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Communism in the Romanian press during the economic crisis.

The period after the Romanian Revolution was a reinvention, a resurectio, as Jung viewed this word, for the Romanian society, generally speaking, and, implicit, for the Romanian press. The Romanian society lived and still does "a reformation of its essence" (also in Jung's words). This process of repositioning, of building an identity also had to be assumed by the media, as we already presented this (1). Unlike many other areas, which received a longer reaction time, the journalist was forced to adapt quickly to new realities and to be the link between Establishment and the people. From only a few publications (of different types: daily, weekly, etc.) the press suddenly meant tens, hundreds, tens, hundreds of publications. The main topics of debate concerning the conditions of journalists in the Romanian post-revolutionary press are: the relationship between employers ("moguls") and journalists and the interference of the secret services in the journalists' guild. As recent sub-themes: the relationship between the press and the presidency, as well as the creation of a unique code of ethics. Interventions regarding professional education, quality of the issues, and quality of the approach of the issues are marginal and sporadic.

In these two decades, the Romanian press went from an almost unconditional relationship with its audience (as a euphoric one, generated by exercising freedom of expression and reception) to the desire to improving the techniques of persuasion in order to keep the communication partner's attention. In this case, the expression "persuasion techniques" has meanings from marketing and public relations, whereas the media of today have to deal with new international trends, and we speak here about the tabloidization phenomenon, about the changes imposed by online medium. Therefore, we found in the press case, some changes not in the classical sense of the term (as it is defined by Smith), but it has to face multiple types of changes.

The idea of "social change" is theorized--in the literature that we consulted--in a sense of linear development, from a unit of a society to all. Raymond Boudon (2), for example, understands this change "not only as a result of some "historical changes", but as the actions and interactions of social actors and therefore the change should be regarded as a "consequence of individual actions". The society is in a series of continuous movement from microstructure to macro (case of globalization). The continuous changes are based on series of rules and resources that can provide predictability for the involved mechanisms (3).

In terms of adopting/accepting a common self, the fundamental direction comes from Weber, who thinks the identity is like a subjective belief, maintained by several factors: phenotype, social comparison, political action, collective memory.

We think also at Charles H. Cooley's theory of self (4). He understands the common/self through the common co-ownership. He speaks about the "weness", as a feeling generated in the primary group, a feeling characterized by close association, cooperation and direct interaction; it is a consequence of primary relations in a group. This feeling develops a sense the individual emotionally identify with him.

The reconstruction and repositioning movements can be easily captured in media, because, by its nature, the press operates at the intersection of public administration and political discourse.

Through the press fact the idea is legitimate and is spread, the events meanings are interconnected and the wider social implications are generated. The press fact--on the communication platform provided by the journalistic discourse--can be treated as "the social event of verbal interaction". Through the dialogue that cultivates, the press--the text--lends strong shades of meanings in the social dialogue, which can be acceptable for a large group.

Beside this rebirth, communism represents an animated topic across all the Romanian society levels. Any major social act is related like a ritual to the period 1948-1989.

Furthermore, beside the political, economical, cultural changes, after those 20 years, we can view a considerable number of communist period explanations.

I. Two faces of Romanian Society after communism

We can speak about a first period, the proximal period after 1989, like the period of the euphoric, Dionysian wildness, a time of forcing the interior or exterior boundaries, the social or individual ones. Those are the years 1990-1996. During this time, excepting some inertial resuscitations in case of some public personalities or even political groups who was trying a reversal on the background of the discontent in front of the economical changes, the general attitude was a total, impetuous denial of the communist period. Sometimes we can find even some tentative of elusion only to create a relation, a bridge with the glorious period between the two world wars.

Most of the references layed on some absolute assessment, like good-bad, communism being understood purely "bad". This period was dominated also by the inertial resistance of some public personalities, which have assumed the communism ideas. Gradually, these declared attitudes resolved in some discourses addressed to the social categories promoted by the communist ideology (the villagers and the workers) or they resolved in left groups, but without any social influence. The social euphoria and the institutional boom allowed, inter alia, the penetration of masses of non-specialized people, forced to find their work-tools on the spot, to discover the journalism profession while producing "journalistic texts" to meet the demand for information.

