AFR Metaphor WTF

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 20/06/2012 - 2:33pm

I only read the Australian Financial Review once a week (on a good week) these days, but I've held it in very high regard for a long time. For anybody interested in following events that have actual consequences, as opposed to celebrity gossip or party political sideshows, it's Australia's only quality daily newspaper. But lately I've been getting the distinct impression that standards are slipping.

I don't give a monkey's about how deranged the contents of the AFR opinion pages may be; opinion, whether genuine or paid for, is what the opinion pages are for. But unless I've a misleadingly rosy view of the past, I'm  sure that the AFR news pages have traditionally been pretty exclusively fact-driven, with any propaganda safely contained between quotation marks. In the last few months though I've been quite alarmed by, for instance, Washington correspondant Ben Potter writing what appear to be audition pieces for the Heritage Foundation that land not only outside the opinion pages, but often squarely on the front page.

And last Friday, there was this jaw-dropping gem from Europe correspondant Matthew Drummond about the coming weekend's election in Greece, headlined "Europe looks to its Lehman moment":

A ["radical left party"] Syriza win could be Europe’s equivalent of the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, which triggered the global financial crisis.

I'm sorry; exactly how is this an apt metaphor? I get that there's an implied threat that financial markets (i.e. the institutions which enthusastically engaged in the dodgy practices that actually led to the the collapse of Lehman and the ensuing crisis/depression) would feel compelled to punish the Greeks for getting out of line and the rest of Europe for letting it happen (no need, as it turns out), but how is an election result, no matter how undesirable, remotely like the inevitable implosion of a corrupt and and incompetent firm of moneylenders?

Now come to think of it, you could perhaps argue that a poor choice of government in Greece might be somewhat like the election of the government in the US that relaxed the regulation of financial institutions, thereby enabling the practices that led to the crash, but "Europe looks to its Clinton moment" lacks something in the dramatic zing department. Also, despite the passage of time, I still can't help thinking a "Clinton moment" is something altogether more sordid.