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Javnost: The Public, 2015

Vol. 22, No. 1, 1–17, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13183222.2015.1017284

LEGITIMATION MECHANISMS IN THE
BAILOUT DISCOURSE

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Vaia Doudaki
This study examines how the discursive struggles over the constituents of the financial crisis
in Greece are policed by mainstream domestic media, in favour of the hegemonic interpretations of the crisis. The study focuses in particular on the discursive mechanisms the Greek
press employed to legitimate the bailout agreements Greece signed with the troika. The
analysis points to the discursive mechanisms of naturalisation and objectivation that
empower the reconstruction of the hegemonic neoliberal rhetoric. The media studied actively
participate in the discursive struggle over the crisis, exercising political agency by legitimating
the bailout policies as the single course of action for the financial recovery of the country,
while selectively omitting or discrediting alternative voices and interpretations.
KEYWORDS legitimation; hegemony; discourse; discursive struggles; news; financial crisis;
bailout; Greece

Introduction
The public discussion on the financial crisis in Greece is articulated around a set of
discourses over the meaning of the crisis and the ways to overcome it, with media
holding a key position in mediating the discursive struggles in which social and political
actors fight over the definitions of the crisis. The mainstream media, in particular, are criticised for favouring and supporting the hegemonic discourse over the crisis, by privileging
the political and economic elites in expressing their views and providing their framing and
interpretations while marginalising or excluding counter-hegemonic or other alternative
voices (Mylonas 2014; Titley 2012). In this respect, the mainstream media are not only
seen to mediate the public discussion but also to intervene as active agents in the discursive
struggles over the social construction of the crisis.
Within this context, this study examines how the domestic mainstream media in
Greece covered and represented the bailout-related news, over a two-year period (April
2010–June 2012); that is, the news referring to the memoranda Greece signed with the
troika, which were considered vital for the economic “salvation” of the country. The study
focuses in particular on the discursive mechanisms the domestic press used to legitimate
the necessity of the bailouts, not only reproducing the hegemonic discourse of the crisis
but also contributing to its construction. The analysis is theoretically informed by the discussion on the role of media in the social construction of reality (Tuchman 1978a; Berger and
Luckmann 1967; Hall at al. 1978), combined with the concept of hegemony, and specifically
the media’s role in reiterating and legitimating hegemonic discourses over critical issues for
societies (Hall et al. 1978; Gramsci 1971; Gitlin 1980, 1986; Herman and Chomsky 1988). The
analysis is further informed by discourse theory (Laclau and Mouffe 1985), which sees
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the acceptance and maintenance of the hegemonic order depends largely on its legitimation. Scott 2001. 14–15). 109). hegemony “is never achieved more than partially and temporarily. News. is considered one of the main sources of knowledge and power in society (Entman 2004. For van Dijk. in as much as they “are not simple systems of ideas but are embodied in institutions. (1977. Deetz explains that The site of hegemony is the myriad of everyday institutional activities and experiences that culminate in “common sense. whereas “[i]deologies are representations of aspects of the world which can be shown to contribute to establishing. Dominant group definitions of reality. but are constructed and re-negotiated (Derrida [1976] 1998. One of the main fields where these discursive struggles of describing and defining social reality take place is the mainstream media. 92) and is related to the various means through which the dominant ideology in a culture is reproduced and largely accepted even by social groups whose interests are not supported by it (Dow 1990. while maintaining a material character. 142).193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 Hegemonic Discourses and (Re)Constructions of Reality The concept of hegemony. 62). Laclau and Mouffe. The power of ideologies lies in their capacity to discursively facilitate the articulation of hegemonic practices. Scott identifies legitimation as one of the two main elements of persuasive influence (the second is signification). norms.65. Berger and Luckmann describe legitimation as a second-order objectivation of meaning. 93). moving away from an exclusive focus on class domination. cultural and ideological domains of a society” (Fairclough 1992. hegemony is “leadership as much as domination across the economic. diverging or counter-hegemonic opinions. Of course. Given that meaning and definitions of reality are never fixed.2 VAIA DOUDAKI discourse as central to the social production of meaning and is often employed in the examination of hegemonic discourses articulated in the social. Tuchman 1978a. views and versions of reality circulate in society. and broadly seeks to reveal the ways in which culture and ideology intertwine (McKinley and Simonet 2003. 9). maintaining and changing social relations of power. 325). departing from the seminal work of Gramsci on class power. political. 139). Barthes 1976) in discursive (power) struggles. 255). In his map of power relations. 89). connects hegemony not only to the political and economic dominance of a class but also to its cultural dominance (Bates 1975. 262. “[e]very system of authority attempts to establish and to cultivate the belief in its legitimacy” (1964. As Fairclough notes. see hegemony broadly as a form of politics (1985. Scott 2001. as a process of explaining and justifying. the openness of the social is the precondition of every hegemonic practice (Laclau and Mouffe 1985. in particular. Downloaded by [74.213. 9). rituals and so forth” (Laclau and Mouffe 1985. 89). as an ‘unstable equilibrium’” (1995. “legitimation is one of the main social functions of ideologies” (1998. leading to “commitment to or recognition of ideas or values that are accepted as beyond question. Actually. From this perspective. “Legitimation ‘explains’ the institutional order by ascribing cognitive validity to its objectivated meanings … [and] justifies … [it] by giving a normative dignity to its practical imperatives … ” (1967.” thus hiding the choices made and “mystifying” the interests of dominant groups. domination and exploitation” (Fairclough 2003. According to Weber. and standards appear as normal rather than as political and contestable. 76). . as providing intrinsically appropriate reasons for acting … [limiting the subalterns’] … willingness to consider action alternatives” (2001.

