The long arms of the Hungarian government

Originally I wanted to talk about Rudolf Ungváry, father of the historian Krisztián Ungváry, who wrote a piece in today's Népszava about his own political development from conservative to liberal. Ungváry writes extensively in the Hungarian media on political matters although by profession he is an engineer. What he is writing about in this article is the fairly common realization on the part of people who always thought of themselves as conservatives that they can't possibly identify with the Hungarian right. I find this phenomenon especially interesting in the case of Hungarians living in the United States who are conservative when it comes to American politics but liberal when the topic is in some way connected to Hungary. Their split political personality is perfectly understandable; what is going on in Hungary has nothing to do with conservatism. 

Although Ungváry's "transformation" is of great interest and I'm convinced that many people will follow him, I will have to postpone the topic for another day because something else happened that might be of interest to non-Hungarian-speaking readers.

I volunteered my services to Zsófia Mihancsik, editor-in-chief of Galamus.hu, to report the names of the people György Bolgár interviews each day on his program. Galamus transcribes these interviews. On Mondays someone else usually takes over the program, but when Bolgár didn't show up on the late Monday night television program Újságíró Klub I figured he must be on vacation. I checked the Tuesday program, there was still no Bolgár. So, I assumed I was right, he was off somewhere on vacation, and I had a little free time in my schedule.

A few hours later I heard that Bolgár, along with two other Hungarians, was invited by the Swedish Pen Club to talk about the current Hungarian political situation. The others from Hungary were Mária Bogdán, a university lecturer of Roma origin, and László F. Földényi, a literary historian whose volume of essays just appeared in Sweden.

In the first half of the program there was a new television interview with Imre Kertész. Someone then read a short excerpt from the book of György Klein, a holocaust survivor. And finally Ervin Rosenberg, a well-known translator from Hungarian to Swedish, said a few words.

In the second half came Bogdán, Bolgár, and Földényi. All the talks were in English. The audience of about 200 listened politely and applauded enthusiastically. All went well until the end. When everybody thought that the event was over, a woman got up and announced that she would like to ask a few questions. The Swedish moderator announced that this is not a forum or a debating club and they were not planning to have a question and answer period. The woman wasn't satisfied and kept raising her voice; by the end, according to Bolgár, she was screaming in Hungarian. The whole audience got involved. Someone turned toward the speakers and yelled: traitors! From the other side came the reply: fascists! An unfortunately typical Hungarian scene in the middle of Stockholm. But that brouhaha is less important than something that happened even before the lectures began.

A television crew showed up saying that they represent Magyar Televízió. The Swedish organizers were taken aback because television crews usually arrange things ahead of time, but not the Hungarian crew. The Swedes originally didn't want to allow them to film the event, but the naive Hungarian participants saw no reason to exclude them and thus the organizers changed their minds. One must understand that Hungarian Television has no official correspondent in Sweden. A crew had to be sent from Budapest to Stockholm just for that occasion. It is likely that MTV or somebody higher up knew ahead of time that there would be a ruckus at the meeting of the Swedish Pen Club. Is it possible that this particular "event" was organized in the same way as other protests were, for example, when Ferenc Gyurcsány appeared in public? After all, we know by now that Fidesz is quite ready to pay people for services rendered. Think of the clapping 500 on March 15.

The expense of sending a television crew to Stockholm had to be considerable, and the only benefit to the Fidesz government was a brief segment on the evening news. The reporting was naturally quite slanted, and it seems that the chief target was György Bolgár because the story transformed him into the most important speaker at the whole event. However, from Bolgár we know the details of the program. The Hungarian visitors were allotted only a few minutes.

The TV report, entitled "Report from Hungary–Indignation in Stockholm," gives the impression of a general outcry over the false assertions about the Hungarian government. Moreover, MTV's evening news intimated that this event was organized by Hungarians for Hungarians. However, that wasn't the case. It was organized by the International and the Swedish Pen Club. The proceedings were all in English. MTV claimed that in Sweden there is "censorship" because the Hungarians present were not allowed to ask questions.

The Swedes are astonished and somewhat shaken. If some people in the audience thought that Bolgár and his fellow speakers were exaggerating, now they could see with their own eyes how the Hungarian government and the so-called independent public media function. As Gábor Kuncze, who was substituting for Bolgár on his talk show today, said succinctly: "We export all of our stupidites for the whole world to see." 

