Hungarian propaganda, this time with foreign help

For days now the Hungarian media, with the help of MTI, have been buzzing about those American-Hungarians, all 1.5 million of them, who are outraged at the concerted attack on Hungary and the Hungarians. Once again the center of attention is the “Hungarian Lobby” that was organized at least twenty years ago by Béla Lipták. Lipták became known in Hungary during the Bős/Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros controversy between Slovakia and Hungary over a dam that was supposed to be built on the Danube. Those of you who would like to know more about the history and fate of that project should read the Wikipedia entry.

In any case, shortly after his activities in Hungary he returned to the United States to which he had emigrated in 1956. He immediately launched a new project. Inspired by the Jewish Defense League he decided to start an Internet organization that would battle anti-Hungarian sentiment wherever he found it. He called it the Hungarian Lobby/Magyar Lobbi. He and his fellow lobbyists kept close tabs on the media, mostly American, and if they saw critical comments that were not to their liking they would bombard the guilty newspaper with letters to the editor.

The call usually comes from Béla Lipták who first writes a form letter for members of the group. The “readers” can make a few stylistic changes in order for the letter-writing campaign to look more genuine.

Actually, the name “Hungarian Lobby” is misleading. Lipták and his people complain only when Fidesz, Viktor Orbán, or the Orbán government is criticized. They also become active when the question of the Hungarian minority comes up. Otherwise, the American media could say the most god-awful things about Ferenc Gyurcsány or Gordon Bajnai, they would never raise their voices.

The first call to action came from Béla Lipták when Tina Rosenberg, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, wrote an article in The New York Times (“Is Viktor Orban Too Old to Lead Hungary?” June 27, 1998) in which she expressed her fears about the young Viktor Orbán “who has made some alarmingly nationalist statements and unrealistic economic promises.” Dozen of letters arrived at The New York Times, all coming to the defense of Viktor Orbán. I decided to be contrary and wrote a short letter expressing my hope that “Mr. Orban’s promises will remain only promises. Otherwise, the economic recovery of the last three years will come to naught.” Mine was published, theirs wasn’t. I guess I don’t have to detail the reaction.

Now that both politicians and journalists are doing an awful lot of criticizing, Béla Lipták is terribly busy. First, he called on his followers to write letters to José Manuel Barroso, Ellie Rehn, and Neelie Kroes. Next, he moved into high gear after the publication of a very hard-hitting editorial in The New York Times entitled “Hungary’s Lurch Backward.” Lipták wrote a letter to the editor that never got published. It never got any farther than the readers of Hungarian Lobby. However, I will quote a few choice passages verbatim, including the wrong grammar and spelling errors, because it says a lot about Lipták and the intellectual content of his endeavors. According to Lipták “there is no free-er media in Europe as that of Hungary. The one radio station that might go off the air (it did not yet) is one that submitted the lowest bid for the use of the airwaves. The increasing of the number of judges have been withdran, but even if it was not, it would have been no different from what FRD did. Therefore, to suggest that democracy is at risk is only an excuse. The reason is that the Hungarians are stepping on the toes of the banks and they do not like that, besause from Israel, Scotland, France, Lithuania, Poland and England, the media is beginning ot report on this.”

To show that members of the Hungarian Lobby mean business, Lipták also organized a demonstration in front of the New York Times Building. I’ll bet that the journalists inside were shaking in their boots.

A cozy gathering of members of the Hungarian Lobby in New York

I don’t want to copy the whole letter, but I can’t quite leave out the following golden thoughts on the role of the central bank. “The true situation is that Hungarians want to keep the independence of the Hungarian National Bank–but from whom? Not from their own government, after all the national bank’s money is their money, not of the IMF’s or the CEB’s.” One can only be ashamed that such letters are sent from an organization called the Hungarian Lobby.

Okay, so that letter to the editor wasn’t published. A week later came a new effort. This time a petition to President Barack Obama. I will be kind and quote from the cleaned up version of the text as it appeared in Hungary thanks to the good offices of MTI. The Hungarian news agency did the government a favor and translated the Lobby’s petition.

