This column began with every good intention of seizing the opportunity given by Ridley Scott’s new film Napoleon to examine claims that the former may be of ethnic Greek extraction, including arguments that he hailed from the imperial lineage of the Komninoi by way of Mani (via the Stephanopoulos family), or that he spoke Greek (as evidenced from his correspondence with his sister). Moreover, there are claims that the surname Bonaparte is a translation of the Maniot last name Kalomeros or Kalimeris, which exists in the region until today. All this adds to the legend that had he not been exiled, he would have set his sites on liberating Greece from Ottoman rule, including reestablishing an Eastern empire with Constantinople as its capital. Conjectures of the Bonaparte family’s crypto-Orthodox beliefs are reinforced by Napoleon’s decision to crown himself emperor and slight the Pope.
Sadly, current events, dictate that this discussion be postponed following TNH breaking a story regarding the concern expressed by the Greek Government to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew over the situation in the Archdiocese of America. The fact that Patriarch Bartholomew chose to disclose this matter to the Holy and Sacred Synod can be interpreted to mean that he indirectly wanted to leak it and set the ball in motion for whatever developments are to follow.
The current Archbishop of America butted heads with the bearer of the government’s message, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandra Papadopoulou back when she was ambassador to the U.S. and asked the Archbishop to skip the opening ceremony for the now infamous Turkish House in New York, which is presently at the center of an FBI investigation surrounding allegations that NYC Mayor Eric Adams received baksheesh from Ankara. The Archbishop rejected the Greek Government’s request, drawing the ire of both Greek and Cypriot authorities, as well as the Greek-American Community.
However, the issue at hand is not mistakes of the past, but present-day blunders. In an ill-advised attempt to quell the negative publicity arising from this latest leak, the Archbishop’s communications advisers seem to have launched a counteroffensive, targeting media and reporters who are critical of the Archbishop. Pressure appears to have been put on Greek-American organizations and leaders to undertake similar actions, inevitably causing a rift within the Community and ultimately weakening the Greek Diaspora. The letters sent by the current AHEPA Supreme President, and then by a Leadership 100 member to the Ecumenical Patriarch is case in point – especially since some of the language it contains is problematic, to say the least. Moreover, the fact that the first was sent on official AHEPA letterhead entangles the entire organization in a matter that involves the Greek Government and the Archbishop, where neutrality would have been the best course of action.
The decision to respond to negative stories with character attacks suggests that panic has prevailed over good sense. The question now remains whether this specific strategy was chosen by the Archbishop himself or his communication advisers. Regardless, this imprudent response constitutes a critical public relations error.
Attempts to refute a claim by resorting to character attacks constitute what is known as the ‘ad hominen’ logical fallacy. Ad hominem attacks usually have nothing to do with the claims being refuted and attempt to mislead the audience by creating a diversion, precisely because the grounds with which to refute said claim are weak. Even first-year university students know that the best way to respond to negative press is through positive publicity and to never repeat the opposing claims. Instead of engaging critics head on, what the Archbishop’s communication team should have been doing is setting up meetings with members of the Greek Government to dispel rumors of a rift and announcing substantive initiatives regarding a series of issues aimed at uniting the Greek-American Community, not dividing it. It is rather remarkable that someone as media savvy as the Archbishop, who so carefully crafted his public image prior to his arrival in America through a series of PR initiatives, could fall into such serious communication errors.
The fact remains that if the Archbishop’s team continues on this course, the Greek-American Community will become progressively more introverted and fragmented, which will inevitably affect its relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well as the Greek and Cypriot Governments. This is a development that Hellenism cannot afford at this critical juncture. There is too much at stake, and the personal aspirations of any one person simply don’t fit into the equation.
It’s hard to tell if the situation can be rectified at the point that it has now reached, but at least some damage control can be exercised if the Church and Greek-American organizations refrain from petty finger pointing and logical fallacies that are most unbecoming of their mission.
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