Mediamatic Magazine vol 5#4 Eveline Lubbers 1 Jan 1991

Von der Bürokratie zur Telekratie Rumänien im Fernsehen Ein Symposium aus Budapest KEIKO SEI (ed)

Merwe Verlag/Peter Weibel (pub) Berlin 1990 ISBN 3-88396-007-2, German text, pp. 168 DM 16

The new successors to power race to the studios to announcethe formation of the National Salvation Front, followed by non-stop 24 hour long broadcasts which break every rule in Western televisions book.


Von der Bürokratie zur Telekratie Rumänien im fernsehen -

Never before had the modern media had such an enormous influence in the internal affairs of a country, much less a country behind the Iron Curtain. This gave rise to a congress in Budapest on April 6th and 7th, 1990, a report of which has been published under the title Von der Biirokratie zur Telekratie, Rumanian int Femsehen. Artists and media specialists from the entire Western world, as well as from Hungary and Romania, were invited under the motto The media are with us (analogous to the popular cry of Armatoe e cu noi: The army is with us) to participate in an aesthetic and philosophical discussion about the Romanian broadcasts. Out of fear that the Romanian and Hungarian participants would come to blows, as had happened in the Romanian city of Tirgu Mures, political aspects were emphatically avoided, for example, the question of the degree to which the revolution had been manipulated. A couple of weeks earlier, journalists and press agencies met in Paris to examine what had become of the rumours of 60.000 dead, opened mass graves and underground tunnels of the Securitate, which had been of crucial significance for the revolution; this, too, was avoided in Budapest.

What remained was to continue philosophising about the enthusiasm of December. The furnish representatives reported that the tradition of a media-free period of quiet at Christmas time had been broken with for the first time since WWII in style, with the announcement: The anti-christ is dead. The mythology of the Christmas message has been preserved right up until today. This ritual, repeated each year, is reflected in television programming. In this special case, the suspicion was created that in the stream of reports about the Romanian revolution, a third Christmas family had been added to the traditional structure of the two already existing ones: the family at home and the holy family in the stable: allowing the Christmas drama to realistically evoke the Forces of Evil, represented by the Ceausescu family. Bezug erhielt. The fairy tale was presented complete with a happy ending: Romania is a country with enormous natural resources and good prospects for the development of the tourist industry.

According to Margaret Morse, the wall took the Americans' mirror with it when it fell, the mirror in which they’d perceived 'the Other’ or 'Evil', and without which they're in danger of losing the basis of their identity. The bad press which the Romanian revolution received in the USA caused a deep scepticism about the reality of the events and increased the distrust of the motives underlying them: thus, the Empire of Evil hadn’t disappeared completely.

Besides the rather psychoanalytically inspired articles, the tone of the book was set by attempts to explain the goose-bumps caused by the heavily symbolic images: When I saw the image freeze and stumble under the pressure of the crowds hostile shouting, Ceausescu struck dumb, and stiff, I shouted: He’s dead, as though he was already dead, that kind of tyrant can't survive a blow like that. Killing the image meant bringing the mechanism of his power to a halt, there could be no doubt! cheered Jean-Paul Fargier.

The Romanian revolution began with a non4mage, writes Geert Lovink & Morgan Russel, when the crowd shouted down the dictator’s show and the broadcast was cut off. They weren’t aware, at that moment, that they were producing hot material. The events in Eastern Europe were faster and more refined than those in the society of the Echtzeit-medien. The Western viewers were shown that it was possible to make history in the trusted environment of one's own city.

But criticism is voiced as well. By presenting Ceausescu as a monster, those who toppled him were freed from having to answer the question of what they actually thought of communism, proposes Fargier. The improvised trial with the Ceausescus seated at kitchen tables and their hasty execution were televised as well, and not only to show that they were really dead. The book contains an analysis of the effect of this: first, Ceausescu was still a monster, he was transformed from an ex-monster into a non-monster and ended up. finally, as a victim. Serge Daney congratulates the corpses of the Ceausescus for their many, successful media appearances. If one can blame tv for giving the Ceausescus such negative coverage when they were still in power, then one can only congratulate the tv about the way in which it gave their corpses the chance to make a debut on the world emotion market.
Only after the congress was over did awareness begin to grow outside of Romania that something wasn’t quite right about the so-called metamorphosis of the regime. Only the editor of the book had the chance to make use of more recent sources and unmask the television revolution, ultimately, as a Tele-putsch. Seldom has a new regime made such shameless (unverfroren) use of the mass media to achieve its military and political goals. Totalitarian videocracy in the name of freedom. The so called Romanian tele-revolution was the first example of a war without bodies, significant for the pure war (Virilio) of a telematic civilisation. That's why fake corpses were needed, in order to pretend that it was a real war, a real revolution, like those which we know of from history and are used to. According to Weibel, this was how a new, more youthful perestroika elite came to power.

The final word has yet to be spoken about this manipulation. Romania has disappeared from our TV screens, the shivers along one's spine are nothing more than a pleasant memory. At the very moment when TVS role seemed to have been played out, at an end - despite its bounty which had become the equivalent of boredom, fleetingness multiplied by the power of the remote control - it made a forceful comeback with the dictator’s death, serving up emotions in untrimmed hunks.

On the other hand, Drama on the tv screen is characterized by a distance, which reduces the information given to a usable format (verfugbare Gegenstand), so that it no longer functions as a tool for memory. The Romanian revolution show is over, no one talks about it any more.

translation Jim Boekbinder