April, the month when most of the countries were hoping to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 spreading, was also the pinnacle of the anti-Western speech in Romanian media. And this happened, of course, due to the coronavirus which thus was truly crowned as the king of disinformation.
Little had to do with anything else but the COVID-19 in Romanian media in April when it came to anti-Western speech. In terms of US related topics, anti-Western stories dealt with the US ambassador in Romania on Huawei, with US sanctions on Iran not being lifted despite the pandemic, on China misleading the world in regard to the coronavirus figures, with the US being accused of hijacking medical supplies transport and carrying out acts of “modern piracy”, with the infected troops on the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier, with NATO countering disinformation originating mostly in Russia, China and Iran, with Trump allegedly being blackmailed by Russia over some party attended by prostitutes a while ago in Moscow, with Trump cutting the funds for the WHO and with that same US president’s advice to people to inject disinfectant in order to keep the COVID-19 away and, last but least, with the people taking to the streets and calling for the lockdown to be lifted.
As for the anti-EU topics, Romanian media focused on the sweeping powers for the Hungarian PM Orban, on the negotiations on money spending in the EU for battling corona, on Russian and Chinese propaganda, on the CJEU decision against Poland and Hungary, on the EU – UK tensions concerning the post-Brexit agreement, on Ursula von der Leyen apologizing for not showing solidarity to Italy, on NATO countering disinformation related to COVID-19, on people being stabbed in France by what authorities called a terrorist, on migrants’ camps quarantined in Greece, on no lockdown in Sweden, on the Italian mafia benefitting from the crisis, on the Italians’ feelings of disappointment caused by the EU response to the pandemic, on China allegedly blocking an EU report on Chinese fake news, on the protests against the lockdown, on the mayor of Prague being under police protection following an attempted murder, on the Hungary – Romania row over Transylvania, on Italian and Maltese authorities preventing migrants to get to their countries by sea.
Russia and China come to the rescue of the world
But that’s only the big picture. The local details are even more relevant for the Romanian anti-Western speech and its main actors and topics.
Surprisingly, in its effort to make the EU look bad, Q Magazine chose to praise the US, otherwise one of its main propaganda targets. It must have been a shock for the usual readers of Q Magazine to stumble upon a headline saying that “when the EU fails, the US come to rescue: USD 100 million aid for Italy”.
It was however the only occasion for the US to feel good in this disinformation war. From there on, business as usual: it’s now time for the family to be abolished, according to “a website in the Soros’ network”, as Active News put it.
And if the US feel too confident, that’s going to change because China’s going to help Russia win the oil war, according to Sputnik.
And if this doesn’t work, a hero is here to do the job: Pleșoianu, who firmly (based on Sputnik reports) replied to the US ambassador to NATO (which reminded the countries in the Alliance that military budgets must not be cut despite the pandemic) that the public cash for the military has to be spent entirely on medical necessities.
And to make it even clearer, the upside down moment comes also from Sputnik which explain that disinformation happens when someone vilifies the Russian aid to Italy (although Italian medical reports show that the Russian medical equipment was 80% useless and was anyway lacking at home, in Russia, the medical staff complaining about that).
What pandemic? It’s made up
And now it’s time for the first logic tumble of the disinformation guys. As you’ve already read, the EU, the US and NATO have not done much to help those in need so Russia had to step in. Ok, assuming this is true, then the danger was and still is real, right? Otherwise, there would have been no need for Russia to intervene. But Sputnik do not rely much on common sense and publish a story indicating who might benefit from the pandemic and what are the advantages that would explain why making up such a situation. So there’s no pandemic, it’s all just made up. So what Russia did to save the day? Or the mighty Kremlin just played along to make people believe there is a pandemic?!
Lumea justiției are just as smart and quote Sorin Ovidiu Vântu, a convicted fraudster, who believes that everything is a conspiracy put together by two-three states. And it must be true since Sputnik cite the same guy with the same words.
