Violinist wants blogger jailed for defamation

From a correspondent:

In a lawsuit filed before the Single-Member Court of First Instance in Piraeus, Leonidas Kavakos, resident of Wollerau, Switzerland, asks the court to convict Charidi and Charalambos Charalambos of Anastasia, with payment of compensation of one hundred thousand euros as monetary satisfaction for moral damage, as well as personal detention for 12 months.

We reached out to Leonidas Kavakos for comment. He told us: ‘I gave an interview to a Greek newspaper about the Beeethoven violin concerto. In it I said Beethoven breaks many rules in music. There is a violent element, perhaps coming from his childhood, something  martial. In Greek this word is ‘aris’.

‘The journalist wrote it correctly. This blogger did something horrible. He showed up on my Facebook page and asked the meaning of the word. Before I could reply, he gave the word as ‘aryan’, published a disgusting article calling me a Nazi and saying I should play in camps for refugess. At the end, he put a photo of Hitler.

‘After that, any Google search of my name in greek linked me to racism.

‘I asked the guy to change his article or I would go to court. He kept on sending it round. So I have to sue him. The wording of the penalty for defamation is standard in Greek law.’

Kavakos comes from a family which fought the Nazi occupation and helped Jews to escape. The accusation was singularly misjudged and the blogger’s failure to retract has led to this inevitable outcome.

 

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    • Apparently the blogger attributed to Kavakos the statement that “in Beethoven’s music there is an aryan element” and characterized it as racist.

    • Kavakos gave an interview to a Greek newspaper stating among other about Beethoven: “His music has an aryan element. …..From such “beacons” I try to learn, from how they managed their misfortunes, because this power exists in all of us, in our DNA, we just do not always know how to use it”.

      https://www.kathimerini.gr/1052209/article/proswpa/proskhnio/lewnidas-kavakos-poioi-logoi-me-ediw3an-ap-thn-ellada

      And the blogger accused him for being sort of racist.

      https://nomadicuniversality.com/tag/%ce%bb%ce%b5%cf%89%ce%bd%ce%af%ce%b4%ce%b1%cf%82-%ce%ba%ce%b1%ce%b2%ce%ac%ce%ba%ce%bf%cf%82/

    • I’ve just read Kavakos’ interview in question and it seems it was a misunderstanding on the blogger’s part.

      The interview is in Greek (Kathimerini newspaper 18/11/2019). In it Kavakos talks about Beethoven’s compositional process, which he describes as “war-like”. He brings as an example the manuscript of the violin concerto, which he says looks like a war-zone, with corrections upon corrections, scratching out of notes etc. He remarks that in Beethoven’s music there is a “martial element”, in Greek “άρειο στοιχείο”: Note the spelling, even if it’s Greek to you! The adjective “άρειο” means that which is attributable or related to Ares, the Greek god of war (i.e. Mars), hence war-like. This sounds exactly the same, i.e. is a homophone, as “άριο”, which as you will note is spelled differently, without an epsilon. This “άριο” means Aryan and that’s what the blogger thought Kavakos meant. Of course that would not make sense in the above context, nor does the expression “someone’s music has an Aryan element” have any meaning.

      Kavakos may have overreacted but I think he was right to be pissed off.

      • Thanks for the scholarly eye for detail.
        Despite remote Greek ancestry, my Dimotiki is a bit rusty (classical Koine would have been easier), but I went through the available textual evidence with as fine comb as I can muster, and I concur with your conclusion.
        Neither context nor internal evidence warrant the bloggers’ outbreak of wokish righteousness. Their interpretation makes little sense; not conceptually, not linguistically.
        Unless they can adduce further evidence, Mr. Kavakos seems to have a case, overreacted though he may have. (And the bloggers are now playing their victim card deftly.)
        Digging further, their blog does not exactly shine as the brightest luminary on the critical firmament. But that is hardly a surprise.

        I’m wondering, though, if this is not the latest episode in a Woke vendetta at the expense of Mr. Kavakos.
        Cf. this previous episode, barely a month old:
        https://www.classicalmpr.org/story/2020/07/29/classical-music-tries-to-reckon-with-racism-on-social-media

        The Woke share with the Far Right which they mirror the particularity of being easily aroused, never placated.

