Hope is on the way (out) – Barry’s farewell tour

obama

Today, 14 November 2016, GreekiLeaks™  publishes a partial transcript of a briefing call between the outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama [OPOTUS] and a staff member at the U.S. Embassy in Athens [Athens] in advance of the presidential visit scheduled for 15-16 November, obtained through a confidential source. Only the Athens side of the conversation was recorded. 

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: Mr President, unfortunately we have had to cancel the Pnyx engagement for your “birthplace of democracy” speech. We’re putting out rumours about alternative venues, but the plan is to use a green screen in the Embassy basement with a backdrop of the Acropolis. No one will know the difference.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: That’s right, sir, the Pnyx was nixed. Very good.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: Security concerns, sir.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: Not those guys, Mr President. No, they were dismantled. Turns out they were more concerned with holiday pay and Christmas bonuses than with the revolution.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: [laughs] No sir, I don’t think they got employer-sponsored healthcare. Didn’t need it, they have socialised medicine here.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: I don’t know what they wanted, Mr President. Seems to me they had it better than most Americans, sir, but they had a beef with us anyway.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: Anyway, there are these new kids on the block calling for mayhem. And the teachers’ unions. And someone lobbed a hand grenade at the French Embassy. Could have been one of President Hollande’s exes, but best to err on the side of caution. Which brings us to Kaisariani… Unfortunately, Mr President, we won’t be able to visit.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: Sir, the local council have declared it an “Obama-free-zone”. I appreciate that you are deeply disappointed.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: I know Rush Limbaugh calls you a Socialist, Mr President, but this is way more granular. Some kind of local turf war. The local elections went Florida-style, the Communists contested and won a re-vote. Syriza not the right shade of red, apparently, even though the New York Times calls them “leftists”, yada yada. Long story short, the Prime Minister himself can only visit in the company of the riot police. Marxist-Leninists and Leninist-Marxists aren’t welcome either, if that makes you feel any better.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: I’m not sure we would want to take the Trump line on this, Mr President. But you’re right, it is… ironic.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: Well, there is the local festival. This year they are extending it by a couple of days in your honour.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: The high point is the annual “friendship parade” that comes right by the Embassy, Mr President. It’s very colorful. I suggest we watch the fireworks from the roof. I can organise some cocktails and canapés, maybe some gyro sliders?

flagburning
The annual “friendship parade” and firework display outside the U.S. Embassy.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: No, the Prime Minister won’t be able to attend, he normally lays the ceremonial wreath in the parade, it’s kind of his “thing”.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: “Foniádes ton laón, Amerikánoi”. Yes, sir, it translates roughly as “Liberators of people, our American brothers.”* I believe it refers to the Marshall Plan.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: Yes, sir, you are correct. The government is expecting to hear that you will press for debt relief for Greece.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: Yes, sir, I am aware that “don’t mean diddly squat now that the Short-Fingered Vulgarian is getting the decorators in to gold-plate the White House taps”. But we don’t need to make any promises. Goodwill, sir, your legacy, that is what this visit is about. Use the word “meaningful” if you wish – what that actually means is open to interpretation, that’s the beauty of it.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: So, in that spirit, we talk about reforms, blah blah blah, bold efforts of the Greek government, sacrifices of the Greek people etc., no specifics here, don’t have’em. On the one hand “hope”, on the other hand “reforms”, quid pro quo, carrot and stick. Keeps everyone happy. Well, keeps Athens happy, keeps creditors meh. Refugees, too. Safe topic. Again, no specifics. The humanitarian effort, the generosity of the noble Greek people etc. Steer clear of asylum processing, hot spots and riots. Security, counterterrorism: super-important, thank you for your military spending, keep those orders coming, our friends at Lockheed will be happy to take your calls.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: Good point. Probably best not to antagonise the neighbour with too much of the “d” word, but do remind us that he’s there, hence military spending. Tricky customer, but that’s one for you successor to deal with, I suspect he finds him more sympatico.

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: Yes, definitely mention Antetokounmpo, Mr President. That’s a slam-dunk!

OPOTUS: [inaudible]

Athens: Sure, we can arrange for you to shoot some hoops in the Embassy gym. You will have to go easy though – the Prime Minister is more of a volleyball man.

basket
“More of a volleyball man.”

Switchboard: Mr President, Berlin is on the line.

 

* Editor’s note: It means “Killers of people, Americans” and is a perennial favourite at anti-American rallies.