Secondly, during 2000-2008, we can speak about an equanimous attitude towards the communist legacy, or the impossibility to eliminate from the society the points that enchain those two faces of the Romanian society, ante- and post- Decembrist.

II. A nostalgic Romania

Thirdly, nowadays, after twenty years from the crush of the communism, the references to this period received multiples gradations. The absolute assessments diminished (we refer at what Vattimo (5) calls "the weak thought"). Gradually, in the social discourses, appeared already a formal, inertial nostalgia, "an imagination disadjustment" (6), a nostalgia like a "moral sickness" (apud Baudrillard) towards communism, a superficial nostalgia, only as a speech in the social and economical changes context.

This phenomenon can be better observed in the press, and it seems to feed the collective mentality the "memory signs" (as Baudrillard says) exactly for maintaining this nostalgia.

The press itself changed at the same rate with the society. After 20 years of institutional seizures, the press in Romania is still in the process of building its identity. After the enthusiasm with which the first post-revolution publications were received, the press institution had to face the untrustworthiness, the system of competition, the lack of appropriate professional training. Besides the general social problems, the press was enforced to dill with professional challenges. In succession, the Romanian press confronted the ultimate, uncontrollable freedom of expression, in the first years after the Revolution, then with the explicit or implicit subjectivity, then with the condition of objectivity, then with the relation between employed and employer, and finally with the tabloid journalism.

Within press in an uninterrupted transformation and accelerate evolution, we can see a representative attitude for the entire society concerning the assimilation of the communist period. Due to the fact that the society faded away form the 90s euphoria and the democratic relations become more powerful as a result, a disengagement and a programmatic, objective, rational, Cartesian reading was expected to come into view.

But in 2010, during the economic crisis, the reference to the communist period assumed a new resemanatisation. Beyond the social trend, beyond an artificial nostalgia for an elusory safety (the safety job, the permanent incoming), an interesting phenomenon appeared in the Romanian press.

Beyond the "objectivity" of the facts presentation, through their selection, and through the stylistic structures we can observe a sustained attitude of the press concerning the political administration.

At the macro social level, we can observe that all the deep committed actors practice a repetitive reference (as a ritual) at communism. This ritual include two steps: first, a denial, a self delimitation from this ideology, second, an evaluation of the enemies and to label them by using communist words. But the habitual discursive gesture is to eliminate the label "communism".

From the outburst of the economic crisis, we can see in public space two discursive main roads: the presidential discourse, the authority discourse, and the press discourse. Both sources practiced that ritualic reference to the communism. Stricto sensu, the authority explained didactically the economic solutions of austerity. These explications were based on the antithesis between capitalism and communism. First word received connotation as "efficiency", "economization", "professionalism", "individualism". The second one was presented through connotations such as "easiness", "unjustified social protection", "financial extravagance".

On the other hand, the press used the term "communism" to define the austerity solutions. Systematically, in publications that we analyzed, are published the polls to demonstrate the regret of the Romanian people concerning the communism. We find also many public debates to understand this nostalgia. The press lectured the anti-crisis solutions using the emotional implications of the communist memories. We can see here the pattern of the communist imaginary, as Eugen Negrici (7) and Lucian Boia (8) show in their books.

So, Eugen Negrici, following Lucian Boia, observed the resemblance between the imagological representations of the communism and the religious one, naming communism "a religion without God". The researcher observed the affinity for the anthem rhetoric in the propagandistic mechanisms.

The communist propaganda tries to increase the credo, the conviction, by building, at the textual level, the Founder, the Hero, the protective institution. Gradually, as Eugen Negrici shows, we come to the creation of the Redeemer, the Savior. This image of the religious representation used as a mirror the hate's discourse. We also observed similar discursive gestures, in our days, in Romania of the economic crisis. The Romanian Government, the President was presented to the readers using these patterns.