      • Are you kidding? It was a horrific insult, and no public person can afford to have such negative attachments to their name, but all the more so, given his history. To deny the importance is akin to denying the Holocaust.

      • I do not think that Kavakos overreacted at all. In these days of the internet, when false information can stick to you – thanks to google – like dog excrements on your shoes, going after such rats is the only solution.

      • Kavakos is not overreacting. He has already given the offending ‘blogger a chance to retract the libellous allegations, and the ‘blogger refused to do so.

        As Grittenhouse so rightly says, this type of allegation can be extremely toxic. As Tamino so rightly says, the World Wide Web can enable such allegations to remain very persistent and discoverable. I would add that being labelled a Nazi, even in jest, on account of a wilful misinterpretation of words/events is extremely upsetting, regardless of whether one is a “public figure”.

        Misunderstanding a Greek word is no excuse for libel — if you are in the business of making serious allegations, it is your responsibility to ensure that you have understood the language correctly (that means reading the whole thing carefully, and *not* relying on automated translations).

  • Defamation is criminal under Swiss law?

    Hell, under English law, defamation is what English tabloids do everyday, starting with the Royal family!

    The 2 bloggers are probably moving their blog right now to an English website, out of reach of all the world’s defamation laws.

  • Somebody should stage a production of Barbiere di Siviglia with Don Basilio singing La calunnia while sitting at the computer with the giant Facebook page projected on the backdrop behind him. He should be typing while singing and the pubic should be able to read the libel. This would make it topical AND relevant.

  • The person taken to court by LK is a huge ignoramus: he claims that areios, a word already attested in Homer and present in the name of the Greek Supreme Court (Areios Pagos), does not exist in Greek but is the result of misunderstanding on the interviewer’s side, instead of arios (Aryan). He’s known in Greece for his controversial views for controversy’s sake. Apparently he is also resident abroad (Belgium) since 1995 but his blog is .gr. He has clearly and explicitly misinterpreted LK’s words in order to present him as a nazi thinker. Those who have read a few interviews of LK know that his style is far from straightforward and there is no reason why he should try to tone down just to avoid misinterpretations.

  • “The adjective “άρειο” means that which is attributable or related to Ares, the Greek god of war (i.e. Mars), hence war-like. This sounds exactly the same, i.e. is a homophone, as “άριο”, which as you will note is spelled differently, without an epsilon.”

    The two words used to be pronounced differently but over the centuries a lot of diphthongs in Greek have been simplified, or if you prefer, changed. But I can’t help thinking the blogger deliberately chose to confuse the matter.

  • As a close friend of Leonidas, I can assure everyone that he is one of the most humble, generous, and gracious human beings on the planet. He is the farthest being from a nazi or anything even close to being “aryan”. The fact that this blogger could write or even think about Mr. Kavakos being this way absolutely makes me sick. The the blogger, I have one message: get your facts straight. I could use much stronger language, but out of respect for Mr. Kavakos, I will decline.

  • It is understandable that you reached out to Leonidas Kavakos for comment.
    But if there is a legal dispute, I only think it is only fair for someone who writes about it to reach out the other party of the dispute as well.
    Well, never mind. Since you did not, I will make some points here myself.
    I challenge what Mr Kavakos says as absolutely inaccurate.
    First: he claims that ” any Google search of my name in greek linked [him] to racism”.
    But, if this is true, (which it is not, as anyone who can use the Greek alphabet can find out by doing such a search), this has nothing to do with me. I never used the word “racism, racist” in connection to Mr. Kavakos.
    Then, he also claims that “The wording of the penalty for defamation is standard in Greek law”.
    Well, no, it is not.
    The Greek law, (as any law, I suppose), does not prescribe any “standard” amount of money or any “standard” period of time of imprisonment to be asked as a compensation for a civil claim. This is left to the discretion of the plaintiff. So the 100.000 sum and the 12 months of incarceration were the absolute choice of Mr. Kavakos, not imposed by any “standard wording” in the law.
    I expect from any decent person to grant that these remedies asked are exorbitant and are closer to a desire for revenge than for justice.

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