The old guard turns nasty: MSZP and the left-wing media

Ferenc Gyurcsány's media man is Zsolt Gréczy, a former reporter for Népszabadság who served in the prime minister's office during the Gyurcsány and Bajnai governments. Gréczy is an ardent Gyurcsány supporter who usually accompanies the former prime minister to all his public appearances. In addition, he wrote a blog on www.stop.hu, "A dumánál," referring to parliament by its Russian name and in Hungarian slang for useless talk. He also frequently appeared on the op-ed page of Népszava, a socialist paper. He is an unabashed supporter of Ferenc Gyurcsány who tirelessly defends the former prime minister against every attack.

Yesterday in vain was I looking for Gréczy's blog on www.stop.hu. "At the Danube" had disappeared. Népszava followed suit: the last article of his that had appeared in the print version of the paper was removed from the on-line version. Rumor has it that MSZP's László Puch, who holds the purse strings of the party, told the editors of www.stop.hu and Népszava that they can no longer expect any donations from the party as long as they publish Gréczy's articles. The problem is that the left-wing media are in such a sorry financial state that without the couple of million forints they occasionally receive from MSZP they would have to close up shop. Népszava, for example, is in such straits that it cannot even afford to subscribe to MTI's news service.

Ferenc Gyurcsány is naturally up in arms. He compared the situation to the Kádár regime in which György Aczél was responsible for "cultural policy." Aczél was an autodidact with a keen literary taste who managed to keep Hungarian writers in line, but he did it in such a way that he succeeded in cultivating good relationships with most of the literary greats. His policy was based on something he called the "three T's": tilt-tűr-támogat (forbids, tolerates, supports). Ágnes Heller; István Örkény, a great Hungarian writer; György Bencze, the philosopher; István Csurka, later MIÉP leader but in those days a talented playwright; and Sándor Csoóri, the poet who later became a great supporter of Viktor Orbán, were often in the "tilt-forbid" category only to be forgiven eventually. The sole exception was Ágnes Heller, who was forced into exile.

So, says Gyurcsány, Hungary is returning to the times of Aczél. He recalls in his Facebook note that a few weeks ago a reporter for TV2 who called attention to President Schmitt's atrocious spelling errors left the channel "at his own request." According to him there are people who use money to influence politics, and surely he must be thinking of László Puch who "is lurking in the background." That's why there must be new elections in the party. Puch is using MSZP money to blackball him and prevent the reconstruction of the party.

Of course, this is bad, very bad, but as László Bartus, editor-in-chief of Amerikai-Magyar Népszava, rightly points out, MSZP-SZDSZ had eight years to build up a robust left-liberal media. If Viktor Orbán managed to convince well-heeled Hungarian businessmen to invest, even if at a loss, in Magyar Nemzet, Magyar Hírlap, HírTV, Heti Válasz, InfoRádió, Helyi Théma, just to mention the best known organs, surely there must have been people who would have been willing to sink some money into the liberal media. But neither SZDSZ nor MSZP paid the slightest attention to the matter. The old Magyar Hírlap was a liberal paper with close ties to SZDSZ that at one point simply couldn't pay its bills. It was purchased by the ultra-right-wing Gábor Széles who transformed it into a far-right, anti-semitic rag. The same Széles also put billions into a far-right television station, Echo TV.

Viktor Orbán in 2002, analyzing Prime Minister József Antall's political shortcomings, told his biographer József Debreczeni that Antall made a dreadful mistake by not putting more effort into developing a conservative media that could combat the then admittedly overwhelmingly liberal media scene. He revealed to Debreczeni that he put quite a bit of effort into this endeavor during the first Fidesz government. And indeed, one by one, new right-wing organs emerged. Some of them came into being by direct government financing (Heti Válasz), but others were purchased by individual businessmen. Whether these people got any government or Fidesz money we will never know. But it doesn't really matter. What matters is that Fidesz has a "media empire" while the opposition has mighty very few organs, most on their last legs. Klubrádió begs for 12 minutes for 12,000 forints. ATV, the only liberal television station, couldn't survive without the support of a Hungarian fundamentalist church called Hitgyülekezet (Assembly of God). Népszabadság is owned by the Ringier Group and is losing money. If something is not done soon, there will be no opposition media. The whole scene will be ruled by such papers as Magyar Nemzet. The only hope is the Internet, but even there without firm financial backing online papers cannot survive. There remain blogs written by individuals but will that be enough when MTV and HírTV are spewing out government propaganda? Most likely not.