In it Béla Lipták expresses the concern of the entire Hungarian-American community “who are concerned about the letter sent by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán. We are concerned, because by supporting the opposition, it interferes with the internal politics of Hungary. We do understand that the Secretary’s letters are prepared by her assistants,–some probably supporters of the Hungarian opposition–, but still it was sent under her signature and therefore the media views it as the American position.”

And from here it only goes downhill. We hear about the IMF and the EU applying “neo-colonial pressure on Hungary.” “Hungary is being lectured about the need to sort out its economy, but is also being subjected to a culture war.” “We also object [to what is unclear], because the information in the letter came from the supporters of the Hungarian opposition, having the goal to topple the freely elected government.”

Lipták and company are finally asking the U.S. president “to help make us, Hungarian-Americans proud of our heritage, try to protect Hungary from the suffocating exploitation by the globalized banking industry.” In return, Lipták makes a generous offer: “Dear Mr. President, thanks a lot in advance for helping Hungary, so that we, the politically independent Hungarian-Americans, can reciprocate by voting for you in November.” And what will happen if the President doesn’t tell Hillary Clinton to reverse her policies in Hungary? I guess all those politically independent Hungarian-Americans just may not vote for Obama.

Lipták managed to get only 77 signatures to his letter to Obama. Not 150 as he claimed in a telephone interview with the pro-Fidesz Hír TV. And although the Hungarian Lobby claims more than 1,200 members, it is clear that most people on the list don’t actively participate in Béla Lipták’s madcap schemes.

A few words about the 1.5 million Hungarians in the United States. In the Hungarian nationalists’ dreams! First, this is just an estimate of how many living Americans have some Hungarian roots. This may mean one set of Hungarian grandparents or great grandparents who left Hungary prior to 1914. But most of the so-called Hungarian immigrants of those days were actually Slovak-speaking. That is, the bulk of the Hungarian emigration in the late nineteenth century came from counties that today belong to Slovakia. They were called “Hunkies” here, but they were “Slovak Hunkies.” So, it is very possible that by the third or fourth generation, the person asked will know only that his grandparents came from “Hungary.”

And finally, the Hungarian Lobby, just like other Hungarian immigrant groups, has the habit of speaking in the name of “Hungarian-Americans.” Those who signed Lipták’s petition to President Obama represent only themselves. And yet the propagandists in the government and/or MTI felt it necessary to emphasize that these organizations carry weight at elections. They called on Enikő Bollobás, who was described as “an expert.” I assumed that she was an expert on American elections. But no, Ms. Bollobás is an expert on American literature. As far as her politics are concerned, she is a Fidesz sympathizer who worked for the Hungarian Foreign Ministry between 1990 and 1994, during the Antall and Boross governments. Since then she has devoted herself to teaching and writing.

Meanwhile, my cousin’s first question to me today was: “What do you think of the petition that American-Hungarians wrote to President Obama?” I explained to her that this is only government propaganda carried out with the help of a small group of people representing nobody.


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Eva ,I think you mean to write Eniko Bollobas …. between 1990 and 1994 (not 1900 and 1994).


I guess Fidesz is so much in trouble that the support of 77 Americans must make the national news in Hungary!
I am sure that Liptak did not represent thousand of others. I am sure just from Canada we could collect 77 signatures who do not support Orban. I am sure in the USA it would be easy to collect 77 signatures from people who do not support Liptak.
Unfortunately we are in the same predicament as we were with Csurk. They should not make the news, they not worthy to even talk about them. I mean Liptak has 77 supporters with his letter? Yipiti! THat was news for Fidesz, MTI, and I bet for our own SImon. I understand that somehow, the world should know about the truth, so it is unfortunate that Eva must address such non-news items because MTI and Fidesz is playing with virtual reality.


“Meanwhile, my cousin’s first question to me today was: “What do you think of the petition that American-Hungarians wrote to President Obama?””
Same here. Safe inside the padded walls of Planet Hungary, they believe what they are told.