Of course. but they become active agents in their articulation by policing the counter-hegemonic voices in the discursive struggles over critical issues for societies. According to Tuchman.213. This is offered mainly by elite agents and official sources. were chosen for the study. media professionals largely accept the frames imposed on events by officials and marginalize the delegitimate voices that fall outside the dominant elite circles.65. the assignment of “an inferior ontological status.193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 LEGITIMATION MECHANISMS IN THE BAILOUT DISCOURSE 217). reproducing thus “symbolically the existing structure of power in society’s institutional order” (Hall et al. for in the process of describing an event. the first targeting a middle-class centre-left readership and 3 . most often by hegemonic actors offering their interpretations on social reality and their views on both the dominant and alternative versions of reality. the interest in this study lies in investigating how the hegemonic discourse on the bailout agreements is legitimated by the Greek media. to all definitions existing outside the symbolic universe” (Berger and Luckmann 1967.Downloaded by [74. in the name of objectivity. The two daily newspapers with the highest circulation at the time of research. 57 and 58). Both are long-established newspapers in Greece. such as journalists. the media are considered major cultural institutions in building common-sense and securing consent (Herman and Chomsky 1988) by favouring and echoing “the definitions of the powerful” over social reality. in the news. in these discursive struggles a multitude of alternative voices and definitions do circulate. Therefore. 1978. and thereby a not-to-be-taken-seriously cognitive status. is assigned readily by journalists and media. However. by identifying the main legitimation mechanisms that facilitate the construction of the hegemonic articulation of the crisis. Especially in issues of high controversy or in crises. together with other elite institutions—mainly from the political and economic fields—to address the main issues of. (1990. privileging those that echo the views of actors in power positions (Gitlin 1986). In cases where the dominant social definitions of reality are threatened. 394). In this vein. and for. presented largely as the only means for the country’s “salvation”. By perpetuating as commonsensical notions of who ought to be treated as authoritative. the role of organic intellectuals. finding their expression—mostly. “news does not mirror society. the dominant mainstream media are privileged spaces where the main discourses of society are reconstructed. 254). 115) helps in protecting the prevailing articulations. societies that alternative media lack. Their privileged status derives not only from their wide audience reach but also from their legitimation as one of the main cultural institutions. It helps to constitute it as a shared social phenomenon. Research Outline and Methodology The bailouts Greece signed with the troika received extensive coverage. Ta Nea (The News) and Kathimerini (Daily). is critical in certifying “the limits within which all competing definitions of reality will contend” (Gitlin 1980. In this context. news defines and shapes that event” (1978a. and. but not exclusively—in nondominant or alternative media. the dominant media not only are the channels through which hegemonic discourses circulate. As Reese notes. 184). these routines help the system maintain control without sacrificing legitimacy. when meaning can be highly contested and the discursive struggle over it among social and political agents is intense.

