting arrest and two counts of battery. Chambers imposed a sentence of court supervision for one year, which allows for expungement of the conviction at the conclusion of the term, said Longworth's lawyer, Andrea Zopp.
Police said that Longworth was in his car of the 1500 block of North Park Avenue about 11:55 a.m. Nov. 27 when two officers asked him to leave before arresting him. He had stopped to investigate a fire in the neighborhood.
(3) An important commentary by NewsWatch editor Trevor Butterworth on U.S. media coverage of Greece's recent protests. NewsWatch is a part of the Center for Media and Public Affairs.
December 2, 1999
They just rioted in Seattle, but in Athens they bared their souls.
By Trevor Butterworth
The rioting that greeted President Clinton's brief visit to Greece on Nov. 20 proved exasperating for some in the media. "Just as the President was arriving, a police cordon turned back hooded protesters around the U.S. embassy; protesters responded by firebombing banks and businesses... A large and vocal section of Greek opinion, it seems, remains out of step with the values that today define the West," chided a Wall Street Journal editorial.
"At a time like this," wrote Chicago Tribune senior writer R.C. Longworth, "the Greeks seem determined to live up, or down, to the worst stereotypes of Balkan emotionalism," adding that in this "peasant land...Passion too often dominates reason."
In light of the rioting that greeted the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle this week, the admission that the security operation failed to contain, let alone arrest the small number of anarchists and fringe groups bent on violence, and the condemnation for using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters, criticizing Greece for the way it behaved during President Clinton's visit smarts of hubris.
The West on display outside and inside the WTO committee-room meetings found a lot to disagree about; and when it comes to disputes, each side always judges the other guilty of an excess of passion over reason. Consider President Clinton's Seattle plea for Europe to reconsider its ban on American hormone-treated beef "in an open, fair, scientific way."
The emotionalism on the outside was of a different order, but the fact is the issues inside have far higher stakes. Ultimately the failure to agree on world trade disputes provides an opportunity for international political mayhem. Nonetheless, the focus was on what happened outside, much as the media coverage of Mr. Clinton's Greek visit was distracted by the mob downtown. Seattle Mayor Paul Schell's comment that he felt "sick" at the thought of the National Guard in "our beautiful city" was widely reported, and almost every reporter and commentator concluded that a minority of activists was responsible for the rioting.
But what does this all say about the American character? Not much beyond valuing freedom of expression.
Riots, in the West at least, are usually the prerogative of a small group hankering for the kind of media attention the sight of burning cars, riot police and bloodied protestors inevitably brings. Sometimes, it is spurred by the hope of "revolution," sometimes, these people just like to fight. In London this week, no more than 200 or so "anti-capitalists" brought parts of the city to a standstill by torching cars and battling police, with revolutionary damages put at approximately $2.5 million dollars. Yet few would think of attributing this to some deep-seated irrationality at the heart of the British character that has profound international implications.
Few too would adduce any real political significance - an instance of a sea change in America or the existence of an anti-global trade movement to rival that of the anti-war movement during the Vietnam era - to what happened in Seattle.
It should not be terribly surprising then to note that all but the most partisan of the Greek media recoiled in shock at the riots in Athens. As J.C. Hadoulis wrote in his Nov. 21 Press Watch column for the English language Athens News: "Naturally, the undivided attention of the Greek press was held fast by the havoc wrought by small groups of instigators, who wrecked the city center while riot police followed them at a respectable distance. Ta Nea wrote that the entire area from Syntagma to Omonia was smashed up over Clinton's visit, a thought taken slightly further by Athinaiki, which reported that Athens was burnt for Clinton's sake, while Ethnos spoke of a diplomacy carried out by hooded instigators."
In other words, the mainstream media in Greece and America reported the same kind of events in similar ways - a sense of normal life trapped by political agitprop and a blundering police response. But when it came to Athens, these facts were simply not enough for some in the media.
When Journalism Isn't History
And so to explain why the Greek protests told us something about the nature of Greece, The Wall Street Journal argued that "Greece is the only country on the continent, for example, in which indigenous terrorist cells still operate; the Greek government has never succeeded in arresting a single member of the notorious November 17 gang. There is also a long record of giving aid and comfort to foreign terrorists, such as the now captured Kurdish PKK-leader Abdullah Ocalan. These attitudes toward terrorism, moreover, are of a piece with Greek attitudes toward their Balkan neighbors" [i.e., passive support for Serbia during the NATO air campaign.]
This conflated series of criticism plays with semantics. However, at the time it was written, the Irish Republican Army had not disarmed, nor had it given an assurance that it would. That assurance has only come in recent days.
Furthermore, in order to help broker peace, the leaders of all parties with "terrorist" wings in the North of Ireland (a member of the EU if not geographically on the "continent") have been feted across America, and even in the White House itself.
Peace is also a recent - and fragile - phenomenon in Spain, where the "terrorist" organization ETA killed over 800 people in its campaign for an independent Basque homeland. ETA are currently threatening to end their ceasefire. The Red Army Faction, a successor to the notorious Bader Meinhoff group, also still exists in Germany, despite the arrest of many of its top leaders, according to the State Department; and Italy's Red Brigades, though silent, have not officially disbanded.
The threat of indigenous terrorist action in Europe is, in fact, developing in new ways, from bombing campaigns by animal liberation activists through to systemic racial violence by hard -right and neo-Nazi organizations. Would that the tiny November 17 was indeed the only "indigenous terrorist" cell in Europe.
The Kurdish issue is by no means one-sided either - after all we owe the tautology "safe-haven" to post-Desert Storm attempts to protect Iraqi Kurds from Saddam Hussein. When it comes to Turkey's Kurds, however, the West has equivocated. The EU, particularly Germany, has singled out Turkey's persecution of its Kurdish minority as a barrier to Turkey joining the European Union while the United States, by and large, has been more forgiving.
And as for opposition to NATO's campaign against Serbia, Greece still accommodated NATO military requests despite general public opposition to the air campaign. (They also took in the largest number of Kosovo-Albanian refugees of any Western country.) Yet throughout Europe and America, many political groups and policy experts, opposed or criticized the NATO campaign. Why single Greece out on these issues? And why sneer at dissent that would be tolerated on the pages of the Wall Street Journal itself?
As for Longworth describing Greece as "schizophrenic," "a quintessential Balkan nation," that refuses "to take responsibility for its own affairs," crippled by "brooding victimization, an obsession with history and a reflexive hostility toward neighbors." It's not simply a question of whether these kind of characterizations would be tolerated if applied to other ethnic groups, it's a question of whether these cliches end up substituting for explanations. And when complexity is reduced to a rhetorical flourish, or a sneering phrase, when facts are ignored or distorted to make an argument, you can be sure that journalism has turned into politics by other means.
In trying to explain why a small number of Greeks rioted in Athens, one has to ask why two newspapers made the leap to beating up on Greece itself?
Trevor Butterworth's article can be found at http://www.newswatch.org/December%20stories/Blaming%20Greece%20120299.htm
Recipients of this e-mail are encouraged to send a brief note of encouragement to Mr. Butterworth and to NewsWatch at: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
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