Ownership of the Issue in the Age of the Middle Finger

03/23/2015 09:05 am ET | Updated May 23, 2015

The Greek Finance Minister and "the finger"... Who should you believe? German public television ARD? Their famous Host Günther Jauch? Bild newspaper? Or is it all just a big fake, as Varoufakis himself claims? Or was it in fact a TV-comedian? We are currently witnessing how the balance of power in the struggle for opinion leadership has shifted.

In the mid '90s, communication "underwent" a stealthy change: while the world was preoccupied with several wars in the Gulf, the Middle East and in the Balkans, a silent revolution transpired that changed the world more radically than most people today realize. It really got underway in the early '90s with the invention of the browser. From that moment on, everyone had access to the Internet; everyone could operate it without any specialist knowledge.

Most people really took notice during Obama's now legendary 2008 election campaign for which the young candidate was initially mocked by the media and the elite in his own party. People started asking themselves how it was all of a sudden possible to circumvent existing hierarchies, render them inoperative and end up becoming President of the United States.

Ownership of the issue is more complex.

Although so much has changed since then, many people still don't seem to be aware of the changes to the struggle over ownership of the issue. The old elite are continuing to head to the "marketplace of ideas" only to find out that new makeshift tables have popped up everywhere and they are receiving a warm reception. It was much clearer back in the day: television showed it, we saw it, and that was it. The talk show guest could deny until he was blue in the face.

But now he can write his opinion on Twitter or another social media channel and generate a counter-public. And with great success. In the US, incredibly influential investor Marc Andreessen is talking about how the future of the Euro might be contingent on a fake video.

Varoufakis has even tweeted a link to the real video

Everyone can be a player.

Nowadays, everyone who's online can be part of the show. And they can be vigorously involved, with whatever motives they might have: the storybook guerilla marketing tactic by ZDF moderator Böhmermann, who jumped on board the train with a skillfully produced contribution, has managed to capture the attention of more than the German media. The British Guardian penned "I faked middle-finger video, says German TV presenter" Just one day later, ZDF network revealed that it was all just a satire.

The video quality alone makes it difficult to definitively say whether something was doctored. Either way it is irrelevant since Varoufakis unequivocally states "and stick the finger to Germany..."

There are so many technical possibilities these days. We see dinosaurs and the White House exploding for the umpteenth time. We are immune to media montages. School kids have turned the production of presidential speech pop songs into a sport. We can only believe sources that we trust.

Cui bono?

But: everyone is talking about the finger. Our ever shrinking time constraints are being starkly consumed by this middle-finger. It is managing to push the truly important issues into the background, perhaps even ensuring that many other things go unnoticed.

So: How is Greece doing? "Bumbling toward disaster," according to the Economist. What is the status of Greek reform? Is there any news about the new tax system or the now "legendary" Greek pension system?

The EU's disappointment over the halting progress of these reforms is not frontpage news. Nor is the barrage of mutual insults and the open comparison with others, like Ireland's successful reform.

The Economist's crushing verdict has fallen on deaf ears:

The Greek tragedy about Syriza may well turn out to be that it knocked over the economic apple-cart when it was just about to reap the reward of its people's sacrifices over the last few years.

The new facts that have come to light surrounding the issue of reparations are also not being discussed: historian Götz Aly believes that the descendants of deported Jews are entitled to compensation -- not the Greek State. An editor from "Die Welt" newspaper visited the archives and made a striking discovery about the substantiated claim for billions from Germany: Greece's 476 million loan does not exist.

But unfortunately the Greek crisis is predominantly being shaped by the middle finger.

Another fascinating point in this hazy swirl of opinions is that the Twitter account of the Greek Finance Minister is to this day not authorized, as evidenced by the lack of a check mark after his name. So in the end, no one knows for sure who might be tweeting in his name. Wagging tongues might imply that this is yet another ace up Varoufakis' sleeve. The "I didn't tweet that card."