Hungarians and plagiarism

By now my strong suspicion is that Pál Schmitt, president of Hungary, didn’t write a single line of his 1992 doctoral thesis. First someone found 180 pages of material copied from the French. A few days later another 17 stolen pages were discovered. This time from a German author’s English-language article. As someone wittily remarked: Schmitt’s thesis is becoming international. So, 18  pages remain unaccounted for, but I got the impression yesterday that someone is still in hot pursuit and perhaps even has an inkling where these pages came from. Thus the members of the future committee that is supposed to “investigate” the case will not have to work terribly hard.

Oh, yes, the future committee. Népszabadság reported today that the dean of Semmelweis University’s graduate school is in something of a quandary. He tried to find people who know something about the subject and who know French. All the people he approached about becoming a member of the committee declined the honor. It shows the guts of Hungarian academics. After all, this is a touchy issue, a political one, and these brave men would rather not get involved.

Mind you, József Pálinkás, president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, also declined to get mixed up in this “sordid” affair. He claims that the particular doctoral title Schmitt acquired by writing the thesis in question is not a recognized academic designation. Apparently that is not the case, but I wouldn’t expect anything else from Pálinkás. Moreover, according to the law governing the competence of the Academy, it is this institution’s duty to guard the “purity” of scientific life of the country.

Pollsters immediately investigated Hungarians’ attitude toward plagiarism. Medián was the first to tackle the issue and the results are interesting. The first surprising fact is that 90% of the people knew about Schmitt’s plagiarism case. 25% of them mentioned it spontaneously as one of the important events of the past week. Half of the participants in the survey considered Schmitt’s plagiarism of his dissertation a very serious affair. However, when only pro-government voters’ answers were tallied they were a great deal more forgiving. The least understanding lot were the voters of MSZP, LMP, and DK.

Not surprisingly, educational attainment matters in people’s judgment. When asked whether Schmitt should resign, respondents with an eighth-grade education were the most forgiving: only 22% of them thought Schmitt should leave office. But even those with a college education were rather generous toward the president. Only 42% would want him to disappear from public life.

The most incredible results were recorded when Medián collected answers on the basis of party affiliation. Only 6% of Fidesz voters said that Schmitt should resign while 77% of MSZP, LMP, and DK voters demanded his departure. 28% of Jobbik voters and 30% of unaffiliated voters answered in the affirmative concerning Schmitt’s resignation. The overall results are rather disappointing: only 33% of Hungarians demand Schmitt’s resignation, 42% think he should remain in office, and 25% have no opinion. Those in the minority demonstrated this afternoon in front of Sándor Palace. I liked the poster pictured below. By dropping the L from PÁL, the message was “Schmitt bye-bye.”

 

Bye-bye, Pál Schmitt

For those of us who are sticklers about cheating, plagiarism, and in general stealing other people’s ideas these results seem disappointing, but in the case of German defense minister Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg the German public was equally forgiving. In fact, even a little more so: 28% of people in a representative survey said he should resign and 68% said he should stay.

I don’t know whether party affiliation made such a huge difference in the final results in the German case, but in the Hungarian case the discrepancy in figures is striking. Attachment to Fidesz clouds even the minds of academics. A good example is Rezső Lovas, the president of an academic Fidesz fan club called the Batthyány Circle of Professors, who had difficulty deciding what can be considered plagiarism. After it became known that 180 pages of the thesis were copied from a Bulgarian researcher’s French-language work, Lovas said to the reporter of Népszabadság that “drawing material has many forms and between quotation and outright plagiarization there is constant transition…. Therefore finding proof is unlikely just as not everybody would believe its opposite.”

I saw a video where university students were asked about Schmitt’s plagiarism case, and very few unequivocally condemned plagiarism. There was a girl who pretty well admitted that plagiarism is more or less okay but that what Schmitt did was over the top. I guess she took to heart the advice of this poster:

Plagiarism

 Just let’s not overdo it

Népszabadság picked up a story yesterday which says a lot about the Fidesz mentality. There is a young Fidesz politician in the County of Heves who decided to defend Pál Schmitt publicly on his blog. His name is Sándor Oroján, one of the bright stars of Fidesz’s youth organization, Fidelitas. In his defense of Schmitt, Oroján found nothing wrong with the president presenting someone else’s work as his own. “Who didn’t cheat in school? … And is it such a grave sin that a doctoral dissertation written twenty years ago agrees more or less with an earlier study written in a different language?”

