Civil rights in Hungary by S.K.

The author Ákos Kertész was not the first to leave Hungary for fear of his liberty and personal security, nor the last, that seems certain.

It was just a mere year ago that a prominent journalist and radio personality decided to leave his job, well-established position and homeland to start anew in Montreal. Before him Imre Kertész, Nobel laureate, bolted as soon as he received the prestigious award. Not because of his inability to deal with the venom, but because of his endangered right to say and write as he pleased, because these fundamental rights were challenged by the radical and not-so-radical right and he found it wasteful to spend his energies on his own defense against them.

To form a objective opinion about the misadventure of Ákos Kertész, we can briefly survey what happened to him. This blog has recounted the events preceding Kertész’s emigration and also the purported cause that led to the hate campaign he suffered, and having had enough of it, cut short by emigrating.

It is quite possible that upon reflection and facing the repudiation of his bitter article, the starting point of this whole imbroglio, he came at first to a change of mind and withdrew the incriminated statement: namely that Hungarians at large are suffering the consequences of their “genetic servility.” The repudiation of his own statement was triggered by the uproar that followed the statement from every quarter. And this is the point where we must stop to ponder what happened. Was Kertész correct or not doesn’t matter a wit. (By the way, since his emigration he restored his statement to its original “splendor.”) The basis upon which we can judge what happened must be the old, once revolutionary, but by now universally accepted principle of human rights. For example, we have at our disposal the great philosopher and statesman Baron József Eötvös, who formulated it so: “Liberty is not a thing, that for merit, as reward we can give; that is the birthright of every person, of which, without fault, cannot be deprived by anyone…” After this we have only to assert that what Kertész did was nothing more, or less, than exercising his fundamental human right to think and to write whatever he was thinking best.

But what followed was the onslaught of venom from official and unofficial sources.

Parliament had to hear about him and his words, his Kossuth Prize in jeopardy, and the wretched mayor of Budapest revoked his Key to the City award. (Mind you he could have punished Kertész by thrusting the directorship of a theater upon him, since His Honor is given to playing fast and loose with those directorships anyway.) Encouraged by the cruelty and idiocy of officialdom, individuals also set out to intimidate the octogenarian author. Now, there is a suitable task for the members of the ultra right! And the poor old man, like the groundhog in a certain charming Petofi poem, for a while just swallowed the flood of hatred, but eventually had enough.

Just a few months ago I was also warned not to speak loudly on the street in Budapest, regardless of what I say, because “you never know who will shoot you.”

Now, however, that the granting and revoking of human rights is literally entrenched in the new constitution (precisely in spite of the maxim of Baron Eötvös), in fact their acquisition is predicated on conditions, it seems to be perfectly “normal” that anyone could be punished for thought-crimes, for writing the wrong word, or in fact not doing his sycophantic “duty,” for which Kertész berated Hungarians in the first place.

Sorry, Mr. Kertész, you had to leave against your wish, but I applaud your courage come late, and congratulate you for your excellent choice. In Canada you can write and say anything you please unimpeded and we can hardly wait to read it.

