The Hungarian government under siege from many quarters

For quite a few days I have been waiting for a good opportunity to use a cover of Magyar Narancs, an opposition weekly of high quality. The name is a reference to the communist-era attempt to cultivate oranges in Hungary. Of course, the climate was unsuitable for oranges and the home-grown product more closely resembled lemons. This was parodied in the movie A tanú (The Witness, 1969) where the so-called home-grown orange–in this case so small that it was even a poor excuse for a lemon–is replaced with a lemon. The big party chief while eating it says, “It’s small, yellow, bitter, but it’s OURS!” Since then “Hungarian orange” has become a metaphor, similar to “goulash communism.”

On the first day of the new democratic parliament in 1990, Fidesz members came with hundreds of oranges and distributed them to the MPs; the orange was used as Fidesz’s logo. But the parting of ways between Magyar Narancs and Fidesz was inevitable. First, Fidesz tried to deprive the magazine of its name, to no avail. Meanwhile the magazine changed its color: from orange to yellow.

Orban csillagokat lat, Magyar Narancs

Well, in any case, this is the cover that I was hoping to use one day. I think the time has come because Viktor Orbán is really under siege. I will  list here some of his problems.

We all know about the media law and Orbán’s reception in Strasbourg. But this is just one of his problems, and I’m not even sure whether it is the most serious one. There is the the Zsolt Bayer problem. The unspeakable article written by him. It was inevitable that sooner or later people would read about it not only in Hungary but also in the foreign press. As far as I could ascertain, the first article about Bayer’s article appeared in Tagesanzeiger, a Swiss paper with this title: “Viktor Orbans Freund diffamiert die Juden.” It’s bad enough that such an article appears at all in a democratic country, but that the author is one of the founders of Fidesz and a good friend of Orbán is really too much.

A few days later Die Welt, a conservative German paper, widened the scope. It wrote about the populist-nationalist campaign in Hungary with “more and more anti-Semitic undertones.” The article mentioned the attack on the pianist András Schiff, writer György Konrád, conductor Ádám Fischer, philosopher Ágnes Heller, and actor Róbert Alföldi.

Today in Die Presse Karl Pfeifer’s article appeared under the headline “Fecal Anti-Semite Honored.” Die Presse is also a conservative paper partly owned by the Austrian Catholic Church. Honored? Oh, yes, adding insult to injury local Fidesz politicians in Nógrád County bestowed the Madách-Prize on Bayer. The prize was named after Imre Madách (1823-1864) whose major work, The Tragedy of Man (1861), is a dramatic poem about 4,000 lines long that elaborates on ideas similar to Goethe’s Faust.  Poor Madách would be appalled if he heard that this foul-mouthed nobody received a prize bearing his name. The newspaper picked this illustration to accompany Karl Pfeifer’s article:


Orbán Cube. Well, this is quite something. Therefore it is not at all surprising that Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, announced yesterday that “he will warn European leaders that ‘extremist forces’ are once again emerging from Europe.” He spoke about the problem today on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Earlier in the day Kantor met Viktor Orbán. Kantor is obviously a diplomat. Here is a quotation from him: “We know how devoted Hungary and Prime Minister Orban are to democracy and we will call on him to quell any anti-Semitism in his nation and to press for a reinforcement of existing legislation to fight anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia at the European level.”

Three Austrian writers–the Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek, Peter Turrini and Michael Scharang–rose to defend András Schiff, who announced earlier that he had received so many threatening letters from his homeland that he feared for his life. In any case, he has no intention of going to Hungary to give a concert and or visit his friends for a while.

Viktor Orbán is feeling the pinch and he reacted immediately. According to MTI Orbán met Kantor and assured him of his best intentions. He claimed that since he became prime minister the situation has changed for the better as far as anti-Semitism is concerned. Moreover, he asserted that “Hungarian political experience tells us that a central political force is the best to deal with extremism.” I’ll refrain from commenting on this one!

