Yves here. I know some readers have begged to differ, but Very Serious People are not described in the same terms as pop culture icons. Thus, as Bill Black points out, the “rock star” branding of Varoufakis is a way to depict him as a colorful, entertaining lightweight.
I’m loath to use the term, but objectification is a commonly used device to put women in their place. For instance, since in a professional setting, in a meeting with one woman only, the fastest way to discredit the woman is to comment on her appearance (which reinforces “she’s not one of us, her proper role is to be someone’s date/husband”) or worst, make an out and out sexist remark (I’ve had this happen, for instance, someone accusing me of getting an account by virtue of having slept with the client. In this case, it was particularly off base because the client exec in question was a closeted gay man).
Contrast the fixation of Varoufakis’ dress and appearance with say, that of Timothy Geithner, who had a big following among the female members of the press corps (men who’ve been mystified by his sex appeal have often mentioned this to me) and was also athletic. You’d see an occasional mention made, but it was never the core of his image.
By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives
In its web version, the BBC “News” has you click on a tease titled “Yanis Varoufakis, charismatic ideologue” to access a story dated February 13, 2015 entitled “Profile: Yanis Varoufakis, Greek bailout foe.” Neither the tease nor the title make any sense. Varoufakis is the Greek finance minister. Except, of course, we’re reading this in the BBC, so the description actually reads “Greece’s left-wing Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis.” Funny, the BBC never describes the head of the ECB as “the ultra-right-wing” economist Mario Draghi or Jeroen Dijsselloem, the Dutch Finance Minister and troika hit man as the “ultra-ultra-right-wing” non-economist.
The BBC “profile” is not unremittingly hostile to Varoufakis – it simply refuses to take him seriously. Varoufakis is a highly competent academic economist. His policy views have proven correct, as even the BBC (back-handedly) concedes by calling him Greece’s “Cassandra.” So why does the BBC treat Varoufakis as a sexy leftist and Dijsselboem as the respected spokesperson for the troika even though Dijsselboem is a fanatic ideologue who has caused massive human misery because of the intersection of his inflexible ideology and economic incompetence?
Varoufakis’ views on the self-destructive nature of austerity as a response to the Great Recession are mainstream economic views. He certainly is a leftist, but his policy views arise from different ideological traditions most people would find antagonistic. That makes him a non-ideologue as the term is defined. The troika, by contrast, is led entirely by ideologues. The primary difference is that they are exceptionally bad economists and exceptionally indifferent to the human misery they inflict on the workers of the periphery that they despise and ridicule. The BBC, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal will never write a “profile” of the troika’s leadership that makes any of these points. The BBC profile is another example of what I call “revealed biases.” “Journalists” and media organs routinely reveal and betray their biases – biases that they hotly deny but rarely escape.