A connection to the US wouldn’t harm so Sputnik decide to underline it: not only is this a conspiracy, but a statement made by the Romanian minister of Health confirms it.
Some doubt was also cast on the pandemic by Lumea justiției by quoting Vasile Astărăstoae, medical school professor, which was not very sure that the isolation was the solution to the crisis but a strict hygiene and a correct use of the masks. Astărăstoae, quoted again by Lumea justiției, was also of the opinion that the lack of necropsies only leads to speculations on the causes of death and therefore there’s not much will of finding the truth. One may easily understand why, of course.
The fat rats
Aware (or rather not) of the stupidity, Sputnik appealed to the people’s sense of national property: those big and greedy countries “milked” our resources and now run away. Ok, the pandemic is back so we need the tax money for the health system, not for weapons (yes, Sputnik again). A topic also preferred by Lumea justiției.
Not to mention that when many states in Europe are sinking, the big fats rats will most probably save themselves. As rats always do.
The asparagus slavery
A very misfortunate event, though, provided the bullets that proved to hit the target very effectively (in this case, the target is the trust put in the authorities by regular people facing the pandemic). And the event was a labor force deal concluded by both Romania and Germany’s governments to sent seasonal farming workers from Eastern Europe to the West, especially to harvest asparagus. It was however quite a shock to see pictures and videos of more than 2,000 people bunched together shoulder to shoulder in the airport in Cluj before getting on the planes.
“Sold for a handful of asparagus!”, cried Național and Antena 3 revealed who planned the deal (although there was no mystery). Their colleagues with Jurnalul național suspected this was an “operation”.
And then a Romanian national working as an asparagus harvester died of coronavirus in Germany. Somehow, secret services had something to do with that, claimed Sputnik. Which added that this is all a fraud and that “we” (i.e. Romanians) have a “lackey vocation”.
Lumea justiției had some more: while we’re in house arrest, the Romanian president act as a slavery middleman. Anyone said “slavery”? Antena 3 is here: people work as much as slaves in German farms. If you didn’t get it right the first time, Antena 3 comes with additional reporting. And there’s more from A3. And also from a former employee, Carmen Avram, now a social-democrat MEP, who is sad because “Romanians feel betrayed”.
The EU only takes and “diktates”
But everybody knows it ain’t over till the fat lady sings so Sputnik kept the best for last: the EU, US and NATO partnerships didn’t really matter in the pandemic crisis – said Alina Mungiu-Pippidi.
To prove that, Sputnik labeled the US aid as “embarrassing” when compared to the Romanian donations amount. Q Magazine used the US versus The Romanian Patriarchy equation (USD 800,000 versus 3 million) while Active News couldn’t find a better comparison and used the same.
It seems, though, that the EU is more to blame here, in the East. Q Magazine, for instance, quoted the liberal MP Cezar Preda who expressed his total disbelief in a “united Europe”. The former MP Adrian Năstase, cited by Sputnik, mentioned some form of “disappointment, even regret” for entering the EU and Sorin Ovidiu Vântu refers to the “diktates” imposed by the EU which, however, stole everything from Romania.
* The authors of this analysis/study divided the media articles into two categories (news and analysis), each classified as biased or neutral. A geographical criterion was also used to link the media articles to the EU and the US. According to this study, a piece of news is nothing more but a short article covering a fact or a statement whereas an “analysis” may be a column, an investigative piece or any other type of article that is based on several facts and statements that are premises for the conclusion that the author of the article wishes to make public. The neutral characteristic is attributed to those news and analyses that use actual quotes (and not made up or out of context ones), rely on fact checking and logical syllogisms, provide side relevant data (context) in order for the public to get the bigger picture. News and analyses are labelled as biased when, on the contrary, the journalist’s work is not compliant with all of the above: quotes are partial and/or manipulated/manipulative, there’s no vetting process, neutral context is not added (and when there’s some context provided, facts are selected to match the conclusion – which, in this sort of cases, is pre-set – and not the other way round).
Based on this report: