Language of hatred: The voice of the Hungarian right

Tamás Bauer, former SZDSZ member of parliament, political analyst, and professor of economics, last week on the ATV program "A tét" (The stake) said something memorable and very true. He told the audience that in fact he feels sorry for Oszkár Molnár, Fidesz member of parliament and mayor of Edelény, because he most likely doesn't even realize that what he says about Jews, Gypsies, and gays is unacceptable in the civilized world. After all, Bauer continued, this is what he hears day in and day out in the right-wing media–Magyar Nemzet, Magyar Demokrata, Magyar Hírlap, HírTV, or Echo TV. The voice of hatred can be freely heard from politicians as well. And not only from Gábor Vona or Krisztina Morvai. Tibor Navracsics, Péter Szijjártó, and the party chief Viktor Orbán also use language that in some other countries would be deemed unacceptable. Fine, some could say, surely one must admit that Jobbik's language is worse than that of the Fidesz politicians. Yes, but it is a question of degree only. It is a continuum, as Tamás Bauer rightly pointed out. Navracsics or Orbán may not use the exact words Gábor Vona did in connection with Tibor Draskovics, the minister of justice and maintenance of order, but the meaning is the same. Civility has become an unknown category.

It doesn't matter how we slice it. That language was introduced by Fidesz already in the early 1990s and since then the politicians of the Young Democrats have only fine-tuned the "style" acquired during their university years. Or perhaps even before: at home. As if these young people's natural development stopped by entering politics straight out of college. As if they didn't quite manage to grow up. When college graduates enter the work force they must learn to get along in that work place community. They have to learn what to say and what not. In brief, not to alienate colleagues. By contrast, a Hungarian politician, especially if a member of Fidesz, must attack. Must find weaknesses on the other side. Must criticize everything and use stronger and stronger language in order to call attention to himself. The bigger the noise he makes the more successful he considers himself. Say something outrageous and it will be reported everywhere in the media. Consequences? Irrelevant as long as it is considered to be a successful strategy.

What about the journalists of the right and the extreme right? They take their cue from the politicians and go even further. If Gábor Vona, screaming on the top of his lungs, can use the familiar in referring to the minister of justice and suggest that he be pilloried, if he can ask his followers, preferably those with the flu, to spit on him, what should we expect from the so-called journalists of Magyar Hírlap? Especially if the person by nature is inclined toward vulgarity, aggressiveness, and hatred. I'm sure that almost everybody thinks by now–at least those who know the list of contributors to Magyar Hírlap–that I'm talking about Zsolt Bayer. No! I'm talking about László Szentesi Zöldi.

The first time I encountered him was on Nap-kelte, the television program Fidesz accused of partiality toward the socialists and liberals. Szentesi Zöldi appeared occasionally on a segment within the program called Kereszttűz (Crossfire). The format was the following. The anchorman was flanked by two journalists and all three fired questions at the invited politician. Normally, the program's producers tried to pick journalists from opposing sides. One day Szentesi Zöldi showed up and I found him aggressive and very unpleasant. I said to myself: where did they find this fellow from the far-right? Well, I soon found out where he is spreading the gospel. In the infamous Magyar Hírlap that by today in no way differs from the Nazi, anti-Semitic Internet rags like kuruc.info or barikad.hu. Szentesi Zöldi's eyes burned with hatred when he encountered politicians from the other side. And because Fidesz boycotted the program, he hated all those who faced him in Kereszttűz.

Szentesi Zöldi wrote an opinion piece on October 19 in Magyar Hírlap. The occasion was an open letter signed by a number of liberals and moderate conservatives that appeared a few days earlier in Élet és Irodalom. The letter was addressed to the current head of MTV (Magyar Televízió). The signatories to the letter complained that Gábor Vona was invited by the staff of the new show, Ma Reggel. They found it unacceptable that Hungary's public television allows Gábor Vona to broadcast to a wide audience his extreme, racist message.

