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Columnists

When Party Caprice Is the Only Standard, the People Suffer

Whatever one’s feelings on the outgoing U.S. administration, the high-handedness of big tech and the unapologetic subjectivity with which social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others have engaged in censorship has set a dangerous precedent that will hang ominously over the nation and the world. Oddly enough, these are the same platforms that strategically collaborated to trigger “color revolutions” around the world and destabilize regimes opposed by the West. They are also the very same outlets that cry bloody murder when they are banned in countries with oppressive regimes.

If the press and news media have traditionally been referred to as the “fourth estate,” then big tech and social media platforms could easily lay claim to the title of “fifth estate.” With these corporations running unchecked and increasingly involving themselves in politics, policymaking, and online citizenship, it’s only natural to worry over the lack of checks and balances in place to reign in the inherent tendencies of these immensely wealthy and powerful enterprises to play the role of ‘Big Brother’ or political commissar.

Any political party’s embrace of such tactics and complicity in abetting big tech’s power grab in exchange for political gains should be condemned by voters. Otherwise, it will only serve to unleash a new wave of

‘McCarthyism’ or ‘Hooverism’ (regardless of the political narrative it supports), which can only foment civil strife and unrest.

Thucydides very clearly outlined the dangers impassioned partisanship poses to democracy:

“Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them … The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. In fine, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations had not in view the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime…

“The cause of all these evils was the lust for power arising from greed and ambition; and from these passions proceeded the violence of parties once engaged in contention. The leaders in the cities, each provided with the fairest professions, on the one side with the cry of political equality of the people, on the other of a moderate aristocracy, sought prizes for themselves in those public interests which they pretended to cherish, and, recoiling from no means in their struggles for ascendancy, engaged in the direct excesses; in their acts of vengeance they went to even greater lengths, not stopping at what justice or the good of the state demanded, but making the party caprice of the moment their only standard.” (3.82)

This excerpt applies equally to leading figures and supporters of both the Democratic and Republican parties, but also holds true for international politics. Greece, unfortunately, is no exception to the rule.

For example, the inequity of Greece’s new election law as it applies to citizens living abroad cannot escape the attention of even the most neutral spectator. Ironically, the parties of the left – which pride themselves on internationalism – played the key role in nixing absentee ballots for expats, insisting upon in-person voting, irrespective of the distance of their homes to local consulates or other voting centers. To support this position, they cited mail-in ballots’ increased susceptibility to voter fraud.

These same left-wing parties and their cadres likely spent the greater part of the past few months lambasting the Trump campaign for its objection to non-absentee mail-in voting implemented in many states in 2020 – which is far more widely encompassing and arguably less controlled than absentee voting. It would appear that the most vocal proponents of a world without borders and walls continue to advocate for one major wall (no, not the Trump Wall) – the wall barring Greeks abroad from participating in national elections.

Meanwhile, restrictions regarding precisely which Greek citizens living abroad are entitled to cast their votes outside of the country clearly aim to disenfranchise the majority of the Diaspora, for political reasons. For instance, pegging voting rights to payment of income taxes in Greece (when double taxation agreements preclude this) dangerously alters the concept of citizenship.

The same holds true for ballot tallying. While much has been speculated about the role of software in tallying votes and capabilities/susceptibilities enabling programmers to ‘weigh’ votes differently or flip them altogether, many Greek voters are unaware of or ignore the fact that votes cast for fringe parties or candidates whose parties could not crack the 3 percent threshold to enter Parliament are redistributed among the large parties. This effectively (and completely legally, although quite secretively and very unethically) takes all the ‘protest’ out of protest votes and trivializes the electoral process.

Furthermore, Diaspora voters can only vote for a party – not candidates in their respective election districts. However, the positions and intentions of individual candidates within large parties can differ dramatically. Precluding voters from choosing which candidate will represent them in Parliament is manipulation, plain and simple.

The hypocrisy of the current Greek election law is cited here because, in many cases, it was approved by the majority of the political spectrum. Similar arguments could be made against establishment Democrats and Republicans’ pandering to big tech.

When the lust for power bridges together political rivals and caprice becomes the only standard, the people inherently end up losing. 

Follow me on Twitter @CTripoulas

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