Eva, I think you meant AIPAC instead of the JDL.


Liptak. The name sounds familiar. I believe that he is the same person who dominated the discussions on the soc.rec.magyar discussion group about 10 years ago. He was despised by most participants for his right wind extremist views and his anti-semitic postings. Many people left the group because of his crass postings. I seem to recall that Professor Balogh tried to carry on a civilized exchange of ideas with him, but it was impossible due to Liptak’s low anti-intelelctual attitude toward facts.


The Hungarian-Lobby, believe or not, is a Google Group. No kidding. You can be the proud member of it with a few clicks. All you need is Google account. The 1300+ registered members you can read in the Hungarian papers is the number of registered Google users reading the group. I have the suspicion that many of them actually don’t live in the US, but hey, this is 21th century, let’s not fuss about the ZIP code. Ain’t that right, Jose (Simon)?
The Galamus’ version of the English language copy is quite polished. On the Google group the “final” letter had a couple of glaring grammatical errors. Also the text got altered here and there: just one example which luckily didn’t make it to the final (the typos are original):
“On the issue of religion, similarly to Hungary, Britain, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Norway all emphsize their Christian heritage and Hungary’s Christian view of merriage is not unique at all in Europe.”
No wonder the fellow only got 100 signatures in 4 days. I believe many of the sane conservative Orban sympathizers in the US refused to sign this garbage.


Mr Liptak’s post on the Hungarian-Lobby group 4 days ago:
“Yesterday President Obama received our petition along with 9 congressmen and governor Pataki (unfortunately one Fedex is $28). So nobody else received it, my wife thought even this costed too much. But if you can distribute it too, we, 1312 members, can send it to many places.”
“Tegnap megkapta Petíciónkat Obama elnök úr, a 9 képviselő és Pataki
kormányzó (sajnos $ 28 egy FedEx) így más nem, feleségem ezt is sokallja.
Ugyanakkor, ha Önök is terjesztitk, akkor 1,312-en sokfelé eljuttathatjuk.”


I would rather spend a minute, at least, with the rumored nomination for the Pulitzer Prize.
I am as pleased as Punch, and tickled pink, whether the rumour is true, or not. Because, Eva, even if it should turn out to be a canard, ( I couldn’t find any proof of the nomination on the web), I think you richly deserve it. What’s more, I hope you will get it.
And should it turn out otherwise, I will still regard you as deserving.

peter litvanyi
Dear Eva, I am one of those people who did not sign Mr. Liptak’s letters. I let him know politely that I did not happen to agree with his point of view. However I must point out two things. First: Mr. Liptak is an extremely respectable person /agree with his take or not/. Second: I find your particular views on the world no less repulsive than that of Mr. Liptak’s. We are here to help to avoid a civil war; not to start one. This can happen only by extreme civility. Mr. Orban violated the basic doctrine of human coexistence by two acts: the “new” constitution and the media law. Thus he must depart. Let us not attach our additional political ideas, likes our dislikes to these basic facts. It would be helpful if you asked Mr. Liptak to participate in this discussion. 77 signatures are more than what you can collect right now, Eva. Mr. Csurka? You see he was a good acquaintance of my father. Not a bad playwright at all. I find TMG’s words adequate. He wrote his own obituary under the title “Doglott Aknak”; read it if you wish. Later he became an ememy /mine as… Read more »

Sandor:”I would rather spend a minute, at least, with the rumored nomination for the Pulitzer Prize.
I am as pleased as Punch, and tickled pink, whether the rumour is true, or not. Because, Eva, even if it should turn out to be a canard, ( I couldn’t find any proof of the nomination on the web), I think you richly deserve it. What’s more, I hope you will get it.
And should it turn out otherwise, I will still regard you as deserving.”
I couldn’t have said it better.

Igazi Magyar

I received information about the NY TImes protest from a Hungarian-American google group, and I know people who are very proud to have been there. They are my friends, yet I disagree with them wholeheartedly. They firmly believe that Hungary is the victim of international forces, and I don’t think Orban is manipulating them. Orban truly represents these people, and if you want to defeat him, you have to address the ideology. It can live without Orban.

