Only losers take the bus

April 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

only-losers-260413

On 11th September 2012, late at night, a group of 4 or 5 people staked out my home. It was only accidentally that I avoided being ambushed (my motorcycle had a flat tire and I thus returned home in a friend’s car). Upon noticing the stalkers I called the police and asked them to come quietly. The police arrived noisily and went to a nearby house first, thus giving the men plenty of time to make their escape. For days, the police refused to investigate properly or to call eyewitnesses to make a statement (later, after I published the story, they did). Since then, I have been denied police protection (unlike most other journalists) and have had to resort to private security.

Soon after the failed ambush, a woman visited my office insisting that I should see her to discuss “the bankers’ designs” on me. I decided to meet with her. She was a frightened woman who claimed to be in grave personal danger. She said that she had been, and was, part of a group comprising former agents and salaried members of the Greek intelligence services, connected to business interests who worked on, at first, wrecking my public image and, later on, planning my physical demise. She added that it was her who, following specific orders, had forged the document ‘proving’ that I was on the payroll of the secret service – a document which her group then circulated to the various blogs that used it.

According to her testimony to me, a group stationed in Skopja was engaged to “see me off”. Part of the same plot concerned the defamation of another woman, a former bank manager with The Bank, who had been fired on false charges of embezzlement because, in truth, she possessed damning evidence concerning The Chairman’s family’s activities. Their plan, vis-a-vis this former bank manager was to plant narcotics in a restaurant that she owned on the island of Zakynthos and to orchestrate a very public arrest so that, in the future, if she ever revealed her evidence against The Chairman’s family, the press could dismiss her as a ‘drug dealer’. To prove her story, my interlocutor handed over a sequence of photographs that were the result of the surveillance of the former bank manager taken by her group. The woman further claimed that she had not dared distance herself from that group but she was afraid that she would be killed upon completing her ‘tasks’.

On our part, we immediately investigated her claims. We subjected her to an accredited graphologist’s test who comfirmed that the forged document showing that I was, supposedly, on the secret agents’ payroll (as published in various blogs) was in her handwriting. We also confirmed with the ferry company that the car in which that team of operatives was supposed to have travelled to Zakynthos (to plant drugs in order to frame The Bank’s former employee) had indeed travelled there. We also established that the car was registered to former intelligence agents who had been prosecuted for an number of misdeeds – and whose court case is pending.

I met with this woman a number of times in an attempt further to establish the truth of her allegations.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: sylvain-emmanuel

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What makes Iago evil? some people ask. I never ask

October 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Unsophisticated critics often identify economic neoclassicism with models in which all agents are perfectly informed. Or fully instrumentally rational. Or excruciatingly selfish. Defining neoclassicism in this manner would perhaps be apt in the 1950s but, nowadays, it leaves almost all of modern neoclassical theory out of the definition, therefore strengthening the mainstream’s rejoinders. Indeed, the last thirty years of neoclassical economics have been marked by an explosion of models in which economic actors are imperfectly informed, some times other-regarding, frequently irrational (or boundedly rational, as the current jargon would have it) etc. In short, Homo Economicus has evolved to resemble us more.

None of these brilliant theoretical advances have, however, dislodged the neoclassical vessel from its methodological anchorage. Neoclassical theory retains its roots firmly within liberal individualist social science. The method is still unbendingly of the analytic-synthetic type: the socio-economic phenomenon under scrutiny is to be analysed by focusing on the individuals whose actions brought it about; understanding fully their ‘workings’ at the individual level; and, finally, synthesising the knowledge derived at the individual level in order to understand the complex social phenomenon at hand. In short, neoclassical theory follows the watchmaker’s method who, faced with a strange watch, studies its function by focusing on understanding, initially, the function of each of its cogs and wheels. To the neoclassical economist, the latter are the individual agents who are to be studied, like the watchmaker’ cogs and wheels, independently of the social whole their actions help bring about.

So, the first feature of the ‘body of theory’ we think of as neoclassical is its methodological individualism: the idea that socio-economic explanation must be sought at the level of the individual agent. Note two things: First, this was not the method of classical economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Or, indeed, of Keynes. Or Hayek. Secondly, this proclivity is fully in tune with the mid-19th Century angloceltic liberal individualism (though the opposite does not hold) as it imposes axiomatically a strict separation of structure from agency, insisting that socio-economic explanation, at any point in time, must move from agency to structure, with the latter being understood as the crystallisation of agents’ past acts.  We shall argue later that this strict separation is central in not only defining but also undermining the most recent claims of neoclassicism.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Peter Abrahams.  ART [detail]: Sarah Cawkwell

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