Zsolt Bayer vents against Hungarian Jews and the foreign press

There are some people in Hungary who refuse to utter the name of Zsolt Bayer, a notorious anti-Semite and a "journalist" of sorts. His style, as you will see here, is beyond what can be considered appropriate to appear on a printed page.

As was suggested by a reader of this blog, it is worth looking at Bayer's biography. It's important to recall that he was one of the thirty-seven students who established Fidesz. Despite his venomous writing, the old Fidesz leadership never disassociated itself from Bayer. Yearly there is a Fidesz birthday bash which is proudly attended by the founders, among them Zsolt Bayer. A few years ago after a particularly outrageous anti-Semitic attack, I think on Imre Kertész, Viktor Orbán made a special effort to be photographed with Bayer as they were amiably enjoying some private jokes. It was Orbán's way of saying "Bayer is our boy, we stand by him."

András Schiff's letter to the editor of The Washington Post gave Bayer a wonderful opportunity to vent against Hungarian Jews. I will translate some passages, but I'm not sure whether I will be able to give the flavor of Bayer's writing in English. It is hard for me to be that base.

The piece, entitled "The same stench," begins this way: "A stinking excrement called something like Cohen from somewhere in England writes that 'foul stench wafts' from Hungary. Cohen, and Cohn-Bendit, and Schiff. Népszava appears with the red figure of the man with the hammer and demands freedom of the press. Most people think that this is something new and that war like that didn't take place before. Nonsense. There is nothing new under the sun. Unfortunately, they were not all buried up to their necks in the forest of Orgovány." A brief explanation. Orgovány, a small village on the Great Plains, was the place of massacres committed by the leaders of the Hungarian White Terror in 1919-1920. In plain language, Bayer is expressing his sorrow that not all the Jews were killed in those days.

Bayer is trying to make the case that today's social democrats are admirers of the leaders of the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919 who escaped to Austria. There were those, according to Bayer, who never wanted to return, and he brings up the example of Imre Roboz, "the writer" who swore that he never wanted to see Hungary again. "András Schiff is his kindred soul." Perhaps I'm wrong but to my knowledge Imre Roboz was not a writer but a theater director and he lived in Budapest until his death in the Budapest ghetto sometime in January 1945.

But even worse than Roboz were those who were actually waiting for the opportunity to return. And "the stupid chancellor of Austria, Renner, and his even stupider undersecretary (sic), Otto Bauer," gave Béla Kun and his fellow communists political asylum.  Naturally, Otto Bauer wasn't the chancellor's undersecretary because chancellors don't have undersecretaries. He, as the head of the Austrian Social Democratic Party, was foreign minister of the coalition government formed after the collapse of the monarchy. "These two Bolshevik lovers were waiting for them with open arms…. And these foul-smelling excrements openly attacked Hungary."

The emigration, which Bayer calls a "red cesspool," remained in Austria and "began to blacken the name of Hungary." Bayer quotes Elemér Mályusz (1898-1989), the medieval historian with right-wing sympathies, that in Hungary these people didn't have a chance because the inhabitants of Horthy's Hungary were solidly behind the new regime. Thus they tried to overthrow the legitimate Hungarian government with foreign help. The communists, the liberals, the Bolsheviks, and ordinary criminals united just like now in an attempt to ruin Hungary. The greatest traitors were Jenő Landler, Zsigmond Kunfi, Andor Gábor, Ferenc Göndör, Vilmos Böhm, and Zoltán Rónai. All Jews naturally. Their organs were Népszava; Rothe Fahne, the Austrian communists' paper; and Bécsi Magyar Újság, the Hungarian emigré paper in Vienna. "It was in these publications that they lied about the horrors of the 'White Terror'."

"Has anything changed since? No, it hasn't. Western public opinion can see Hungarian events only through the distorting mirror of the emigration." Bayer's advice is to read all the foreign press in this light. "These people didn't change a bit. We will have to be very strong and very patient."

