The Reality Tape

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Το τέλος της ανεκτικότητας;

Δημοσκόπηση-καμπανάκι του πανεπιστημίου Cornell, που δόθηκε χτες στη δημοσιότητα:

Nearly half of all Americans surveyed said they think the US government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslim Americans, according to a nationwide poll. [link]

Τα αποτελέσματα μιας τρομολαγνικής προεκλογικής εκστρατείας κατά την οποία κάθε αμφισβήτηση της κυρίαρχης ρητορικής στον Πόλεμο κατά της Τρομοκρατίας ήταν αδιανόητη, κάθε συζήτηση για την ανάγκη προστασίας θεμελιωδών πολιτικών δικαιωμάτων σημάδι αδυναμίας, κάθε αναφορά στο Γκουαντανάμο και το Abu Ghraib ταμπού; Ή μήπως κάτι που θα βλέπαμε και σε άλλες δυτικές κοινωνίες; Ποια θα ήταν άραγε τα αντίστοιχα νούμερα στην Ελλάδα;

2 Comments:

  • Εάν η χώρα μας είχε μια εμπειρία ανάλογη (ή και πολύ μικρότερη) της τρομοκρατικής ενέργειας κατά των δίδυμων πύργων, τότε τα αντίστοιχα νούμερα θα ήταν πάρα πολύ υψηλά. Και το μένος πολλών συμπολιτών μας (που θεωρούν εαυτούς πιο πατριώτες από τους υπόλοιπους Έλληνες) θα ήταν απερίγραπτο. Δυστυχώς.

    By Blogger bizwriter, at December 18, 2004 at 9:25 PM  

  • By contrast with the late 1980s, when Greek public opinion exhibited high levels of tolerance towards those few foreigners who resided in the country, the massive inflows of immigration that followed gave rise to excessively xenophobic attitudes. As Cohen (1985:211) put it, ‘the enemy was now within the gates.’ To take but a few empirical examples, Voulgaris et al. (1995) have suggested that, in 1994, 69 per cent of the Greeks surveyed believed that there were ‘too many’ foreigners in the country. Similarly, the 1997 Eurobarometer data showed that 72 per cent of Greeks ‘tend[ed] to agree … [that] all illegal immigrants should be sent back to their country of origin without exception,’ whilst the 2000 Eurobarometer rated Greece as the most xenophobic country in the European Union (see Linos 2001:17-18).

    To this tune, the Conservative government of the early 1990s rushed to pass the Law 1975/1991 which, despite subsequent amendments and two later attempts to regularise large groups of illegal migrants, has inscribed the Greek immigration policy ever since. Inter alia, the then new law provided for the harsh punishment of both those who would enter and/or work in the country without permit, and those who would help them cross the borders or hire them. Moreover, clandestine migrants were denied access to all public services, including education and health care. At the same time, regular immigrants were subjected to a number of restrictive practices, largely dependent upon the wide discretion of the authorities in charge and the will of their employers (e.g. in the granting and renewing their residence and/or work permits; see Karydis 1998:351, Papasiopi-Pasia 1995, Vrellis 1999).

    This negative climate has mainly been due to two widespread claims: first, that large migratory flows exacerbate the already inflated unemployment rates for Greek nationals (see, for example, Badwin-Edwards & Safilios-Rothschild 1999); and second, that the influx of foreigners and particularly Albanians has been the main cause for the (putative) rise of criminality in the country from the 1990s onwards. Put differently, foreigners are viewed as the main sources of both economic and ontological insecurity in contemporary Greece. Insofar as the first proposition is concerned, presenting the migrant community as a major threat to the economy is largely inaccurate, if not hypocritical. As already analysed, immigrants fill an important gap in the informal labour arena by acquiring jobs disdained by the native population, thus also ‘serv[ing] the living standard and the comfort of the more favoured community’ (Galbraith 1992:31). Furthermore, several researchers have gone so far as to argue that ‘cheap’ foreign labour has already had a multi-pronged positive effect on the Greek economy (for a brief review of this theme, see Siadima 2001). Unsurprisingly, then, there has been a somewhat lackadaisical approach to the consistent implementation of the harsh immigration laws, thus often allowing irregular migrants to remain and work in the country in their masses. In a similar vein, linking the waves of immigration to a concurrent increase in crime rates is but a myth, reciprocally reinforced and amplified for various purposes by the mass media, politicians, and the public (see Sparks 2001).