The communist representations in post-Decembrist Romania, in the press, but also in the public space generally, accumulate a set of words-landmark. An essential word, that establish a direct link with communism and that is one of the most important sources of the need to compare democracy and communism, is poverty. These words, in the social context, receive two explanations: the nostalgic one, of those who are not adapted to the conditions of the competitively as it is the capitalist society and also are not adapted to the unloyal competition in the corrupt Romanian post communist society.

The second set came from the incapacity of Romanians to adapt at the conditions of the open market (the presidential discourse). One of the most frequent events transformed in press fact is the opening of some stores, an occasion to play with the prices. The press achieved to create many grotesque spectacles around the poverty in post communist Romania:

"the Romanian people are footing, are crowding and are expecting more than few hours in front of the hypermarkets only to receive a place in a queue. Most of the times, those people don't know what are the products underbid and they take things that they don't need" (9).

The psychological explanation is presented in the same article and connects this behavior pattern with the communist experience:

"<<It is a frustration those they can't negotiate>>, says Daniela Gheorghe. It is an education problem, but also a despair one: the Romanian has feared that they will die hungry, because they don't have food in communism" (10).

The memory of the empty shops passes across the newspapers that we studied:

"the flowering of mega, super-stores in the last 7-8 years was a sign that Romanians are better, becoming amateur of big family rides between shop's windows and the temple of abundance--known during communism only to those who wandered the West, as Traian Basescu--worth, periodically, a small offering. But Saturday, the president noted that <<it seems it has increased>>" (11).

Another benchmark is the absence of the minimal conditions for subsistence (heat and electricity). As we know, one of the major strands of blame communism in Romania was even without minimal conditions of existence: heat, electricity, food. In fact, it was also one of the motives of social movement in the winter of 1989.

Cold, caused by national obsession of savings, was and remains one of the fundamental themes of characterizing communism and this was exploited in press many times even from the title: "The first free city in Romania back in communism: 90,000 households receive hot water portion" (12) or "City Hall has <<sent>> in the communist block" (13). One anti-crisis measure taken by Romania was rethinking subsidies for heat and electricity. This point raised a real wave of creating similarities between communism and the current leadership of the country.

Another issue is the theme of the Savior. We can note here a characteristic of groups of actors in the post-December Romania, namely that, generally, the society seeks for an absolute leader, a "character-train", as such a character is called, or the reflex to seek and shelter under a "Father" (with direct reference to Stalin).

What is more, political leaders in Romania have not reached the protective aura of absolute Soviet leader, but had at one moment, a more favorable social imagine because of the immediately social discontent. Actually, the president has assumed the role of "player president", assuming and repeating the idea that he is a "commander of the ship", with the characteristics, qualities, skills that result from this. So, from the authority was sent to the society the image of a strong leader.

The press took these labels and turned them into a dictatorial image. The quality of a "player", meaning a person directly involved, was translated in the media as improper interference in the state structures--government, parliament. This label has activated in the collective imaginary the picture of the communist structure, autarchic, the image of the unique leader under whose authority it carried out a pyramid of subordinates, the subjects handy. In addition, the circle of associates, of the political clientele appeared.

Clienteles relations, vassalage disciplined by the party, was another issue that has generated the resemblance between Romania of 2010 and Romania during communism. This creates and maintains relationships corruption. This theme is traditional in Romanian society. At the time when Romania had a leftist government, they were called "barons".

This label disappeared from public discourse today, from the media discourse, specifically and it doesn't receive a specific substituent. The feudatory was replaced by the communist-person. "Barons" and the semantic field derived from this word was replaced by a network, the idea of "relationship" and, especially, by party discipline.

From here, another theme that links the current media representation of power with representation of communism, and we name here the political control over all aspects of social life. "The party is in all" corresponds to a single leader competence, supported by intelligence. This theme is one on which that is based the hate class speech, another recurring theme in Communism and now resurrected.

From this picture of the themes that link the two periods of dramatic existence of Romania could not miss the shade of passion. Feminine figure could not miss. This point was covered by Elena Udrea, the Minister of Tourism. This character was covered by the evil presence. Elena Udrea became a symbol of political corruption during the crisis.