I'm happy to announce that István Mayer, a physicist, turned to the new National Media Authority and asked them to investigate Zsolt Bayer's article. In his letter that is available on the Internet he claims that it is the Authority's duty to investigate because this article is an incitement against Jews. He added that it is most likely also the Authority's duty to report the case to the prosecutor's office. We will see what happens.

 

 

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Paul
Guest
Paul
January 5, 2011 4:38 pm

Éva, could you add a few details for me please.
When was Schiff András’s letter to the Washington Post and what was it about?
Where and when was the piece from Bayer published?
Thanks
As someone married to a Hungarian with strong Fidesz sympathies, but who is also a pianist who worships Schiff, I need to have my facts straight before I dare mention any of this!

Eva S. Balogh
Guest
Eva S. Balogh
January 5, 2011 4:53 pm

Paul: “I need to have my facts straight before I dare mention any of this!”
Sure, the Bayer letter was published yesterday in Magyar Hirlap:
http://www.magyarhirlap.hu/velemeny/ugyanaz_a_buz.html
The Schiff letter can be read here:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/01/AR2011010102177.html

Paul
Guest
Paul
January 5, 2011 5:27 pm

Thanks Éva.
It’s quite an eye opener to read the online comments on the The Washington Post letter. Many are so extreme and unhinged that half way through I had to go back and read the letter again, just to check I hadn’t clicked the wrong link!
Unfortunately (or not), I can’t read the Bayer article, but if it’s anything like your translations, I assume somone who can read it will have referred it to the Media Council by now? This is surely exactly the sort of thing they were set up to deal with.

Paul
Guest
Paul
January 5, 2011 5:31 pm

Oops! Somehow I managed to ignore the last para of your article on first read.
It will be interesting to see what happens to István Mayer’s complaint.

John G
Guest
January 5, 2011 6:00 pm
I listened to Mr. Bolgar’s interview with Mr. Feldmajer, President of Mazsihisz (Hungarian Jewish defense league I guess you could call it ) on Klubradio this morning. http://klubradio.hu/data/files/mazsihisz.mp3 (for those who understand Hungarian) The gist of the interview is that at about the year 2000 the Hungarian Constitutional Court started to make judgments to the effect that in such cases as Andras Schiff only he himself as the target could initiate a case against Mr. Bayer, not any minority or organization. However under the new Media Law it is possible for a group to initiate a complaint. And one group already started one, a group with which I am not familiar, the Left Green. The new Media Authority will have to make a decision in this case. Interesting how they will handle this whole matter. Also, most curiously today the Jobbik, specifically Novak Elod and friends (his name appeared in this forum once or twice) demonstrated in favour of Mr. Mong who was censured for his one minute of silence on National TV as protest against the newly enacted Media law. To put in perspective, Mr. Mong’s political allegiances would be suspect from Jobbik’s point of view yet there they… Read more »
Paul
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Paul
January 5, 2011 7:00 pm

If this new media law can’t reprimand someone for blatant public anti-semitism, how can anyone justify it?
Even Fidesz.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
Karl Pfeifer
January 6, 2011 2:32 am
@Paul@ They can justify anti-Semitism today and even the deportation of about half a million Hungarian citizens after the German occupation of Hungary within 8 weeks. The dirty work of whipping always 80 unfortunate persons into the cattle truck was done by the royal Hungarian Gendarmerie, which was early in the 90ies rehabilitated. The trick those anti-Semitic conservatives use is very simple. They point out that the leaders and some of the henchmen of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919 which ruled 133 day were Jewish. And with that everything is justified. And that is also the logic of Zsolt Bayer. I heard it time and time again, that “real Hungarians” had never advocated communism and that this was an entirely foreign idea. The problem is somehow statistical. During Kádárs time except very few people belonging to the democratic opposition the mass of Hungarians kept the system alive. Some of the crudest anti-Semites like István Csurka were even informers of the III/III So in Hungary a widely spread legend says the terror during Rákosi time (after 1949) was the Jews revenge for the Holocaust. I wrote about that fallacy a short comment in 2008 in Élet és Irodalom about subject… Read more »
Thomas
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Thomas
January 6, 2011 8:59 am

