Viktor Orbán, Facebook, and truthfulness

I would like to remind people that Viktor Orbán once made the categorical statement that he had never lied in his life. This remark was greeted with the skeptical bemusement it deserved, especially since it came from a politician. Here I would like to recount only the latest in the string of lies the Hungarian prime minister has uttered in the last nine months. In Strasbourg while answering the critics of the Hungarian media law, he expressed his astonishment at the "backwardness" of the members of the European Parliament who believe that his government's media law is trying to censor the content of the Internet. "Where do you live? You ought to know that the Internet cannot be regulated." After all, "we won the elections on the Internet and Facebook."

This of course is a whopper. Neither the Internet nor Facebook had anything to do with Fidesz's electoral victory. Fidesz won the elections not in the ether but on the ground. Orbán and his party won big because people were disappointed with the performance of the socialist-liberal government in the previous four years. Admittedly, it is true that sometime in February 2010 Viktor Orbán joined Facebook. To be more precise, his communication men decided that perhaps Orbán should collect fans. To date Orbán's page has attracted about 60,000 fans. By contrast, within two weeks over 70,000 people signed up to join the organizers of the demonstration for the freedom of the press.

Sometime in February I wrote about Orbán's appearance on Facebook and pointed out that the role someone dreamed up for Orbán simply didn't suit him. He is too stiff. Moreover, it is a well known fact that he is not exactly technologically savvy. His communications advisor and strategist, Gábor Kubatov, earlier joked about his boss's ineptness, saying that only lately had he managed to master the art of sending and receiving sms messages. Apparently since then he has improved somewhat, but his comments on Facebook weren't his own. In fact, a separate group was created to handle Orbán on Facebook. Fidesz communication experts admitted that the readers surely could sense that the author was not Orbán himself. However, they did not consider this to be a problem. Unlike Ferenc Gyurcsány, who dictated his blog posts, Orbán is not the type of person who can be portrayed as "a computer geek."

Last February I predicted that as soon as the elections were over the enthusiasm of Orbán and his strategist for the Internet would wane, just as it had in 1998. But I was wrong. Orbán's page is still being maintained, although those responsible for the page are satisfied with putting up pictures of the prime minister. The latest photos are from Strasbourg. Each time the page is updated with new photos between 800 and 2,000 people view it and around 100 people write comments. That is a fairly modest showing, especially in comparison to Gyurcsány's blog from the time when he was prime minister. In any case, the comments show that Orbán's fans are thrilled that Orbán "told them off" in Strasbourg. This is how a Hungarian prime minister should behave. 

People who followed the impact of Facebook on the elections say that its influence was minimal. But the Internet in general and Facebook in particular are still important outlets for political propaganda. About a month ago I read an article about an opinion poll that concentrates on those who are regular users of the Internet. This group is dominated by the younger generation; for some strange reason in Hungary older folks, even those with university degrees, act as if having a working knowledge of the Internet was a task way beyond their mental capacity. The "Net Mood Index" of HVG showed a remarkable drop in optimism about the future. That indicates that younger people especially are realizing that life may not improve dramatically with Fidesz's remarkable victory. Yet the first ordinary public opinion poll that came out yesterday shows that Fidesz hasn't lost popularity. Moreover, some people feel that Orbán's performance in Strasbourg, though it might horrify people outside of Hungary, can boost the popularity of the prime minister and his party at home.

Those who are not supporters of Fidesz are astonished that Orbán has managed to hold on to his base despite the rocky road the government has traveled in the last nine months. The general consensus among this group is that the late February polls will show a considerable drop of support for Fidesz because it will be the first time when about three-quarters of wage earners will realize that their pay checks are shrinking instead of getting larger. But the bad economic news will most likely be counteracted by the Fidesz propaganda machine whipping up Hungarian nationalism. This always works in Hungary.

Moreover, most people didn't even receive all the negative news about Viktor Orbán's performance in Strasbourg. It is worth taking a look at the late evening news of MTV's M1 on February 19, the day of Orbán's appearance before the European Parliament. The fairly long report on the event consisted mostly of lengthy passages from Orbán's initial presentation. A shorter segment showed very brief glimpses of Schultz and Cohn-Bendit criticizing the media law, leaving out the hardest hitting sentences. On the other hand, Orbán's rebuttal was much longer. And in order to counteract the possible bad impression this encounter might make on the viewers, the editors of the news added old footage of the uproar that greeted the beginning of the Czech rotating presidency on account of Václav Klaus's euroskepticism. The message that the editors wanted to convey: "You see, there is nothing unusual about such a ruckus in the European Parliament." The news can be easily manipulated on the government-run MTV. The news on the commercial channels is simply unspeakably bad:  the events in Strasbourg appeared at the very end of the evening news on both TV2 and RTL Klub, the two nationwide television stations. Thus one wonders how much the average Hungarian citizen knows about Hungary's current position in the western world. It is most likely minimal.

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Kevin Moore
Guest

It is more important for Hungarians to be aware of the situation within the borders than outside.
If the outside world punishes Hungary because of the government, as you’d so much love to see, it will have repercussions within Hungary’s borders.
But things just don’t seem to want to go that way: the official letter criticising the media law is a “the mountains gave birth to a mouse” case (don’t know if this saying exists in English, but understandable nevertheless), it is nothing more than a disgrace for all of those who fuelled this politically and financially motivated hysteria.
And the latest (yesterday) poll by Sanda Ipsos shows that Fidesz’s support has increased.
Anyone told you about coordinated, overwhelming attacks having a counter-effect? See it now in practice.

Paul
Guest
Hungarian TV really IS terrible! I actually watched a lot of the commercial channels when I first started visiting the country because I simply couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But since we’ve had a home in Hungary, we simply haven’t bothered getting a TV – what’s the point?! If I were Orbán, I wouldn’t bother with a media law, I’d just shut down the commercial stations. But, on a more serious note, from personal experience, I wouldn’t put too much hope in Fidesz supporters losing their faith, whatever happens. Some support is bound to drift away, once reality starts to bite, but the core support (which I think is much higher in Fidesz’s case than with other political parties) will stay resolutely behind OV. My reason for saying this is that, almost without exception, the Fidesz supporters I know (the entire Hungarian side of my family, plus relations, friends, etc) have been giving me excuses for why Orbán might ‘fail’, even before he took control. At first I was reassured by this, as, in accepting the possibility of failure, it appeared they had a greater grip on reality than I had formerly credited them with. But then I realised… Read more »
Kevin Moore
Guest

One more thing: for a long time I haven’t seen such a bad article that you published today on the Hungarian page about Bence Stágel and the media. Pull yourself together, the case of having to fear from the imminent dictatorship is weakening.

Kevin Moore
Guest

“If I were Orbán, I wouldn’t bother with a media law, I’d just shut down the commercial stations.”
Paul, Paul, what a good idea!
Why haven’t I thought of this before?
Maybe this could make a clear ground for a fresh start to create some valuable TV channels.

Öcsi
Guest

Kevin Moore wrote: “Why haven’t I thought of this before?”
“I??” Are you Orbán?

Kevin Moore
Guest

Paul: “these people are mainly university educated, many of them are surgeons, doctors, teachers, etc, many speak English, some fluently, several work for foreign firms and have extensive dealings with the ‘outside world’, and most of them are under 40.”
Thanks for clearing up a long-standing left-lib misbelief, at least within the scope of this forum.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kevin Moore: “One more thing: for a long time I haven’t seen such a bad article that you published today on the Hungarian page about Bence Stágel and the media.”
That’s a real compliment. Thanks.

An
Guest
@Kevin Moore: “But things just don’t seem to want to go that way: the official letter criticising the media law is a “the mountains gave birth to a mouse” case.” You make this point here and you made a similar comment earlier, that the Commission only found three technical issues with the media law, nothing on the scale for which the media law was so widely criticized. So here is the thing… the EU committee is only looking at one aspect of the media law, that is whether it’s in line with the EU’s audiovisual directive (that only covers TV and radio, but not the printed press, as such). Looking at this specific segment they found these three problematic issues. They haven’t looked at whether the media law violates any of the basic rights listed in the European Charta, for the simple reason that such an investigation is not their job. The EU apparently only has a common directive regulating audiovisual media and nothing else. It seems that there is no mechanism to make sure that member states’ media laws are in line with the European Charta… well, if there are violations, Hungarians can turn to the European Court, but… Read more »
Paul
Guest

I wrote my post before ‘Kevin’s’ official Fidesz response popped up, but how wonderful to see confirmation of my views:
“If the outside world punishes Hungary because of the government, as you’d so much love to see, it will have repercussions within Hungary’s borders.”
Pull yourself together, Fidesz, the poor gullable fools who voted for you may not see you for what you are, but we do – easily.

John G
Guest

Bet you dollars to doughnuts that the February popularity figures will show an increase for the Fidesz for all the reasons you just listed in your entry. And yes the “patriot” card will be played as soon as there is a sense of potential loss of support. But then how is that different from Margaret Thatcher’s Falkland war, Regan’s Grenada excursion, or any Canadian PM’s “worries” about Quebec separation. The tactic works, so all political leaders in trouble use it. Us against them. How about the “yellow peril”, or “the red menace” in the US. Nobody plays that game better than Mr. Orban.
Instead of playing Cassandra (please remember she was right) those who do not like the direction Fidesz is taking Hungary should actively work towards creating a credible alternative. And soon! The Trojan Horse already emptied it’s belly.

Member

When the truth withheld or edited you can sell anything. I would like to quote again from Goebbels who was undoubtedly the greatest marketing genius, and instrumental in the rise of the Nazi Party as the Minister of Propaganda from 1933.
“We striving not for truth, but effect.”
“The worst enemy of any propaganda, it is intellectualism.”
“A lie repeated thousands of times becomes a truth.”
Certainly what we see does proves that the above quotes are true. What Orban and some of the bloggers here still do not want to comprehend (and it was mentioned in the EU) that just because you have majority that does not make it right to do as you please. Just because you can does not mean you should!
Again what they “sell’ inside the country for the masses is not the truth, but Orban and his followers do not care about the truth, what they care about are the results. The propaganda machine works for them. They are delusional to think that if people would know the truth they would have the same results. THis is why they need denial, and the control of the MTI and all the news that comes out.

Minusio
Guest

Some of you may remember the scene in one of the Monty Python productions: “Albatross, albatross…” (offered by Eric Idle, I think, instead of icecream in the break that used to be in the old cinemas).
How about updating it with: “Lemmings, lemmings…”?
Just an idea. And no, Paul, I don’t feed trolls anymore. Big Indian word of honour.

Paul
Guest

The lemmings have already voted.

Minusio
Guest

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” (Churchill, the debunker)
I always thought this was a nice quip. But it ain’t so. Perhaps Orbán knows this, too, and that is why there won’t be any real elections anymore?

An
Guest

Viktor Orban and truthfulness? Truthiness would be a better word.
“We’re not talking about truth, we’re talking about something that seems like truth – the truth we want to exist”. Stephen Colbert

John G
Guest
Ok we established in this forum that a) the Fidesz has a malevolent agenda b) are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve it and c) the voters are lemmings because contrary to all the blogs, internet and the largest selling daily in Hungary warning them they are still blind to the dangers of Orban and the Fidesz. So now what? What is a thinking person to do to change the course of Hungarian politics?! Repeating the litany of sins committed by the Fidesz over and over again is not going to change a thing. Can somebody offer something concrete, logical and doable instead of saying what the Fidesz is doing is wrong? Just an example. All of us know a new constitution is coming down the pike. So what is the opposition doing? Bitching and moaning weather they should take part in the theatrical lead-up to a new constitution. Why don’t they get together and present a platform or list of suggestions BEFORE the Fidesz presents their ideas?! Let the public see it BEFORE Fidesz comes out with theirs. I’ll tell you why: because they have no ideas, no platform, no guts. Woe is me! The sky is… Read more »
An
Guest

@John G.: The biggest problem is that even those who do something (e.g. those people who organized the demonstration against the media law), want nothing to do with any party at the moment (not only with MSZP, with ANY party). This is bad because until opposition against Orban is so divided, nothing will be accomplished. Fidesz was extremely successful with its “divide and conquer” politics. Looks like the situation has to get a lot worse before people will be able to come together for a common cause.

John G
Guest
@An: Yes, of course you are right. But that is exactly why Fidesz got it’s 2/3 majority. It used to be said that the French talk with their heart and vote with their brain. In Hungary people vote with their emotions. Intelligent analysis in the last election suggested that like it or not the only Party to vote for if you actually believed that Fidesz 2/3 majority would be a danger for Hungary was the MSZP. Yet people would rather stay home or vote for the smaller parties because they were seriously disappointed by the MSZP (justifiably, I may add) I even know of MSZP and SZDSZ supporters who voted for Fidesz to “teach a lesson” to the MSZP and SZDSZ. (Full well being informed that a 2/3 majority would be a serious risk.) As well intentioned such ad hoc demonstrations like the anti media law ones are they are only good for one thing, not to change anything but boost the morale of the anti Fidesz citizen. I think eliminating the politicians (even as civilian participants) from their demonstration was a noble gesture, and even an understandable one. However, like so many well intentioned do-gooders who inadvertently cause more… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

@John G: Yes, of course you are right. But that is exactly why Fidesz got it’s 2/3 majority.
From the few calculations that I made, Fidesz got something around 50 % (as in the list voting), the rest is the result of the Hungarian voting system. Because directly elected candidates make up nearly half of the parliamentarians, the “compensation mandates” are simply too few to compensate for the landslide victory in the directly determined seats. The authors of that law perhaps could not imagine that one party could be so dominant.