From the country's leadership, the character was invested with meanings of equality between women and men, and with competence attributes. Of course, there aren't missing any onomastic parallel between post-December Minister and dictator's wife, Elena Ceausescu. The press tried to turn her into a symbol of evil produced by Traian Basescu, which was linked to the sentimental insinuations.

Another very sensitive issue in Romania was the intellectuals involved in the affairs of society. During communism intellectuals have mostly adopted a neutral official attitude. As in all communist countries, complicity was created here between writer and reader in the frame of Aesop allegorical texts.

But beyond this complicity, after 1989, the intellectuals have not enjoyed a large audience from the public. Accusation of cowardice and hanging still hovered over them. Besides this class of intellectuals and artists, there are others who have been feeding propaganda machine with ideas, with their creations. They were so-called "court poet".

This category, not all the same characters, was revived in recent years of post-communist Romania. "Court poets" or "Basescu's intellectuals" were appointed intellectuals who publicly and explicitly expressed support for Traian Basescu during his first election campaign. Amid austerity measures they have more nuanced speech to total avoidance of the subject.

This act caused a great wave of antipathy expressed in the press. The violent discourse against these intellectuals reminded us the intensity of virulence with which "court poets" were excommunicated during communism.

Most of the times, they are present in the media opinion pieces, articles that are more permissive:

"<<What shall we do, what shall we do, do you see the Chairman's statement? What a mistake. How could we respond to this? >>, the dialogue quietly starts between two intellectuals present on Thursday night at a book launch. <<Don't answer>>, while a consultant advises the reliable, disinterested consultant who came to support the group" (14).

In such materials the confused intellectuals are present and they are evaluated solely by the criterion accompanying the Romanian intellectual over 50 years, cowardice and complicity:

"When an intellectual is silent from conviction it is normal, but the situation gets serious when the intellectual is in complicity" (15).

Besides these topics, the theme of the threat of territorial and national integrity appeared. Myth of threatening the country, heavily exploited during the communist era, witnessed an amazing resurgence during this period. The conflict actors are Romanians and Hungarians, and this conflict has been revived due to the participation in the governance of the most important organizations of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania. The theme was driven mainly from the press, which showed the close relationship between the two parties as a possible attempt to create autonomy for territories in Transylvania:

"President PCM, Jeno Szasz said on Wednesday in a press conference that <<Szeklers do not threaten Romania, but Szeklers are challenged in a very rude>> while deputy party Csaba Farkas said that there is an <<ethnical>> tension Szeklers" (16).

Regarding the actual image events generated by the Government or the Presidency--more often the different openings--all were treated in the press in an ironic register. For example, in the report "The opening of a half-completed section of highway: If you prefer, choose another route" (17) the event is presented in an ironic key. The irony is constructed by phrases such as "the Bucharest--Constanta route stops suddenly at Cernavoda and reappears near the locality Murfatlar", selecting details "workers give the roundabout last sledge", "Prime Minister does not repeat the test with the glass to see how smooth is the highway to the sea", "Emil Boc praises Boagiu, congratulating the minister for infrastructure investments.".

Promoted personalities are also presented in an ironic key:

"<<Get out the Prime Minister is coming>>, cried someone at the official column arrival of Prime Minister and Minister of Transport".

There is a tangential approach of the issue of property nationalization, in the same comparative momentum:

"But not everyone is happy with the new section of highway construction. A resident is calling on the prime minister and asked him when the money for expropriation will be given back. <<We are not in communism>> said the rebel man. The Premier does not respond to this challenge".


Our thesis is that the press apparently assumed a monitoring role, and a radicalization, revolutionary role, in fact. We use here the theory of Clifford G. Christian, Theodore L. Glasser, Denis McQuail, Kaaerle Nordenstreng and Robert A. White (18). They continued and updated the theory created by Fred Siebert, Theodore Peterson and Wilbur Schramm, Four Theories of the Press (1956), the only work (to 2009) to systematize the media's role in society.

