Bill Black: The BBC Dismisses a Real Greek Economist as a Sexy “Ideologue”

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.

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  1. Cassiodorus

    Well it’s clear Varoufakis represents a “cheap” nation, unworthy of respect. Greece is only a human rights disaster, and what bank-account-respecting bourgeois cares about that?

    1. susan the other

      The old joke about Yugoslavia was that the only way it stayed together was by Tito. A “strongman” who was really kind of a buffoon. But then at the right moment Yugoslavia fell apart – when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics decided “maybe not.” Now an article linked above talks about turmoil in Macedonia because surveillance is making blackmail a cheap thrill. And what is politics if the cheap thrills are all exposed? And another article which was just politely delayed in deference to Greek politics has pointed out in these same links that Germany is making deals with Greece to sell them military equipment. So we know Greece is in a political fracture zone, and also too it is on the edge of the EZ and has undefendable borders because all those islands and etc. But Macedonia, just above Greece on its northern border is for some reason also considered vulnerable, ergo a political chaos to be solved by military means. If Varoufakis made the offhand comment that war in Europe would not happen, it is very, very interesting in light of all the crap going on right now. Like Obie wan Knobe (spelling?) saying “nothing to see here, move along please.”

  2. Fair Economist

    I don’t think this is just a revealed bias. I’m certain this is deliberate by at least some people and is driven by the fact that, basically, Varoufakis has been right and the VSP wrong for years. They have to attack him because he threatens the status quo, they can’t attack him for being wrong, so they go for these indirect attacks.

    1. Jack

      They’re in the ridicule stage right now. Next will be the open combat and then, maybe, an ultimate Greek victory of some sort. Varoufakis appears to be that rarest of creatures; a person with real power who actually knows what he’s doing. He also has substantial popular support and is daring to actually point out the blatantly obvious. The inept, appointed technocratic bullies of the EU don’t know quite how to deal with him. They also don’t see that he’s setting an example and regardless of the outcome the EU are going to end up looking like the assholes they are and more of the periphery is going to rebel.

      Is it okay yet to call the EU the Fourth Reich?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Nah, the EU us still just a vassal of New york/the MIC/London.

        At the Minsk conference, the Russian foreign secretary noted the costs of sanctions to EU countries and then noted how trade between Russia and American companies grew in the same period.

    2. Vince in MN

      It’s the old misdirection ploy, and done intentionally of course. Concentrate on the “personality” of the said individual, what kind of home they live in, their sex life, etc., etc., anything to distract from the message. Amplify this image until “gadfly”, “playboy” or some other demeaning descriptor is the first thing that comes to mind when the name is mentioned, relegating anything they say to joke status if not worse. Character assassination is a fine art. Of course it helps greatly if the “news” is a willing and complicit partner.

  3. Carlos Fandango

    The BBC is an instrument of the British establishment who are a bunch a asexual idealogues of a different flavour. I stopped watching BBC world news after they paraded some frothing at the mouth Australian ignoramus presenter, loosely termed an economist. He got so excited he literally wet his pants every time he mentioned Government debt.

      1. vidimi

        this was my first thought as well. i don’t think there is anyone at the bbc who has been there more than a decade who is untainted by this scandal.

  4. Paul Tioxon

    It’s funny you bring this up, but Bloomsberg cable TV was reporting on Yanis as sex symbol. I thought, well, they do have to fill up 24 hours with something and thank god they don’t have their own very unsexy Ricky Santelli ranting and raving to play 12 times a day on loop.

    But then, I try to follow this on as many international English versions of news services and surprise, surprise, the echo chamber of sexy Yanis is repeated. Now, to people our age, this is the quickest way to trivialized someone, but the entire world is not composed of 50somethings who grew up in an era when the news reporting was presided over and not a profit center but a public service that cost the networks a lot of money to produce without much of an ROI to talk about. Not today and commensurate with that, the pop culture features of serious news reporting has embedded itself permanently. So much so, that joke news show are serious, Jon Stewart and the serious news channels are a joke, Wolf Blitzer, still looking for missing planes in the ocean to the exclusion of all else!!!

