I’ve already written extensively about what Romanians aren’t learning about public relations. Now it’s time to learn a bit more about what nobody will teach you about psychology.
Today as I was watching the news (as always, with the sound off), I leapt from my chair and shouted the words, “Tactical fucking masterstroke!” In the same day I saw (on various channels) Jeffrey Franks, Mugur Isarescu and Traian Basescu all execute a superbly beautiful move in order to further entrench themselves in power. Of course I don’t support their ideology but speaking strictly only about tactics, they were brilliant.
One of the channels had a round-up of what the international press (including The Guardian, which seemingly cribbed a few lines from Alison Mutler’s shit article from yesterday) had to say about Emil Boc resigning as Prime Minister and all the rest of what’s been going on. It was just then that I realized that Basescu and the PDL were executing the masterstroke of invoking the Hawthorne effect.
Let’s review. On January 12, Raed Arafat resigned from his post as a senior official in the Ministry of Health after the government proposes cuts in public health services as part of the IMF’s “austerity” requests. Crowds gather to protest this. Eventually Arafat is invited back and is reinstated. The crowds do not go away. Foreign Minister Baconschi makes a few criticisms and is sacked by January 23. The USL (main opposition alliance) boycotts parliament and by yesterday the Prime Minister and the entire cabinet resigns. Today a new Prime Minster was appointed and tonight he’s going to announce an almost entirely new cabinet.
What does everyone (including the foreign press) say? It was due to the protests. It was due to the Romanian people being unhappy and so they pressured the government and so Boc and his PDL/UDMR buddies all resigned and democracy is great and now let’s all go home and have a big plate of mici with extra mustard because yahoo this proves that the government listens to the people.
Bullshit. First you have to understand what the Hawthorne Effect even is. Essentially there was (and in many places still is) an overwhelming philosophy on the part of corporations that workers are there solely to be efficient “cogs in the machine” of productivity. Therefore a a major light bulb factory owner hired the best psychologists of the time to answer one question: what level of lighting will make the factory peons work at their absolutely most productive levels?
Well they tried brighter lights and dimmer lights and all sorts of different lighting conditions and were puzzled because there seemed to be no logical correlation between lighting levels and productivity. It wasn’t until after analyzing the data at great length that they found that:
He [the lead psychologist] also discusses it not really as an experimenter effect but as a management effect: how management can make workers perform differently because they feel differently.
A lot to do with feeling free, not feeling supervised but more in control as a group. The experimental manipulations were important in convincing the workers to feel this way.
In other words, what they found was that it didn’t matter what the lighting level was. What mattered was asking the workers how they felt about the situation. Once the workers felt like their input mattered, their productivity increased no matter what the lighting conditions were like. In fact, in some cases they left the lighting levels exactly the same as before but just because the workers felt like they had been consulted, their productivity went up.
Quite frankly, Basescu and the PDL are deeply unpopular in this country. But by making it seem that they listened to the people, I guarantee their numbers will go up. As a further tactical masterstroke, because they have formed a new government (and in a genius move, waiting to do this until the USL had decided it would boycott parliament, which it is still apparently doing) by law they have 60 days risk free to do all kinds of stuff without having to face a vote of confidence. Freaking brilliant move.
In one stroke, the PDL invokes the Hawthorne Effect, switches all their cronies to different ministerial positions, cements their alliance with the UDMR, get the IMF and Isarescu both in the span of two days to give the Basescu/PDL a huge vote of support and hamstring the USL by baiting them into a boycott. Considering that the country’s voters have overwhelmingly legitimate reasons to loathe and hate this government, this was simply a brilliant maneuver on behalf of Basescu and the PDL.
Because we’re all forgetting one thing. The protests were long since over. Yeah a dozen or so monkeys would jump up and chant in Bucharest every day (they’re completely gone from the rest of the country as far as I can tell) but if that was legitimately what pressured Baconschi’s dismissal and Boc’s resignation then I will eat my hat. Pure and simple this was grade A solid gold level manipulation of popular opinion by professionals, whomever they were that orchestrated this maneuver. Remind me never to play chess against these people!
PS – If you don’t think I’m right, consider that nearly equally severe “austerity” measures are being imposed on Greece and that country is nearly at a standstill after a general strike and protests numbering in the hundreds of thousands of people in the capital. What are Romanians doing? They’re sitting at home, downloading episodes of TV shows and ho, hum, la dee da, let’s post a cat picture on Facebook.