I assume one can argue whether Vona should be invited by a public television or radio station to propagate his hateful message but certainly not the way Szentesi Zöldi did. First, he complained about not being familiar with all the names. Fine, there are those who sign everything but who are all those others? "I gather they counted even the fingerprints of the atttendants of public toilets in order to achieve the necessary number." A good beginning! Szentesi Zöldi gleefully notes that the liberals have pretty well disappeared from Hungarian political life. Then he continues: "But, after all, what do you want, you liberals?" The "you" here is the familiar form that is supposed to belittle people Szentesi Zöldi doesn't like. He then accuses these inferior people of wanting to forbid the propagation of the ideas of people whom they don't like. "That is what you whisper, scream, babble. Tomorrow, let's say, you would forbid the use of the Hungarian language, the flag, the national anthem, or the bocskai? Everything that bothers your refined taste?" Bocskai was a uniform favored by right-wing students in the 1930s.

Well, that wasn't quite enough for Szentesi Zöldi. He continues. "We endure your hypocritical mugs here, so perhaps you should be able to listen to a program you don't like." Can one sink lower? Oh, yes, one just has to continue reading Szentesi Zöldi. He calls the signatories sons and daughters of those people who "were beating into a pulp" the "enemies of the people" in the 1950s. Not only were the fathers of these intellectuals sadistic communists but the sons and daughters actually thought that they were superior to "us." "You thought that we were country bumpkins who couldn't read or write." But while these liberals were full of themselves, Szentesi Zöldi's kind "were getting ready, they were working." And "by today, we, thank you, are doing just fine." Szentesi Zöldi's people are watching how these liberals are retreating "snarling with furtive hatred."

Everybody is on their side, claims Szentesi Zöldi. Workers, students, peasants, intellectuals–the whole of Hungary. Not on Fidesz's side but on the side of those who are represented by Magyar Hírlap and  Echo Televízió. All these people want to know "what will happen after you." According to Szentesi Zöldi, a national renaissance. And what will happen to the liberals? Szentesi Zöldi doesn't spell it out exactly, but whatever the extreme right will do to them will not be pleasant: "you will depart with a stomach ache." And to make it perfectly clear what he means, Szentesi Zöldi adds: "I wouldn't want to be in your place."

This is how they think and write. Let's hope that Szentesi Zöldi's menacing words are no more than idle threats.

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Thrasymachus
Guest

Screaming – at – the top of his lungs. Not “on”.
I’ve watched it on YouTube and he’s not screaming. What on earth makes a person want to say something in a blog, that is patently false, and can be verified as being false in a mere couple of seconds?
And the influenza line was hilarious. If Vona represents the danger that you think he does Dr B. it’s because he’s charismatic… not because he screams. He doesn’t. He never has. I suspect he’s much too clever for that.
Stop pretending things that can be proven false by a mere mouse-click.



It doesn’t smear your opponent, it just robs you of credibility.

sarkany
Guest

I think Bauer’s comment is an excellent one. And I fear that soon it will be true not just of the right but of most of Hungary. The boundary of what it is acceptable to say in public, in terms of racist, nationalist talk, has moved out so far in the past few years. With it the violence becomes more and more acceptable all the time. I can’t see any possible source of a more positive dynamic. The situation is pretty hopeless. If I were in Hungary now, I would be making plans to leave. The country has completely failed itself. Can’t offer a promising future to its people any more. At the individual level the only sensible option is to get out.

M2
Guest
Vona Gabor’s speech on 23 Oct was dripping with bile, resentment and hate as anyone can see who looks at the clip. Vona may not be shouting, but the tone is threatening and at times hysterical. Vona warns us not to laugh at him, surely a threat, and one wonders what happened to him as a little boy on the school playground to make him so sensitive. Yet his speech is hilarious at times. To argue Draskovics was on the side of the opressors in 1956 is a killer – he was a one year old baby at the time. The claim on 1956 by Jobbik is likewise a scream. Born too late, the Jobbik compensate by joining the opposition after communism has long been defeated, much like 1960s students in the West rebelled against real and imaginary ‘fascists’. I somehow, however do not see Vona and these other national heroes charging a Soviet tank with a molotov cocktail. And where were the Arpad flags in 1956? Of course, Vona should be taken seriously. What he says, and the hidden anti-semitism and social resentment against “them” propagated also by Fidesz, could be heard by anyone having a conversation with ‘averege… Read more »
Sandor
Guest

Not yet, M2, but given a bit more time, he will persuade them to join him. Then he will be ready to do the work of the Lord.