IMAGES: President Obama looking demob-happy (White House); Flag burning outside U.S. Embassy in Athens, November 2014, via patrasevents.gr; Tsipras with former Greek basketball captain Nikos Gallis via lay-out.gr.

 

 

 

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Hope is on the way (out) – Barry’s farewell tour

Black December, red pen

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ATHENS TECHNICAL SCHOOL (TEI): COURSEWORK COVER SHEET *

Department: Business Administration

Module: Introduction to Marketing

Grading period: Winter Semester 2015

Submitted by: Nikos Romanos, Panayiotis Argyros

Project: Write the copy for a marketing campaign to introduce “Black Friday” into the Greek retail calendar. “Black Friday” is a 24-hour period of sales held the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, but now extended to online retailers and traditional retail venues outside the U.S. where Thanksgiving is not celebrated. It has become common for shoppers to camp overnight outside the retail venues to queue for cheap consumer goods. Violence, injuries and even deaths have occasionally resulted from poor crowd control.

Grade: B-

Detailed Comments: Some sparky stuff in here, but 2,571 words is really excessive. You need to work to a 250 word limit – maximum! In my markup, I have suggested ways to improve and shorten your copy. Detailed comments follow.

Concept: I LOVE your idea of a month day of revolution, and I also love how you are able blend it with an anapologetically nostalgic appeal (“let us remember”): you’re saying “it’s new and radical but also familiar and comforting”. I can immediately see the cross-platform potential of spontaneous street actions: “direct action groups”, “public interventions” (flashmobs in downtown Athens and in the shopping malls, a social media campaign, we can Astro-turf the hell out of this one). Paint the town red, explosions of colour against the grey concrete! Very “Apple Mackintosh 1984”, classic!

Style: You have got the authentic touches here, you really seem to have studied your Bakunin, and absorbed that rich yet stilted language. You have a kind of vintage, steampunk thing going on. But we need to remember our audience. I think here we need to focus on the dynamic elements: “Youth!” “Spontaneity!” “Impetuous!” “Revolution!” “Explosive!” Short sentences! Punchy!

Content: I have picked out some of my favourite quotes which I think really capture the spirit:

“We are living the beginning of the end of the world as we know it” – I love this, it really highlights to momentousness of the occasion (and it would be momentous, in a country where “never on Sunday” is still a slogan in the retail space).

“Black December Friday is more than just a date” – I paraphrase slightly, but again, MOMENTOUS!

“The only possible alliance is with the world of probabilities” – a world of probabilities: how optimistic, how ASPIRATIONAL!

You really have a gift for evoking the joy of shopping: “the consumption of bliss”, “the windows of abundance” – really had me reaching for my credit card there.

I suggest you avoid describing violence and oppression directly. The tyranny of the current retail calendar can be implied quite powerfully using visual cues. Study how that Apple ad does it: they reference George Orwell and show riot police on American TV, during the Super Bowl. No-one bats an eyelid, no-one ends up in jail! That’s cojones!

Also: you quote several “alternative” poets to illustrate your points. In a multi-media context we can do this with musical cues. Nirvana would be my go-to music for this type of message: grungy yet “safe” for consumers; instant appeal for Generation X demographic, rebels with a healthy disposable income.

Logistics: I suspect a month of steep discounts would be too much even for a healthy retail client, hence I suggest we stick to the original “Black Friday”, but I give you points for thinking big.

Conclusion: Please don’t be discouraged by the red ink or the grade, this is one of the most promising pieces of work I have seen this semester. When you become available for work, I will be delighted to introduce you to my good friends at ¡Revolución! Communications, who are always on the lookout for talent – they have an interesting client list and your experience will be relevant.

 


* All external links are 100% genuine, everything in between in a fabrication.

The original text used in this exercise is a proclamation issued on the 11th November 2015 by Nikos Romanos and Panayiotis Argyros from prison, calling for a “Black December” of mayhem, vandalism and bomb attacks. The original Greek text can be found here, and translation was done for expediency by Google Translate – the surreal mash-up of nihilism, exuberance and half-digested jargon is mostly preserved. A time-bomb which detonated in the early hours of Tuesday 24th November outside the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises in central Athens, causing significant material damage, may or may not have been linked to this proclamation. The Christmas lights were lit 50 metres away in Syntagma Square that same evening by the Mayor of Athens.