Zoltán Ceglédi, a young and very sharp political scientist, wrote an excellent opinion piece on the Oroján phenomenon in Hírszerző. The title of his article is: “A perfect Fidesz cadre.” It turned out that Oroján is one of those hundreds of young Fidesz politicians who finished the Századvég program that prepares them for political careers. Ceglédi finds the young Fidesz cadre’s moral attitude deplorable.

One of the problems with Fidesz voter reactions to Schmitt at the moment is that the followers don’t know yet what the party line is. Viktor Orbán didn’t tell them what to think. Once a decision is made on top one way or the other, the flock will follow. As many people claim, belonging to the Fidesz family is like being a member of a church.

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Paul
Guest

“As many people claim, belonging to the Fidesz family is like being a member of a church.”
I would suggest ‘cult’ instead.

GW
Guest

Here is a perfect teaching moment for the entire nation, an opportunity to learn that plagiarism —asserting that the work done by someone else is your own — is nothing other than lying. This is an opportunity to say, as a nation, that lying shall not be tolerated.
Unfortunately, I predict that this is yet another opportunity for Hungary and Hungarians to do the right thing that will simply be allowed to pass. The great tragedy here: if Hungarians, by letting this lie pass, allow their children to learn that lying of this sort is tolerated, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

Petofi
Guest

In a poll taken recently, 6% of Fidesz voters think that Schmitt
Pal should resign.
THAT should say all one needs to know about the level of
INTEGRITY, INTELLIGENCE, AND DECENCY among the ones
who voted in the present government. Needless to say,
not forcing the pea-brained Schmitt to resign reveals the same characteristics among the Fidesz leadership, and their rank and file.

guest-iffk
Guest

Coverage of the Peace Walk for Hungary:
http://hungariandigest.wordpress.com/
http://mandiner.hu/cikk/20120121_bekemenet_magyarorszagert_percrol_percre
It was a huge demonstration with 2-300 000 people. Since a 2-30 000 opposition rally at the Opera was covered by the media in huge detail, it will be very interesting to see if the international media, will cover a demonstration 10 times that size with the same speed and enthusiasm.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

guest-iffk: “Coverage of the Peace Walk for Hungary”
Since you seem to be an insider could you tell me why this pro-government demonstration is called “Peace Walk”?
I can’t quite figure it out. Perhaps it means that Mr. Orbán’s war with the EU, the IMF, the whole world is over. Enlighten us.

Member

@guest-iffk
Why should the coverage and the “speed” be proportional to the alleged number of demonstrators? Are you making up you own rules here?
Let’s suppose the so called “international media” (wtf is that?) won’t exactly be covering it to your likings then what does that mean? Will that be because of an evil conspiracy or will they still think that Orban’s regime is destroying democracy in Hungary?

Kirsten
Guest

guest: “if the international media, will cover a demonstration 10 times that size with the same speed and enthusiasm.”
With the same speed and enthusiasm as MTI or MTV? Why should it? For the EU to understand that Hungary is protesting against the EU, although nobody is forcing Hungary to stay? Many outside observers just do not understand – why is Hungary not withdrawing? Close the borders, revoke treaties with the IMF, international investors, the EU and possibly also the WTO, and you will be amazingly sovereign in your earthly paradise. (Most probably the problem of a more complicated relation to the brothers and sisters residing in other EU countries will not be solved to your advantage, however. So whether these demonstrations will not collapse to the figure of 100,000, is not sure.)

Member

This Orojan is a nice piece of work. When he wrote “yeah, he might have stolen it, but is that such a big deal” it sounded like that scene from Monty Python And The Holy Grail, when they storm the castle and kill everybody by mistake and John Cleese goes: “Let’s stop bickering about who killed who …”
When the Fidelitas (FIDESZ youth organization) had it’s anniversary celebration party not to long ago in the Budapest Moulin Rouge for a million and was naturally criticized for it, this dirtbag Orojan wrote an article defending the party “We Have The Right To Party”. During the party men had pay 500 HUF to get in when they came late. They collected 100k HUF from that money and gave it to a charity. How nice …
I’m pretty sure Schmitt also stole the printer paper …

Member

quest: “It was a huge demonstration with 2-300 000 people. Since a 2-30 000 opposition rally at the Opera ” Here is the problem, it was not 2-30 000 people at the Opera. I guess the foreign media did not cover it enough to get it t head of the Fidesz supporters. Also, at the Opera nobody shipped people form across the border. It is very sad that people go to this event like you with false informations, just like your numbers are false about the Opera event. You just proved how important that the truth gets out to simple people like you.

