While the presence of conspiracy theories in the public sphere is hardly anything new, I have noticed a distinctive uptick in unusually fantastic re-tellings of events these past few months. Maybe its just the fact that I am living abroad or that the last eleven months of been so full of change at light speed, that people struggle to cope with the wealth of new realities that they are willing to consider just about anything. Usually, the theories have to do with some convoluted explanation about 9/11 being an inside job, but more and more I am witnessing a new wave of explanations for the region’s current events. Some are a stretch and others simply too out of orbit to believe that anyone could, well, believe. Still, they are nothing if not interesting, not least for the common threads that unite so many – the common villains, motivations and goals. I will reserve a section of this site for those stories, to be retold as I hear them. To be clear, I am not above admitting that the far-fetched does not mean impossible. Clearly, the last few months have shown some conclusions driven by suspicion to be true, but for now I will print the ones that stand out the most – the tales of the times.
The first of these was relayed to me at a dinner by an Italian business student in town for interviews, shortly after the appointment of a new government in Greece. The talk fell to figuring out what finally drove George Papandreou from office, with most agreeing that it was his last minute decision to submit the EU bailout plan to the country’s first public referendum in four decades. That, it seemed, was the last straw, angering heads of state across the community, sending borrowing rates soaring and generally adding a fresh sense of panic to the whole situation. The referendum idea last about 48 hours during which time the opposition in the Greek parliament balked at the idea and came around to accepting the EU-backed plan of funding and spending cuts and Papandreou yanked the idea before announcing his own exit from government, bringing an end to a lengthy political dynasty in Greece.
But, the Italian student volunteered, didn’t it make more sense that Papandreou’s referendum proposal was all part of a larger scheme to force the hand of his political opposition to get behind the unpopular EU plan? Wasn’t it more likely that he had plotted with France’s Sarkozy and Germany’s Merkel to sacrifice a political career that was already doomed by circumstances and pitched the referendum knowing that he would be out on his backside regardless of what happened soon enough?
No, I replied – I never thought of that. At all.
He continued, the referendum was never meant to see the light of day but Papandreou knew that if he wanted to get this passed by the deeply divided parliament and the increasingly angry crowds in the streets, he would have to force their hand – yanking their support for it by offering a lengthy and likely disastrous public forum that would prolong economic change and possibly even delay the outside funding needed to keep the country afloat into the next year. This, the student continued, was a plan hatched by Papandreou, Merkel and Sarkozy to get the opposition to pick the lesser of the two evils, adopting the plan and moving forward towards an appointed, technocrat government. After all, they all apparently reasoned, Papandreou was the owner of the country’s current predicament so he would be on his way out the door soon enough – why not put his likely exit to good use? The referendum was a ruse and according to the visiting student, it worked.
I do not doubt for one second that there was pressure from forces beyond Athens to get the country to move in a particular government – the newly appointed government’s ties to the community and other global financial institutions certainly suggests as much. However, a trio of EU plotters seems a little difficult to swallow just now. I welcome anyone who can pick this particular theory apart or add some support for it.
Photo: The Guardian