forthcoming). Additionally to their wide reach in the Greek public. Most major Greek media organisations are part of large company groups and have often been used as vehicles for the exchange of economic or political favours (Hallin and Papathanassopoulos 2002). more closely affiliated to the economic elite. accompanied by a 53. Each one of the research periods includes one week preceding and one week following the core events. because the aim was to look into the ways in which reality is discursively constructed in allegedly neutral accounts of events.Downloaded by [74. they do not belong in the same cluster of elites—together with the economic elite and the political elite—as the leading media in the country. The analysis followed a series of iterative coding processes.5 per cent “haircut”1 of Greece’s debt to the private sector. European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF)) agreement for a rescue package of €110 billion to prevent Greece from bankruptcy. along with discourse theory. The first period (16 April 2010–10 May 2010) was marked by the Greek government’s and the troika’s (European Union. However. During the third period (29 April 2012–24 June 2012). From a set of 576 bailout-related news texts equally distributed in each research period and newspaper (print edition) that had been previously selected for a study on the news framing of the bailouts (Doudaki et al. and their power as institutions addressing the major issues of the Greek society is thus significantly weaker. During the second period (20 October 2011–19 February 2012). and a weak professional culture on the part of journalists (Hallin and Papathanassopoulos 2002. national elections were held twice. PASOK (the socialist party that was previously in power) and Democratic Left (a small left-wing party). apart from their smaller reach. moving from the detection of specific elements and their systematic categorisation to the identification of general mechanisms of legitimation. Titscher et al. their position in the discursive struggles over the crisis is arguably rather frail. which has traditionally been characterised by strong state control. The analysis focused on news reports and did not include opinion articles. a second bailout loan programme of €130 billion. as they are presented through conventional news reporting. No preconceived categories were used in order to allow the categories to flow from the data inductively (Kondracki and Wellman 2002). as the government of PASOK had previously resigned and a steady government was needed to implement the bailouts.193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 4 VAIA DOUDAKI the second targeting a more conservative right-wing readership. main opposition previously). they are also sound examples of the mainstream media system in Greece. addressing a different discourse over the crisis. commentary or editorials. . Of course alternative media do exist.213. Even though a predetermined analytical framework was not followed but the categories were derived from the material. Hallin and Mancini 2004). since. For the purposes of the study. A text-centred qualitative content analysis (Hsieh and Shannon 2005. was agreed between the Greek government and the troika. Rather. and were put together to make up an analytical framework of legitimation mechanisms (see Table 1). 2000) was employed to locate the discursive legitimation mechanisms and their constituents. The result of the double elections was a tri-party coalition government of New Democracy (right-wing party. the analysis does not introduce new concepts. close ties between the state and the media. 60 news texts were qualitatively analysed as most relevant to this study’s purpose. pre-existing concepts from the theories of hegemony and social construction of reality instructed the analysis.65. news texts were selected and analysed from three time periods associated with significant developments regarding the bailout agreements.

LEGITIMATION MECHANISMS IN THE BAILOUT DISCOURSE TABLE 1 Legitimation mechanisms in the news discourse over the Greek bailouts Naturalisation Symbolic annihilation (omission. quantification and reification (see Table 1). It “points to the ways in which poor media treatment can contribute to social disempowerment and in which symbolic absence in the media can erase groups and individuals from public consciousness” (Means Coleman and Chivers Yochim 2008. trivialisation. trivialisation. 162). and are presented as “the way to do things”. condemnation) Mystification Simplification Objectivation Expertise Institutional sourcing Quantification Reification Downloaded by [74. 4922). condemnation). omitting or discrediting alternative voices and interpretations. broadly concerns the ways in which the information. while selectively marginalising. as “the way things are” or even as “an objective historical given” (Tuchman 1978a. 1978. According to Fairclough. condemnation or trivialisation (Tuchman 1978b. 112–113). one of the two main legitimation mechanisms identified throughout the analysis. the second mechanism. The first mechanism—naturalisation—is built around symbolic annihilation. 87).65. 5 . 223) that leads to the amplification of their symbolic power. creating a “signification spiral” (Hall et al. as appearing in the news texts studied. Naturalisation “One of the most important general functions of ideology is the way in which it turns uncertain and fragile cultural resolutions and outcomes into a pervasive naturalism” (Willis 1977. the opinions and the discussion on the financial crisis and the bailout agreements. the naturalisation or automatisation of ideologies gives them their common-sensical power (1992. Symbolic annihilation describes the under-representation or misrepresentation of particular (social) groups in the media (Gerbner and Gross 1976. 182) through the mechanisms of omission. mystification and simplification. These mechanisms work most often in combination.213. Both naturalisation and objectivation assist the promotion and legitimation of the hegemonic discourse over the crisis by creating a supportive structure where the bailout agreements appear as natural and objective realities. become taken for granted and practically unquestioned. Through naturalisation and its constituents—symbolic annihilation (omission. is constructed by expertise. institutional sourcing. Symbolic annihilation. Objectivation. mystification and simplification—the hegemonic discourse of the crisis is normalised and diverging opinions and ideas within the discursive struggle over the crisis are neutralised. privileged discursive points that (temporarily and partially) fix meaning in the discursive struggle over the crisis (Laclau and Mouffe 1985.193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 Legitimising Mechanisms in the Discursive Struggles over the Crisis The analysis revealed two main legitimation mechanisms. each articulated by specific components. exercising political agency in a process through which a number of floating signifiers in the crisis discourse become nodal points. 196). Naturalisation. The media work as vehicles of legitimation. 17).

