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Bucharest
November 19, 2019
EDITORIAL

Media manipulation

In the early 1950s, the lifeless body of a young girl is found on a beach near Rome. The affair is quickly closed by the police, which concludes that it was an accidental drowning. But certain newspapers launch an entirely different version. A young musician, the son of the then-Foreign Minister, a politician of note considered to be the future president of the ruling Christian Democracy party, enters the picture. The son is associated with orgies occurring near the place where the body was found, orgies in which the young girl allegedly took part. She allegedly died suddenly because of drug use, and was then abandoned on the beach, to give the impression of a drowning. Two witnesses also appear, two young women who incriminate the minister’s son. He will be indicted and even arrested for a short while. The minister will eventually tender his resignation, and someone else will take over the presidency of the ruling party. The trial will be watched by the whole of Italy with bated breath, and newspapers will register record sales. Even film director Federico Fellini will take inspiration from this case in ‘La dolce vita,’ which ends with an orgy and the discovery on the beach, at dawn, of the body of a sea ‘monster’ – a symbolic representation of the girl. In real life, eventually, all defendants will be acquitted, and one of the witnesses convicted for lying under oath. Today, the affair is seen as the first great media manipulation in Italian history. It is alleged that the one who manoeuvred everything was the then-Interior Minister, coincidentally the very one who took over the presidency of the party in the place of the Foreign Minister who resigned.

Since then, the rising media has promoted plenty of such manipulative manoeuvres. In the Romanian case, the installation of the new post-communist democracy benefitted from massive TV manipulation. Re-seen today by those who lived that period, it seems glaring, but back then it was extremely efficient – the overwhelming majority believed everything the skilled news readers were telling them. After a while, the role of the TVR public broadcaster was taken over by the “Antennas,” namely by Dan Voiculescu’s private television channels, today seconded by RTV, the television station of the fugitive Sebastian Ghita. “You lied the people with the TV,” a slogan used by the protesters in the early 1990s, has thus become a daily reality in our days. And, when needed, even the TVR joins in the media manipulation campaigns, when the ruling power’s interests demand it. Unlike a quarter of a century ago, today few people fall for manipulation. However, plenty remain for whom it matters less that the fakery is glaring – what remains is the “hatred and suspicion,” to quote Liviu Dragnea himself. The purpose is no longer to mystify, but to incite, to artificially stoke political resentment, just right to then speculate electorally. How many really believe that Laura Codruta Kovesi or Dacian Ciolos are the biological children of George Soros?

But maybe, in fact, this is not a new media strategy but certain incompetence. Caught up in the pathos of hatred, the new manipulators are not capable of more refined approaches. Or, too caught up in defending at any cost certain persons with legal problems, they no longer think big. The same goes within the PSD, where the political marketing shortcomings are obvious. Eventually, despite the whole investment in professional PR, even Adrian Nastase’s party failed, but in the case of the current era the attempts are timid and incoherent. It is another aspect of political vulnerabilities caused by a party president so caught-up in his own legal troubles. PSD will only stand to lose from its insistence on the variants of Ordinance no.13, because even a part of its own electorate understands that the governance has become the captive of an occult private agenda. We can even wonder whether the strategists behind Dragnea are not subtly manipulating the party president himself, seriously considering his inevitable downfall. A joker could even comment that it is a pity to waste all that money on “communication.”

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