Member

There are a couple of unconfirmed reports of people being payed for showing up. Mostly from Transylvania. There is even a video. Some say the bus that brought them here took off without them. Oh, well. Your life isn’t affected by this government so a little support to MAV (Hungarian Railroads) is the least you can do for your beloved “homeland”.
These reports may or may not be true and if not true I’m not sure who’s side the agent provocateurs are on. Doesn’t matter. The sad fact is the actual rumor.

Member

I think the reason why no one wants Schmitt to go down is because if it will happen, many other people’s education record would become target. If Schmitt’s plagiarized dissertation will be left alone, no one will bother do dig up more dirt. I put a langos on it, that Schmitt is not the last on the list who will be outed.
It is unfortunate that by Hungary doing nothing will limit the acceptance of Hungarian degrees across the world. It will not be easy to get a job with Hungarian degrees. Maybe that is a good thing for Orban, as this is the best way to combat how the young educated generation is fleeing the country. The young people are voting wit their legs, and are leaving Hungary.
THe other problem is that Hungarians do not realize that there are plenty of foreign students enrolled in different degree programs in Hungary and paying hard cash for those programs, if the value of Hungarian degrees will go down the toilet, so will the foreign enrollment.

Paul
Guest

“It was a huge demonstration with 2-300 000 people. Since a 2-30 000 opposition rally at the Opera was covered by the media in huge detail, it will be very interesting to see if the international media, will cover a demonstration 10 times that size with the same speed and enthusiasm”
They probably won’t. And we have to face up to that – and what it means. There is, of course, no “international media conspiracy”, but it’s unlikely that a pro-Orbán march will be rated as ‘news worthy’ as the Opera House demo.
Which is unfortunate, because it actually means a lot more (or it should do – to us) than the recent, relatively small, oppositions demos. His core support is still there, despite everything. Nothing has really changed.
And all of us jumping on a poster who happens to post inconvenient truths (whatever his motivation) isn’t going to affect that one cent.

Paul
Guest

Some1 07:51 PM – absolutely spot on.
It’s in no one’s interests to admit Schmitt did anything wrong.

Petofi
Guest

Hail Orban!
The 1930’s are back, complete with Hosok Ter rallies….god help us all.

Member
Paul: “His core support is still there, despite everything. Nothing has really changed.” Sad and true but please do not forget that in Hungarian history Hungarians backed up the “elite’s” involvement for WWI, for WWII. If we have to ever feel sorry for Hungarian people is that how easy to misguide them. I feel sorry for those who are against this regime, I truly do, because they do not deserve to pay the price. I do not feel sorry for the misguided no more, and certainly feel not sorry for those who lie low hoping for some miracles. At this point I would say, let the loudest and strongest win. THey do not want to be part of the EU, this is what they were marching for, so kick Hungary out. Orban does not want the EU money (according to him, the EU wants to give him the money), so stop all the founding. Hungarians do not care about Schmitt’s plagiarism, so the whole world should stop accepting Hungarian diplomas, and let Hungarians pay for additional qualification tests that require some degree if they want to work in a foreign country.. I think this would be the only way to… Read more »
enuff
Guest

some1,
True!
why do we expect these unethical politicians could do the right thing?
Thanks to their in-action, even the HU education system will be downgraded to JUNK!
Might as well prepare our children for Uni./collage outside of HU…

Wondercat
Guest
My heavens, it’s taken a long while, but at last — from this morning’s New York Times — a summary and condemnation. Not so greyly evenhanded as might have been feared. Hungary’s Lurch Backward Published: January 21, 2012 The soothing words of Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, do little to counter his government’s assaults on the independence of Hungary’s press, judiciary and central bank. Without strong European pressure, Mr. Orban is unlikely to change the new banking, judiciary and media laws. Mr. Orban said he would be able “to solve rapidly” the issues that the European Union has raised. And in a radio interview on Friday, he said he would drop a controversial plan to merge the central bank with the financial markets regulator, but without providing details. Mr. Orban’s tepid assurances are not enough. He must fully restore the independence of the central bank and the judiciary and stop punishing his media critics. The new Hungarian laws violate European Union rules enshrining institutional checks and balances and individual freedoms. One law permits the government to expand the constitutional court and pack it with political appointees. Another allows the prime minister to appoint key central bank officials. Still another reduces… Read more »
Csoda. Kegy
Guest

“Viktor Orbán didn’t tell them what to think. ”
Another example of individuals closing their eyes in support of their party / their leader / their nation.
No wonder Hungary has a track record of authoritarian regimes.
Just incredible.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Some1: “If Schmitt’s plagiarized dissertation will be left alone, no one will bother do dig up more dirt.”
Someone mentioned three names, star athletes who also wrote this type of dissertation and whose readers were the same two guys who judged Schmitt’s opus summa cuma laude. So, some people are suspicious enough to bring this up.

