Decades ago, Greece invented and legitimized its very own conspiracy theory, that renames adoption of stray animals aborad “smuggling”. Based on a nationalistic and at times even racisit rhetoric, that insists on portraying the Greeks as “better’ than the “foreigners”, the conspiracy theorists not only slander and harrass volunteers, block adoptions of strays and spread lies and misinformation, but their theories have also infiltrated the Greek government aparatus, that has been trying to block adoptions, by violating EU regulations.
The responsibility of the media and the press is huge, as without any research nor fact checking, they have been repeating the same rhetoric, with false accusations and misinformation constantly making their way into the public’s mind.
On Sunday 30/8, for example, nearly 4 decades after a women invented and spread a conspiracy theory, in the national radio station in Greece, the reporter asked her guest, an animal welfare volunteer “about trucks transporting animals, insisting that she had read articles about illegal transportation, and animals being loaded and stacked” etc.
Honestly, it’s as if while having an archaeologist as a guest on the show, she asked him what about the pyramids of Egypt, since she had read somewhere that they were made by aliens.
What we read isn’t necesarily true. I read today for example, that it was aliens who set up the huge Moai statues on Easter island, because… since they hadn’t invented the wheel, how else did they carry so many tons of stone? 🤔
Even if the scientists have proven how the statues were transported, even if they have demonstrated it on video, with dozens of people gathering around a replica, pulling it and yelling “hey-ho”, aiming to prove that it could be done without the wheel, and without an alien, the article about aliens is out there, and it’s not the only one, and the more respected the website or the tv channel that reproduces a myth, the greater the responsibility of the journalist who misinforms the audience.
the more respected the website or the tv channel that reproduces a myth, the greater the responsibility of the journalist who misinforms the audience.
Unfortunately, in the age of the internet, a lie that was born in a someone’s head decades ago, can have huge ramifications. And when it comes to adoptions abroad have been renamed “mass export of strays for experiments”, this is exactly what happened. To think that strays can be sold for profit, and that there are people who get rich from it, is like believing there’s gold in the street, but in a magical way, some people sell it for money, while most people throw it in the trash.
Greece is (or wants to call itself) a Western country. We are in the European Union, we are in the 21st century. And yes, fake news are now popping up everywhere, especially in social media, where an unrelated photo combined with a text that appears real, can be shared by thousands.
But a journalist’s responsibility is greater than that of a simple Facebook user, who presses the “share” button and communicates a lie with his five or ten friends. Much greater.
The Greek journalists’ responsibility for validating the slander and legitimising a conspiracy theory is enormous, and the reports in mass circulation newspapers and the TV channels, should be a lot more credible.
It is unacceptable that ordinary citizens are willing and able to do better research than well-known journalists. It’s dangerous. Greece is a country where abandonment and abuse are a daily occurrence, however newspapers and TV channels rarely cover any related subjects. They do however repeat and validate the myth of “strays sold abroad to brothels”. Such level of misinformation is unacceptable.
False “reports” about animals sold for experiments, etc., have at times been validated by journalists in local media (New Crete, Radiolasithi). Those are people that we would maybe forgive a certain ignorance, but unfortunately they are not the only ones.
The ridiculous slanders have been validated by newspapers of mass cisculation, such as Kathimerini, and by big TV channels such as Antenna, where in the news bulletin on 31/01/2019, the presentor states: “strange cases of illegal exportation of stray animals were revealed by members of animal welfare organizations”, and the TV channel Star, where in the news release on 10/02/2019, allows its guest, representative of an animal organization, to imply on the air, that strays are sold in laboratories for experiments – a theory that any person with average intelligence can debunk in a second.
We understand that websites, newspapers and channels are approached by people in the “animal welfare”. But that does not automatically mean validity. Conspiracy theories usually start from the inside anyway.
And the myth about strays being sold abroad to laboratories for experiments was started from the inside also, by a woman who founded a fake confederation back in 1982, and imagined a world where strays are sold for experiments abroad.
Greece is the only country in the world that has renamed adoption “trade”, volunteers “smugglers” and people who adopt from abroad “abusers, perverts and foreign wolves”.
A journalist should know that.
A journalist should know that articles circulating about “trade and illegal trafficking” are based on hate speech and racism. A journalist needs to look into his guests’ social media pages, and verify at least how much audience they’re reaching out to. A journalist must at least google basic concepts that he may not know, such as “experiments in animals”/ “pet traffickers”/”adoption fee” etc. And if he has been on a single holiday in Greece, he must wonder how is it possible that the tons of strays who beg for leftovers can possibly be worth so much money.
The slanders, the harrassment and the conspiracy theories, which have been legitimized for decades by journalists, politicians and local authorities, forced more than 190 animal welfare organizations in Greece and abroad to co-sign an open letter to the government, explaining the obvious – which was a world first (correct us if we are wrong, we are unaware of volunteers in any other country that have come to this point).
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