(Ta Nea. while the reaction of the opposition is restricted in the last paragraph. The media covering the economic crisis at the international level often employ a neoliberal discourse according to which the state policies have failed and . representative of the mechanism of omission (but also of mystification. “the ruling ideas” regarding the crisis are presented as the unquestioned and taken-for-granted reality (Scott 2001. is created by the journalists’ selective use of sources. nihilation denies the reality of whatever phenomena or interpretations of phenomena do not fit into that universe” (1967. The absence and marginalisation of vital information for the apprehension of the crisis constituents and of alternative views and definitions adds to the establishment of “a powerful. critical actors.65.6 VAIA DOUDAKI Downloaded by [74. George Papaconstantinou. Mr. This objective should be achieved. Even though it is unquestionably the reified force of the deficit that needs to be tackled. its nature and special characteristics are totally mystified. following Merkel’s2 statements for the need of new tough measures by Greece. but also increasing revenues. 166). Instead. if included. the government’s main target is quantified (deficit reduction by four per cent in 2010 and by 10 per cent in the next three years). main constituents of the financial crisis. one never learns how these two will be achieved. constraining environment that appears entirely natural to social actors” (Abercrombie. The Minister said that apart from the goal to reduce the deficit by 4% in 2010. a supportive structure for the symbolic annihilation of any alternative to the neoliberal austerity policies.213. A news report on the Greek government’s goals regarding the reduction of the deficit. 27 April 2010). The reader does get informed on the ways that this can be accomplished: through the reduction of expenses and the increase of revenue. As relevant research has recurrently shown. Vital information for the comprehension of the issue is omitted. Also. in the discursive struggle over the crisis. Papakonstantinou said. In the following examples. However. all other information related to the ultimate purpose does not need to be added or. creating discursively a power imbalance between the two sides. In this way. 90) of the crisis. Omission. 114). Condemnation. starts as follows: A four-year program with the target to reduce the deficit to zero was announced yesterday evening in the Parliament by the Minister of Finance. In addition. “it is estimated that from 2011 and in the next three years a deficit reduction of up to 10 percentage points can be reached”. primarily by reducing costs. Mylonas 2012. to be justified. The reader never learns how big is the deficit or why it should be the first priority of the government. and Turner 1980. the information on the structures that nurtured its growth or the repercussions of its tackling for society is completely missing.193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 From a different starting point. Tracy 2012). it is uniquely the minister’s position that is presented in this text. Hill. 27 April 2010). headlined “Four-year Program for ‘Zero Deficit’” (Ta Nea. used as a means to legitimise the governmental policy. data and interpretative frameworks. quantification and reification). Berger and Luckmann view what they call nihilation as a kind of negative legitimation: “Legitimation maintains the reality of the socially constructed universe. as well as alternative framing and interpretations of the crisis are often absent from the related news discourse (Doudaki et al. institutional sourcing. forthcoming.

Through their stereotypical reproduction and repetition. the government is the only source in the text and is given the exclusive privilege of offering its interpretation on the issue. for the provisions that were not voted concerned the professional groups of pharmacists and lawyers).193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 the public sector is accused for the crisis. and thus trivialised and weakened. Still. in the name of objectivity. New Democracy and LAOS caused serious damage [to the government]. including the actors’ directly involved in the issue (the disobeying MPs). as opposed to the healthy private sector where economy can function unobstructed in full capacity (Tracy 2012. which. mystification and institutional sourcing) is provided by a news story headlined “Games in the Parliament in Critical Times” (Kathimerini. members of PASOK. Trivialisation. are mystified. In the case of the Greek crisis. Mylonas 2014.65. Also. it can reversely lead to them being neutralised. A conflictual or polarised frame of an event can have a neutralising effect: the presentation. An example of condemnation (also. In this text. choosing to vote against critical provisions of the Finance Ministry’s multi-bill. In a news report on the stance of the European governments towards Greece in view of the imminent elections and the ratification of the second bailout agreement. Furthermore. 2014) and homogenising their different elements creates a spiral of its automated reproduction.213. Doudaki et al. in reference to institutional sourcing. main issues in the news tend to be trivialised. 25 January 2012). 2014). is missing. however. leading to the creation of a common sense about the sources of the crisis.LEGITIMATION MECHANISMS IN THE BAILOUT DISCOURSE Downloaded by [74. 25 January 2012). it is their connection with specific interest groups. the 7 . endangering the government’s mission to save the country. which is fully adopted by the journalist. The text does not leave any room for alternative interpretations: it is by no way the disagreement of the MPs with the governmental policy. Mylonas 2012). are directly condemned for playing “political games in critical times”. of omission. by developing a common-sensical discourse on the harsh measures implemented. 25 January 2012). The interpretation on their disobedience is offered in the last part of the story under the inner title “Hostages of Organised Interests”: “Sources of the government note that ‘yesterday’s image in the Parliament shows just how difficult it is to deal with the unions and how strong their influence is on the Members of Parliament’” (Kathimerini. Any other position. so that Greece secures the new loan. The news report’s lead sets the tone: While the government is required to meet the tight timeframe set by the Eurogroup. protest and diverging opinions within the political system and society are condemned as harmful for the economy and the countries’ future and prosperity (Titley 2012. the attachment to these special interests is mystified. severe austerity is naturalised as the orthodox path to recovery (Mylonas 2014). who did not follow the governmental line on the voting of a set of new measures related to the memorandum’s implementation. trivialising debt and deficit as main causes of the crisis (Doudaki et al. Members of Parliament (MPs) of the three parties forming the interim coalition government. The MPs’ disagreement is thus symbolically annihilated with them being condemned of serving organised interests. (Kathimerini. Trivialisation can also be connected to neutralisation. since one is not informed on which these interests are (even though they are implied. In addition. of the opposing positions and arguments within a conflictual frame does not lead to consolidating or agonistically considering the different positions.

