As promised, here is the first part of my summary of an article I found both insightful and scary.
"The left got stuck somewhere. In my opinion their problem is that in the last seven years they have been terrified of you. Ever since 2002 basically all their actions have been motivated by the pathological fear of the return of Viktor Orbán. And over the years they got to the point that they sacrificed Hungary on the altar of their paranoia. What is so frightening about you?", a Magyar Nemzet reporter asked Viktor Orbán. This is how Anna Szilányi begins her piece on "The Language of Fear" (Élet és Irodalom, 57/18). And Viktor Orbán’s response? "The answer can be found in the socialists’ ambivalent attitude toward democracy." As far his own person is concerned: "I am the favored person of their pathological fears because behind me there are four years of successful governing that broke the left’s myth of their competence." A lame if not misleading answer to these questions. There is certainly a fear of Orbán’s return because the socialists and the liberals are convinced that the returning Fidesz leaders would use undemocratic methods and would take vengeance on their political opponents whom they consider their enemies. Their fears are not unfounded based on a study of Fidesz’s language. It is indeed frightening: they identify themselves as the only representatives of the people and the nation, they demand the exclusive right to govern the country, they daily repeat their newly acquired majority, every five minutes they announce that they will put things right and will send the leading members of MSZP and SZDSZ to jail for their alleged crimes. These threats can be heard day in and day out from every Fidesz politician who opens his mouth in public.
An especially insidious way they attack their "enemies" is to call them "pathological," "sick," "paranoid," "psychologically unfit, "neurotic," "mad," "psychopathic," and so on. The list is endless. Against such attacks there are really no counterarguments. This kind of labeling "creates a nonpolitical asymmetrical relationship: on the one hand the doctor who comes up with the diagnosis and on the other the patient who is not in his right mind. In this kind of asymmetrical relationship there is also a certain threat: if you don’t come to your senses, if you don’t abandon your delusions, then for the sake of society as a whole we will be forced to cure you."
Anna Szilágyi then briefly returns to the part of the interview she quoted at the beginning of her piece. These few sentences are not only typical because of the use of favorite Fidesz adjectives but also because the two men, the reporter and Orbán, use an important rhetorical strategy as well: they endow their rivals with the very attributes that are much more characteristic of themselves than of their rivals. "This is a classic method of enemy creation in the language of politics: the one who frightens others acts as if he himself were threatened by those whom he threatens. An authoritarian politician who is beginning to build an undemocratic regime suddenly discovers a conspiracy against democracy by the very people who are trying to stop him in his efforts to do away with democracy. This is an old story."
Szilágyi then analyzes another critical aspect of the Fidesz’s political language. Fidesz always seems stronger, bigger, more vital than its rivals. This is an impression that is achieved by linguistic and pictorial simulation. Every party tries to make itself look better than its competition and how this is achieved is only a question of imagination, knowledge, and talent. The impression of superiority in Fidesz’s case is achieved by the repetition of certain formulas like "the right as the nation," "the right as the majority." Pictorially the rhythmic repetition of Orbán’s name by large crowds becomes threatening to those on the other side. It gives the impression of an irresistibly rising, crushing force that cannot be be stopped. It almost looks as if it is not even worth trying to resist; perhaps it is not too late to change sides so as to be counted among the victors, to stand on the good side. Otherwise there is unconditional capitulation, at which point one can negotiate only about the method and time of the transfer of relative power to absolute power. The message is quite clear: it is irrelevant what the "non-nation," "the insignificant minority" thinks or wants. "Yes, Hungary won…. Those also won with the victory of Hungary, ladies and gentlemen, who out of party loyalty voted ‘no,’ " said Orbán after the successful referendum. "This way of speaking," claims Szilányi, "is frustrating and gives rise to fear because instead of real competition, reasoning, an assessment of the situation, the speaker simply tells his rival that he is not part of Hungary, cannot be part of it if, after all, the victory of Hungary is his defeat."
In the last ten years, the political right has put all its energy into making itself not just a party but the embodiment of a mass culture. They have successfully managed to create a linguistic, pictorial unity and widen their camp. At the same time the left has watched all this with a certain repugnance and disdain. Here and there they came up with a few feeble reactions: "Fidesz is frightening," "Fidesz is populist and demagogic." The liberals’ intellectual arguments make no impression on the masses who are looking for something simple and even entertaining. Thus, unless the liberal left finds some kind of answer to the linguistic and pictorial onslaught of Fidesz, even the possible beneficial effects of the austerity program will not make a difference. We are here not in the realm of reason and reality.
(To be continued)