Then there is a manifesto in defense of the Hungarian philosophers by the philosopher Jürgen Habermas and Julian Nida-Rümelin, president of the German Philosophical Society. They call the witch hunt of the Hungarian philosophers “the scandal of scandals.” Again, this particular attack by Magyar Nemzet and Gyula Budai, who is supposed to be in charge of “political retribution” leveled against those who are not considered to be friends of Fidesz, has anti-Semitic overtones. Although over thirty grants were made during the period in question (between 2004 and 2007) only six people were singled out, all of whom happened to be Jews or were suspected of being Jewish.

Adding to Orbán’s woes, a Swedish Christian Democratic member of the Council of Europe requested an urgent debate on “the functioning of democracy in Hungary.” The Council of Europe is different from the European Union. It represents all forty-seven states of Europe. It doesn’t deal with economic matters but concentrates on questions of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Member states choose delegates to the Council of Europe for four years; the Council convenes four times a year for a week each time. We will see what will happen on that front.

All in all, it wouldn’t be surprising if Viktor Orbán were seeing stars already. Mind you, he is largely responsible for this state of affairs.

 

 

 

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Ovidiu
Guest

“under siege from many quarters” only feeds the paranoia about the “Tel Aviv-New York-Brussels axis” which exists in right-wing circles in Hungary…if they happen to read your blog.
But in fact what we see is about the EU-values which are not negociable and merely a repetition of what happened to Austria after Jörg Haider and his coalition came to power.
It won’t stop, once it has started it will just go on and on. I wonder what Orbán can actually do about it without risk losing support at home.

Paul
Guest
At the risk of repeating myself (again), all this is external ‘pressure’ (apart from Mancs, which I’m sure OV worries about a lot). None of it will amount to much, OV will ignore it or use it as proof of how much Hungary is under attack, and most Hungarians will remain largely, blissfully, unaware of it. But, because I am sick of being such a prophet of doom (and because it’s my névnap!), I thought I’d pass on a bit of good news. Personal and way off topic, but something happy for a change. Our 5 year old daughter won her class talent competition, and she did it singing Hungarian songs! (Since you ask, they were Ha felmegyek a Budai nagy hegyre, Erdő, erdő, erdő, and Hej Jancsika.) She goes on to the school heat tomorrow. The reason I mention all this is because of the intense feeling of pride I felt when our daughter won, not just because of who she was, but because she did it in Hungarian – probably the first Hungarian the people listening have ever heard – and dressed in traditional Hungarian dress. I’ve been feeling so down about Hungary and my connections to it… Read more »
John G
Guest

Sorry Paul, it is not “one power hungry man and his ignorant minions have destroyed all this”. Hungarian history, culture and society created an environment where such things can happen. Not to speak of a vile, venal political class, whatever their political stripe. 10,000 people demonstrating against the media law, 10,000 people signing affidavits that they signed over their pensions to the government under duress do not show that Fidesz is without popular support. It merely shows that there are still a few thinking people left in Hungary.
BTW Isten Éltessen! Paul. I presume it is not in Hungary your daughter won her laurels. Copngrats!
and to Kormos a Happy Rabbie Burns Day!

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Ovidiu: “”under siege from many quarters” only feeds the paranoia about the “Tel Aviv-New York-Brussels axis” which exists in right-wing circles in Hungary.”
Sure thing but what can we do about it? Believe me that those people will never change their minds. It doesn’t really matter what we or others say.

Kirsten
Guest

OV seems to be in need of some clever move to calm the situation down a bit. Otherwise he spends his energy on defending Hungary against the protests from other countries (which seems to have surprised him). I hope this “window of opportunity” will be used before (from July onwards) he starts to concentrate more on the domestic arena again. The more liberal press should not change its style, he cannot send them all to jail like Viktor Khodorkovski.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “The more liberal press should not change its style, he cannot send them all to jail like Viktor Khodorkovski.”
What I know about these people, they have no intention to change. A very brave bunch.

Minusio
Guest

Ovidiu: Your remark is historically wrong and politically wrong. Haider never managed to abolish democracy for all practical purposes. And from a philosophical point of view, I wouldn’t even know where to pigeonhole you. Crypto-utilitarianism?

