Greece’s New Political Star Is a TikTok Creation


On the evening that Greece’s largest left-wing celebration voted for its new chief, all anybody may discuss was pizza. At stake was the way forward for the Syriza celebration, which had run Greece on the head of a coalition authorities from 2015 to 2019. Because the votes got here in on September 19, one of many candidates, Stefanos Kasselakis, was holed up in his marketing campaign headquarters. Over the previous couple of weeks, Kasselakis, a former Goldman Sachs affiliate and shipowner, had emerged seemingly from nowhere to grow to be the frontrunner, and journalists have been camped outdoors his workplace. Because the night drew on, his workforce ordered pizzas. Kasselakis—younger, good-looking, sporting fastidiously combed hair and carrying a shirt open on the collar with rolled-up sleeves—got here all the way down to the foyer together with his accomplice, Tyler McBeth, to gather the pies in particular person. Later, he returned at hand out a number of pizzas to the journalists.

The press ate it up—not simply the pizzas, however the theater of it. Because the management race rolled towards its conclusion, the pizza supply story was on the high of Google search outcomes for Kasselakis’ title. The incident is emblematic of his marketing campaign, which catapulted him onto Greece’s political scene over a matter of weeks. He used a mastery of TikTok, Instagram, and X to create an surprising buzz round a beforehand anemic management race and rise to the highest tier of Greek politics. Political specialists say this ascent factors to a brand new—probably alarming—phenomenon in European politics. His candidacy sidestepped the conventional course of public dialogue, utilizing social media platforms to mission, even create, a tailor-made picture as he ran a marketing campaign extra akin to leisure than politics, eschewing substance and that means for the instruments of a digital influencer.

Kasselakis’ marketing campaign started with a four-minute and 21-second video posted on his social media accounts on August 29. Staring instantly on the digital camera, he informed his story as a self-made entrepreneur, getting back from abroad to construct a brand new Greek left. He appealed to Greece’s younger folks, 220,000 of whom moved to more advanced economies during the economic crisis, and to their households, who noticed in him the profitable émigré they hope their kids will grow to be, mentioned Papachristou. Kasselakis personified the Greek dream and vowed to deliver it to the folks. He famous that his credentials embody successful arithmetic competitions, his levels (from Donald Trump and Elon Musk’s alma mater, the Wharton College on the College of Pennsylvania), and his fluent English.

That day, Greek social media threads and dinner tables have been ablaze with dialogue. “The place did this man come from? Possibly he’s a stooge from the ruling proper wing or the People. Do you assume he’s for actual?” my buddies requested after we gathered to observe the August supermoon that night.

Kasselakis didn’t communicate a lot about insurance policies, however his message resonated with a public uninterested in political households and the ruling elite, notably the transport class—that small group of principally family-run companies that retain a major affect on Greek public life. His opposition, contemporary off their summer time holidays, didn’t have time to reply. An estimated 40,000 folks signed as much as be part of Syriza after Kasselakis introduced his candidacy.

Earlier than the launch, Kasselakis had fastidiously scrubbed his earlier social media presence, in line with Panagiotis Papachristou, a strategic communications advisor at 4Hats company in Athens. Posts from Kasselakis’ buddies indicated that he had been lively previous to this candidacy, however none of his content material was accessible. His solely two remaining Instagram posts previous to 2020 are about his canine.

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