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.