    Yves and Bill have a right to point out this news false consciousness transmission mechanism. But seriously, the inundation of comments on his appearance is no longer a career killer. There are lots of serious people who are movie star good looking, Mrs. George Clooney for example. And when you look that good, it is hard to pretend there is not a beautiful human being glowing gorgeousness from their face. The world is full of people younger than us, who serious, thoughtful and can look at a good looking man or woman and not be completely derailed by the appearance. May I point out the number of tattooed women and men who have positions of responsibility in the military or corporate worlds or even government, that are up and coming leaders, but not trivialized for their body art.

    I would be more concerned with smear tactics, such as associating Yanis with some sort of crime a la Strauss-Khan, than I would be with the female news commentators gushing girlish crushes. Here are some more odes to Yanis, The Sexy Beast!

    The Spanish are in love with the guy way over the top, but hey, if you got it, flaunt it. Better to fight on your feet than live on your knees!!

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Mrs. George Clooney is neither a policymaker nor a negotiator. She is successful lawyer, and good looking people do well in sales roles, which is what being a partner in a law firm or consulting firm amounts to. Being good looking is likely even more important for a litigator. The fact that you refer to her as Mrs. George Clooney confirms that her main name recognition now is via her husband, as in even with her accomplishments you see her as a lesser personage than a famous actor. You’ve proven my case.

      And the people Varoufakis has to win over are Very Serious People, as in are over 50 (like Merkel and Schauble) or are in policy circles and have therefore adopted their values. Mass appeal does Varoufakis no good there.

      The only person I’ve ever heard of play the hottie to her advantage is Orit Gadiesh, the former head of Bain. She’d wear purple hair, short, tight kept-woman dresses, and fuck-me pumps. She’d got into meeting or to give speeches and men would do a double take because this was not how she was supposed to look. But she was a member of the Israeli Army (macho points) and as soon as she opened her mouth, it was obvious she was the smartest person in the room.

      Now since cognitive research actually shows most men get a bit stupid around a pretty woman, so playing it up up to a point is good as long as you undercut it immediately, which is very hard for women to pull off (secretaries, trading assistants, all sorts of women who are just normal young women trying to look pretty are often seen as trying to land a rich husband, so hotting yourself up raises the question as to what the hell you are really trying to accomplish). That is not going to be operative (for the most part) with the crowd Varoufakis has to impress.

      1. Tyler

        Women have gotten very excited about Amal Clooney. They would have found her to be a boring person only a couple years ago. They don’t seem to realize that it’s Clooney who made her awesome to them. She landed George Clooney!

      2. Moneta

        Well during board meetings, some man has dared take the clip out of my hair while passing behind me or another one kick off one of my shoes so I’d have to go retrieve it or someone hand it over to me.

        I never knew if I had to get angry or laugh if off… many are clueless and do not see the undermining and actually think it is just funny. Your reactions always depends on who has your back and what this person expects of you. It also depends on your leverage. Complicated subconscious calculations.

        You can always use this discrimination to you advantage but you need to be a fox, no pun intended.

      3. Cugel

        Obviously the rules for WOMEN and MEN are different because of the double standard. A hot woman cannot be taken seriously as a policy maker because by definition she’s a “sex symbol.” And if she’s old and unattractive like Ruth Bader Ginsberg she can’t be taken seriously because she’s NOT young and hot. It flat doesn’t work the same for men. Remember: all the imbecilic media swooning about how “sexy and macho” President “Mission Accomplished” was in his aviator suit? Nobody said he shouldn’t be taken seriously as a result. JFK, Jr., Ronald Reagan, Arnold the “Governator” – there simply isn’t a disqualifying stereotype for “sexy hot guy.” It’s purely seen as a political ADVANTAGE and gushing media articles appear — written by men, about how strong their appeal to women would be. Varoufakis could actually win the Presidency of Greece with that advantage, quite easily. The reason he won’t is not that people wouldn’t take him seriously because of his “sex symbol” appeal, but because he sincerely doesn’t want the job and says that even in academia anybody who says they want to become department chair should automatically be disqualified, let alone wanting to become President.