As for MTV, allegedly an independent public television station, according to people whose opinion I trust Fidesz now has a third channel beside HírTV and Echo TV. Most of the old reporters have been sacked and in their place reporters from HírTV and Echo TV have been hired. MTV didn't have a large audience ito begin with, but since the personnel changes they have further lost viewership. Why not? With government propaganda oozing from the screen from reporters who wholeheartedly and unabashedly serve the government's purposes, the whole thing is a sham.

 

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Ron
Guest

The Swedish Pen Club’s website:
http://www.svenskapen.se/

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Népszava about his own political development from conservative to liberal”
HAHAHA
Weird to call mental amortization a “development”.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“The Swedes are astonished and somewhat shaken”
This is a generalization of which, in fact, the opposite is true. The vast majority of Hungarians living outside the borders of Hungary are supportive patriots, so the reason they are shaken is they couldn’t believe there exists on Earth such hateful companion as Bolgár and the others.
People all around the world who are not out of their minds cannot ever imagine that any member of a nation would go abroad to spread so saturated libel against his own nation. And we are not talking about government criticism here, Bolgár and co. went always much farther than that, all their untrue claims are originated in hatred, based on their inability to be respectable members of the society as they fail to fit in due to not sharing basic moral values.

European citizen
Guest

JB’s comments are, as usual, psychologically interesting in content and yet deeply boring in argumentative value. Here is one fellow who truly believes that it is unpatriotic to criticize one’s government. Oh, sorry, I forgot, it was not criticism. It was hateful libel. Because it must be hateful if you’re not a supportive patriot that stands up for your country no matter whether you agree with government policies or not. ’nuff said.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy, the western world has a very low opinion of Orban et al, believe me. Their performance is pitiful. Economically as well as far as democracy goes. The western world consider’s Orban a cancer in the body of the European Union. Believe me.

Paul
Guest

Even by ‘Johnny”s standards that post is amazing. I was going to highlight to madest bits to show just how unhinged he is, but I would have ended up highlighting almost the entire post!
When he claimed to have beem Szilárd the other day, I didn’t believe him, as the two writing styles are/were so different, but if the above post had slightly worse English and a few exclamation marks, it would have been classic Szilárd in his mad phase just before he disappeared.

Paul
Guest

A further thought on the rabid madness that is ‘JB’:
He also admitted to being ‘Kevin Moore’ and ‘Kevin’ was once caught out by Mark posting as someone else, so that’s at least four different names ‘JB’ has posted under, and no doubt there have been/are others.
Interesting that he so often calls others liars and yet he deliberately sets out to deceive by posting as ‘different’ people (on at least one thread, even commenting on his alter-ego’s posts!). Who is the real liar here?

Member

@JB “The vast majority of Hungarians living outside the borders of Hungary are supportive patriots”
It’s a bit weird hearing somebody pontificating like this who only spent one week in Scotland (“the native English environment”). He probably accidentally took the wrong train …
The interesting bit for me is not the usual extra right hackling of intelligent people peacefully talking to each other. This is always the same. I wonder how JB explains the fact that we never see his guys talking abroad about the greatness of the Orban government. I mean what is stopping them to do the same thing? They don’t speak foreign languages or just lazy? It’s a mystery. Is there a secret conspiracy of smart people … ?? Hmmm …
Anyway as I said the interesting bit now is that the Hungarian government seems to be getting more involved, indirectly at least, in the “counter strikes”. I can’t believe my eyes reading the related “news” on the MTV page. Such blatant news manufacturing is really something the communists did and dictatorships do nowadays. Just listen to Qaddafi’s guys explaining what’s happening in Lybia.

kormos
Guest

@Ms Balogh. Congratulations! Your malicious wordplay is outdoing itself, and the “trolls” do not have proper skills or vocabulary to counteract your art.
I started to get worried. Your blog lost its edge for a while, and I thought the Hungarian Government was doing something not so good and you are quietly happy. Now I know that they doing some good work! Your blog is my compass. I cannot wait to read your crescendo when the new Constitution becomes law in few days or so.

