Raul Rebane: Heroes are made heroic by behavior, not achievements

Raul Rebane.
Raul Rebane. Source: Ülo Josing/ERR

Raul Rebane voices his take on two major recent events — the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Doha and the closing of Tallinn Television in Vikerraadio's media comment.

The Doha World Championships offered media fans plenty to talk about. Because I've attended a lot of championships in my life and done live broadcasts from the very first world championships in Helsinki 36 years ago, I've got plenty of material for drawing comparisons.

People are used to medals in Estonia, while things aren't that simple anymore.

Major story

Toward the beginning of regular world championships, three countries dominated — East Germany, USA and the Soviet Union often took 60 percent of medals between them. At the time, around 25 countries regularly won medals, while there are over 40 countries the athletes of which finish in the top three today. This time it was 43. This means that trips to the podium are becoming less frequent. Finishing in the top eight is an achievement these days.

For example, Finland had to settle for a single fourth place, while France won two medals, Spain, Italy and Hungary each won a single Bronze medal. Our Baltic neighbors Latvia and Lithuania got nothing. Of our former Soviet peers, Ukraine managed to match our two Silver medals.

Put in this context, our two Silver medals are an absolute achievement, while there is more. Both were accompanied by a great story that lent them even more significance.

Marcel Uibo's decathlon Silver was won half an hour after his wife Shaunae Miller-Uibo had won the Silver medal for Bahama in the women's 400 meters. The married couple's mutual congratulations turned into a media party and made several front pages, including that of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) where it stayed for a long time.

Magnus Kirt's dramatic injury after his fifth javelin throw attempt also rendered the situation grander than it would have been. Kirt heading for the podium with his arm in a sling and a set of solid interviews left a good impression. Nassim Taleb's words that "heroes are heroes because they are heroic in behavior, not because they won or lost" ring true.

An extraordinary quality of major sports achievements compared to other walks of life is their ability to unite a people through momentary positive emotions. Positive public resonance is worth more than gold. A lot of what we talk about in society usually starts with something negative — someone stole something or got arrested, a major accident.

Think about it — what sport really gives us is a national positive, instead of just a person trying to jump far. That distance is just a tool for creating unity. Estonia's medals and grand stories were worth the wait and cheering on.

It was time

The question of what the real product is should also be asked in the context of shutting down Tallinn Television.

Many are talking about good shows, and there were a few. On culture for example. However, the product of television is not a show, it's the entire program, its direction and ideology. Most people cannot appreciate it because they only watch a few select programs, but you need to look at the big picture on the professional level.

And viewed from there, the decision to shut down the channel was definitely the right one. Tallinn Television was created for the purpose of advertising a single person — Edgar Savisaar — which is also how it will be remembered. The task was aided by both the network's choice of staff and how it was funded.

That is how it was for many years and only started to change when Savisaar was gone. Several key political talk shows gravitated toward the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) instead, and it was just a matter of time before the Centre Party got tired of it. The time had come.

I hope that most valuable former employees of TTV will find jobs with other media outlets. The party's television propagandists will surely be taken care of as well, simply because you don't leave a man in the field.

However, that is just half the story. What I mean is that Tallinn will buy programming and news time on Russian propaganda networks. Something like that should be unthinkable in a democratic country. The sum doesn't matter, it's the principle that counts.

If the mayor of Helsinki suddenly said the city was incapable of keeping its Russian population informed and would follow the example of Tallinn in paying Russia to enlighten people in our place, what do you think would be the reaction? How many hours it would take for a major scandal to break out?

Such practices are normalized here, which is a clear sign that we still understand many tenets of democracy very selectively. I hope this subject matter will not disappear, because if it does, we will be a changed country, and not for the better.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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