    2. Lambert Strether

      On the one hand, I see what Yves is saying.

      On the other, this may (in fact) be a cultural/generational thing. I can think of at least one powerful leader whose youth and sexiness was played up by the media, to his great advantage. That would be Obama. Remember when he took his shirt off? ZOMG!!!!!!!

      Adding, I’m not speaking to motive, here; only effect.

      Adding more, it would be entirely possible for a BBC producer to set Yanis up for failure in this way, while producing an entirely opposite effect for a Podemos supporter, for example.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Not comparable. It never dominated the reporting about him. It was always a subtext, as with Geithner. Vastly more play given to his supposedly great oratorical skills, his having been the editor of the Harvard Law Review, or even the stuff that was played both ways (community organizer) or the “was he really born in America” contretemps.

        And honestly, Obama is not sexy. That is an issue. He’s handsome, but so are a ton of (gay) male models who also have nice bodies. The Obama shirt incident to me was a sign of how far the presidency has fallen during his time in office. It struck me as a completely in character narcissistic display.

        Here the pop culture links and sex appeal are far and away the most important elements of the reporting about Varoufakis.

          1. wbgonne

            I agree with you. This is the kind of pop-celebrity that is necessary for escape velocity in today’s world of Corporate Media. That is unfortunate but true. The Corporate Media may mock — in this case, gently, IMO — but that is in frustration because someone is eluding their control. This is about reaching the populaces, not the plutocrats. The plutocrats — the true ideologues here — despise the Greek leadership and would not be moved an inch by the most fawning press. If the Greeks resist, the Corporate Media will likely resort to actual character assassination. A sexy Marxist? We probably need a lot more.

            1. Demeter

              And after character assassination come the real thing…remember the sexy Kennedy brothers?

              The PTB have much to answer for.

        1. brazza

          I don’t rule out a media conspiracy but … as a former online media exec I can assure you that online media are run by “unique visit”, “engagement”, and “visitor demographics” metrics, which in turn govern ad prices for displays on the page. For such-like project managers YV is better than a major catastrophe, so they keep running him, while A/B testing different headlines to find the most click-productive. The real wonder to me is how impactful an event it is when “real politicians” (without bank-strings attached) find themselves in power – independent thinkers, rather than the remote-piloted drones we are accustomed to. YV and AT are like the new Che and Fidel … they just stand-out in that crowd of career-first suits!

        2. Brooklin Bridge

          I think it depends on the context. Remember Bush and his ridiculous over sized cod-piece on the good ship, Mission Accomplished. The same fools who were promoting Bush’s virulence voyage in that fiasco could easily be the same ones now putting Varoufakis in a pretty boy box with light weight as the underlying message and radical left wing as the reinforcing tip off. So in one instance it’s borrowing from a context of adulation, in the other -as denoted by the radical left tag – it’s pejorative. The fact that both instances tend to diminish both the individual and the office long term is probably a little too deep to attribute to conscious choice on the part of the media.

          Note that the BBC along with our own so called public media have been such staunch purveyors of establishment propaganda for so long that the people who tend to connect with the them have come to expect being informed what they should be thinking in order to be serious readers or viewers much the way audiences of yore liked to watch Westerns with absurdly obvious -and passive comfort inducing – sign posts regarding who was the good guy and who the bad guy. Their primary product is, after all, the medium is the message (and everyone likes a back-rub); but above all avoid going anywhere near thought as exercise.

          1. Brooklin Bridge

            Whatever the intent, however, it won’t hurt Varoufakis much. It’s beginning to look as though they have really started something that will be hard or impossible to contain.

            1. Santi

              you mean a la “don’t think of an insolvent country in the Eurozone”? [*] :)

              Thinking the unthinkable and saying the unsayable is an important part of his work right not.

              1. Brooklin Bridge

                Interesting and appropriate link in that little asterisk, George Lakoff.