The tricky part is that nothing that is printed now and between July 1, 2011 is regulated by the new law yet. However, Bayer’s article could clearly be deemed punishable by past and current Hungarian laws. However, in the past the interpretations of the law by the Hungarian courts suggest that nothing will happen. And curiously in a current case before the Hungarian courts gypsies are accused of committing racially motivated crimes against Magyar Garda (Hungarian Guards, an outlawed para-military racist organization). The law that supposed to defend minorities is used against minorities. That is how real life is in the country that gives the president to the EU! Mr. Bayer is keenly aware of these facts, he is not a brave man to break the law, he knows that even if the laws are not on his side, the people who are supposed to enforce them, are.

Julie
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Julie
January 6, 2011 9:10 am

Paul: I wouldn’t read too much into the comments on the WaPo article. Comments on that site tend to be pretty unhinged no matter what the subject matter–if you look around at other articles you’ll see what I mean.
As for this Bayer person, I thought that sort of rhetoric was confined to the darkest corners of the Web. I can’t believe Fidesz hasn’t distanced itself from this guy.

Vándorló
Guest
January 6, 2011 9:46 am

@Julie: “I thought that sort of rhetoric was confined to the darkest corners of the Web. I can’t believe Fidesz hasn’t distanced itself from this guy.”
There’s an article on HVG drawing much the same conclusion: ‘Does Zsolt Zsolt perhaps know how much damage he does to his own kind when he writes such tripe?’ [“Tudja-e Bayer Zsolt, mennyit árt az övéinek, amikor ilyen hülyeségeket ír le?”]
( Source: http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20110106_bayer_orgovany_fidesz )

Bálint
Guest
Bálint
January 6, 2011 10:03 am
In my small rural village I just had the fourth elderly person since the cold weather started stop me on the street and ask for a loan for food. Since we’ve been talking about high-mindedness in this discussion on the merits of asking that censorship law be applied to people we don’t like, I’d like to suggest that there are actually two kinds of high-mindedness. One is when you’re so wrapped up in your education and liberal principles that you make the fatal mistake of not being able to understand those who disagree with you. This is the sort of high-mindedness that prompts people to promote, as the only viable alternative to Victor Orban, a man like Gyurcsany, a man who – in a country where old people are going hungry – amassed an immense personal fortune out of the purchase of public property at fire sale prices, and who shows tone deaf contempt for symbols like the crown, symbols that matter to people who have little else. The other is the sort of high-mindedness that reminds you of the danger of getting so caught up in the struggle with your opponents that you start to imitate the very qualities… Read more »
Leo
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Leo
January 6, 2011 10:41 am

The problem is that by sending a complaint to the Media Authority you seem to accept its moral right to judge. You cannot have it both ways.
It would indeed be a clever move by Fidesz to let the MA warn Bayer that he is now overstepping the line. That would show the world that all´s well in Hungary, especially since that is what the world really wants to hear.
Anyway, disgusting as it is, I think Bayers scribbling should not be a matter for the law. Besides calls to violence and infractions of people´s privacy opinions should not be brought to court.
There are a lot of idiots in this world, we just have to live with that.

Member
Some1
January 6, 2011 11:00 am
Bálint, I very much agree with your train of thoughts, but I think it is important to point out the “‘little shits like Bayer Zsolt” because they are the ones who are dangerous. THey are the ones who stir up trouble and then ride the wave of popularity created by controversy. Please, not for a minute think that I believe that the previous government did a great job. They had the power to stop people like Bayer, but they did not. I do not think that intellectual Jews of Hungary did enough under Gyurcsany either. They failed to put pressure on the government against hate speech, and hate propaganda. I also do know that old people who are asking for money today are not the result of the shortcomings of the current government’s 9 months, but the result of a much longer process. People like Bayer, Media Laws by Fidesz, comments that are coming from hundreds of Hungarians are disturbing because they are not isolated and truly they take away the pressure from real issues (like hungry old people). If the Hungarian Government would stick to their currently existing laws and would enforce those laws, that all that money that… Read more »
Joseph Simon
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Joseph Simon
January 6, 2011 11:15 am

