This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of February, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date of publication: 5 February 2020
Media outlet: Kathimerini, a leading Greek newspaper which is deemed as trustworthy by the general public. It is conservative-leaning.
Author: Eleana Vlastou and Kostas Theodoropoulos
Headline: “Obsession with racism is the new bigotry” and “White woman fears a Muslim man”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: On February 5th, newspaper Kathimerini published an opinion piece written by Eleana Vlastou. In the piece, Vlastou describes something she experienced on the London tube: a Muslim man taking out a prayer mat in order to perform prayer on the underground train. Vlastou states that she was scared for her life, but that she felt unable to complain because she is white and does not belong to a protected group: “'My son goes through my mind, and I think how prudent I have been with my will. He [the Muslim man] opens the zipper and from the bag comes a carpet which he lays down and uses to pray. Then the doors of the train open, relief. The car is empty and when I relax , it is just then that I realize the narcissism and the anger that was involved in the spectacle I just saw. If I was more courageous I would say to him ‘'Take your carpet and go home’' and he would have responded ‘You are one to talk, with your white privilege. You are a racist’ and I would respond ‘You are the racist.’” Vlastou continues to claim that as a white woman of privilege, she is discriminated against: “My problem is that I am not black, Muslim, I don't identify with a dog, I don't have a sex change problem, I am not gay, and I don’t belong to one of the letters of the LGBTQ acronym, I am not even a vegetarian. I am a white woman.” The main claim being made throughout the piece is that political correctness has ruined, in this instance, the UK (which is where Vlastou lives) and that as someone who is not part of any protected group, you are unable to criticise anyone without being called racist.
The comments under this piece have been turned off, and furthermore, Kathimerini published an additional response piece from their in-house journalist Kostas Theodoropoulos, in which he states: “I don't know Eleana Vlastou personally. [...] She is white, she has children, she has no financial problems, she is not a homosexual and she says she experienced a threat when, while she was commuting by the underground, a Muslim man took out his prayer mat and started praying. One could wonder how he was able to find where Meka was. The problem is that this poor writer doesn't belong to any minority, therefore she feels insecure in a society which more and more blames her own values in the name of (OR in order to protect the) minorities. I don't know if she is vegan. I would suggest to her she could try it. It is painless and it could act as an alibi in the court of the progressives.”
Myth debunked: The main issue here is the editorial approach taken by Kathimerini to publish two separate pieces which perpetuated the same hateful claims and statements. The initial opinion piece included clear anti-Muslim sentiments and made some very dubious claims. In essence, Vlastou is claiming that as a white privileged woman, she is discriminated against in the form of political correctness. We have to keep in mind that this was an opinion piece, and that there should be space in newspapers for hosting different opinions. However, Kathimerini made two very questionable editorial choices. Firstly, they disabled comments on Vlastou’s piece, leaving no room for people to counter or discuss her inflammatory claims. Secondly, the newspaper gave space to Theodoropoulos to essentially restate all already-made claims. Oftentimes, when newspapers or online publications publish a troubling or divisive piece, they will give a platform to someone else to counter statements made. This allows for both sides of the argument to be given the same amount of publicity, and give readers a fuller picture of the case in point. Kathimerini failed to do this. The topic of political correctness is very present in Greek society, and space should be given to have a discussion on it. However, this space has to be fair and not used to spread anti-Muslim sentiments.
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