                When it can be heard, straight talk is the one and only thing the establishment can’t easily dismiss. It’s preventing it from ever being heard in the first place that is their strong point. But once out of the bag for any length of time (as is the case here) and in the right context (also as is the case here), Have you no shame “and saying the unsayable” plainly can tear off the illusion that the emperor has clothes better than anything else and reveals the nasty reality behind the illusion.

      2. Carlos Fandango

        Talking about getting your shirt off. There is also the ongoing attempt to sexy up Putin in the Brokeback Mountain style. It seems it is a valid psyops manoeuver.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I don’t think that’s new. He’s regularly been photographed doing martial arts. And why pray tell, since Russia is supposed to be our mortal enemy, should Obama be so insecure as to need to take off his shirt to compete with Putin?

          1. Carlos Fandango

            Sorry Yves I’ve no clue why Obama had his shirt off, how did he look?…. I was thinking the ongoing “demonization of Putin” effort got quite a bit of mileage from the closet gay references. Maybe more a commentariat thing than anything else. Personally I liked him for it, nothing like the feeling of freedom with yer top off in the wild.

            1. Inverness

              Obama went swimming. He would have looked a lot sillier in the ocean in some kind of man-burka, if you ask me. So I don’t agree with Yves’ theory of narcissism.

        2. MRW

          It has nothing to do with “sexy up Putin in the Brokeback Mountain style.”

          Getting vitamin D is, or was, critical to people who lived in cold northern countries with a short summer cycle. You need bare skin to absorb it, and the sun is the the most potent source. It was common practice before the supplement industry started to get as naked as you could to absorb the valuable rays. Every kid was told this. Putin grew up in that era. I visited Russia for months when it was still a Soviet country, and heard this explanation over and over again when I asked why men wore barely-there thongs, and women sunbathed with only undies on. They were fanatically trying to get as much vitamin D as possible.

          Curiously, a doctor told me recently that high SPF sunscreens are causing vitamin D deficiencies that are more dangerous than spending 15 minutes without anything on your skin. He told me that I need to lie in the sun for 30 minutes (min daily) with nothing on my skin before putting sunscreen on in order to get the vitamin D I need. I said I could take a pill. He said no you can’t.

          1. MRW

            BTW, the doc said there was no substitute for the high-quality vitamin D you get from the sun, none, does not exist. And as you age you need more of it.

      3. JTFaraday

        But VSP don’t take Obama seriously. I’m not saying they blew his revolutionarily democratic plans out the water, but it’s also clear that no one respects him.

        If it’s a matter of gathering a popular following, then this portrayal of Varifoukis may be beneficial. In terms of making change happen quickly, popular following is not the way to go.

        1. JTFaraday

          Also, wasn’t there a book recently that made much of–or prompted other people to make much of– the hedonistic, gay/possibly gay but married, Lord Keynes? This wasn’t an effort at discrediting him?

          I remember some winger going on about how Keynes thought government spending was okay because he was gay and didn’t have kids and didn’t have any concern for future generations. Similar kind of thing.

          Piketty was sexy too. Had his 15 minutes like Anna Nicole, then sank like a stone.

  5. Carlos Fandango

    The ladies can weigh in on this, but personally I don’t see what the fuss is about.

    Apparently he rides a bike, so I might be dusting off the old Vespa in the hope of increasing my allure.

    1. susan the other

      Well, just think of the most attractive people you know. What makes them attractive? For me it is always, and without fail, their intelligence. Unless they can’t button their shirt right.

      1. Vince in MN

        On the other hand, not being able to button your shirt right could be turned into a charming affectation if marketed smartly. Charlie Chaplin’s hat and Albert Einstein’s tongue come to mind immediately.

  6. Calgacus

    Well. I learnt 2 things from the silly BBC piece that gave me more confidence in YV:

    1)”His father, 89-year-old Giorgos Varoufakis, is chairman of Halyvourgiki, a Greek industrial giant.” Being born rich makes one less impressed by them, likelier to turn traitor to your class. FDR (or much less, JFK) vs. Clinton, Obama.