legitimates. the Greek government is not directly blamed for the painful imminent measures and neither is the troika. (Ta Nea. 22 April 2010). the conditions that would allow their [the EU countries’] parliaments to ratify the new loan agreement of 130 billion euros. are not met”. apart from supporting a blameless discourse. The alarmed tone of the news report about Greece not making it for the new loan. The story is introduced as follows: “Hard bargain with the technocrats of the IMF and the EU. Accountability is mystified in this text. who is responsible for the crisis and which are the concrete societal effects of the measures taken for the memoranda’s implementation are systematically concealed (see. government. the Europeans’ harshness and suggests that there is no alternative for the country than to follow the agreed terms. In the next paragraph. are high. while the focus is on the harsh pressure from the troika. the powerful will save the country. they are abstract.8 VAIA DOUDAKI stereotypical image of untrustworthy Greece is trivialised to legitimate (also. even though frequently quantified. Mystification. The mystification of the crisis. the reasons behind the crisis are consistently mystified. 11 February 2012). Similarly. Debt and deficit. not connected to the specificities of the economic and political system. They require wild cuts in the private sector wages and immediate implementation of the [changes in the] social security system”. with a reliable.213. also. also braces fatalism. of omission. it is inevitable (Mylonas 2012. reification and institutional sourcing) entitled “Three and a Half Hours of Pounding by the Inspectors” (Ta Nea. 18). always too late”. restricted in two out of the eight paragraphs of the text. since the measures . according to European standards. In the news texts studied.193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 The concern of Europeans about what will happen to Greece after the elections and in particular whether the post-election political balances will ensure compliance with the agreements that the Papademos3 government has to validate. At the highest ranks of most governments of the euro-countries there is the impression that the Greek political forces as a whole are untrustworthy and that the chances for complications in the repayment of loans after the elections. legitimating the policies of harsh austerity. In the following example of mystification (also. which are presented as the main causes of the crisis. the country is presented through the words of European officials (even though we never learn their names. while— appearing disconnected from the specific reasons that caused them. eschatologically strengthening the neoliberal discussion of the inescapable austerity: Greece is helpless. The news story headlined “The Political Situation Troubles Europe” starts as follows: Downloaded by [74. are specific numbers. In this way the numbers acquire a quasi-mythical uncontested power (McKinley and Simonet 2003. through condemnation and institutional sourcing) the distrusting position of the Europeans and to support the fairness of their harsh policies. with the distressing attestation that “with the picture that Greece presents today. 2014). has become obvious. reporting on the European partners’ discontent on the progress Greece has made in the implementation of the first memorandum’s agreed terms.65. the position of the Greek side is presented only as a defensive reaction towards troika’s demands. through the condemnation and trivialisation of Greece’s unreliability. forthcoming). possessing a quantifiable dimension that cannot be easily challenged. Doudaki et al. they are quoted) as doing “always too little.

There is the assumption that complex processes of the economy need to be reduced to familiar and simplified news narratives to be readily accessible to the broad audience (Huxford 2008. 180). the opposition’s standpoint is presented in 37 words with one 11-word quote. the opening-up of closed professions. wage cuts are portrayed. In the most simplified manner (with the aid also of omission. We must care for them as well … ” (Kathimerini. which recommends to Greece. and ready explanations of complex phenomena such as unemployment and inflation (1997. the abolition of collective labour contracts. 14 January 2012). will be based on decisions of the Ecofin of 16 February. 22 April 2010). This is an argument that would readily appeal to the public opinion given the alarming dimensions of the phenomenon of unemployment in Greek society. 14 January 2012). News offers more than fact—it offers reassurance and familiarity in shared community experiences. A news story entitled “A Matter of Time the Decisions in the Labour” (Kathimerini. “competitiveness and growth”. no other relevant information is provided – for example. mystification and institutional sourcing).4 However. 336). as a measure to tackle unemployment. Papademos emphasized.65. In the second paragraph the prime minister’s rhetoric is deployed: “It is preferable to have open businesses with slightly lower wages … instead of closed businesses and more unemployed. avoiding structural connections between them (Tuchman 1978a. which is presented as a reified inhuman structure: All these [measures. it provides credible answers to baffling questions. on 9 . 115). among other things. (Ta Nea. etc. while the prime minister’s quoted speech adds up to 215 words. 13). transforming knowing into telling. In a text of 424 words.” Mr. News about the economy does provide regularly examples of simplistic or one-dimensional accounts of composite issues and phenomena (Martenson 1998. mystification serves the articulation of the hegemonic discourse over austerity by obscuring its constituents.LEGITIMATION MECHANISMS IN THE BAILOUT DISCOURSE will simply implement Ecofin’s decisions. through the words of the head of government. which seems to entail vaguely “structural changes”. thus having no concrete repercussions on society. the easing of restrictions on layoffs. reporting on the government’s decision to implement cuts in the salaries of the private sector.193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 This evasiveness and positive signification on the description of the harsh measures to be agreed with the troika results in the mystification of austerity. Hence. the reform of the pension and the health system. Downloaded by [74. Simplification. As it is difficult to adequately present all of their variations and nuances. According to Bird and Dardenne. “easing of restrictions”. focuses exclusively on the prime minister’s parliamentary speech on the issue. “reforms”.” … “The unemployed have neither minimum nor 13th and 14th salary. their different constituents tend to be homogenised into easily presented main categories. the minister of Finance] argued. and maintained that the final governmental positions will be established “with a view to enhancing competitiveness and protecting the most vulnerable sectors of society. news: is a way in which people create order out of disorder.213.

