Manufacturing Inanity

Although I do not own a television, last night I had the privilege of watching (online) a local Cluj-Napoca program called “Zi de Zi” which featured a host and three guests all debating the issue of “second hand” stores (used clothing shops) here in town. I was alerted to this program because a local blogger and fellow Twitterer was a guest on this program.

Watching this debate, which lasted close to an hour with only a few minor commercial interruptions, reminded me of the documentary Manufacturing Consent (link goes to film) from 1992 concerning Noam Chomsky’s book of the same name. In particular, the Cluj debate reminded me of the section of the documentary that runs from the 1 hour 51 mark to about the 1 hour 56 mark. In this section, Chomsky is talking about why he almost never appears on American news shows, referencing an interview with a Nightline producer (transcript my doing):

He [the Nightline producer] hit the nail on the head. The U.S. media are alone in that it is – you must meet the condition of concision. You got to say things between two commercials or in 600 words. And that’s a very important fact because the beauty of concision, you know, saying a couple of sentences between two commercials, the beauty of that is that is that you can only repeat conventional thoughts.

Chomsky is absolutely right in this regard. One of the “strangest” things for any American in Romania is that this country is replete with news shows on television and radio wherein people are allowed to discuss topics at length. Even if it’s “only” a discussion about second hand clothing stores, it’s almost farcical for an American to see and hear a group of adults who are given the time to fully and lengthily discuss their opinions on a subject.

One of the single most undemocratic aspects of the United States is that literally no one but the President is allowed to speak for more than three minutes uninterrupted. Neither the conveyors of conventional wisdom (shills) nor dissidents are ever, ever, ever allowed to discuss anything at length. In fact, all of the most popular news shows in America are characterized specifically by the guests and/or host all interrupting one another and speaking over each other.

The show I watched last night involved the local blogger Sigina Pop, who generally writes about “fashion” and she acquitted herself nicely despite her evident nervousness.

Another guest was a young woman named Romana Farcas who seemed to have been chosen because she’s an empty-headed bimbo and had nothing relevant to add whatsoever, except that her hometown of Oradea was nicer than Cluj. What was interesting to me was that at no time was it disclosed that she is currently engaged to a professional soccer player or that she’s a contestant on a Romanian TV show called “Next Diva” so she needs more on-air exposure.

By far the most interesting guest (to me anyway) however was Cluj “viceprimar” (Deputy Mayor) Radu Moisin. According to his official website he is only 28 years old, a local mover as he’s already achieved such a high office at that age. Frankly I was surprised to learn he is so young because he looked about 40 or 45 years old. He also spoke in a rigid, mumbling way with his mouth held closed, making it virtually impossible to understand his rapid Romanian. The guy is clearly a terrible public speaker and at times seemed quite lost (even saying once “sorry I wasn’t paying attention”) and I have no idea why he even agreed to be on the show.

Radu Moisin started his career as a member of the “youth wing” of the PDL, the party currently in power in Cluj. He spent a lot of time hanging around Emil Boc as he rose to power as mayor of Cluj (and who is now the Prime Minister of Romania). And when Sorin Apostu succeeded Boc, Moisin rode in on his coattails. Moisin is nothing more than a loyal camp follower and a lackey who was handed his job on a silver platter. And just like his mentor Apostu, he’s also corrupt (more on that below) as hell. Furthermore, he appears to be either semi-autistic or else just plain stupid, which makes me wonder what kind of water they’re drinking down there at City Hall.

Aside from the fact that such a lengthy, uninterrupted debate was an exercise in democratic expression, the way the topic was discussed was quite interesting.

For those of you who have never been to Cluj-Napoca, the issue at hand was the prevalence of “second hand-uri”, otherwise known as used clothing shops, which are everywhere in the downtown area (city centre). By my own count, I’d say at least half of all the shops in downtown Cluj are indeed used clothing stores. Apparently this is a “bad thing” for most locals primarily because they’re “ugly” and reflect poorly on Cluj’s image as a wealthy, modern city.