Gábor
Guest

@An: “They haven’t looked at whether the media law violates any of the basic rights listed in the European Charta”
Even though they didn’t they still find a way – at least according to HVG http://hvg.hu/vilag/20110122_europai_bizottsag_mediatorveny – to mention that some elements could violate the 11 article of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. But again, people in Hungary has no ears to the nicities of diplomacy and diplomatic language, while the government has no scruple and lies.

Kevin Moore
Guest
Finally some genuine discussion and thinking here instead of just unleashing the frustration in a very low quality manner. A few points: “Can somebody offer something concrete, logical and doable instead of saying what the Fidesz is doing is wrong?” Yes. Do what we Fidesz voters had to do in the last 8 years when we were forced to watch helplessly as everything we hold dear in Hungary was being systematically broken down, be it the economy, education, morale, media, you name it. The voters have now decided, Fidesz has years ahead, they have the opportunity to do as they want. And you wait. In a real democracy you have to accept defeat, and it’s your turn now. “This is bad because until opposition against Orban is so divided, nothing will be accomplished. Fidesz was extremely successful with its “divide and conquer” politics.” There was no need to divide the opposition, they were inherently and completely divided right from the beginning. It’s very lame to be blinded so much that obvious reasons escape you and you blame Fidesz for everything. The fact that the situation play in favor of Fidesz doesn’t mean they created it. “The lemmings have already voted.”… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest
@John G, @An My impression is that one of the dominant topics of Fidesz (the national “question”) is so important for Hungarians that any other issue seems to be a “detail” (including the new constitution.) I think that when SZDSZ split last year, it was also because of “national issues”. And MSZP is not unaffected by it either (not to speak of that all are somehow challenged by the existence of Jobbik). For me it seems that first there needs to be some new consensus on how to interpret history (which requires true reconciliation with the current size of Hungary, a reconsideration of the importance of “Jewish conspiracies” and other mythical events, and the acceptance of a more differentiated interpretation of its history and of the Hungarian nation). Despite everything that is going on, chances that this can be worked out seem better now than during the Horthy or the Kadar regime, although for the democrats in Hungary that must be a nightmare (and needs some time). So (as an outsider, and I apologise if that may sound too technical for those who are directly concerned), a stabilisation of the Fidesz regime appears rather likely. I also do not see… Read more »
Gábor
Guest
Kirsten: “My impression is that one of the dominant topics of Fidesz (the national “question”) is so important for Hungarians that any other issue seems to be a “detail” (including the new constitution.) I think that when SZDSZ split last year, it was also because of “national issues”. And MSZP is not unaffected by it either (not to speak of that all are somehow challenged by the existence of Jobbik). For me it seems that first there needs to be some new consensus on how to interpret history …” Although I agree Hungary would need a new “consensus” opn its history asa precondition to establish a stable and viable political community I don’t think the nation as a political issue was – and is – more important than anything else. On the contrary, Fidesz (and the other parties on the right) lost many elections despite their clear edge over their opponents regarding this issue. One of the erasons was that other problems were cosidered more important than this one, but the very different ideas of the nation itself played a not insignificant role. (Just as people are more willing to embrace Hungarians from other countries symbolically, as fellow Hungarians than… Read more »
John T
Guest
I think John G has really hit the nail on the head with his comments. Personally, I’ve reached the conclusion that it’ll take at least 20 years before a decent political party will appear, that is capable of governing in a mature, thoughtful way, recognising the realities of the 21st century. But that is ample time for Orban to have either proved me very wrong or for my wosrt fears about where the country is headed to have been realised. But frankly, I’m past caring. For our good friend Kevin I would say this – if it does go wrong, then tough – Hungarians will have nobody to blame themselves. But of course, the Government and you will always try and blame others for any failure. Personal accountability is very rare in Hungary. But I wish the Government and you would be honest and actually leave all the institutions such as the EU, IMF and NATO which you so despise. Why should I as a UK taxpayer contribute to the funding being pumped in to Hungary, when you blame me for all your misfortunes? Why should foreign business invest when you so despise them and you view their presence is… Read more »
Joseph Simon
Guest

You should all listen to Chris Hedges. He is intelligent and articulate. Everything we hear and see in the USA media is controlled by corporate interests. Historians serve the power elite and even universities like Princeton are captive to those interests due to the infusion of corporate money. American TV programs are not much more than celebrity gossips and celebrity culture. We have Oprah and Dr. Phil, messengers and promoters of instantaneous personal happiness, so that American mass media is producing a nation of zombies. And donot forget that Goebbels had learnt his trade from an American author’s book, named appropriatley, ‘Propaganda’.