Anti-Semitism exists everywhere, unfortunately, and not only in Hungary. At a recent Liberal Party leadership convention in Canada, opponents of a candidate for the post went around whispering into delegates ears: did you know that his wife is Jewish and he himself has converted? An obvious attempt to influence voting. Not very politically correct. The new meada law will target openly anti-Semitic publications like Csurka’s Weekly and child pornography. A step in the right direction.

John G
Guest
January 6, 2011 12:41 pm

@ Joseph Simon. You may remember the round of condemnation that followed the gossip about,Bob Ray. Which BTW was totally absurd, the gossip I mean. The man has already been a Premier of Ontario and his conversion to Judaism was not a “secret” even then. To suggest that situation was the same as the situation in Hungary is wrong. As you say, there are anti-Semites everywhere. In Canada such behaviour is considered uncouth (or not PC as you suggest)while in Hungary it is common currency. No comparison at all.

Thomas
Guest
Thomas
January 6, 2011 2:03 pm

Someone:”I do not think that intellectual Jews of Hungary did enough under Gyurcsany either. They failed to put pressure on the government against hate speech, and hate propaganda”. While this statment may have some merit, I think it is not the Jewish intellectuals who are at fault. All decent people who keep silent in a country where antisemitism became so common as it is in Hungary are at fault. One who keeps silent among gulity people is himself guilty as well.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest
Eva S. Balogh
January 6, 2011 2:21 pm

John G: “To suggest that situation was the same as the situation in Hungary is wrong.”
Of course not. I suggest to read this MTI report on a conference held on nationalism. According to Pál Tamás, the percentage of “active anti-Semites” in Hungary is 33%. Only 20% are those who raise their voices against anti-Semitism.” See http://tiny.cc/kjik5

Member
Some1
January 6, 2011 3:40 pm

Thomas: “One who keeps silent among gulity people is himself guilty as well.”
I agree with you!

Kirsten
Guest
Kirsten
January 6, 2011 4:06 pm
@Balint: I read your opinion with great interest. I wrote already the other day that I find it interesting that freedom of speech is interpreted so absolutely in Hungary. For me it seems possible not to support freedom of speech for Jobbik etc. in all circumstances (in particular if they interpret it as freedom to voice racial, national and other hatred) even if I am generally very much in favour of free speech. Freedom of speech is a basic right but it is one among many (and these can be conflicting). Another right is not to be accused or attacked out of the blue. To be linked to or outright made responsible for actions of people who lived 100 years ago only because we might share religious beliefs, I would not even call hülyeseg but a criminal act (for which one could be sued). To have my reputation damaged only because some people wish to air their racial hatred freely does not seem to be a fair deal to me. Clearly, in general one would expect that people such as Mr. Bayer are simply not taken seriously, they are somewhere at the fringes of society and therefore it is not… Read more »
Paul
Guest
Paul
January 6, 2011 5:17 pm