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Ms KKA
Guest
Here in the US, freedom of speech is so deeply ingrained in our psyche from birth that we don’t even give it a second thought. Oh, we may yell and scream when members of the opposition (whomever they may be – in my case, Nazis marching in Skokie, Illinois) exercise that right, but, in the end we must always come back to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. If we don’t, when the opposition takes control, they have every right to say that we can’t have it both ways – either the First Amendment applies to everyone, or it doesn’t. Unfortunately, this also allows for circumstances like the Supreme Court’s blatant bastardization of the First Amendment in the heinous Citizens United ruling. However, it also allows for our citizenry to ask for a an Act of Congress overturning the Citizens United ruling…and I think we’re going to get it! So, when I first learned of what had happened to Ákos Kertész, my outrage was substantial, to say the least. I was already active in the Milla movement via a friend in Budapest, but this really brought it… Read more »
Paul
Guest
There are only two things wrong with ‘freedom of speech’: 1) it allows people to say/write things which any sane society would not allow (racist incitement, child pornography, etc), 2) it doesn’t really exist. Examples re 2): Can you imagine Obama making a speech in which he questioned the US’s uncritical support of Israel? Could a politician in the US admit that he/she didn’t believe in God and hope to have a political career? How free was my speech when Princess Diana died and I ventured my opinion on her? (Answer – I was threatened with violence if I ever expressed such an opinion again.) How many people did you hear then (or even now) express the opinion that the US ‘had it coming’ on Sept 11? In many ways, the UK has more freedom of speech than the US, as we have a history of tolerance of opinions (you can be pro-abortion here without someone threatening to kill you). But even here we are not really free to express our opinions. For instance, when was the last time you saw an anti-Islam article in a UK paper? And MPs are actually forbidden to criticise the Royal family (ANY member… Read more »
Member

There is nothing wrong with freedom of speech in a country where society is strong and cohesive to be able to see through the motives even of hate speech, and hate materials. In a county where the government is a moral campus, you do not have to worry about that general racism could exist. Yes, racial tensions can flare up anywhere, but it is not what defines society, and is not something that the government would do nothing about. Vandalizing Jewish cemeteries did happen in Canada for example, but that act is not embraced a large segment of society. Put it this way, if I would do some racially motivated crime or any actions against any racial or religious groups, I would not have anyone to brag about it, or very likely people would spit into my face for doing so. Racial, religious and sexual slurs are not embraced in a developed society.
Orban installed hatred in the church, in politics, and deliberately ripping Hungarians, friends and families apart.

Wondercat
Guest
@Paul — You rail against “simplistic thinking”. Perhaps in framing your argument you yourself generalise in a way that reflects misunderstanding of “freedom of speech” as practised in the USA. I do not recognise “freedom of speech” in what you sketch, and I think that when you write “It’s not enough to just say ‘freedom of speech'” you set up a straw man to let yourself knock him down. “Freedom of speech” in the USA rests on this principle, as I was taught in USA civics classes: Government shall not PRECLUDE a speaker’s access to the public square because of what (s)he may / might say. No polity, and certainly not that of the USA, offers “freedom of speech WITHOUT CONSEQUENCES”. Say what you like; you may then be harassed or reviled. Say what you like; if you want to be elected to public office, the electors then may decline you. This call-and-response is what USA citizens are bred to understand as “freedom of speech”, and most USA speakers accept that their speech may be drowned out by those speaking against them. Most USA speakers also accept that if what they say occasions disorder, they may be punished for those… Read more »
Guest

London Calling!
Wondercat
To this Englishman (I’m from London you know!) you’re explanation of ‘freedom of speech’ in actuality in America is very didactic in the best sense of the word – and seems fundamentally ‘freer’ than the English way.
But how do you reconcile the gratuitous ‘freedom’ as practised by the shock jocks? Their unbridled bile would appear to add heat but no light to any subject they may choose – and without any apparent sense of responsibility. You say you want to gauge the extent of the hate, for example, but I am not sure that this isn’t bordering on incitement.
As I understand it the shock jocks broadcast mainly on subscription radio – are they feeding their clientèle’s prejudices without fear – and responsibility – of their rhetoric?
I should add that I have not heard many – I’m not sure I want to – so I am writing from a position of ignorance. In addition I accept for true freedom you have to accept the good with the bad. But is this feeding latent hate in American society? A bridge too far? You have had some extraordinary examples of hate crime.
Regards
Charlie

Ms KKA
Guest

@Wondercat – re: your final paragraph
I agree completely…without watching and listening, how else are we to “know (our) enemy”? I remember when I was in college, and the chairman of the History Department, who, by the way was a Black man, wanted to invite George Lincoln Rockwell (then head of the American Nazi Party – God, am I dating myself!!) to speak on campus, because he wanted us students to see for ourselves what this blowhard hate-monger was all about. The result, of course, was that Mr. Rockwell was laughed and booed off of the stage!

steve
Guest

Akos Kertesz has gone down in history.
It is clear that many Hungarians endorse anti-communism, and commit again a huge crime by pledging loyalty to an authoritarian leader.
All these decent Hungarians who support the immoral leaders of FIDESZ and Jobbik could profit from reading the speeches of Ferenc Deak or Akos Kertesz.