    2) Like the philosophical mathematicians Gian-Carlo Rota & Saunders Mac Lane, he decided to change the spelling of his name because he liked how someone mis-spelled it. :-)

  7. John Jones

    Why is that news sources like BBC and other state funded news organizations that should be independent don’t report accurately? For instance reporting it like Yves said

    “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.”

    How is it state funded news networks are controlled to toe certain lines and spread misinformation and propaganda . And how can they be made truly independent so as to report news accurately?

    1. c

      Mr Dijsselbloem, who gave an address at the college last Thursday, was appointed Finance Minister of Holland last November and his biography was posted on official internet sites of European institutions, including the European Investment Bank, which initially claimed he had received an MA in Business Economics from UCC.
      However, Mr Dijsselbloem never obtained any degree from UCC, as no such degree exists, and his biography had to be amended to say he “did business economics research towards a master’s degree at the University College Cork.”

      It has transpired Mr Dijsselbloem only spent a couple of months at UCC conducting research in the “Food Business” field.

      On his appointment, the erroneous biography that he had obtained a Masters in Ireland was reported as fact in the national media, sparking an internal investigation within UCC and also with the National University of Ireland, which confirmed he never graduated from there.
      On November 13 last, Mr Dijsselbloem’s appointment as Finance Minister of Holland was reported on the official European websites, which included the biography of his past experience and education, which first indicated he had an MA from UCC.
      oeps translation error

    2. participant-observer-observed

      Bush crony Tony Blair did a vulture VC job on the BBC- “dismantlingf” itself and destroyed its “brand” in the meantime, turning it into another MSNBC-FOX-MSM talking shop.

      There are a few strands of the BBC World Service that haven’t been liquidated, but even that is a pale version of it’s 10-yrs-ago august self as an explemplary pillar of “in the field” journalism.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Interesting comment. I don’t doubt you, I’m not all that familiar with the BBC, but I would have put the date at more like twenty years ago which corresponds to a ten year lag behind NPR and PBS which I think sold out about 30 years ago.

      2. norm de plume

        The inflection point was the Hutton inquiry into David Kelly’s death. Up to that point the Beeb had performed well, at times admirably, in opposition to the wall of Iraq-warmongering noise from every other corner of the MSM. The silencing of Andrew Gilligan and the subsequent head-rolling at the top was a warning, and the end of an era.

  8. ian

    Saw the same nonsense with Christine Lagarde: gushing about her designer clothes, sense of style, etc…

    Who the hell cares?

    1. Demeter

      Christine needs a makeover, especially her hairstyle…something like Elizabeth Warren’s new hairdo, much more sleek and stylish and professional.

  9. Integer Owl

    “I’m loath to use the term, but objectication…”
    Hope I’m not being too pedantic when I ask if this is a typo and the word you meant to use was objectification?
    Once again, thanks for all the great work. Keep fighting the good fight!

  10. windsock

    I think you’re missing the point. Clothing is important in British Culture in a way it is not in others. From the descriptions I have read on the BBC and Guardian and other places which talk about Varoufakis turning up to meet George Osborne tieless in a leather jacket, the implicit statement is: “Here is a man who is not a stuffed shirt. Here is a man who is not part of the political elite which says one thing and does another. Here is a man who thinks for himself. Here is a man who is not part of the herd.”

  11. craazyman

    Is this another Church Lady Post?

    Since Professor V is evidently a child of privilege, there’s no reason he could not — long ago — have Saville Roaded himself into a closet full of $5,000 suits like Andrew Haldane. I”m not sure what Mr. Haldane paid for his suit, and I’m sure he has more than one, but I saw his video at INET and it looked like it was custom made in London for sure. It might have been Joseph A. Bank slim fit for $199, with some skilled tailoring, but I didn’t think so.

    If a game theory expert like Professor V wants to get taken seriously, like some dude who sits around doing equilibrium math with differential stochastic exponential time decay factors measuring shocks to equlilibrium boundary conditions in a steady state Eurozone economy model then whispering something into Dr. Draghi’s ear when they’re sitting next to each other at the speakers’s table at a conference and Dr. Draghi nods emphatically — probably meaning something like “Yes, of course, we’re having a 1982 Bordeaux with the dinner tonight — then at least he could tuck in his shirt.

