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© 1986-2004

h language, and two were banned outright. (The first penalty, to give an idea, was for the perfectly reasonable line "alcohol is life/life is alcohol.")

Last year, the PSD government fined four different television stations for playing a single Parazitii video, so the band finally struck back. "You really need freedom to do this kind of music, you know?" Munteanu said. "I mean it was them or us." Here's how "them" takes a licking in Jos Cenzura!:

Showtime Romanian style!

We don't pay our taxes so that you can shut us up!

Journalists are beaten up, kicked, threatened

This country is beginning to make me sick [...]

Communism is dead but the spirit is still alive."

This wasn't the only popular hip-hop video openly skewering the governing party throughout the campaign season. Ca$$a Loco, a goofy three-man rap/R&B crew reminiscent of the Beastie Boys, posed as smarmy, mafia-like candidates from a fictitious political party called "PSD" in their hit video, "I'm so happy that you failed."

But you won't see these clips out in the rural and under-developed countryside, where plumbing is a luxury, subsistence farming is the norm, and the PSD thrives (the party, though shaken by the June elections, still won more municipalities than any other). "The whole private television system in Romania is very urban," said Alfred Bulai, deputy dean of the Political Science Faculty at the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration.

In the absence of quality media, news in the Romanian sticks travels by word of mouth, and retail politics takes on a surrealistic hue -- when I was in the south-central Romanian village of Visina Noua during the second round of the elections, word travelled that the increasingly desperate incumbent PSD mayor was offering anyone who would vote for him a useful gift -- a free coffin. (He's a coffin-maker ... and he won.)

In the big cities, by comparison, competitive newspapers describe the mechanics of corruption in pretty impressive detail, which the kids can then routinely cite. People generally know that the government attempts to influence newspapers and television by being one of the country's largest advertisers (spending millions on hyping such crucial monopolist services as the Romanian international airport's control tower); they know that Local Barons (such as the odious and recently defeated Bacua mayor Dumitru Sechelariu) threaten to "execute" journalists who uncover their dirty laundry; and they know specific cases of state assets being pilfered and/or stripped.

It's no wonder they're fed up with the generations that were raised under Communism.

This generation gap is particularly startling to behold in Bucharest. Restless teens and stylish twentysomethings hang out in vast packs on the streets, at outdoor bars, and in Internet cafes; while older Romanians straggle out in ones and twos, if at all. One seasoned diplomat here told me it was "the most youth-obsessed culture" he'd ever seen.

Whether this will translate come November into a new centre-right government, let alone one that can work effectively (as opposed to the 1996-2000 government, which was a disappointment), is a question not even the opposition pretends to guess. But something in the air suggests time is on their side.

"On a recent and fairly rare venture into Bucharest's club scene, I looked at the trendy crowd and felt for a moment that I could have been in Manhattan or South Beach," said outgoing U.S. ambassador Michael Guest, who led a daily crusade against Romanian corruption during his three-year tenure, in an exit interview with the English-language monthly magazine Vivid. "Then a series of young people brought me back to reality, stopping one-by-one at the table to thank me for speaking [out]. ... Those who think they're getting away with corruption are just fooling themselves. A new generation is coming, and it will demand, and indeed create, change."

Matt Welch is a contributing editor at Reason magazine. He visited Romania via a fellowship from the Mercatus Center. His stories are archived at

© 1986-2004; All rights reserved.

© 1986-2004; All rights reserved.

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© 1986-2004; All rights reserved.

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