Thrasymachus
Guest
@M2 / @Sándor Gentlemen, with the greatest of respect, the notion that the author, readership and commenting base of ‘Hungarian Spectrum’ are in any way remotely capable of issuing authorotative pronouncments on what the “average Hungarian” thinks or is responsve to: is positiviely laughable. In fact there is a powerful argument to be made that the formidable polarization in Hungarian society renders any pretentions towards describing “average” views as redundant at inception. 20 years on from ’89 and even the political leaders from each party refuse to lay wreaths at the 301st plot in unison: isn’t this *behaviour* far more worthy of condemnation as “totally unacceptable” – than rhetoric? Yet where are M2’s castigation of this self-evident and much more reprehensible “bile and resentment,” I wonder? Where is the chorus of disapproval for these “actions of hate”? Hmmm? Folks, wise up. Wishful thinking, by either Vona or yourselves, is not the same thing as informed opinion. And in this article’s case, it’s just another crassly transparent “justification” for hate speech legislation… hence the oh-so-subtle title. Did you note as I did the cheeky colon? How the title’s punctuation negates even the conception that the Hungarian Left could *ever* speak in… Read more »
M2
Guest

Absurd indeed. So much for a ‘national’ holiday. Wasn’t it Jobbik who declared from the outset they refused to commemorate 1956 anywhere were MSzP and SzDSz might be present? See:http://www.jobbik.hu/rovatok/kozlemeny/nem_koszoruznak_mszp-sekkel_egy_rendezvenyen_a_jobbikosok
How can you be ‘national’ if you dismiss half the country as traitors?
The polarisation is a function of political struggles, not the cause of it. As far as public opinion is concerned there is more overlap between the supporters of the two camps than one might expect, as is witnessed by the defection of large parts of the MSzP support base to Jobbik.
The Hungarian left can certainly speak this
way. Lenin invented this kind of polemic. It is not just the language of kuruc.info, but also the language of Szabad Nep.
But I do not remember a recent left wing speech similarly filled with threats and menace. I am sure that you, seeing as you are clearly an expert, will enlighten us by providing a link the speech of a Hungarian left-wing politician threatening his political enemies in a similar way.
As to your adhominem attacks, you have no way of judging our gender, let alone our expertise.

Thrasymachus
Guest

But I DO have a very potent way of judging your expertise: what you say.
Why does everyone always assume I’m making ad hominem attacks here? I haven’t the slightest need of them…

Sandor
Guest

That is why are we wondering; needless bragadoccio at its worst. And what is even more contemptible is that you never address the substance (that is seemingly beyond your grasp), only the manner of presentation and the authority of the presenter.
Well, looking at the treasures you managed to hoard here, I would not give a wooden nickel for the dubious and self-interested authority you profess your little old self to be.
Your pretense of superiority is nothing more than the figment of imagination in a small but dark mind.

M2
Guest

Dear Trashy (if I may),
As you have not addressed anything I or anyone else have said on its contents, but just sling around insults, that is manifestly untrue.

Szentesi Zöldi László
Guest

“Bocskai was a uniform favored by right-wing students in the 1930s.”
It’s not correct. Bocskai was a simple uniform for students especially in protestant schools from the very beginning of the last century.
Beyond that, you drowing the long bow. As usual.
Regards,
Szentesi Zöldi László

Sandor
Guest

To M2: “Dear Trashy (if I may),”
M2, you not only may, but you absolutely must.

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