Gyurcsány supporters are naturally up in arms. One commenter on his Facebook page already announced that although normally she buys Népszava daily, today she didn't. If the rumor that among party members Gyurcsány is the favorite I really wonder whether this MSZP move, perhaps cooked up by László Puch, is a good strategy. I doubt it. A few days ago Gyurcsány had only 5,000 some "fans." Today I saw over 7,000. We will see what will happen, but I suspect that by barring Gréczy from these publications MSZP is only shooting itself in the foot.

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Andy
Guest

Sometimes I really think, that Gyurcsány is payed by the Fidesz behind closed doors, to destroy MSZP. If not, than he is doing this service for free :-))))

ThreeDayForecast
Guest

The saddest thing about the Gréczy affair is how keenly it reflects the state of most of Hungary’s media and its exposure to manipulation from political and economic power.
Compared to the influence such factors already have on publications, the effects of the media law and the media council are really only the icing on the cake.
The Mandiner blog has offered to publish Gréczy’s blog. I hope he accepts.

ThreeDayForecast
Guest

Also, the Gréczy blog was/is called “A Dumánál,” nothing to do with the Danube, but rather a possible play on the Hungarian word for chat and the Russian term for legislature.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

ThreeDayForecast: “”A Dumánál,” nothing to do with the Danube, but rather a possible play on the Hungarian word for chat and the Russian term for legislature.”
Well, I often read the blog but I must say I always read it as “A Dunánál” because the play on the word didn’t make a lot of sense to me. But thanks, I will fix it.
As for Mandiner. They just want to show how open they are. It is a fairly solidly conservative website with corresponding readership. Gréczy wouldn’t quite fit in there.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Andy: “Sometimes I really think, that Gyurcsány is payed by the Fidesz behind closed doors, to destroy MSZP.”
Oh, this kind of remark usually comes from the solidly anti-Gyurcsány group. No, MSZP is quite capable of destroying itself without Gyurcsány. See, this affair. This is not so much about Gyurcsány as about the old guard in MSZP.

Member

THis is the exact proof of how extremism in any political spectrum can hurt the core of democracy. Look at Fidesz, Jobbik, look at MSZP as is. All of them are cut from the same cloth. It is not about the betterment of society, it is about the betterment of the people who run the show, and in their route to solidify themselves as the “saviour of a nation” they leave destruction. Destruction not in a literary sense but the destruction of rights, democracy, free speech, right of minorities and right of others.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

someone: “Look at Fidesz, Jobbik, look at MSZP as is. All of them are cut from the same cloth.”
László Puch, if he was the one who made the decision, did a disservice to MSZP. It reflects very badly on the party led by the current leadership.

Andy
Guest

Eva, I am solidly anti- money bag among the left wingers…What is this billionaire doing in the Socialist Party? and Kapolyi? Don’t you feel the contradiction?
Ah, this is just about the money again? Money and power… left or right… does it matter?

An
Guest

@ThreeDayForecast: Yes, “duma” would be roughly be the equivalent of what Americans call BS (referring to the excrement of an adult male cattle).

Andy
Guest

BS is the synonym of hungarian politics. Our political class is a piece of crap. I can not name one person in the parliament I would buy a car from…

John T
Guest
Andy – I don’t have a problem per say with someone wealthy in a socialist party. I think the danger is for the left to remain wedded in the old fashioned view of the “workers” v the “bosses”. From my experience, some of the biggest enemies of the “working class” have been working class themselves. What is happening a lot more in countries now, is a much bigger grouping of people within a centre, that isn’t defined under the old left / right tags, but which broadly believes in certain standards and aspirations (social justice in varying degrees I guess), in the society. The key point is they accept we are a society. There are then the extremes to either side of this centre. But there is also a large block who are just disinterested and apathetic. To me, the Hungarian centre is very weak and no party has a particularly solid base, as allegiances shift very quickly. To me, the apathetic block is much bigger. Sure they may cast a vote, but they have little interest in the party programmes (tough of course Fidesz never had a real published programme before the last election) or the real world outside… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Andy: “Eva, I am solidly anti- money bag among the left wingers…What is this billionaire doing in the Socialist Party?”
That is a simplification. Just because one has money it doesn’t mean that he is not socially sensitive and a democrat. Social democracy today is not just the party of the working class.