Nikos Romanos is serving a 16-year prison term for armed robbery. He was a key witness when his teenage friend, Alexis Grigoropoulos was shot dead by a policeman in the Athens neighbourhood of Exarcheia in December 2008, an incident which resulted in extensive rioting in the centre of Athens. After the incident, Romanos went underground, believed to be hiding with various anti-authoritarian groups, until he was arrested in the course of an armed bank robbery in northern Greece in February 2013. He is also suspected of involvement in a number of non-fatal terror attacks. While in prison, he sat his university entry exams and gained a place to study Business Administration at the Technical School (TEI) of Athens. In 2014 he went on hunger strike to demand permission to attend classes on day release rather than by remote study.  His demand was not met. Sympathetic views hold that Romanos is torn between a genuine desire to learn and his ties to anarcho-terrorist groups in prison. This latest proclamation suggests that any rehabilitation effort is losing ground. This post imagines a more optimistic scenario in which the text has been misinterpreted, and where it is in fact a testament to the redemptive power of Business Studies.

Panayiotis Argyros is a member of the anarcho-terrorist group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire (Συνωμοσία των Πυρήνων της Φωτιάς, or SPF), one of the latest generation of domestic urban guerilla groups which have been active in Greece since the 1970s. SPF have been responsible for a number of terror attacks and attempted attacks involving time-bombs and parcel-bombs against political and business targets since 2008. Argyros was arrested in November 2010 after a parcel bomb addressed to then French President Nicolas Sarkozy detonated in the hands of a courier company employee causing his injury. He is serving a 25-year term for his involvement in the organisation and a number of bombing attacks on political and business targets. Recently, a former Citizen Protection Minister in the previous Syriza/ANEL government initiated a judicial investigation by alleging that senior Syriza officials were being lobbied by imprisoned members of the SPF group, and that his life was under threat as a result of his non-cooperation.

Images: Daniel Acker: Bloomberg; seleo.gr via stoxos.gr

 

 

 

Black December, red pen

Five steps to effective political communications

bullet

If you want to put your views across to a minister or senior government official and you don’t have (a) a lobbying and entertainment budget, (b) a secret “commissions” slush fund, or (c) a relative in the ministry, you need to follow these simple guidelines to get your message across. At ¡Revolución! Communications your mission is our passion.

Commit to a brand identity. Many underestimate branding as a superficial exercise and an unnecessary expense. However, have a browse through a good branding handbook relevant to your business, and you will see that every revolutionary success story is underpinned by a great brand.

Be brief and to the point. Ministers and senior officials are busy people, and most of their correspondence ends up in a pile to be read by some junior flunky. No-one will read a turgid 40-page manifesto with your sophomoric musings on Marx or Bakunin unless you plant a bomb. At ¡Revolución! Communications we believe that non-violent forms of expression can be just as effective. A few well-chosen words, suitably framed, are all you need to get your point across. A slight verbal tick (e.g. brackets or random capitals) might help to suggest that you are slightly unhinged, but don’t go overboard.

Pick a distinctive logo. We are big fans of the red star. Some say it is over-used but we think it has an elegant timeless simplicity. It says “I’m a left-of-centre revolutionary” but without too many specifics (for this reason we advise against the hammer and sickle which lost its freshness long ago).

Spend some time picking a signature. You may wish to preserve some mystery around your identity. This may be necessary for security purposes, but it is also a useful way of implying that you are a movement rather than a lone nutter. We recommend this revolutionary name generator as a starting point. NB: It is essential that you check that your chosen name isn’t already in use – you wouldn’t want some young punk taking credit for your righteous actions.

Say it with a gift. Always accompany your letter with discreet gift that helps you to communicate your message. Make sure you comply with your own corporate gift policy and that of the recipient. As a rule, it is good to pick something inexpensive so as not require an entry in the gifts register. In your case, we recommend something punchy – like a bullet (not to be confused with bullet points, remember “powerpoint is evil”). Also: as with words, so with bullets. One is enough to make your point. This is not a Cretan wedding.

Image: Letter received yesterday by the Greek Deputy Finance Minister in charge of taxation, accompanied by a single bullet. The letter reads: “TRYFON ALEXIADIS, COLLECTOR OF THE WERMACHT… UNTIL THE HOUR <0> YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHAT FEAR MEANS, YOU AND YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS… RED FACTION.” A similar letter, also accompanied by a bullet, was received last week by the Chair of the the advisory committee on pensions, the so-called “Committee of Wise Men”. Taxation and pension reform are two of the key areas where the government is pushing forward with further austerity policies as part of the latest bailout agreement.

Five steps to effective political communications