Kingfisher
Guest

If people were bussed across the border, it is no longer “cheating” because they have the vote. Annoying, disturbing but true.

Vladimir
Guest

Hate to be persnickety, but in a thread that is discussing plagiarism, a commenter copies and pastes in whole another website’s written work. A link to the NYT website will suffice. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/opinion/sunday/hungarys-lurch-backward.html?ref=opinion) Let me be clear that it is not the equivalent of plagiarism but it is the ethical thing to do as websites get advertising money for people going to their website. Furthermore it drives traffic there to others reading this blog and if enough people click through that page it does indeed send a message to go there website administrators and hopefully the editors.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Vladimir: “Hate to be persnickety, but in a thread that is discussing plagiarism, a commenter copies and pastes in whole another website’s written work.”
Sorry, but I don’t know what you are talking about. The commenter liked the article and gave the link in order to call attention to it. It has nothing to do with plagiarism.

Joseph Simon
Guest

Plagiarism is everywhere. Remember Obama being accused of closely echoing passage from a politicians’s speech. My English professor used to say: lesser poets imitate, great ones steal. How about TOLDI?
Arany took it from an existing text. Schmitt simply gave prominence to a hitherto unknown source.

Member

@ Vladmir, when you provide the source, the date and the title and it is clear what your are quoting from, it is fair. THe text actually underscores the whole blog’s point of view, and tackles the issue that the New York Times stays away from forming opinion. It is great service to the New York Times. I your issue is beyond that, you may support the SOPA. PIPA initiatives, but that is very unpopular opinion (wikipedia blackout…)

Vladimir
Guest

I my comment stands: there is not any link whatsoever in the post to the NY Times’ website. I find no fault with the content except that they could have simply provided a link.
Eva, I understand that your endeavour is not a business, but most actual news reporting websites such as the New York Times are and need all the help they can get in this digital age where many like to copy and paste without thinking twice about it. Simply put, the more traffic that goes to their website, the better for them.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Vladimir””but most actual news reporting websites such as the New York Times are and need all the help they can get in this digital age where many like to copy and paste without thinking twice about it. Simply put, the more traffic that goes to their website, the better for them.”
And? Wondercat liked the article and thought others should read it also. Perfectly proper.

Member

For those of you who worried that the Peace Demonstration will not get fair coverage from the West. It did. Also form the East. THe BBC and Aljazeera too covered the event but their number of participants in their count is around 100,000. By the way the report for BBC was filed by Nick Thorpe and he reported in the numbers. Mr Thorpe is known for his friendliness to Fidesz. The numbers are a far cry from the 400,000 to 1,000,000 reported by other Fidesz friendly HUngarian sources.

GW
Guest
Joseph Simon, I believe that you confusing Obama with Joe Biden, whose first run for the Democratic nomination in ’88 ended when he was found to have paraphrased a speech by British Labour leader Neil Kinnock. Although, in substance, Biden was completely correct (e.g. in noting that he was the first in his family to go to College), his paraphrase was enough to render him out of the race, even with a public and heartfelt apology. This story demonstrates exactly the opposite of your point, in that plagiarism was admitted and punished. In any case, you are back to the ethically impossible argument that “if others do something wrong, then it makes it okay.” If that is the state of your ethics, then you have a real problem and I hope never to deal with you personally or in business. Plagiarism, regardless of who does it or where it occurs or how often it happens, is lying. It is lying because it is asserting that work done by another is your own. Lying is wrong. Period. Fidesz supporters cannot simultaneously condemn Gy.F. for admitting lies and tolerate, let alone give unconditional support to a President who refuses to acknowledge his… Read more »
Guest

Re NYT piece being copied in toto: I frankly was very glad (but would have liked the author’s name). There is a limited number of NYT articles that I can see for free each month and my limit had been reached a few days ago. I could continue to see them for a fee of $20 a month–but that adds up to a lot. Also, it was not plagiarism–that’s passing work off as your own, without citation, as others have said.

Member

@Joe Simon “Plagiarism is everywhere”
Your life philosophy keeps amazing me. Post after post you tell us nothing wrong with cheating, lying, deceiving because others do it too.
How about trying honesty, integrity and reliability. Others do those too. And trust me, those qualities actually are even more fun.

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