Johnny Boy
Guest
European citizen: “believes that it is unpatriotic to criticize one’s government” I’m for once quoting myself: “And we are not talking about government criticism here, Bolgár and co. went always much farther than that, …” Exactly which part of this is not completely understandable? Eva: “Johnny Boy, the western world has a very low opinion of Orban et al, believe me” I could even believe you if I had no other sources of information than your blog. But, badly enough, I do have. Result: I not only don’t “believe you”, I know you are factually very wrong. Apart from the fact that Orbán was highly celebrated among EPP members after his rebuttal of Schulz’s and Kohn-Bandit’s ramblings, there have been numerous reports popping out from foreign sources that appraise the latest economic development in Hungary. Some examples of which you steadily ignore: http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=22041 http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=3&i=22039 http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=22036 http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=22046 http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=22035 To specifically highlight one example, the success of the bond releases cannot be overestimated. It means that Hungary has got ridden of the IMF finally, as all our debts are financed by the markets and the IMF loan is going to be fully repaid. Somehow I happen to remember your comments from last… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest

Forgot to add: Szájer & Co. in the European Parliament are widely regarded among the most educated and most prudent participants on EU areas and legislation. A great deal of Orbán’s persistent image in the EU consists of the recognition that his high-ranked fellows are certainly men of brains.

Ron
Guest

I found one newspaper in Sweden reporting about the event, without going into what the event was about and what was discussed and the subsequent events. Please find below the links. Please read the comments, apparently the are more JB’s. Btw I used google translation.
http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/vi-har-borjat-vitsa-igen
http://www.dn.se/kultur-noje/motstandsman-i-ungersk-radioskugga

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest
” I find this phenomenon especially interesting in the case of Hungarians living in the United States who are conservative when it comes to American politics but liberal when the topic is in some way connected to Hungary. Their split political personality is perfectly understandable; what is going on in Hungary has nothing to do with conservatism.” You hit the nail on the head, Eva. As a Hungarian American since 1957, I was a Republican voter until 1989. Since then I became less ideologically driven and now I vote for both Republicans and Democrats basd on their individual qualifications. I find the Hungarian political climate incomprehensible. Mostly I am struck by the lack of democratic spirit, the willingness to xcompromise and the lack of individual accountablity. I attrribute this to the unfortunate fact that the Hungarian parliamentary system is based on the party system, with the majority of the MP’s being elected on a national or county list. I am astounded by the rapid fire constitutional changes, the willingness of the population to support curtailment of the free press, the emasculation of the contitutional court. It’s not that the US political scene is a genteel tea dance. We have intense… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kormos: “Now I know that they doing some good work! Your blog is my compass.”
I’m afraid you read your compass very wrong. Orbán’s government is doing absolutely horrendous things. Unspeakable things. Right now they are working on the justice system. Far too independent to their taste.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: “Bolgár and co. went always much farther than that, …”
What was he doing? He is in fact a soft-spoken man with endless patience to listen to everybody. He is for dialogue and understanding of other people’s point of view. If anyone would like to get a taste of his style with a far-right racist one should listen to his conversation today with a man who sounds like Johnny Boy. The conversation took place during the third segment of the program: http://www.klubradio.hu/index.php?id=33%23c

Odin's lost eye
Guest
The view from the Kosma is one of ignorance and indifference. Media laws – what media laws? As our good hostess puts it most just bury their heads in the sand and hope that when it is all over they will still be there. They know when he lost the election in 2002 his ‘Mightiness’ (OV) first blamed the electorate. When someone pointed out that he was too harsh he is said to have replied that he was not harsh enough! So is this the start of something new. Will the flogging continue until moral improves? Kirsten you said in another posting that the majority of Hungarians voted for this sort of thing so Europe (and the UN) should keep out of it. No madam Hungary signed up for both the EU and the UN. Both outfits have rules and in the case of the EU these rules are to prevent the emergence of another dictatorship or other forms of absolutism. All the previous poisonous little toads who occupied such posts killed too many people. To prevent any more of this is the very ‘raison-d’etre’ for the EU! Johnny Boy was wrong about the UN Rapporteurs who came from the… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: ‘Forgot to add: Szájer & Co. in the European Parliament are widely regarded among the most educated and most prudent participants on EU areas and legislation”
According to whom? Bring a few examples from independent sources.

Jo Peattie
Guest

Umm. I may be mistaken but Hungary is supposed to be a democracy. Please explain how it is unpatriotic to criticise the Government. Surely this would be the situation in a controlled police state type of country. Or am I mistaken, is Hungary a dictatorship?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Joe Peattie: “Or am I mistaken, is Hungary a dictatorship?”
We are getting there!

