The future prime minister of Hungary and plagiarism

Do you recall what happened to Joe Biden in 1987? While campaigning to become the Democratic nominee for president of the United States he ran into serious trouble when he was accused of plagiarizing a speech that had been made by Neil Kinnock, leader of the British Labour Party. Kinnock's speech included the lines: "Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? [Then pointing to his wife in the audience] Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Was it because all our predecessors were thick?" Biden's speech included these lines: "I started thinking as I was coming over here, why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go to a university? [Then pointing to his wife in the audience] Why is it that my wife who is sitting out there in the audience is the first in her family to ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not bright? Is it because I'm the first Biden in a thousand generations to get a college and a graduate degree that I was smarter than the rest?" A few days later it came to light that Biden had had a problem in law school. He had plagiarized a law review article. That was the end of his presidential quest.

I can assure you that nothing of the sort will happen in Hungary where Iván Andrassew, a journalist with Népszava, caught Viktor Orbán or his speech writer blatantly plagiarizing from Péter Róna, formerly a banker and lawyer in New York and London but in the last twenty years a resident of Hungary where he managed to get a name as an economist. He writes quite often in Népszava. I happen not to be an admirer of Róna's ideas, mostly because I find them too far to the left and also quite nationalistic. A lethal combination in my opinion. That Orbán plagiarized from a left-wing socialist shouldn't surprise anyone. Orbán's populist ideas are not far removed on certain topics from those of Róna. It is especially amusing that the Róna article appeared in Magyar Nemzet, where left-wingers are normally not welcome.

Andrassew begins his article by relating a personal experience when he was teaching journalism in one of the many journalism schools in Budapest. He found out that most of the stuff he was getting from the students were stolen ideas. Out of ten students six had plagiarized. They got F's. (Well, at Yale they could depart from the university for a whole year, but Hungarians are much more "understanding" when it comes to cheating.) In fact, Andrassew says that if someone engages in such activity as a student it is "to some extent understandable and tolerable." (I'm much less tolerant, but that's an argument for another day.) But, he continues, it is unacceptable that a politician who claims that he has never lied in his life plagiarizes.

The fact of plagiarism is to my mind unquestionable. But perhaps the best thing is to translate parts of the two passages. First Róna's and then Orbán's.

Róna in Magyar Nemzet:

"According to myth our country is small and depends on exports and because it is lacking natural resources and endowments it must defer to others…. [The authors and propagators of this myth] don't talk about the fact that half of the countries in the European Union are smaller than Hungary. They don't talk about it because this compulsion toward deference is a characteristic basis of the political elite's legitimacy…. They build their power and personal well being on the execution of this compulsion toward deference. They know what capital and power demand from them–be that Vienna, Moscow or Brussels….. They are capable of convincing us that those wishes and expectations directed toward us through their transmission are not only legitimate but their fulfillment serves the interests of our country and society."

And here is Viktor Orbán's version:

"Let's forget the myth that our country is small and depends on exports and because it is lacking natural resources and endowments it must defer all the time and without conditions to others. My friends, half of the member countries of the European Union are smaller than Hungary….The Hungarian elite builds its power and its personal well being on the myth of compulsion of deference. This is an old story. They know what capital and power want from them: Vienna, Moscow, Brussels, Washington. They are the ones who convince us that those wishes and expectations coming from abroad are not only legitimate but their fulfillment serves the interests of our country and society."

Curiously, I found widespread silence in response to Iván Andrassew's discovery of Orbán's blatant plagiarism. The only exception was György Bolgár who had an interview with László Halák, who heads the Committee on Ethics in the Association of Journalists. One Hungarian publicist in a personal letter to me expressed his belief that the rules governing plagiarism don't apply to politicians. I think he is wrong as Biden's example showed.

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Gábor
Guest

As we all know Orbán made a fortune from his speeches, published by a now defunct publisher, he earned more than 10 million forint as royalty (an unimaginable sum in Hungary to pay to authors) and the book was sold in tens of thousands of copies. As soon as his texts are marketed as individual intellectual products (and as the proof of Orbán’s outstanding capacity in this sense) plagiarism is a very serious act. But be sure, it will soon turn out that in fact Róna plagiarised him. 🙂

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Gábor: “plagiarism is a very serious act. But be sure, it will soon turn out that in fact Róna plagiarised him. :)”
Still not a word in the Hungarian press about this disgraceful act. If I have a few free hours I will do a little spotchecking of some other speeches of Orbán because I have the feeling that this is not the first time that he “stole.” By the way, Andrassew’s title was priceless: “Nem hazudik, csak lopogat.” (He doesn’t lie, only steals here and there) A reference to Orbán’s claim that he has never lied in his life.

Steve
Guest

The speech formula, that Hungary should not be ashamed, or think in small just because it is a small country, is not new neither in Orban’s speeches, nor in common talk. It is common to think that socialists have a slogan to “have courage to be small”, which means to be wimps in foreign politics, combined with their bad consciousness it results in weak ability to defend the interests of the country.
Orban’s formula of “strong” state means what he said: If the governing power has clean consciousness, it doesn’t matter if the country is small, the government can defend the interests of the country better.
And before you brand this view as something “nationalistic”, think about it. We elect the leaders of the country to represent and defend the interests of the Hungarian people, and not to be servants to some foreign interest. If you don’t want the prime minister to be nationalist, then the problem is in you. We do have plenty of other people (like some journalists) to serve either their selfish or some foreign interest anyway.

Joe Simon
Guest

The Hungarian Spectrum doesnot display impartial reporting when it comments on the
Hungarian political scene. Viktor Orbán is
a very articulate politcian far more so than the discredited Gyurcsány. Yet Eva S.
Balogh has a definite bias even longing for
this stuttering former Prime Minister. He
has even admitted to lying to the Hungarian
people. His party now has paid the price.
Joe Simon, Ottawa, Canada

realistic pussy
Guest

well done, that’s what i call A REAL BLOG!!!
let’s see if you can continue with the good work, a blooging is not only write words, you have to commited with the subject, learn about it, known every detail, be in touch with the readers, i’ll guess you fullfil the profile…
Jajajajaja, keep it this way, you’re doing just fine!!! =D
V. Alucard