First they came for the communists…

Paul
Guest
Paul
January 6, 2011 6:01 pm
There are many things I don’t like about being British (the main one being that I am English, NOT British!), but there are also many blessings to being born and living here. And one blessing I count every day is that British society is no longer anti-Semitic. We are no saints, there are plenty of people who (for instance) feel negatively towards ‘immigrants’ and their feelings are often expressed in terms that appear racist. And there are places where there is a lack of integration and consequently tension between communities. But broadly speaking, we get along together. I live in what is still a fairly ‘white’ part of the country, but even here people are generally treated as just people, whatever their colour or religion. And if anyone doubts that multiculturism doesn’t work – come and spend a few days in London! But, whatever racial tension you may encounter in some cities, or careless comments about Gypsies or ‘Eastern Europeans’ (that’s you!) you might overhear, you will almost never hear anti-Semitic remarks. The new leader of the Labour party, and quite possibly (hopefully) our next Prime Minister is not only Jewish, but also a self proclaimed atheist. (And the latter… Read more »
Bálint
Guest
Bálint
January 6, 2011 6:30 pm
Someone and Kirsten – We seem to differ on this. When I lived in the US (most of my life) I was a free speech absolutist – but for the US only. I felt that absolute free speech wasn’t necessarily right for every society. Five years of living in Hungary have changed my mind decisively. I could take the high-minded path and say that the legal suppression of freedom of speech has never changed anyone’s mind or stopped the spread of an idea, but I would be wrong. For instance, I get the impression that such measures acheive their desired effect very well in a society like North Korea. It’s true that no one (I hope) is suggesting that degree of control here, but I’ve come to feel that any degree of control exacts a very steep social price. When I came here I had romantic ideas – mainly gleaned from Kundera novels – of a shabbily dressed but vibrant Central European intellectual culture. As my familiarity with Hungary and Hungarian improved, I became aware of the huge swamp of intellectual mediocrity that forty plus years of the communist control had inflicted on the country. The reams and reams of… Read more »
Paul
Guest
Paul
January 6, 2011 7:06 pm
“The only hope of draining this cesspool is to stop – a very tall order I know – the economic disparities and insecurity that feeds it.” Whilst I share your alalysis in broad terms, and it’s certainly true that more prosperous societies are far less likely to have such problems (Northern Ireland being a local UK example), I fear that the anti-semitism in Hungary is far too deeply ingrained for that alone to work. As an outsider, the average Hungarian’s casual racism was (and still is) a huge shock to me. At first I assumed it was just a minority view, but, after 10 years of visiting and living in the country, I fear it is an almost universal view. The only thing that changes from person to person is the depth and sheer madness of the delusion that ‘others’ are always to blame (never Hungarians, of course). All the Hungarian side of my family are anti-Roma at such a level of natural assumption that they are totally bemused that I don’t share their views. And my father-in-law, a decent, good bloke, by any other view, is a firm believer in ‘the international Jewish conspiracy’ – and in particular its… Read more »
An
Guest
An
January 6, 2011 7:42 pm
@Paul: I really do not like that you generalize based on your experience in Debrecen. I may be a Budapest snob, but I really think there is a difference between the two cities when it comes to racism and tolerance. Mind you, I am not saying antisemitism and racism is not a problem there. In fact, these sentiments unfortunately has been getting stronger all over the country in the last 10 years or so, including the capital city. I also see that otherwise sane people who had no interest in Jewish conspiracy theories 10 years ago are now willingly subscribing to such nonsense. I don’t want to deflect the blame from the average Hungarian, but I also would like to stress that politics played a role in this state of affairs, in the fact that these sentiments could spread and could get a hold among such a large segment of the population. In some ways leaders do shape public sentiment, if in nothing else, by changing what kind of thinking and attitudes are acceptable in public discourse. Orban did nothing else in this past 10-15 years than pushing and stretching these boundaries, when he should have firmly rejected such ideas.… Read more »
Sandor
Guest
January 6, 2011 7:51 pm
I am afraid, all of you are a little bit pedantic about the “anti-Semites” of Hungary. Sure they hate Jews, they hate Gypsies too, after all it is a noble long-standing tradition. But this is not the real problem. Every year a poll is being conducted in Hungary about the attitude of people about other nations and “races.” This poll includes the Pirez people as well and year after year the Pirez always garners a substantial, 15-20% of detractors, who readily admit that they actually hate the Pirez. The only problem is that there is no such thing as Pirez, it is an imaginary ethnicity and the Hungarians surely never have met any of them, and yet they readily hate them nevertheless. Hungarians are historically suffering from a messianic superiority complex and the more primitive a Hungarian is, the more he, or she hates others, because, let’s face it, the Hungarians are by definition superior to all others. There is only one tiny, flimsy excuse in their favour. Namely that they are so insulated and so ignorant about the rest of the world that they are unable to comprehend the difference and the backwardness of their mentality. On the other… Read more »
Paul
Guest
Paul
January 6, 2011 8:01 pm