Paul
Guest

OT – Budapest airport terminal 1 to be closed. (The one with the rail connection!) See portfolio.hu – no link as I’m on my phone and don’t know how to do it!

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary
latefor
Guest

Steve : “Akos Kertesz has gone down in history.”
Time has come when Akos Kertesz has to consider the well being of the Jewish population in Budapest first and his personal importance second. No more provocation please! As the saying goes: “Two wrongs do not make wright”. Enough is enough!

latefor
Guest

Sorry, it should read: Two wrongs do not make right! I know that most of you here are very particular with minor issues like this ..(forgetting about the fact that the world under you is practically falling apart) such as my pathetic mistake above, hence the correction.

Joseph Simon
Guest

Remember Mark Twain!!! He said we have freedom of speech and the good sense not to use it!

latefor
Guest

Joseph Simon – What are you saying….I am shaking in my boots…..ha…ha…ha…

Mutt Damon
Guest

“Remember Mark Twain!!! He said we have freedom of speech and the good sense not to use it!”
This is one thing where Twain, Simon, Stalin and Hitler agree on.

GW
Guest

Joseph Simon, George Washington put it even better:
“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

steve
Guest

Fitting to the subject of Akos Kertesz:
http://mek.niif.hu/02200/02213/html/01.htm#4
DEÁK FERENCZ: Súlyos átok gyanánt nyomja nemzetünket a hajdan korból, úgy látszik, örökségül reánk szállott irigy viszálkodásnak minden közbizodalmat elfojtó indulatja. Sok kincsekkel áldotta meg a természet hazánkat; de az irigy sors megtagadta tőlünk legszebb áldását, a közértelmet és egyetértést, talán azért, hogy a magyar soha virágzó nagyságra ne emelkedhessék, soha igazán szabad és független ne lehessen. Nem is a külső erőszak fog egykor minket elnyomni, hanem belső egyenetlenség, mely a közerőt és közlelkesedést kifejleni nem engedi, s polgári szabadságunk éltető gyökerein rágódva, dúlja fel végre nemzeti létünket; mert ime most is a legszentebb tárgy, a vallásnak és lélekismeret szabadságának tárgya, boldogító áldások helyett, a visszavonás és indulatos gyűlölség magvait szórta el közöttünk.

Mutt Damon
Guest

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
Hmmmm … isn’t this the same thing Kertesz is saying?
If Washington was born in Hungary he would have immigrated to Canada. Weel, there is always something positive in everything. God still hasn’t given up on Hungary: He/She keeps sending talented people to this country, we just can’t keep them.

Guest

London Calling!
Steve……..and your point is?
(This international blog is read by many non-Hungarian speakers – are you excluding us? Google translation makes an awful lash-up of your mother tongue – and the site seems to state things as at 1833.)
Regards
Charlie

Mutt Damon
Guest

@Charlie
Deak ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferenc_Deak ) is saying the same thing as Kertesz, only in a 150 year old Hungarian dialect.

