Totalitarianism Sells Well If Marketing Is Cool

I was thinking recently about the way Legionnaires (of the Romanian Iron Guard) were portrayed in the Communist movies. For instance, in "The Actor and the Savages", starring Toma Caragiu. Like hired guns, only unpaid and instead full of religious fanaticism and anti-Semitism (their nationalism was occulted, because Ceausescu practiced it, too). And as states of mind, they only displayed extremes quasi-robotic deadpan, or hysteria. Nothing that might have been attractive.

Nevertheless, the Legionnaires led by Codreanu had seduced at least a generation, from workers and peasants to intellectual pinnacles. And they were especially popular among youths. Which means that one way or another they were seen as cool, much like Che Guevara (still) is. To understand the fascination of Legionnaires, we’d probably need a director to portray the devotees of the Iron Guard like the gang wearing white clothes and hats of "A Clockwork Orange", or like Micky and Mallory of "Natural Bork Killers": aesthetes of violence.

The Communism has been always cool for Westerners. The regimes behind the Iron Curtain wanted to induce the same perception in their own subjects. In Romania, they did that with Adrian Paunescu’s "Flacara" (The Flame) Artists Group. A nationalist Ceausescu-style background was offered to youth through Western protesting folk and rock music. Nicu Alifantis, singing about the killing of John Lennon by the imperialist-militarist-consumerist capitalism.

And the propaganda mechanisms of the group were revealed very transparently in the song “I Salute You, Generation In Jeans!”: “There are some young guys marked by folk and rock / Who need support and all here in the country / And if we didn’t make a culture for them / They’d smuggle it from foreigners.” That is, from Cornel Chiriac’s "Metronome" on Radio Free Europe; he was assassinated in 1975, two years after the debut of "Flacara".

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