    He just brings this on himself! If you dress like Kim Kardashian people will remark upon your appearance! I mean really. There must be a point to this. Why wouldnn’t somebody want to be mentioned in the same journalistic breath as Alan “The Human Put” Greenspan, Janet “bubbles” Yellen, Helicopter Ben or even one of the many VSE academics who do a good job imitating a mental doorknob when they’re awake? I can’t imagine! :-)

    1. craazyboy

      This thing about casting Dr. V as a sexy rock star is really way over the top IMO.

      I mean, at a minimum it means unbuttoning your shirt from top to bottom. More like wearing a tank top and bare midriff. Some went as far as wearing women’s cloths – tho it always escaped me why women thought male rock stars wearing women’s clothing are sexy. Some latent lezbo thing going on there, methinks.

      1. craazyman

        People need something to talk about. Economics is so boring nobody wants to talk about it, and it’s so confusing nobody can really understand it, so they try to find ways to make it interesting. Professor V is certainly “different”. Can you believe he didn’t even tuck in his shirt when he went to London??!! Even I, and I consider myself slightly eccentric, I would have tucked in my shirt! And I’d probably have worn my best suit and tie too. I would not ever have thought about not tucking in my shirt and wearing a leather jacket. I’d have wanted to look like Andrew Haldane. i would have wanted to stand next to the best-dressed Brits and feel fully equal, sartorially. Now I see that Professor V is showing me something about being a man. Now I see I’m actually a conformist and not rebellious enough. It makes you think! Maybe this is a wake up call to have more confidence and savoire faire. This is like when the woman’s volleyball team wore flip flops to the White House. Drudge had a headline “They Wore Flip Flops to the White House!” I thought “Oh My God.” I would have worn shoes, for sure.

        1. craazyboy

          Well, Dr. V does have balls. But remember there was that Greek King dude that chiseled all the balls off Greek statues. So there is a risk. Maybe Dr. V will do some aggressive pec flexing in meetings with Draghi and Dijsselloem? That would certainly intimidate the pansy ass suit people! ‘Course if they didn’t have a bunch of money, they wouldn’t be wearing suits. Having all the money may be the real source of power – not just sex appeal.

  12. Mark J. Lovas

    I have been pretty disgusted by the way reporters have found so little of substance, and so much nonsense to say about Varoufakis. It was absolutely ludicrous and appalling when he met with Cameron a while back. I do, however,, appreciate the thought expressed above that part of what was going on there was that Cameron is a despicable product of an elite system; whereas Varoufakis seems to be something altogether different. So, I should not be too hard on the Guardian’s journalists.

    Even so, there is a tendency toward superficiality that I find disturbing. A more recent interview with him was full of sheer superficiality and little more than pseudo-intellectual gossip. I am just glad to see Bill Black (no surprise) and NC (again no surprise) commenting upon it. It seems that journalists are now, more than ever, in the business of saying whatever sort of crap comes to mind, in part because we are being sold the crap on the grounds that it is part of the speediness of the Internet, and “we” demand it, presumably because we want, thereby, to be closer to the action.

    But I see just the opposite effect: when journalists feel the need to say something as soon as possible, that moves their thoughts and words further away from the reality of the events they are supposedly “reporting”. The nonsense they feel compelled to create is inevitably framed by the prevailing ideologies. So, the joke is on us. The so-called speed of the Internet is itself nothing more than an intensification of superficiality and dogma.

    As a footnote: I do have a feeling that Yves talk of “serious” people needs analysis, which I really cannot do right now. (I should have stopped writing this ten minutes ago) Not that I think she is confused. But I think the classic texts here are definitely Platonic–e.g., the “Gorgias” or “Republic”, Book One, or even Book Eight

  13. steviefinn

    Hardly surprising from the BBC, whose one time news editor Stephanie Flanders, who once worked for Larry Summers, spent about 5 years after the financial crisis, regurgitating Neoliberal financial propaganda from her pals in high finance – she is now working for JP Morgan.

