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Interviews  Nikos Panayotopoulos and Petros Tatsopoulos
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"When the Music's Over"

Nikos Panayotopoulos and Petros Tatsopoulos in conversation with Michael March in Athens.

Nikos Panayotopoulos This year's festival is dedicated to William S. Burroughs: "We don't report the news. We write it." How do you see the news.

Panayotopoulos: Suspiciously. We live in a world where suspicion is necessary. For a writer, news is something that needs to be evaluated: is it "new" or not. Of course, news is something terrifying, a flood, there's always a question of what really deserves your attention.

You're no longer a journalist-how do you see the intersection between a journalist and a novelist and now a screenplay-writer.

Panayotopoulos: They're completely different things. Being a journalist was like being in a pressure-cooker. Writing a novel is exactly the opposite, a slower procedure. Screenwriting isn't writing exactly, it's another engagement. When you write a script, you plan something for somebody else to shoot.

Do you think the news is manipulated.

Petros Tatsopoulos Tatsopoulos: The degree of manipulation is differs from one country to another, from one network to another, though the whole idea of showing news is a kind of manipulation.

The media creates the atmosphere, creates the events themselves-the media provides the scenario for future events.

Panayotopoulos: The relationship of media and audience is deeply entwined. The media creates a kind of addicted audience. In the States, there was an experiment where all the televisions in a town were unplugged for a week, and what they witnessed in viewers were the same withdrawal symptoms which addicts have, pain and fever, like heroin withdrawal. The media desires this type of feedback. Reality television shows are prime examples: promoting a systematic violence which progresses each season. The only thing left, the last taboo, would be to kill off a cast-member.

Essentially, the media offers a process of control. So who's in control.

Panayotopoulos: The merchant, someone with something to sell.

Would you say this reflects the process of globalization: international companies, in effect, controlling governments, an invisible pact between two carnivorous bodies, creating a media-determined environment.

Panayotopoulos: The pact is visible. They're producing your creation before you even think about it.

We are now experiencing the next war, physically experiencing it before the war between the US and Iraq begins. We are experiencing war, it's been created. War is certain.

Panayotopoulos: Nowadays peace is only a part of war. It's included in the war and it's also the opposite: war is a part of the peace. This is the first time this is true. Ironically, the journalists think that it's only for insurance reasons. If you make war against an invisible enemy, it's very flexible. If you make war against terrorists you make war against everyone. Only the names change: Serbs or Bosnians or Cypriots or Israelis or Arabs or anyone.

Perpetual war run by children, because in childhood's war there's no defined enemy.

Tatsopoulos: Only a child's mind could accept the idea of this war. It's a very Manichaeistic idea: we're the good guys and they're the bad guys (though the bad guys have the annoying habit of changing their nationality every few years). The first enemy though, is language. Controlling language controls emotions and thoughts, with the networks manipulating words like "freedom" until the word is meaningless.

Panayotopoulos: People soon become part of the images they watch, repeating the things they hear.

The soul is an obstacle to business. A business culture is opposed to literature, it reactivates a false childhood. The child wants objects, security, so it creates a childish conscience, a conscience with no history, no tradition, subsisting solely on material goods and violence. This is perceived as an American export. From the importing end, how do you see September 11.

Tatsopoulos: You (Americans) are all children. You are all alone in your houses or maybe with your wife or mistress and you're free. More than free. The outside world doesn't matter-it's not in your interests. War in Afghanistan? In Greece? In China? It only matters if your own child is good in school, if your wife is faithful. Then September 11, and guess what: childhood still persists.

Panayaotopoulos: For me, September 11 held great sadness for the dead and at the same time the thought of violence revisited: planting winds to harvest storms. And now we're expecting war with Iraq, everyone expects it, although almost everyone knows the way out.

So why are we (including Greece) being forced into this war.

Panayotopoulos: We're not forced actually. We're sitting and waiting and watching for someone to begin.

Tatsopoulos: There would be great disappointment if this war doesn't start. It's an outgrowth of September 11 in a more subtle sense; it into fits the whole manipulation of everything: it's the magic spring for every provocateur in the world. You can do anything you want from this time on. You can hit everywhere and not know who's behind. Everyone has a free license for provocation.

An historical turning-point.

Tatsopoulos: For Western Europe.

Panayotopoulos: Empire cannot expand forever. This is the end-point of expansion, the drawback, a collapse.

For Burroughs, this represents the black hole of humanity. The only real possibility for a doomed planet being space.

Panayotopoulos: Being Greek you would never think that space is the solution. Spaceships don't exist in Greece. The solution for a doomed planet is to meditate on the apocalypse. That's our solution. Other generations will have to think of something else.

Should we move the United Nations to Iraq? Create a new system of fascism.

Tatsopoulos: More flexible fascism?

Panayotopoulos: More decent?

A globalized fascism, disguised as a rainbow of information.

Tatsopoulos: The main disadvantage of the old fascism was the idea of nationality. A new fascism isn't a national fascism, that's why it's more powerful. It doesn't say that we Americans conquer everyone that isn't American. It says that America is a global village, multi-cultural. And we want this multi-cultural democracy in every country. That sounds democratic, but it's fascistic.

There are no safe countries, no safe havens in which to seek refuge. Sadly, the Geneva Convention appears to be irrelevant. And we are merely scribes continuing to breed unhappiness.

Tatsopoulos: In literature there's never a happy ending.

Panayotopoulos: Who knows.

November 2002

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