Member

This isn’t going to be a simple MSzP split. This will be a massive ugly MSzP vs. MSzP divorce with all the nasty stuff. Custody of the children (party members) and of course the assets. Lawyers will be getting filthy rich. I’m curious how does a divorce like this go down? I mean what chances does Fleto have to take off with some of the money? What are the regulations? The “party-divorce” court is in session! Please be seated!

John T
Guest

Mutt – If it is a messy split, lets hope what emerges is clean. I recommend Tomi Gel Automat for whiter whites 🙂

Sandor
Guest
Next to the Parliament, on the south side, stands, or rather sits, the statue of Attila Jozsef, the great poet of the poem: “A Dunanal.” This poem depicts the “person” sitting at the river staring at a piece of melon rind floating by, leading him to a vision of the decaying country and its prospects. A gorgeous and vatic poem of the highest order. So, the “Dumanal” blog title may be considered a double, even triple entandre including the poem, the location of parliament, the prospects of the country and all the sorry history symbolized by being in the proximity of that long-suffering river and the vapid goings-on in the Parliament. By the way I always found Greczy’s articles quite good. As to the MSzP’s prospects, I feel they are facing the same fate that befell the early Christian Democrats and later the Smallholders and SzDSz. First they split in two, then the accelerated fragmentation takes hold, the original leadership is forced into rear guard fights, trying to preserve their shrinking domains and finally they are sitting on the smoldering heap of trash left behind by the membership and the supporters, who left in disgust. It should be obvious to… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Sandor: “They are politically, intellectually and even economically bankrupt.”
This was an awful blunder. I just hope that Mesterházy didn’t know about what Puch et al were contemplating. Greczy seems to have a new blog: http://greczy.blog.hu/2011/05/13/kicenzurazva

late night
Guest

Is this a real problem? Can one not move his blog someplace else and have the same readership as before? Yes, one can. Typical divorce story, nothing exciting.

Sandor
Guest

Eva: “This was an awful blunder. I just hope that Mesterházy didn’t know about what Puch et al were contemplating.”
It was indeed. But I refuse to accept that the head of the party didn’t know about it. It is his job to know about it, and if he did not, he should have. Now that eventually the news will have to seep through to him, will he apologize, correct and clear the air? Or will he just go on blithely, condemning the Fidesz’ media policies?
And what about Nepszava?
Can they be so inept, that they are unable to shore up their financial support from the civic sphere, instead admitting to be the handmaiden of a certain socialist fraction? Why would they sacrifice the services of a good journalist for a really poultry amount of money?
If this is the state of affaires of “liberal” journalism in Hungary, then let Szeles buy them too and the journalists will continue at the New York Nepszava, without pay and without employment.
By the way, about a year ago, when Gondola was for sale, I inquired about buying it. They wanted 30 million for it.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

late night: “Typical divorce story, nothing exciting.”
I disagree this is not just the question of moving one blog to another spot.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
This story just goes to show that the ‘Hard Left’ is just as nasty as the ‘Hard Right’, but with a little luck something of the ‘Centre Left’ may well emerge. One of the two biggest obstacles is the ‘Hungarian Temperament’ which seems to move from one extreme to the other. The other obstacle is Fidesz or rather the ‘Beloved Leader’ (OV) who will doubtless use his ‘Prosecutor’, control of the media and his various other ‘instruments of state’ to prevent such an opposition from forming. He has not yet tried to destroy Gyurcsány’s ‘Democratic Forum’ but when he thinks it is necessary he will use ‘Rent-a-Thug’ to do so. One really good public ‘punch-up’ at a meeting and the Democratic Forum could be banned under some ‘Public Order’ act as ‘provocateurs’. I do not know anything about László Puch or any of the others, but it seems to me that Puch is trying to destroy Gyurcsány or rather silence him. This is just what the ‘Mighty One’ wants. If Gyurcsány (and his supporters can be silenced) then the ‘Mighty One can just cause Gyurcsány and his friends and family to simply ‘vanish’. Ok it is not as glorious as… Read more »
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