An, I share your hope that my experiences aren’t typical across Hungary.
But just the fraction I encounter depresses me so much. Especially as many of them are university educated, well travelled professionals – not the stereotypical image of ‘Easterners’ at all.
And I’m afraid I have encountered the same attitudes in Budapest and other parts of Hungary, even in the far West. It’s not as evident in Budapest and the West, I grant you (although we might have to exclude the poorer areas of Pest from that), but I still encounter it to a degree that is truly shocking to a liberal Westerner.

kincs
Guest
kincs
January 6, 2011 8:16 pm

@An: “Orban did nothing else in this past 10-15 years than pushing and stretching these boundaries, when he should have firmly rejected such ideas. If all major political parties would have stood firm that antisemitic and anti-gypsy sentiment can not be part of the public discourse of a country in the 21st century; this may not have gotten this bad.”
I couldn’t agree more. Moreover, there is every reason to believe that Orbán’s silence on the issue and failure to reject such views was calculated. That would be part and parcel of his ‘zero-sum’ attitude to politics, in which everything that’s bad for you is good for me.
It is also an instructive example of his readiness to put the party’s interests before those of the country, the fruits of which we are seeing now.

Bálint
Guest
Bálint
January 6, 2011 9:24 pm
Paul, thanks for your extremely interesting comment. I can’t say in this respect that my experience of five years in the west have been much different from yours of ten years in the east, but I have to say this is a way of looking at the situation that I find far more depressing than the links you provided (they were very good, thanks) to the Guardian pieces in the thread just above this one. Fairly recently Eva had a post – I can’t remember the exact title but it might as well have been “Are Hungarians Just Naturally Hopelessly F*cked Up?” – that I meant to comment on and didn’t. I kept on assuming that someone else would point out the obvious – how ugly that piece would have looked with the word “Blacks,” or “Jews,” or “Gypsies” substituted for “Hungarians.” But, after all, perhaps Hungarians are hopelessly screwed up – there’s no a priori reason why they shouldn’t be just because the idea offends my liberal sensibilities (the same incidentally holds true for assertions like “Blacks are stupid” or “Jews are greedy”). Maybe some combination of gene pool, climate and culture does vary selection pressures from population to… Read more »
Sophist
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Sophist
January 7, 2011 1:21 am

Cheer up, Balint!
Remember, “But McBean was quite wrong. I’m quite happy to say. That Sneetches got really quite smart on that day”. Unfortunately, this only happened “when every last cent, of their money was spent”.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
Karl Pfeifer
January 7, 2011 2:11 am
@Sandor Szecheny had a very ambivalent attitude to Jews. On one hand he would invite a wealthy Jew to his Casino on the other he would speak up against Kossuth and be against emancipation of Jews, saying that a drop of ink in the soup is spoiling it. But then when a German mob after the revolution 1848 starten in Pressburg/Pozsony attacked Jewish shops and their owners he wrote in German (that was the language he spoke) “Das ist ein Angriff auf das Eigenthum” This is an attack on property. And property was holy. When the revolution was oppressed in 1849 Szechenyi wrote: What did we achieve with it: the emancipation of the Jews. Paul I do not think those orthodox Jews who are giving alibi to the collective hatred against the Jewish state are O.K. They went to the Holocaust denial conference in Teheran and they believe the Holocaust is the punishmernt of god, because Jews left religion. It is an outlandish reactionary group, here in Austria the antiimperialist fools and the extreme right had one alibi Jew who was also visiting Teheran and kissing the president. Someone: Antisemitism is not only a problem of Jewish Intellectuals in Hungary… Read more »
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