Member
John G: “As well intentioned such ad hoc demonstrations like the anti media law ones are they are only good for one thing, not to change anything but boost the morale of the anti Fidesz citizen.” I think you are wrong. I know at least three Fidesz supporters who were there. So this kind of civil action also shows to Fidesz members that just because you voted for them, does not mean that you have to agree with everything, and you have the right to express your disappointment even though some Fidesz worshippers will cal you a lefty, a communist, a non-Hungarian. (You know the Hungarian tradition of you must agree with me 100% at 100% of the time to be called true Hungarian.) Fidesz supporters love to blame anyone who is not for Orban as the nemesis for peace in Hungary. They say they want some ideas, but they dismiss ideas as words from the devil. If Orban wants to work together with whole Hungary and make mends between Hungarians then he should stop his followers with rehearsing the Crucibles, and stop dismissing everyone who is not worshipping him. I think Istvan Hegedus, chairman of the Hungarian Europe Society,… Read more »
Odin's Lost Eye
Guest
Professor you write about Orban Viktor’s blog ** “In any case, the comments show that Orbán’s fans are thrilled that Orbán “told them off” in Strasbourg. This is how a Hungarian prime minister should behave.” **. Huh! I heard it was the other way round. Who does this *%$£!*^£ little nurk (OV) think he is? The New Messiah, the reincarnation of the Prophet (May Peace be upon him) or the ‘New Mighty One of All Nations’? The new Hungarian laws seek to impose the will of the Hungarian Republic over that all other sovereign nations in the world. I know well the Hungarian saying (in English) “There is no (human) life outside Hungary. But if there is it is not (human) life”. Don’t you believe it sunshine there is, and if you break its rules beware! This intention is implied in Article 3 section 6 of the Official English version of the enactment of the Media Law. It has long been realised that once a radio wave is transmitted only the Almighty can control its destinations. I had a ‘Ham band’ licence (and within the U.K. probably still have). Many times owing to a feature called ‘Tropopausic Tunnelling’ (AKA ‘The… Read more »
An
Guest

Well, not only Orban is the issue, unfortunately.
This is really worrying: The Right-wing Extremism Index has gone up to 21% from 10% in Hungary between 2003 and 2010.
In 2009 34% of the population was extremely mistrustful with the Parliament and politicians, in 2003 it was only 7%.
Also, homophobic prejudice as % of population in Hungary: 2003: 37%, 2005 46%, 2007 55%, 2009: 52%…. the highest in Europe after Turkey and Latvia.
From: http://www.168ora.hu/itthon/szelsojobb-kurucinfo-athena-budahazy-magyar-garda-radikalis-allatvedok-68030.html
I moved to the US in the early 2000s, and when I go visit (and follow the news), I have the feeling this is not the same country I left. Maybe that’s where the feeling is coming from.

Member

Joseph Simon: Why are you so obsessed with the USA? What it has to do with Hungary now? By the way, everyone is free to watch whatever program they want, like National Geographics, History Channel, whatever they choose. I haven’t seen one episode of Dr Phil, ANd I haven’t seen Oprah for like 5 years at least. As far as Goebbels go, he did not “learnt his trade from an American’s author’s book, named appropriately, ‘Propaganda’.” Edward Bernay was a Jewish public relations specialist, born in Vienna but his family moved to the USA while he was a baby (guess why). He was lso Freud’s nephew. Propaganda was published in 1928 in the USA. Goebbels’s Der Angriff on the other hand was published in 1926 already. So Goebbels was well in his way to become what he became. Not saying that he did not read Propaganda but Hitler himself was better influence on him.

Minusio
Guest
@ John G. We are all familiar with the notion of a “failed state”. At the moment we are witnessing a “failed democracy in the making”. Call this an intermediate morphological phase. But if you are honest, for any practical purposes, there is no way to vote Orbán out of office, regardless of how many supporters he might lose in the coming years. Most Hungarian expats tend to be extremly right-wing. Why do you think there is talk to give them the vote? For a new viable opposition to form it needs people who are (a) still there and (b) interested. Hungary has suffered several brain drains in its history. As far as recent statistics about the recognition of Hungarian diplomas abroad are any indicator, just now qualified Hungarians are voting with their feet. It needs grassroots work and enough people educated in civics. But there are not enough. And the imminent changes to the educational system will not provide for more, a vicious circle. As anecdotal evidence presented in this blog suggests, even large parts of the Hungarian intelligentsia don’t seem to know what democracy means. Looking at Fidesz, the Swiss SVP or the German nazi party in the… Read more »
wpDiscuz