Kirsten
Guest

I am afraid I am the next victim of Orbanisation (maybe you are right, Paul, of his “genius”), seeing “Viktors” where there are none…

Paul
Guest

Our one hope of a reasonably quick resolution to the OV problem is the incompetence of his lieutenants. Typically for an insecure megalomaniac, he has surrounded himself with people who are not up to the job.
He can’t run the whole show himself, and his seconds-in-command will screw it up, so hopefully the whole thing will collapse into squabbling, back stabbing and cock-ups.
But if that doesn’t happen, and once July has passed, and the world’s attention turns away from Hungary, then, yes, he CAN jail them all. And he CAN fine the newspapers and TV and radio stations out of existence. And he CAN gerrymander future elections so that any opposition doesn’t stand a chance.
And no one outside will be that bothered, or be able to do anything much to stop it.
After that only economic and/or social collapse will stop him.

Member

THe problem (still) is that many Hungarians take the words of certain media and their trusteed party. If Fidesz or Jobbik say so, it must be true. If it is written in Magyar Hirlap or Magyar Nemzet then this is it. It is all Jewish and Communist conspiracy in the public eye. Everyone who criticizes must be part of the conspiracy. A good for step for Orban would be to totally and absolutely separate himself from the Jobbik, and the likes of Bayer. He will never do it, because if you follow his career it is not his interest. It will not serve him, he would be to worried that he would loose the vote and support of the right leaning party members. As Hungary turns more nationalistic (greatly because Orban himself), he needs to more and more shift toward to the right.

Kormos
Guest

It is 22:00 in my time, I just got home and I will finish a 3 ounce drink for your health John G.
So Skal (with a little circle on the top of the a)
…and thank you for your well wishes, all the same to you.
Egészségére/Egészségedre Sir!

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest
Someone – you write ** “As Hungary turns more nationalistic (greatly because Orban himself), he needs to more and more shift toward to the right.” ** I think and believe that as Paul describes it his minions make more and more ‘Co-ups’ he will become more and more autocratic. His decisions will be more and more desperate and draconian. This will in turn set off more and more activity in the European Commission, which in turn will lead to more censures and actions in the European Court. The Hungarian People, who I am afraid are in many ways very childlike and too trusting of authority, will be driven closer and closer to total isolation and given more and more to hate. There may be a point at which ‘The Mighty One’ (OV) will have to take action against ‘the enemies’ to divert attention from his failures. It cannot be military action against external enemies because the Hungarian army is only too well acquainted with NATO. He will have to turn on the ‘enemies within’ probably with more and more lethal force. The only hope I think is that someone will emerge from deep within Fidesz and displace him. If this… Read more »
Kevin Moore
Guest

Oh yes we’re at it again. It’s now Habermas and co. to nose into something they know nothing about.
I never knew philosophers were untouchable because of their political stance. I never knew there were different laws for philosophers who are entitled to steal public money with lame fake contracts.
I never knew certain persons were eligible to steal because they were Jews. And if you ask them how things went, it’s immediately an Anti-Semitic attack.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

Oh God Kevin has fallen for the ‘Rabi Burns’ gag! Kevin back to your cage

Kevin Moore
Guest

Blind Odin what about a genuine answer?

Minusio
Guest

Because I don’t want to feed the trolls, I’d like to generally refer to the rule of law which includes a ban of prejudgement and ‘in dubio pro reo”. It also stipulates a lot of other things about the organisation and independence of the judiciary which have already been abolished by the Orbán regime or are on the way out. Soon the rule of law will be replaced by “rex lex”.

Paul
Guest

“I never knew…”
Why stop at three, ‘Kevin’?
Judging from your posts, there must be a wealth of things you “never knew”.

Kevin Moore
Guest

Strangely enough, everyone quickly just shuts up when the specific charges against the “philosophers” come into play.
No idea on how to interpret this as a political attack? Right.
Budai invites the German philosophers, to show them the documents upon which he took his legal actions: http://www.magyarhirlap.hu/belfold/budai_meghivta_a_nemet_filozofusokat.html
I’m sure no answer will come, our excellent German philosophers are not interested in getting to know what they’re talking about.

Paul
Guest

‘Kevin’ – we could start by trying to work out what you’re talking about.

Kevin Moore
Guest

Paul: nice endeavour, what about you read my post? That could be a good first step.

Paul
Guest

‘Kevin’ – it’s not the first step that’s the problem, it’s the next step – trying to make sense of it all.

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