PHOTO I – actor Chris Evans, as the Captain America character from the movie Avengers: Age of Ultron; (source: https://www.thenational.ae)
He is a strong man, always willing to do extreme efforts for the common good. He fights against the oppressors from anywhere and, in addition, dresses in a suit inspired by the American national flag, a costume that no, does not look ridiculous on him. He fought in the war against the Nazis and also supported the United States troops in Afghanistan, against the Talibans, to protect the locals. Today, as informal leader of the SHIELD secret agency, he protects the whole planet against the invasion of evil gods.
Captain America is the perfect embodiment of the American ideal – his values are closely related to the country and its people, he is a defender of the weak and owns all of his actions. He also makes mistakes, but he always fixes them. Creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby have portrayed Captain America so that their character is not a stranger to what it means to be weak and helpless in front of those wish you evil, as before becoming what he is now, the hero had been an orphan boy that lost both his parents, his small constitution did not help in his fighting instinct, instinct that brought him to the attention of the US government authorities. The US government in the Marvel universe is the one which, through a scientific experiment, has given to the character the abilities that transformed him in the warrior of the oppressed.
But for our analysis, the most relevant thing is precisely the fact that two creators who had nothing to do with state institutions gave birth to this hero and that Americans have, over the generations, accepted the character as a commendable cultural product. Appearing in overseas mass culture a year before the Pearl Harbor attack, so before the US entered the war, during the time when Nazism, under Hitler, was a more and more prominent danger, Captain America became, in time, the image of national resilience in dealing with evil. The character is, more accurately, the honest and undistorted true patriotism which has its roots in fantasy.
Patriotism as the ultimate form of resilience in dealing with the phenomenon of fake news from the Russian Federation – here is one of the topics that attracted my attention to the LARICS internship conferences I attend. Professor Lucian Dumitrescu has launched the idea that scientific analyses that fight against fake news, very useful in academic circles studying the phenomenon, do not attract those who are victims of disinformation of Eastern origin. In other words, these academic analyses only reach an elitist category of Internet users or media user, and the crowd of people using the media and the internet for entertainment remains vulnerable to Russian propaganda. The deriving question would naturally be: is a “Captain Romania” more useful in the fight against intoxications from the East?
PHOTO II.1 and II.2 – click-bait type news of sputnik.md, meant to decrease the faith in the operation of the company (screenshots)
These destabilizing intoxications find a fertile ground in Romania and, apparently, most of Europe, as a result of the recent socio-political scandals. In our country, political instability mainly generates low levels of trust in the decision-makers and state institutions (predictable aspect), but also in the interaction with others.
When current daily activities are based on a lack of confidence (when we meet someone, when we do our job duties, when we sign a contract, when we pay taxes, etc.), generalized suspicion is created, which in turn gives rise to a hard manner of making things happen in society (bureaucracy, difficulty in maintaining / developing critical infrastructure or even poor solidarity of the citizens in front of a common purpose). This would explain the tendency of the common citizen to separate from the group he is part of – see the high emigration index in Romania.
This individualism also results from the survey made by INSCOP and by The Polling Company at the order of LARICS. We have to specify here that the mentioned sociological research puts the values of Romanians and US citizens face to face – all of them answered the same questions. I would like to turn our attention to two of these survey questions which, in particular, highlight the individualism of the Romanians.
The opinion poll which took place in Romania was performed at the order of LARICS by Inscop Research between October 12 – 13, 2018, on a sample of 1050 subjects, representative for Romania’s non-institutionalized population at least 18 years old, and the one performed in the United States of America was performed, also at the order of LARICS, by The Polling Company between October 19-22, 2018 on a sample of 1050 subjects, representative for the US population at least 18 years old. The maximum accepted error of the data is ± 3%
73 percent of the Romanians answered the question How do you consider/assess the economic situation of Romania? with bad and very bad. What draws our attention most is the answer of the Romanians to the following question, which sounds like this: How do you consider/assess your family’s financial situation? Only 35 percent of Romanians answered with bad and very bad, while 61% think that their family is doing well and very well financially. Therefore, although a majority of Romanians consider that the country’s economy is not functional, also a majority of Romanians think that their families are financially well off. We can only conclude that the citizens in our country do not think their welfare is due to the state. Otherwise said, the conscience of belonging, of solidarity, is weak.
On the other hand, in the US the figures are pretty constant: 35% of Americans believe that the economic situation of the United States is bad and very bad, and 32% of US citizens feel that their family’s situation is the same. On the other hand, 56% think the American economic situation is good and very good, and 61% of those who responded to the US questions believe that their family is doing well and well financially. In the United States, the differences in percentage between the answers to the two questions are not relevant enough to give us an opinion on the level of individualism.
These differences of perception between Romanians and Americans come from a similar level of trust in the state institutions, meaning that the same survey shows that both Romanians and Americans have rather little confidence in the Government and Parliament, respectively Congress; so the only difference is mentality.
In the face of harmful cultural-political currents like Nazism, Bolshevism and, in general, those directed against their own way of life, the US has Captain America. The imaginary superhero was not created by any state institution, so he could not be included the counter-propaganda category, he is simply the artistic spirit manifested in patriotism by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, enthusiastically received (also with patriotism) by Americans. Captain America lasted almost 80 years and keeps growing, in the form of a national self-esteem.
How long would a “Captain Romania” last, how would he look like and sound? Who would invent him. But, most of all, how would we, Romanians, receive him?
*Valentin Rupa is a journalist and participant to the LARICS 2018 Internship program.