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.

8 thoughts on “Bamboozled

  1. Thank you, Sam cel Roman! I live in a country far, far away, for 8 years now and your posts make me feel closer to home, as funny as this sounds. If I can help with your project, please let me know. I certainly don’t want to sit and watch how Romanians are being indobitociti to accept everything they are given (just like the people in the country I’m living now, which , btw, don’t know that their country joined ACTA, and even if they’d know, they’d probably agree with it)


  2. Maybe you should start watching the tv with the sound on. Your facts are innacurate and because you start from innacurate input you have all the chances in the world of getting a wrong output or conclusion.

    Check again why Raed Arafat resigned.
    Check again how many people still gather in the other cities of Romania. ( Find out as a curiosity that beside the USL rally of 15k ppl the biggest protests without political involvment movement as in numbers was not even in Bucharest). Keep in mind the temperatures in the last 10-20 days

    Check again why was Baconschi sacked, and what other (UNPR) party needed a bone in a future context. Check again the level of popularity of Cristian Diaconescu and why was a good move.

    Thouse were just at 1st glance. If you really want to start a movement ( figured that from your last posts) be more carefull when looking at facts. Hell, i might even join you if i see any future.

    Cheers from Constanta


  3. I am so disgusted by Romanian politic class and by the press manipulating people, so sick and tired to see them sell business and resources to outsiders for just a little more money for their fat asses. You can’t eat money!
    The only way out is hard work to acquire real wealth, knowledge, and social status and put these thieves in chains they deserve.


  4. That’s what I thought. It’s just a move to improve the Government’s image enough to implement the next set of traitorous measures without too much opposition.


  5. And why, may I ask, “let’s post a cat picture on Facebook”? What about a dog picture? Are you trying to Hawthorne me into loving cats over dogs? Well, woof woof, I tell you!


  6. Will be more protests after this cold winter ended, you will see-because nobody is fool to protest in a very cold day (this is madness); wait until the spring is coming, or,wait until the possible Ungureanu’s regim take the FIRST measure of “austerity” cutting more from our salaries or to impose higher taxes,people LEARNED already how to make protests in the streets; because the FIRST demanding was that President Basescu to resign.(ex-Prime minister Boc’s resignation was a bonus,but that’s just a beginning)
    Damn cold winter end quickly! Come on spring! Come on!


  7. Personally I feel I have every reason to loathe and hate the political class as a whole, not just the Government. Besides, if you look closely no one from the opposition is actually arguing against the measures the IMF is imposing. They know that, should they come to power, they would play by those same rules set from abroad.

    The only thing that would get me to move my sorry ass into the streets would be a protest directed at the political class and the way the country has been run in these last 20 or so years of so called capitalism, democracy and freedom. But since most people with half a working brain that I know agree there’s no real credible alternative, this is not going to happen.

    Winston Churchill once said that “many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” …and somehow I think democracy alone is not gonna get us out of this mess. In fact I have no idea what will get us out of this mess.


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