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Igazi Magyar wrote:
” if you want to defeat him, you have to address the ideology. It can live without Orban.”
I think that attacking the ideology — which is an incoherent mess of nationalism and populism — is not likely to go anywhere. It is much more effective — and necessary, given the present plight of too many Hungarians — to address the failed policies, corruption, and incompetent administration of this government.

peter litvanyi

Dear GW,
“attacking the ideology — which is an incoherent mess of nationalism and populism”- unfortunately it is a bit more complex than that.
Here is an interesting article /in Hungarian I am afraid/:
Peter Litvanyi


The “Irish lobby” like most expat/emigre lobbies consider themselves more Irish than the Irish actually living in the darn place and consequently define “Irishness” in hardline nationalist (and often quite sectarian and racist) terms which have little connection with the real life in 2012.
It seems this is the problem in the case of their Hungarian counterparts; thankfully though the Hungarians haven’t yet got round to supplying guns and bombs back to the Motherland for the *good fight* against all those who don’t agree to their vision of “Hungarianess”.
It’s just a little pathetic that the Hungarian media give over such importance to their campaign to “set the record straight”
Talking of which, isn’t tonight The Dear Leader addresses the nation? There are rumours even that he may be “conciliatory?
Surely not?

Eva S. Balogh

GDF: “I think you meant AIPAC instead of the JDL.”
Possible. It was a long time ago when Liptak talked about it. I might not remember correctly.

Joseph Simon

Obama would very much agree with Orbán regarding the banks’ mercenary practices referred to in Lipták’s letter. The President wanted to reign them in more but the knives are out on him. A decent man, of democratic principles, he is fighting for his political life against the extreme right. He has to contend with semi-fascists like Gingrich who called Obama the most dangerous man in America. So maybe Obama needs the help of the Hungarian Lobby.

@ Peter Litvanyi, Although you addressed your post to Eva, I would like to add my two cents worth, if you do not mind. “Mr. Liptak is an extremely respectable person” It is always in the eye of the beholder. Csurka was respectable by many and so is Vona. Many “respected” people are highly educated in certain circles, but that alone should make one more responsible. Also, let us not mix up respect with popularity or with the respect of certain aspects of one’s life. (Roman Polanski is a respected filmmaker and a lousy human being.) “It would be helpful if you asked Mr. Liptak to participate in this discussion. 77 signatures are more than what you can collect right now, Eva.” I bet Eva can collect more then 77 signatures, and most of those signatures would come from “respected” people, so let’s not challenge her. It is silly and belongs to the schoolyard. As far is Liptak.. I am sure he is well aware of this blog, so if he wanted to he could of participated here for a long time, but simply that is not his goal, as this forum would lift him out from his comfort zone.… Read more »

“most of the so-called Hungarian immigrants of those days were actually Slovak-speaking. That is, the bulk of the Hungarian emigration in the late nineteenth century came from counties that today belong to Slovakia.”
That they “came from counties that today belong to Slovakia” doesn’t automatically mean they were Slovak-speaking. I’m sure you know that. But some of your readers may not be aware of this simple truth.


Meanwhile on Planet Hungary …
It’s the save the MALEV website. “Save our national pride! Let’s keep our blue-nosed birds!” Signatures, peace march – the whole nine yards.
Yeah, baby! Let’s waste another 100 billion HUF from our taxes!
Is there any Hapsburgs left I can petition to come back?


@Tyker “doesn’t automatically mean they were Slovak-speaking”
… and doesn’t mean they are Hungarian nationals either. You missed the point. The 1.5 million Hungarians in the US is an inflated statistic. It doesn’t really make sense especially when it comes to measuring the Hungarian political influence (if there is any).