To summarize what each person said:

Romana Farkas – Oh I’m far too pretty and important to wear used clothes. I mean how can you ever properly disinfect used shoes? You can’t! And besides, used clothes have the “energy” of the previous owners and I’m far too precious to wear them. But I suppose that for poor peasants and ugly people, used clothes are okay. And yeah, I’m from Oradea so I’m “objective” when I say Oradea is awesome and super cool and Cluj is second rate.

Sigina Pop – Second hand clothes stores can be useful for people on a budget, although I myself rarely, if ever, shop at them. I support local clothing manufacturers on my blog and urge people to buy their products. But just like Miss Farkas, I too wear brand-name clothes. Oh and I think that some kind of law should be passed to outlaw second-hand clothes stores from the historic downtown areas of Cluj.

The host (sorry, I forgot to write down his name) – Hey, I wear second hand clothes sometimes. They’re not so bad.

But oh my goodness, Radu Moisin was all over the map. I really wish I could’ve recorded that entire debate because he perfectly encapsulated the mentality of a Romanian politician. Remember, this was a discussion purely about used clothing stores, nothing more complicated or controversial than that.

Radu Moisin‘s strategy last night:

Step 1 – Brag about the least, tiniest thing the local government did.

Hey, we paved three streets!

Step 2 – Blame all problems on someone else.

It’s the church who owns all these properties in town and they’re at fault for charging exorbitantly high rents! Even though the city owns some of those properties, it’s everyone else’s fault.

Step 3 – Constantly tout your own government’s helplessness.

The rents are high! What can we do? Nothing. We’re helpless!

Step 4 – Make a vague call for some tiny, minor improvement to happen in the distant, far off future.

We’re thinking about opening a souvenir store in town one day.

Step 5 – Beg businesses to pay for everything.

We need sponsors to help fund a souvenir store in town! We certainly can’t do it on our own, are you crazy?

Step 6 – Promise good things when the big money starts flowing in from the European Union.

We wish we could be as cool as Sibiu and Pecs (Hungary) but don’t you know they got millions of euros from the EU? We’re poor, damnit!

Step 7 – Make vague patriotic statements that are completely irrelevant.

Yeah, Cluj is turning into a dump that’s overrun by second-hand clothing stores. But still Cluj has an indescribable charm that can’t be encapsulated in words. EVERYONE says so!

Step 8 – Make completely illogical statements showing you have zero grasp on the situation.

The rents are high for downtown spaces and therefore businesses wanting to sell new clothing can’t afford them and so there are used clothing stores everywhere because those are the only businesses who can afford to pay those super high rents.

Literally he said that! Simply astounding.

And, as I mentioned, Moisin is clearly as corrupt (Ro) as his boss. He was caught (on camera!) driving a high-end Audi A6 that belongs to the ROSAL group. This is the firm that receives millions of euros from the Cluj government to maintain and clean the streets. And guess who is in charge of the ROSAL group contract? Why none other than Radu Moisin. Nice work if you can get it, eh?

The incident came to light when Moisin caused an incident at the City Hall parking lot with a city employee, cutting him off and screaming at him, causing the employee to file a complaint (Ro).

And what was Moisin’s response when caught?

Nu voi intra intr-un joc al replicilor si contrareplicilor pentru ca activitatea mea adminsitrativa este foarte incarcata si nu am timp sa replic ineptiilor unora care au foarte mult timp liber si imaginatie.

Or in English (my translation):

I’m not going to play this game of he said, she said because I’m so super freaking busy doing my job and I don’t have time to respond to these morons who clearly have too much free time and imagination.

Nice! Was there a denial in there anywhere? Because I sure didn’t hear it.

And if that weren’t enough, he also apparently used his political position to give his girlfriend (Ro) a free apartment. And what do you know? His girlfriend works for Daniel Buda, another local member of the PDL.

See? All once nice big happy (corrupt) family running my town into the ground.

So there you go. On one hand, Cluj is blessed with a local TV program wherein people (including callers from the at-home audience) are allowed to discuss the issues of the day at length. On the other hand, one of the guests is a bimbo with nothing coherent to say and the other guest is a corrupt, mumbling political lackey sitting in City Hall due to his loyalty and faithfulness to the more powerful kleptomaniacs running this town.