Poland, Russia, Slovakia, and Croatia arernconcerned, they display the huge Slavicrnheart—^but also the huge epic mouth.rnWhen they roam along the East Riverrncorridors, they appear unable to shedrntheir homo sovieticus veneer that theyrninherited from the communist way ofrnlife. All of them strike the observer’s eyernas exotic species with an amazing talentrnfor singing liberal slogans without reallyrnknowing what those slogans mean. Yet,rnbehind the surface of their democraticrndilettantism, few can hide their formerrncommunist skin.rnOne of the problems of Central andrnEast European politicians is their lack ofrnbureaucratic perseverance and technocraticrncommitment. To argue, to walk,rnto talk in a way acceptable in Paris or inrnMadrid is often rejected in modernrnAmerica. All Americans know perfectlyrnwell how important p.r. and sound bitesrnare for professional video success. AllrnAmericans know deadly well that in professionalrnlife, friends never complain torneach other; they always complain aboutrneach other to a third person. For the lyricalrnEastern European heart and for thernepic Eastern European mouth, thernAmerican video-political game is oftenrnperceived as a sign of cold, Puritan,rnlegalist hypocrisy mixed with a twistedrnoffshoot of modern make-believerndemocracy. Few can grasp that whatrncounts in politics today is not the politicalrnsubstance but rather the apoliticalrn”fun” style. Alas, in the hi-tech globalrndemocracy, as Neil Postman wrote, thernclassical notion of politics will be madernbetween those who amuse the TV massesrnto death and those who bore them torndeath.rnCentral and Eastern European politicians,rnbe they of Germanic or Slavicrnbreed, stutter and mutter. It is certainlyrnnot farfetched to say that the tragedy ofrnGerman diplomacy, during this last century,rnlies in its mystical character and itsrnexcessive sense of Faustian solemnity.rnHad the Germans been more extrovertedrnin their political appetites, had theyrnbeen more versed in the strategy of globalrnhumanism, Germany would probablyrnhave become the reference for modernrnhigh politics. In today’s Germany,rnthe tragic and awkward style can pass,rnbut in the Anglo-American world it hasrnno entry at all. German politicians inrngeneral, and East European politicians inrnparticular, represent the 19th-centuryrnworld whose tragic narrative and boundlessrnbelief in honor frequently fall onrndeaf ears in fast-forward mercantilernAmerica. One of these days it would bernuseful for sociologists and linguists tornexamine the German word Ehre andrncontrast its meaning to the English wordrn”honor,” which, over centuries, has givenrnbirth to different political commitmentsrnand caused different geopolitical constellations.rnPolitically correct “baby talk” meansrnlittle if it is not accompanied by politicallyrncorrect “baby walk”—a custom thatrnEuropeans brutally lack. Is it an accidentrnthat all Central and Eastern Europeanrnpoliticians appear awkward on the TVrnscreen in Washington? Is it an accidentrnthat the American political class feelsrnmuch more at ease with Canadians orrnthe English than with their Continentalrnallies? For a long time the PalestinianrnYasser Arafat was unable to push hisrncause across video-political America becausernof his eternally unshaven face andrnhis head scarf that tagged him as an AlirnBaba bent on killing modern democracies.rnConversely, his recent alter ego,rnMs. Hanan Mikhail-Ashrawi, broughtrnthe TV limelight to her native Palestinians,rnthanks to her excellent knowledge ofrnEnglish and her femme fatale allures.rnOwing to her feminist streak, the Palestiniansrnfinally got world recognition andrnthe red-carpet welcome in VV’ashington.rnFrom now on, young, intelligent, andrngood-looking women will be an enormousrnasset in video politics—not justrnon the back stage but right in the firstrnrow. Who can deny that Bill Clintonrnpartly owes his election to Hillary? Evenrnthe much-admired Mikhail Gorbachev’srnperestroika got off the Soviet groundrnthanks to his beautiful wife Raisa, whornlooks surprisingly like Anna Karenina.rnMust it be recalled that communism inrnEastern Europe partly collapsed becauserncommunist hacks had bulldog-like facesrnand their heavy-set spouses had hairy,rnunshaven legs?rnSmall wonder that the video ignorancernof smaller peoples worldwide furtherrnhampers their uncertain voyage towardrnshaky world recognition. Indeed,rnLithuanians, Estonians, or Croats riskrnbecoming Banana Republics should thevrnnot quickly learn the video-politicalrngame. For centuries, high politics hasrnnever been kind to them: once geographyrnwas their destiny; today video politicsrnis their fatality. Thrown into a small andrnclaustrophobic chunk of Europe, surroundedrnon the average by four nastyrnneighbors, each taking a nasty turn, theyrnwere always forced to make pilgrimages;rnonce upon a time to the Vatican and Versailles,rntoday to Washington, D.C. Forrncenturies they had to practice how torn”kiss the hand” in Vienna and in thernVatican in order to obtain a modicumrnof national sovereignty. Today, in orderrnto survive politically, they have to “kissrna—” in the liberal video world.rnIronically, Central and Eastern Europeansrnare still miles away from any politicalrncorrectness. One can say things inrnpostcommunist Eastern Europe that inrnthe West would be immediately slappedrnby TV opprobrium. Indeed, the politicallyrncorrect, affirmative-action “babyrntalk” of Western democracies is only therncool version of the communist “woodenrnlanguage,” which not long ago permeatedrnEastern European syntax and style.rnThe communist East faced censorship;rnthe capitalist West imposed self-censorship.rnWestern discourse teems withrncoated sentences and sophisms, such asrn”it appears,” “it seems,” or “one mightrnsav”—everything means nothing, andrntherefore nothing means everything.rnThe old American rocker, Frank Zappa,rnbest summarized the make-believe videornworld of the West with his song “YournAre What You Is.”rnWith the TV image comes good politicalrnmannerisms, which Europe badlyrnlacks. Europeans are obsessed withrnsmoking cigarettes. As far as EasternrnEuropeans are concerned, they arernpathologically hooked on cigarettes. Inrntoday’s official America, smoking is consideredrna “violation of someone’s humanrnrights,” something Europeans reject.rnAmericans know very well that in thernAmerican political establishment it isrnperfectly OK to snort cocaine or tornsmoke a joint; yet European cigarettesmokingrnleaves a bad political odor andrnseriously cripples the image of new countriesrnin the making.rnThe times of the commissar and thernKalashnikov are definitely over. Today,rnthe new TV archetype is the liberal caviarrnentertainer with a giant smile on his facernand good dentures to disarm every adversary.rnIn all likelihood, the new hero ofrnthe 21st century will be a mixture of arnmovie star and a car salesman whornpreaches an ideology of fun and whornpractices a dictatorship of well-being.rnGone forever is the era of the politicalrnfighter and the rugged individual of JackrnLondon’s America. In the era of the TVrnimage, it is no longer important what arnpolitician has in his head, but how hisrnNOVEMBER 1994/45rnrnrn