    Unlike what is widely purported, if one excludes motoring offences (e.g. parking fines and failures to comply with driving regulations), there has been a 12.5 per cent fall in the overall rate of notifiable offences recorded by the police within eleven years, from 205,573 in 1990 to 179,799 in 2000, that is, during the period of the rising migratory inflows (see Table 3.1). Moreover, whilst the proportion of foreign offenders rose five-fold, from 3,369 in 1990 to 19,056 in 2000, as compared to a twenty per cent decrease in the corresponding rate for Greeks, from 202,204 in 1990 to 160,743 in 2000, it turns out that the rate of offending by foreigners has always been at least nine times lower than that by Greeks. In this respect, it is no wonder that offending rates by Greeks are reflected in the overall trend (see Figure 2.1). What is more, in 2000, the percentage of foreigners amongst perpetrators of high-profile crimes such as homicides (intentional and unintentional, completed and attempted), assaults, and drug-related offences was lower than their estimated proportion in the general population of Greece. Not surprisingly, it was significantly higher in thefts (all types included) and robberies, a phenomenon greatly attributable to their harsh living conditions, rather than to any kind of special propensity for unlawful conduct and deviance.

    Of particular importance is the fact that these figures have been calculated from official police-recorded data, a source famously influenced by an array of both macro- and micro-level factors. Amongst others, these may include political pressures exerted upon the police for intensifying or prioritising the surveillance of migrant communities, and the increased willingness of victims or witnesses to report crimes committed by foreigners (see, for example, Bottomley & Pease 1986, Coleman & Moynihan 1996). Moreover, it is not clear from these data the extent to which the offences perpetrated by foreigners concern illegal entry and/or work in the country, that is, phenomena of little criminological interest. Karydis (1998:357), for example, suggests that ‘three out of four of the offences committed by migrants [in Greece] concern violations of the Law for Aliens.’ Even so, official statistics belie the link between the influx of immigration and a supposed rise in the overall crime rates.

    Be that as it may, the Greek press and broadcast news place particular emphasis upon, and over-sensationalise titillating crimes, especially when committed by foreigners, even more so when victims are Greek nationals, thus boosting their numbers at the expense of reflecting reality. To the same goal, although less often, they blame not as yet cleared up offences on ethnic minorities, most usually Albanians (see Karydis 1998, Spinelli et al. 1996a; see also Reiner 2002, Sparks 1992). In such largely virtual conditions of disorderliness and insecurity, the public exhibits an increasing tendency towards scapegoating. That is, they identify themselves over and against foreign ‘otherness,’ thereby displacing feelings of vulnerability with anger against minorities (see, for example, Galanis 1996; see also Kearney 2003). To borrow the words of Philip Zimbardo (2003),

    ‘Prejudice against out-groups is one consequence of such strong negative emotions, as is an increased readiness to attack “safe” targets, such as marginalized peoples in our nation … Human nature … seems to abhor feelings of personal weakness and uncertainty, seeking instead to ally one’s identity to those manifesting strength with conviction. In those times, people want to support leaders who are bold, decisive, single-minded, even arrogant men of action. They want our leaders to identify “the enemy” for them, to give it a name, a face and a location so that they can channel their collective hatred and unleash the strength of the [State] on a readily winnable war against that evil, though weak, enemy.’

    Against this background, Greek governments of all stripes have long adopted (and, depending on the situation in question, implemented) ‘populist punitive’ policies, ranging from the Fortress Europe-oriented Law 1975/1991 (see Hepple 2004) and its mutations to ordering highly publicised ‘sweeps,’ that is, police operations of massive arrests and eventual deportations of illegal migrants. These serve to assuage feelings of insecurity and, ultimately, to satisfy large constituencies (Karydis 1998; compare Linos 2001). At the same time, politicians have been turning a blind eye to the true dimensions of crime, whether these be its multifarious causes, or the perpetrators, thereby perpetuating a problem that is destined to backfire.