GDF
Guest

Paul:”Can you imagine Obama making a speech in which he questioned the US’s uncritical support of Israel? Could a politician in the US admit that he/she didn’t believe in God and hope to have a political career? How many people did you hear then (or even now) express the opinion that the US ‘had it coming’ on Sept 11?”
I have to strongly disagree with these statements.
1. To imply that a US President’s freedom of speech is limited because he wouldn’t support Israel is not dissimilar to those opinions that state that Jews dominate the world.
2. Politicians are elected and they run based on what they believe. If one is an atheist and runs based on those ideas, he may not get elected but not because of lack of freedom of speech but because the majority of the voters disgree with him. That is how elections work.
3. Not many Americans believe that the US had it coming on 9/11 (neither do I). But those who did were free to express it and many of them did. They won’y be elected int any office…

GDF
Guest

Charlie:”As I understand it the shock jocks broadcast mainly on subscription radio – are they feeding their clientèle’s prejudices without fear – and responsibility – of their rhetoric?”
Your information is incorrect. I think all shock jocks have their programs on the airwaves (also in the Internet, no fee required).

Petofi
Guest

@latefor…problem for jews, so stay quiet
Your joking, right?
Four hundred thousand jews died and you now wish to cower in a corner? You want to sit by while Jobbik comes to power, eh? Perhaps, if you keep your head low, they’ll bypass you when handing out the yellow stars and nothing will happen to you. Simpleton!
That’s exactly what the German jews thought in the 1930’s, too!

Petofi
Guest

Tangentially, I had to laugh tonight while watching Real play Moscow on a German cable network. I don’t know how many Hungarians realize that since M1 and M2 have been taken over
by governmnent controlled backers….soccer games have disappeared from these channels.
Pay rights for the pleasure of Hungarian simpletons?

Paul
Guest
GDF – you missed my point so utterly that I haven’t got the energy to re-argue it. Have it your way. Wondercat – I disagree with your last para completely. This is the very core of my argument against the simplistic, blanket definition of ‘the freedom of speech’. If you allow people to spout the sort of hate that Jobbik, BNP, etc do, then you are not supporting freedom of speech, you are supporting the legitimisation of an attempt to poison society and produce the sort of results we saw in the 40s. It’s akin to arguing that anarchy is the best form of government because everyone is free. In a civilised society we accept certain, necessary limits on our freedom, in order for society as a whole to be fairer and more civilised. Of course, it’s far more difficult to follow such a policy than just to say everyone should be free to say what they like, but who said creating and maintaining a civilised society would be easy? I not only strongly disagree with the hate speech of Jobbik, BNP, etc, I also most certainly would NOT defend to the death their right to say it. No one… Read more »
latefor
Guest

Petofi-
I am familiar with Jewish history but thanks for the lesson anyway. You obviously have a problem with interpreting my text. NO name calling please!

steve
Guest

It is our option to be liberal, enlightened and happy.
Most people of Hungary are not there yet.
In general, it is a nation of great potential, but subjected to an amazing bombardment of regressive ideas by religious, political and economical crooks.
Eva and we are putting up a noble fight for the Deakian principle. We will prevail.

Member

Again, I di not agree with Kertesz original article regarding how he put all Hungarians under one umbrella, but now how things unfolded, I have to say, I agree with him more and more by the minute. ARe Kertesz’ thoughts apply to all Hungarians? Absilutely not. “Exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis.” as Cicero would say it, or “”The exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted”.

latefor
Guest

Some1″Again, I di not agree with Kertesz original article regarding how he put all Hungarians under one umbrella, but now how things unfolded, I have to say, I agree with him more and more by the minute.”
I do not believe what I am reading….so what you are actually saying is that all Hungarians should be put under one umbrella??! One should NEVER generalise!!!
NOT all Hungarians are anti-semites….please do not kill my spirit.

GDF
Guest

Paul:”you missed my point so utterly that I haven’t got the energy to re-argue it. Have it your way.”
Well, this is an easy way out. You wrote that freedom of speech doesn’t really exist and then proceeded to give the three examples I disagreed with. What did I miss?

Wondercat
Guest

@Some1: Does not “probare” have the sense of “test” — “prove” in its older form, more at “proof” as used in “proof-reading” — rather than that of “confirm” in the line that you cite?

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