@ Tyrker, census is being prepared by asking people about the country of their origin and in some instances the country of their parent’s origin. Sometime they ask, what is the language that you speak most often in your home. My tow daughters are considered to be Hungarians in Canada as much as some other kids in Romania who’s parents are Hungarian. Let me assure you, they are more Canadians then Hungarians. In my daughter’s class there is an other kid who’s father is Hungarian, and she does not speak Hungarian either. Let’s get real here, would you really consider third and fourth generation Hungarians in your mix of 1.5 million? THe truth is that HUngarians in the States are not by the millions, and probably not even by the hundreds of thousands that Liptak tries to tell us he represents (hence 77 signatures). It is all the matter of definition.


It depends how you define ‘Hungarian’ or ‘came from Hungary’. If the definition is ‘descended from Hungarian speaking immigrants, or came from the territory that is present-day Hungary’, you are going to get very different figures from a definition of ‘descended from immigrants who came from the historical country of Hungary (i.e. pre-Trianon)’.
In short, the figure (any figure really) is meaningless. It would make more sense to limit it to ‘Americans who speak (at least some) Hungarian, and/or Americans who consider themselves to be of Hungarian descent (i.e. the people, not the country)’.
But I suspect even then, and assuming that such a long-winded definition is usable, you would still get pretty misleading figures.
An interesting (if a little silly) comparison would be defining ‘American Jews’ in two ways: either ‘Americans from Jewish descent’, or ‘Americans descended from immigrants from Israel’. One would give you millions, the other just a few thousand.

I haven’t gone OT for a while, so here goes… The rise of the forint, which has been spectacular until a few days ago, seems to have stopped. Against the Euro, it’s been around 290 for the last week or so. It lost about 20% of its value between July and the New Year, peaking at 320/€. But, once OV calmed the markets by sounding more reasonable about the IMF/EU, it recovered very rapidly, gaining 30 Ft in less than a month. But, given the initial dramatic improvement, why has it now plateaued out at 290? If things were so good as to inspire such a rapid recovery, why didn’t it continue back to last July’s level? As far as I’m aware, nothing has happened recently to give the markets cold feet, in fact OV’s government is making even more positive noises towards the EU and its own “mistakes” – see So, does the market know something we don’t, or is it just not predictable/understandable – or is 290 the new, post-IMF debacle, ‘base’ value of the forint? If it is, then it means that the forint has ‘permanently’ lost nearly 10% of its value under OV’s regime. The… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh

Tyrker: “That they “came from counties that today belong to Slovakia” doesn’t automatically mean they were Slovak-speaking”
Well, most of them were Slovaks. In the county of Sáros, where a practical emigration epidemic occurred, there were 101,000 Slovaks and 18,000 Hungarians. Zemplén, another big source of American immigration, the population was split between Slovaks and Hungarians. The towns were mostly Hungarian, the villages Slovak. And mostly the country folks left.
Enough to think of a very large Slovak population in the United States during World War I when Masaryk was recruiting them to support the Czechoslovak cause.


Also a bit OT:
Last spring we visited my wife’s nephew and his family in the USA. He’s a science professor at a well known university.
His two younger children were born outside Hungary, the oldest was two years old when they left – neither really speaks Hungarian, they’re typical American children/teenagers …
I don’t think they regard themselves as “American Hungarians” in any way …
Maybe when they get older – but I don’t believe that. On my regular visits to the USA I’ve met so many people who told me that their parents/grandparents were German/Swiss/Austrian but they didn’t speak the language – most had never seen their “home country”, they were just Americans …


@Mutt –
It’s the save the MALEV website. Yeah, baby! Let’s waste another 100 billion HUF from our taxes! ”
Why not they also pledge their salaries while they are at it?
I think hiring Richard Branson or Tony Fernandes would be much cheaper.

Eva S. Balogh

Wolfi’s description of the American situation is accurate. That’s how it is.


David Letterman said once “I would do anything to look like Brad Pitt! Except diet and exercise …”
Sometimes it really feels like “I would do anything to get successful and wealthy! Except work and sacrifice …”


Joseph Simon:”So maybe Obama needs the help of the Hungarian Lobby.”
If that is what Obama is counting on, the Republicans can have their victory party right now.