    Loic Wacquant (1999:219) takes this argument one step further by arguing that, in recent years, the police, judicial, and penal agencies throughout Europe have been greatly oriented towards criminalising immigrants. This, Wacquant goes on to suggest, tends ‘to (co)produce the very phenomenon it is supposed to combat, in accord with the well known mechanism of the “self-fulfilling prophecy … [thus eventually] justify[ing] … the special attention given to these groups by the police services.’ Whilst I believe that, to a certain degree at least, this vicious-circular phenomenon may well be under way in Greece –in fact, one could also approach it in conjunction with the social, economic, and spatial marginalisation of migrant populations– it still lacks considerable evidentiary weight.

    What is more clear is that Greek society has fabricated a new subcategory within its underclass, that of foreigners, to the point that one may speak of a process of racialisation of the underclass. What the mainstream society in Greece perceives as such, either consciously or unconsciously, no longer solely comprises socio-economically excluded subgroups like low-income working-class people or gypsies, but rather it is dominated by the rapidly expanding communities of migrant minorities. The latter, being not only poor but also strangers, often also clandestine, are targeted more than any other cluster in Greek contemporariness. Indeed, they are treated as the new ‘barbarians’ –a pejorative term originally used by Ancient Greeks to refer to any foreign and, thus, putatively uncivilised and subhuman populations– who should be subservient by virtue of their extraction (see Coleman & Walz 1997, Harrison 2002). At the same time, they are seen as a dispensable segment of ‘usual suspects,’ the first to be held responsible for the various ills of the social spectrum and be declared personae non gratae, should the politico-economic needs dictate so. Migrants are thus subjected to a sacrificial mechanism which deploys their increased needs for legalised status, stable employment, higher income, better living conditions, and education in a two-fold manner. That is, either as a basis for labour exploitation or as attributes of high-riskiness that urgently call for their control and often their prolonged containment (and eventual deportation), at least as concerns the most disruptive amongst them (see Feeley & Simon 1992, 1994, Simon & Feeley 1995). To employ the socialist feminist term first introduced by James Messerschmidt (1986), this phenomenon could be described as a double marginality.

    Although serious research attention has yet to be focused on the extent to which the Greek police and the courts discriminate against foreigners, prison statistics clearly point in that direction, particularly if compared against the aforementioned police-recorded data. In recent years, the judiciary, perhaps wishing to appear in tune with the clamour of politicians and the media, have been making excessive use of custody, thus inflating the rate of imprisonment and exacerbating prison overcrowding (see Tournier 1999). In point of fact, neither the option of converting custodial sentences into community-based sanctions, nor parole have proved adequate to divert the flows of convicted offenders from prisons and to engender any significant decrease in the average length of the sentence served respectively (Spinellis & Spinellis 1999, Tournier 1999; see also Karydis & Koulouris 2002). From the mid-1980s onwards, there has been a sheer growth of the imprisonment rate, rising from 3,559 in 1985 to 8,841 in 2003, which amounts to a 60 per cent increase. This largely reflects the upsurge in the incarceration rate of foreigners. To take one example, the imprisonment rate of non-Greeks more than doubled in a short eleven years, rising from 1,650 in 1993 to 3,750 in 2003, as compared to a 7 per cent fall in the rate of their Greek counterparts (from 5,485 in 1993 to 5,091 in 2003; see also Tomaševski 1994:6). In 2003, foreigners comprised 42.4 per cent of the total prison population, which is four times higher than their estimated proportion in the general population of the country.

    See also:
    http://www.zimbardo.com/downloads/2002%20Political%20Psychology%20of%20Terrorist%20Alarms.pdf


    Best wishes from Cambridge

    Leo

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 19, 2004 at 1:58 PM  

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