varoufakis73_LOUISA GOULIAMAKIAFP via Getty Images_greece protest Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images

How to Lose a European Country

Soon after the conservative New Democracy government took office in Greece in 2019, it started to become apparent that democracy was not the goal it had in mind. Little more than a year later, the transition to postmodern parliamentary dictatorship is well advanced.

ATHENS – “This is no time for sadness, we are too pissed off,” the head of an intensive care unit at a hospital in my Thessaloniki constituency told me recently. Along with his staff of dedicated doctors and nurses, he had not slept the previous night, which he evocatively described as “our Night of St. Bartholomew.” I asked why he was fuming. “I lost a 43-year-old who could have been saved,” he replied angrily, adding: “But it is the lies, the damned lies, and the propaganda that drive me mad.”

Greece had a good first wave of COVID-19, but the second wave caught the government utterly unprepared. Insiders at hospitals in northern Greece, like the ICU chief I spoke to, now compare their situation to northern Italy’s in early spring.

But little information about the current horrors seeps into the public domain. One reason is that government-appointed hospital managers threaten staff with nasty repercussions if they speak to the media. Another is that during the pandemic, the media have become fully dependent on large grants that the Ministry of Information (Orwell lives!) dispenses at the minister’s whim.

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