Beyond the witticism that journalism is a central point in society in general and in democracy in particular, both, the study from 1956 and the one from 2009 tried (and succeeded) to systematize the assumed role of media in society.

The four roles identified by Clifford G. Christian's group are the monitoring role, the role of facilitation, the role of radicalization and the role of collaboration. To satisfying this monitoring role involves effect of government accountability to society, but also a healing effect for the public sphere (cf. 144). The radicalization role is not assumed explicitly in the Romanian press, but we found a range of stylistic features which lead us to believe that we are in a period where the media takes at least challenging trends.

Concerning the theory that we have adopted, radicalization involves insistence on values of equality and liberty that all citizens should enjoy (see p. 179). If the monitoring role does not challenge the Establishment as a source of information, radical media assumes that power prevents free flow of information, not so much by censure (a characteristic par excellence of authoritarian and communist models), but with a strong control information released to the press. The radical takes fight injustice, seeks and exposes conflicts of interest, corruption, uses a stylistic challenge, takes ambitions of emancipation and enlightenment of the public, seeking to cause changes in economic and political system. On purely stylistic characteristics are identified strong participatory discourses, dialogical and persuasive-mobilizing.

To cover the subject "economic crisis", the press has abandoned the role of monitoring and even assumed the role of opposition to the system that generated the anti-crisis measures.

(1) About the Condition of the Romanian Journalist after 20 Years of Free Press. Elements of Context, Revista de Stiinte Politice. Revues des sciences politiques, 23 / 2009, no. 92, pp. 86-92.

(2) Raymond Boudon, Theories of Social Changes: A Critical Appraisal, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1986, p. 29

(3) See also Horatiu Rusu, Schimbare sociala si identitate socioculturala. O perspectiva sociologica, prefata de Ilie Badescu, Editura Institutul European, colectia "Sociologie. Academica", Iasi, 2008

(4) Charles H. Cooley, Social organization, Charles Scribne's Son, New York, 1909, in Rusu, op. cit., p. 79.

(5) Gianni Vattimo, Pier Aldo Rovatti, Gandirea slaba, Editura Pontica, Constanza, 1998, trad. Stefania MIncu

(6) Jean Baudrillard, Marc Guillaume, Figuri ale alteritapi, Editura Paralela 45, Colectia Studii socioumane, Pitesti, 2002 2nd, trans. de Ciprian Mihali

(7) Eugen Negrici, Poezia unei religii politice. Patru decenii de agitatie si propaganda, Editura Pro, Bucuresti, f.a.

(8) Lucian Boia, Istorie si mit in constiinta romaneasca, Humanitas, Bucuresti, 1997

(9) Aura STAN, IMAGINI DIN ROMANIA REALA. Mii de romani s-au calcat in picioare pentru un kilogram de zahar la promotie, 18.03.2011,

(10) idem

(11) Daniel Dancea, Presedintele din hipermarkets si criza alimentara, 23.01.2011,

(12) 6 iulie 2010,

(13) Oana Balan, Catalina Slujitoru, Primaria Generala a "trimis" un bloc in comunism!, 8 februarie 2010

(14) dialog-in-surdina-al-intelectualilor-lui-basescu 8382370

(15) idem

(16) Szasz Jeno (PCM): Nu secuii ameninta Romania, ci secuii sunt provocap intr-un mod foarte grosolan, 22.06.2011 17:39

(17) Cristian ANDREI, 29.07.2011 20:47, -luiboc-si-boagiu-la-inaugurarea-unui-tronson-de -autostrada-finalizat-pe-jumatate-daca-nu-va- convine-alegeti-alta-ruta-8543329

(18) Clifford G. Christian, Theodore L. Glasser, Denis McQuail, Kaaerle Nordenstreng, Robert A. White, Normative Theories of the Media. Journalism in Democratic Societies, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 2009.


University of Craiova,

Faculty of Social Sciences, Journalism Specialization

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Title Annotation:ORIGINAL PAPER
Author:Negrea, Xenia
Publication:Revista de Stiinte Politice
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXRO
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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