Paul
Guest
Interesting links, ‘Johnny’, I note that you cherry pick the ones that look good (and not the disastrous budget news for March, for instance, or the news that industrial production is growing much faster in several ‘Eastern European’ countries, including Romania!) and ignore some of the Portfolio comments that cast a darker view on the figures (such as the good balance of payments being due in a large part to completely dead domestic consumption). But I can’t blame you for that, it’s exactly what I would expect from someone desperate to make a point. As for the IMF debt, I wouldn’t be too happy about that if I were you. My reading of the situation is that OV was so desperate to borrow from someone (anyone) else that he offered deals that even those worried about Hungary’s down-rating couldn’t resist. He may have borrowed enough to pay off the IMF, but at what cost? I could pay off my mortgage by borrowing from loan-sharks, but it would be madness. Still, it won’t be OV that has to pay the price, it will be the poor bastards who get have to take over in 15 or 20 years time and clear… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

Johnny, why did you not pick this link from the same site:
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=22042
Do you consider them to be a left-lib pressure group…?
It is nice to read that there are investors who find the structural reforms of OV well communicated. But perhaps this has been more reassuring:
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=22045
and this
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/cikkek.tdp?k=2&i=22043
overlooked.

Member

@Kirsten I’m not really financially literate (just ask my wife) … Can you explain the story about the budget deficit. What are those sources the will bring back down the margin at the end of the year? End how realistic are those expectations?

Kirsten
Guest

Mutt, my reading is that these first months of the year show the effect of the tax reform (reduced tax income) and that the government intends to collect the extra levy from the foreign firms in the second half of the year. But I do not really understand why the deficit must be so high already in March when the additional revenue from the pensions could have been collected already from early this year. So for me these figures are not as “fine” as commented by portfolio but in a way (for the investor) the extra income through discretionary measures reduces currently the risks of Hungarian government bonds. (So some foreign investors are gaining from the tax on foreign banks, weird.)

Paul
Guest

It’s explained later in that article, Mutt (see graphs, viewpoint, etc). Basically spending is higher at the beginning of the year (I know not why), but most income is received in the second half of the year (again, I don’t know why).
As to how realistic these expectations are, they seem to have managed it OK for the past few years, so perhaps they will again. But there again, no previous year has started this badly.

Member

Thank you guys!
Off topic: Economist article ablout Hungary’s roma plan (not sure what it is):
http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2011/04/europes_roma&fsrc=nwl

George Bolcsfoldi
Guest

As ex-Hungarian living Sweden I was present at the PEN club evening. In my view the situation in Hungary was given a balanced presentation by the speakers. My impression of the Hungarians present, was that they belong to the right wing, nationalist category. The introduction in Hungary of new laws that threaten free speach has recieved considerable attention in Swedish media during several weeks prior to this meeting.

Member

Regarding the Economist article by Minusio.”Hungary is making a priority of the Roma issue, and has ambitious plans. The government has pledged to create 100,000 jobs for Roma through a massive public-works programe.” “As Zoltán Balogh, minister for social inclusion, says: “Twenty years after the change of system [in Hungary], the majority of Roma are in a worse condition.”
bahahaha A year later I see plan, but no action. I do not see them doing ANYTHING to stop Szebbik Jovoert to bully and frighten the Roma population either.THere is not one thing that the Fidesz has done.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

George Bolcsfoldi: “As ex-Hungarian living Sweden I was present at the PEN club evening.”
I’m so glad to hear from someone who was present. I know Bolgár quite well and I know that he is a moderate man. He is also fair.

Ron
Guest

Paul: It’s explained later in that article, Mutt (see graphs, viewpoint, etc). Basically spending is higher at the beginning of the year (I know not why), but most income is received in the second half of the year (again, I don’t know why).
The expenses are always higher in the beginning of the year, due to the energy bills, and probably now a little bit higher due to the high energy prices, the low forint, the EU presidency, new cars (Ft. 4 billion), and less income, due to reduced petrol sales, less VAT (people not spending too much), reduced personal income tax as there were no real salary increases.
Although the economy went up, and this was mainly caused by export (again no VAT income). I do not know how they record the grants from the EU in the books of Hungary, but currently they are zero.
Towards the end of the year, income increase due to Corporate Tax (companies suppose to make more profit, and 90% is due by December 20), VAT goes up because of Christmas and Mikulas, people receiving bonusses, and therefore, extra personal income tax.
VAT and Personal Income tax are the main income for the Hungarian government.

GW
Guest

Ron wrote:
“VAT and Personal Income tax are the main income for the Hungarian government.”
And the essential corollary to this is:
“The avoidance of VAT and Personal Income tax are principal preoccupations of the Hungarian citizenry.”

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