65. 1978. having a quasi-scientific ontological status. Hannes Swoboda. since together with the information the worldview of these elites is also adopted and presented as the orthodox perception over social reality. 58). The dependence of media and journalists on “accredited sources” within the professional logics of impartiality and objectivity produces “a systematically structured over-accessing to the media of those in powerful and privileged institutional positions” (Hall et al. quantification and reification—are used in the news to fortify the hegemonic discourse on the necessity and superiority of the neoliberal bailout policy over any other policy against the crisis. After the opposing stance is annihilated (with the help also of omission and simplification). The news plays a central role in objectifying public issues by bestowing them an “objective” status as real issues of high public concern (Hall et al. 1978. the possibility of . in the discursive struggle over unemployment. the left party SYRIZA—that keeps an anti-memorandum stance and in the preelection period announced that it would denounce the memorandum should it ever be in power—is warned that it “will fail if it tries to ‘blackmail Europe’”. 60). Objectivation in this study refers broadly to the presentation and (re)construction of information and ideas as real and objective facts that cannot be contested.213. 13 June 2012) and in view of the national elections in Greece. Media researchers and theorists agree that journalistic frames are largely shaped by social actors who possess significant economic and cultural assets. assessed that the denouncement of the Memorandum would amount to ‘a disaster for Greece’”. The analysis showed that the constituents of objectivation—institutional sourcing. and the sources in this process act as “the sponsor[s] of the frames” (Carragee and Roefs 2004. natural. Institutional sourcing. totally adopted by the journalist. should the wage reductions be implemented. Through the voice of Mr Swoboda. In a news report headlined “The EU Parliament is Warning” (Kathimerini. which legitimates the measure of wage reductions. Greece is warned on the imminent disaster should the next Greek government reject the memorandum or does not fully comply: “The head of the Socialist Group in the European Parliament.193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 Objectivation The second main legitimation mechanism is that of objectivation. The media’s heavy preference for institutionalised sources creates an “institutional bias” (Tuchman 1978a) on the social. expertise. they are affirming the facticity of the world as given by the natural attitude” (1978a. is actually a practice of political agency on the part of the journalist. 58). 196).10 VAIA DOUDAKI whether there will be any guarantees that the companies will be obliged to hire more employees. taken-for granted facts of life). Tuchman notes that “when members of a society identify aspects of culture and structure as objective phenomena (the normal. Berger and Luckmann perceive objectivation as “the process by which the externalized products of human activity attain the character of objectivity” (1967. European politicians provide as exclusive sources the no-alternative frame. 1978. Downloaded by [74. The unquestioned adoption in the text of the framing and preferred definition of the issue provided by the political elite. The European political actors get also the privilege to offer their position on the diverging standpoint of the oppositional Greek political forces. 219) or as their “primary definers” (Hall et al. 62).

