Does Romania Need a Cheerleader?

Post length: 642 words, almost 3 minutes.

Or, more specifically, does Romania need this cheerleader? Please don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a personal attack on the author. Ethan seems to be nice guy with a genuine love of the country and the girl who has opened his eyes to it. He appears to be humble and willing to  accept when his personal knowledge is lacking (the comment and response on this post is a great example). Yet sometimes it feels like the blog strays from light pro-Romania reading, to full on propaganda.

I am in the same situation as Ethan: I’m a 30(ish) year old British guy in a relationship with a Romanian girl, I have been travelling backwards and forwards between Britain and Romania since 2011 and, despite what I was told I would think before I visited for the first time, I really like the country. I understand where he’s coming from. I also recognise that Romania has taken a bit of a beating at the hands of the right-wing media in the UK in recent years (fuelled no doubt by the recent popularity of UKIP), as well as suffering from a lack of high-profile official tourism publicity (when was the last time you saw an advert funded by the Romanian tourist board?). But despite Ethan’s best intentions, does a sickly sweet fansite really achieve anything?

He’s not alone in his campaign of appreciation of all things Romanian, of course. You may remember the “Why don’t you come over?” posters which appeared in the UK last year. This campaign, run by the Romanian online daily newspaper Gândul, uses witty, occasionally satirical, headlines to compare life in Romania to life in the UK: “Our air traffic controllers have seen snow before. They were unimpressed.” “Romanian for “biscuit” is “biscuit”. See, you already speak the language!”  While I find it a shame that they are still playing on this year’s European election successes of UKIP with posters such as this, after even the UK press’ own furore has died down, I’d love to know if this campaign has had any impact on anything other than the paper’s ad revenue. He’s also not alone in his English-language writing about Romania. I’m a frequent visitor to the slightly more cynical Bucharest Life and while I often don’t agree with the views of the author it is a decent, sometimes informative, always enjoyable read (just ignore the comments).

Perhaps it’s the style which jars with me a little. While I appreciate that it’s not written by a seasoned journalist, and it doesn’t profess to present a balanced argument, the sometimes seemingly obsessive writings do perhaps lend themselves to being dismissed as simply sycophantism. And that’s a concern: perhaps a blog like this does do some good, but one which verges on propaganda is likely to be written off as such and not have the effect the author intended.

I suppose, in the end, that’s the democratic beauty of the internet — you know there’s going to be bias in what you read and so the onus is on the reader, not the publisher, to seek out a contradictory point of view if they so wish — and that’s the key. Because it says so on the internet doesn’t mean it’s right. It might be, but for every Ethan there’s a Nigel. For every view there is a counter-view. For every counter-view there is a counter-counter view. As a reader you can take from it what you want, just do so with an open mind. And a large pinch of salt.

Still, when all is said and done I’ll keep reading Ethan’s blog. And I wish him the best with it; I admire the strength of his convictions. In this case, however, he’s preaching to the choir — I was won over by the country and its people a long time ago.

Posted on Monday 9th June, 2014 at 1:31 pm in Obiter dicta.
It was tagged with , , , , , , , , .

Leave a comment