  14. William C

    It will not help that the BBC is awaiting a charter renewal in the near future. Until then they will be especially careful to keep in with TPTB. Not that I am holding my breath for the time after the charter is renewed.

  15. nickj

    the BBC haven’t got a clue what’s going on. varafoukis gave the dumb blonde on newsnight a tutorial but she was too stupid to listen to him, never mind understand what she was being told.

  16. John Merryman

    I think you miss the physical dichotomy of energy versus form. Energy expands, while form contracts. As in gravity. We start off young, with lots of energy and little form and spend our lives using this energy to develop form. So it is certainly in his interest not to fall into their form, but grow his own. How they react is simlpy a function of predictability.

  17. Oguk

    I fully expected a Syriza-centered scandal – sex or corruption – to be uncovered/manufactured, possibly starring Varoufakis. But maybe sex scandals to discredit someone in politics is a more American thing – doesn’t play the same way in Europe? Perhaps there’s not been enough time to manufacture something, and Syriza is probably being extra careful.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I doubt it, and Greeks like everyone else care about their personal economy. A Syriza scandal of that sort would only move EU skeptics into the anti-EU camp.

  18. Ulysses

    With every cloud there comes a sliver lining. The dreamy YV could wipe out the Greek national debt if he sold, at ridiculously inflated prices, millions of cheap trinkets, throughout the “developed” world, featuring his Adonis-like perfection! Think of the huge, screaming mindless crowds that came out to welcome the “Fab Four” here in the States! Let’s harness the energy of mindless superficiality to do some good in the world!

  19. afisher

    Yves / Bill are absolutely correct when they point out the attempt to downplay Yanis.
    I’m the first to admit I had never heard of him until I started reading here. Then I started reading his site and finally broke down and bought / read his book. The Global Minotaur.
    For the non-economist (me), it became evident that he actually knows what he is doing and doesn’t bs. the reader, but demands that you get up to speed.
    IMO – the Troika are somewhat afraid of him – he knows what he is talking about, which is why, from the day after the election, the headlines from MSM were screaming to please ignore this new Greek party and Yanis.

    1. Brooklin Bridge

      Nicely put. I agree with the intent to down play, but more importantly I think this event illustrates that the establishment doesn’t really know what to do. They have been caught off guard. Intense frustration and pique at the audacity of it all seems to be the initial reaction but not one the principal players want to share, and now they are belatedly sensing that Varoufakis represents a real threat. This little BBC salvo is almost a complete miss in that it does little damage to Varoufakis with the “serious people” and if anything at all puts him in a more sympathetic light to the radical “riff raff” such as Podemos.

      The French, for instance, have a wonderful way of digesting every manner of sexual nuance and stereo type and nevertheless landing on their feet. They can find almost affectionate humor without stigma in De Gaulle himself (who had a very timid wife) saying that he “wouldn’t pull out” – referring to the tanks and military surrounding the ’68 student revolt in Paris – but being taken (on purpose) instead to refer to his wife by a youthful public with a healthy if slightly mischievous sense of humor.

      If the BBC thinks this pathetic belittlement will work in the southern periphery, or make any significant difference to the northern stuffed hair-shirts, they are only showing how ‘back on their heels’ they have been caught.

  20. Kurt Sperry

    Are Varoufakis’ heterodox sartorial choices an organic consequence of his personal style or a more cynical conscious affectation designed to be a branding differentiator? I’m guessing the former, not that the question is a deep or particularly meaningful one. Political frontmen who possess the goods have probably always benefited from a bit of beefcake marketing. I remember Life running pics of JFK in a swimsuit, and Obama’s appeal to the fairer sex has always been a significant part of his popular allure. I know women who were definitely affected by his ability to make them a bit warm and squishy feeling. Like it or loathe it, it’s real political capital. Was JFK diminished by his objectification? I don’t think he was, outside a few jealous males.