that there is no way out since: even a left government has to negotiate: “Even if we say that we do not negotiate and throw the Memorandum in the trash. for exit from the crisis”. the journalist and the newspaper adopt in practice the frame offered by the European politicians. Expertise. They rush at the same time to add that this ease should in no way detract from the effort to implement the programme that Greece has agreed with the European Union and the IMF. While the experts verify that the support mechanism will have positive implications for Greece. They are able to provide expert or scientific knowledge.65. which journalists often lack. How will they pay the pensioners and employees and how will they meet their needs? Even a leftist government will be forced to negotiate”. Europe will cut the instalments. via the quoted speech of the leader of the Greens in the European Parliament. they hurry to stress the necessity that Greece abides by the agreed terms with the troika: Provided that the euro is stabilized. since they are seen as combining the qualities of knowledge and independence. In a news report headlined “The Pistol Became … a Bazooka”. Downloaded by [74.5 complimented by the sub-headline “Experts Explain How the Europackage Shields Greece As Well” (Ta Nea. The readers are informed from the introduction: “Market analysts predict that … it creates more favourable conditions for Greece. since it would have violated the terms of the latter. 11 . According to Scott. 11 May 2010). it is emphatically stressed. Experts are generally considered among the most credible sources. Greece will no longer be used by the markets as an attack vehicle … The pressures are expected to ease and bankruptcy scenarios to subside. 338). Since any competing alternative is rejected through the most official sources. one of the reasons of their increased use is that journalists need the “compensatory legitimation” of experts for the issues they cover.213. expertise is a type of power activated “when cognitive symbols are structured into organized bodies of knowledge in terms of which some people are regarded as experts and others defer to their superior knowledge and skills” (2001.LEGITIMATION MECHANISMS IN THE BAILOUT DISCOURSE Greece not complying is also abolished. the European policy is objectified as the only way to Greece’s “salvation” and gains unquestioned legitimacy. (Ta Nea. to confirm the conclusions they have already reached and the news frames they have adopted. 11 May 2010). acting as one of the agents that promote the European policy. they note. Daniel Cohn-Bendit. “Expertise thus performs an exclusionary function. 13 June 2012). According to Albæk (2011. they should find money somewhere. That would be disastrous. 4).193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 Through the very selection of the topic for coverage and the absence of any other voice in the text. (Kathimerini. controlling who can speak authoritatively about an issue” (Seymour 2009. because the spreads would immediately surge and Greece could no longer borrow either from the markets or of course from the support mechanism. The presence of experts in the news has increased significantly in the last decades. and are considered unattached to specific interests. three Greek market analysts give their expert opinion and knowledge on the implications of the European Stability Mechanism’s creation that had been decided the previous day by the European Union finance ministers. 22).

The combined use of sources of different status—experts. numbers. often critiqued as used by political actors. stressing that “the funds of the famous Marshal plan that Europe received after WWII reached 3% of the European GDP” and she added that the “two support packages and one remission of debt equal approximately 150% of the Greek GDP”. (Kathimerini. statistical data. politicians and the pulse of public opinion—creates a structure of objectivity and does not leave much room for contestation: it is not only the politicians that put pressure on Greece. while a poll in Germany showed that 83% of the respondents want Greece’s exit from the euro if the country says “no” to the austerity measures. since it has high symbolic value for contributing to the reconstruction of the destroyed Europe after World War II.65. apart from expertise. through the use of data. which is given the privileged position of the headline and the first two paragraphs. 87). The news story goes on to present the views of the German Minister of Economic Cooperation. the European—public opinion is presented as assenting with its leadership. entitled “Merkel: Greece Received Help Equal to 150% of GDP”. parties and interest groups. Quantification. In this context. and Greece should stick to the agreement if it wants to be saved. the German Chancellor said yesterday. it is also the experts that testify for the necessity of implementing the agreed policies. but also the height of risk of exiting the Eurozone should the austerity measures not be implemented. However. all sides warning.12 VAIA DOUDAKI Downloaded by [74. Furthermore. non-expert readers can hardly contradict the evaluations of experts that are presented as objective. through highly expert voices. the German—namely. is not accidental. in particular. better. In the quoted speech of Merkel. omission and mystification): the policy decided is the right one. The governmental and European policy decisions are objectively legitimised in this neutral news report. Irwin and Van . In an example of quantification (as well as of expertise. institutional sourcing and simplification). Data and economic figures are often used in the news “more as tools of persuasion than aids to comprehension” (Goddard 1998. analysts’ estimations. and is widely known by European citizens. in practice. reification. the poll’s results echoing German public opinion (without any information on who conducted the poll and when) and the views of two bank experts. a combination of incontestable data and undisputable historical facts strengthens her argument. The comparison with the Marshal plan.213. for the danger and potential disaster of Greece leaving the Eurozone. the polls—conducted and analysed by survey experts—are one more apparatus of expert knowledge. are also aided by the mechanisms of simplification. 8 June 2012). the ideological implications of quantification in legitimating the governmental policies and the troika’s decisions are considerable. results of polls and even historical events are used to objectify the size of aid Greece has received. The news story. incontestable facts. its leadership as addressing the sentiment of the European public opinion. As there are no other sources in the text and as any arguments questioning the hegemonic discourse on the European Stability Mechanism policy are expelled from the story.193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 Two main ideas are communicated throughout this text (which. starts as follows: Greece has received help equal to 150% of its GDP. Mrs Merkel compared the programme of Greece with the Marshal plan. or. as instruments of influencing public opinion (Hitchens 2009.

