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Fallacy: A misconception resulting from incorrect reasoning

In November 1920, Greek voters went to the polls and sent prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos packing. Venizelos, modern Greece’s most brilliant leader and an international statesman of caliber never seen in these shores before or since, had just completed the grand scheme of almost tripling Greece in size and winning the support of (some of) the Great Powers for realizing the Nation’s dream of uniting all the Greek populations of Asia Minor with the Motherland. None though of these monumental achievements seemed to count with the voters, who had other, more pressing, concerns in mind that ultimately proved enough to scuttle what amounted to a veritable miracle of statesmanship. Such was Venizelos’s rout at the ballot box that even he, himself, failed to be elected to parliament.

One of the many anecdotes of the early reign of King Otto, the first king of modern Greece installed on the throne by the Great Powers in 1832, recalls how the young Bavarian prince turned Greek sovereign would be confronted by his new subjects over appointments and perks.

Turbaned, kilt-wearing roughs, carrying scimitars and engraved pistolas, men who had spent the previous decade or more fighting the Turk in a pitiless war of extinction, would arrive at the palace, petitions in hand, to almost invariably ask for pensions, cash awards, and commissions in the army that did not really exist. The Kingdom of Greece, and its paltry budget backed by the Rothschilds of London, could barely meet all these demands which, if honored in full, could have easily scuttled the anemic little state’s finances. Nevertheless, the petitions kept coming and King Otto’s Bavarian advisors kept frowning over their high collars at the cheek of these Greeks.

Politicians, unlike most other professions, do get repeated chances at their chosen occupation, save a few glaring cases here and there. With politics involving a large element of drama and theater, the ability of one to deliver adorned and often downright irrational, but pleasing, “explanations” of events that seem quite straightforward -- theft is theft, corruption is corruption, embezzlement is embezzlement -- is a key element of political success. The more a particular group of voters is susceptible to such bare-faced pantomime, the longer the service life of politicians who have learned how to manipulate the facts, turn black into white, make diamond out of quartz, and prove the Earth is flat.

Greece is about to suffer yet another early election and, as always, this is the time to begin thinking again about the promises and pronouncements of its politicians, especially those with a relative expectation of success at the polls.

Politics is a dastardly business. Very much depends on how things look, not on how things truly are. And here lies a major quandary for a good and honest politician (although some would argue that no such organism exists in Nature). Good intentions and grand schemes cannot be realized without one being elected -- and one being elected requires, more often than not, a good deal of painting the future in bright colors that do not really exist. No politician in history, save perhaps a few great men in times of dire crises, has won a majority following by promising back-breaking toil, years of hunger, and staying out in the cold without a firm expectation of returning to the warmth of the hearth "at the end of the tunnel".

On September 2, terrorists parked a minivan packed with explosives outside the Athens bourse and, shortly before 6 a.m., delivered a huge blast. This latest “Baghdad bomb” only a short distance from the heart of Athens produced a rumble audible to many southern sections of the city; caused serious damage to the bourse and surrounding buildings; and demolished parked cars located as far away as 200 meters from the “epicenter” of the explosion. A female passerby, several blocks away, was slightly cut by flying glass.

Despite the seriousness of the attack, and other than thanking the invisible higher forces for the absence of human casualties, Greek authorities, politicians, and media took everything in their stride. There was little immediate indication that the blast triggered the kind of focused, maximum-revolutions investigation that is routine in other countries when a terrorist incident of this (or even lesser) magnitude occurs. Indicative of the well established mindset, not to say the unbroken “format,” surrounding the supposed pursuit of domestic terrorists in Greece, media interest in the bourse bomb dissipated as quickly as the smoke from the explosion, overwhelmed as it was by the proclamation of early elections some 24 hours later.

Summertime in Greece is traditionally a period of letting sleeping dogs lie, a time when most people retreat into the slumber associated with the holidays and the general slowdown across the spectrum.

This is the time when unpalatable facts and figures are generally removed from broadcasting the “news”, with program schedulers going en masse for inane “human interest” topics; the latest on the price of ferry boat tickets; and such volcanically important announcements as the latest trysts of popular female reality television hosts and the saucy developments in the bottom feeder “glamour” sub-culture populating Greece’s “glittery” islands.

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