  21. Edna M.

    Great analysis, as usual. Before reading your piece, I hadn’t thought about the effect playing up his looks would have on how seriously people took him. I read about an article in a German magazine that said something like, He may not be the best economist in the world but he’s really sexy. Just what someone who spent his life studying economics wants to hear, I am sure. Before he became finance minister, he appeared as a guest on Greek talk shows (although not frequently because he was highly critical of the EU policies). I don’t recall people mentioning anything about his appearance then. The media in Greece now reports with pleasure how women in other countries supposedly swoon over him. Perhaps the Tiger Beat style coverage is more flattering than an openly hostile press. But it may be just as effective a way to dismiss his ideas.

  22. TedWa

    Bill Black would be the perfect candidate for President in these sordid times and would easily get my vote.

  23. voxfox

    The BBC has been a shill for the British ruling class since it was first established.
    It’s directors & senior management are recruited from this group descended from the Norman conquest.
    New employees are recruited from Oxford university – the finishing school for these elitists.
    BBC journalists don’t keep their job unless they toe the party line.

  24. scraping_by

    The optimistic take is contained in Ghandi’s path on fighting TPTB: “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

    And in truth, most of us know Mr. Varoufakis from specialist blogs like this, which are loudly and proudly ignored by Serious People. Remember Obama’s snark about pajamas and mother’s basements. Mr. Varoufakis looks to have achieved the second stage on this path.

    In that case, it is hoped he’s ready to buckle up and knuckle down, with stage three on the horizon.

  25. participant-observer-observed

    “Varoufakis is a highly competent academic economist. ”

    Oh my gosh, imagine having a finance minister that actually knows something about economics! What a shocking idea that must be discredited, lest performance portfolios become an actual criteria for governance!

    True, this is banal offense. But why should we let it go at awareness of the offensive?

    Let’s do an Aikido move. If Varoufakis has visual appeal, lets use it to propel his popularity with the general public, become a rock star economist, with twitter trends and all that! Let’s post his pic all over twitter and facebook! (use the pics favored by bbc and bloomberg too)

    Let him become the poster “boy” for all countries who would like a finance minister who actually has expertise and commitment to service (without taking a 21 million “stipend” from Goldman Sachs)

    1. Larry Y

      He also appears to be a highly competent practicing economist. I think people underestimate or just outright dismiss his work with Valve. It allowed him to collect data and experiment in ways and at a scale that would be difficult with off-line economies, yet not as limited as running experiments with undergrads.

      Maybe he’s this generation’s Minsky, in that he’ll be rediscovered in the future.

  26. giangi75

    My guess is somebody in the BBC got word that Varoufakis does not LOOK as your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, stereotyped economist and that this is …bad. As Yves mentioned, good looks are an asset for any salesperson and any finance minister is also a salesperon, selling policies to the public and to investors. As sales is mostly about presentation (do you want this sexy glorified turd for $100 or this turd looking turd for $1?) the combination of a good product (sound policy) and good looks (good presentation) plus the fact he actually knows his rethorics, is … hard to deflect. They cannot just ignore him, as he is THE Greek finance minister (you just cannot avoid talking to him) nor can they belittle his curriculum, as he is an actual professor of economics. That’s krypronite to spindoctors. So, for the time being, while dirt and allegations are being cooked, the only possible choice is talking about non-issues, such as Varoufakis’ looks. But that is the Daily Mail’s bullshit territory, they must come up with something fast. Or must they?

  27. Aussie F

    Let’s take a look at the corporate ideologues running the BBC. The Chair of the BBC Trust – the head of the organisation’s governing body – is none other than Rona Fairhead. When Rona’s not playing the role of establishment ‘gatekeeper’ at the BBC she has another sinecure: she’s Chair of the ‘audit and risk committee’ at HSBC, the world’s favourite money launderer and tax avoidence boutique.

    Following revelations that HSBC had laundered millions on behalf of the most violent drug cartel on the planet, Rona Fairhead blithely informed a Parliamentary committee that, “one has to be realistic and sometimes bad things do happen….the only way to respond if you made a mistake is to apologise ”

    Tell that to thousands who have died appalling and agonising deaths at the hands of HSBC’s ‘counterparties.’

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