Greece should not only fully comply with. especially “green” growth. within this hegemonic discourse. for Greece’s salvation. the creation of this mystified universe of uncontrollable forces supports the intervention of a larger institution. to reduce the deficit. such as riots. is often presented “as the product of forces outside human control [ … ] as alien. the austerity policy since it has been helped more than any other country in Europe. opening-up of markets and closed professions and privatizations are the main weapons with which the government will fight the challenge of growth. or as natural phenomena (Tuchman 1978a. (Ta Nea. 17). “shifting the attention from those institutions. reified forces”. for society. Growth. the government undermines growth. non-humanizable inert facticity” (1967.213. Also. against the loan of 110 billion euros. While the measures that need to be taken to meet the goal of growth and save the country from disaster are positively signified (acceleration. News concerning the economic activity or civil disorders. stimulation of private investment.LEGITIMATION MECHANISMS IN THE BAILOUT DISCOURSE Downloaded by [74. the products of human activity are perceived “as if they were something else than human products-such as facts of nature. 15). A news report entitled “Professions and Markets Open Up to Bring Investments”. stimulation of private investments. reaffirms the status quo. are never mentioned. officials and practices responsible for creating the prevailing economic conditions” (Huxford 2008. as they say. Reification. 213–214). or manifestations of divine will” (1967. This fatalist perspective alleviates responsibility from political actors. as one of these reified forces. according to Tuchman. recession and deficit repeatedly appear in the text as absolute truths. Instead. simplification and institutional sourcing). such as the troika. Quantified data thus become incontestable knowledge. is hanging by a thread. but should also be grateful for.65. Berger and Luckmann see reification “as an extreme step in the process of objectification. as both the individuals and the governments are presented as “powerless to battle either the forces of nature or the forces of the economy” (1978a. 8 May 2010). starts as follows: The success of the program that the government has agreed with the European Union and the IMF. 89). Or. the journalist serving as an active agent. what actually these measures will require and which their implications will be. presented as entities outside any human intervention and control (supported also by quantification. are allocated agency as entities that possess magical powers and “lead lives of their own” (Jensen 1987. The news story concludes by enumerating the measures that will take Greece out of the crisis: Acceleration of the NSRF [National Strategic Reference Framework]. 89). 8 May 2010). This thread is called growth. opening-up of closed professions).193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 Holsteyn 2000) to attain support in their policies and aims. However. freezing investments and promoting an institutional framework inspired by statism. results of cosmic laws. where the economy and the markets are totally reified. (Ta Nea. expresses its discontent that the government does not do enough for their implementation. whereby the objectivated world loses its comprehensibility as a human enterprise and becomes fixated as a non-human. Hence. the market protests that at the same time that all these are announced. Their reification. creating an objective reality of the Greek crisis and legitimating the European policy over it. the 13 . the market. Within this vein. “no great recession”. 214).

However. as the single course of action for the financial recovery of the country. Objectivation. exercising political agency by promoting the bailouts’ legitimation as “necessity and fate” (Berger and Luckmann 1967. 91) for Greece’s salvation. Since the economic phenomena are reified. Of course. employ a hegemonic discourse. 17). growing into hard-to-challenge institutional knowledge. concerning the ways in which the information. Throughout these strategies. those of naturalisation and objectivation. quantification and reification. to address as validated institutions the major issues of the Greek society. such as the troika. The analysis revealed two main legitimation mechanisms. each constructed by a set of specific components. as they are presented through conventional news reporting.193] at 04:50 14 May 2015 Conclusion This study examines how the discursive struggles over the constituents of the financial crisis in Greece are moderated by mainstream domestic media to echo hegemonic interpretations of the crisis. The analysis showed that the neutral accounts of events. it is not argued that the field of discursive struggles over the crisis is restricted in these two newspapers. Diverging opinions and arguments regarding the crisis are expressed both in alternative and mainstream media. supporting the neoliberal policies of strict austerity the Greek governments and their partners have agreed upon and implement. is discursively constructed through symbolic annihilation (and its components of omission. condemnation). Non-dominant and alternative media do not share this power. mystification and simplification. the media studied actively participate in the discursive struggle over the crisis. instructed by the theories of hegemony and social construction of reality. regulating—not always fully or successfully—the conditions and boundaries of these issues’ discourses. is constructed through institutional sourcing. A qualitative contents analysis of news stories published in the two leading newspapers of the country was performed.14 VAIA DOUDAKI hegemonic narration over the crisis promotes the legitimation of the neoliberal policy of austerity. Downloaded by [74.65. The study focuses in particular on the discursive mechanisms the Greek press employed to legitimate the bailout agreements Greece signed with the troika. responsibility for creating the prevailing economic conditions is alleviated from political actors and the instrumentality of larger institutions. Nonetheless. trivialisation. 91) but also as the outcome of public demand. referring mainly to the presentation of information and ideas as real and objective facts that cannot be challenged. as entities of uncontrollable forces that “lead lives of their own” (Jensen 1987. the opinions and the discussion on the financial crisis and the bailout agreements become taken for granted and practically unnoticed and unquestioned. being part of a cluster of elites. Within this vein. and further assisted by discourse theory. as the orthodox path to recovery. the hegemonic discourse on the crisis—what is the crisis and how it should be tackled—becomes naturalised and objectified. Naturalisation. not only as “necessity and fate” (Berger and Luckmann 1967.213. while selectively omitting or discrediting alternative voices and interpretations. even the dominant views and ideas are not unchangeably fixed but continuously negotiated and rearticulated. expertise. Furthermore. once in a while they manage to articulate a counter-hegemonic . is advocated as divine intervention. these media organisations are in the privileged position.

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