The possible influence of the Schmitt affair on the right-wing intellectual elite

I don’t particularly like the term “elite,” especially when I look around and find many members of the so-called elite wanting. Wanting both intellectually and morally. Moreover, the elite comes in many different stripes–for instance, the business elite, the political elite, and the so-called intellectual elite. What Hungarians think of the political elite we know only too well. Among the business elite, the little we know about it, there is not much to admire. I think it is enough to listen to the recordings of the telephone conversations between Sándor Csányi, CEO of the largest Hungarian bank, and the managing directors of UD Zrt. The conversations sound like telephone calls between members of the mafia.

But here I would like to write about the intellectual elite. Members of universities, research institutes, and naturally members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. While in the West this group’s political views tend toward liberalism, in Hungary this is not the case. I don’t know of any surveys on the political attitudes of the Hungarian intellectual elite, but I wouldn’t be surprised if half of this group inclines toward right-wing parties.

Many political commentators claim that during right-wing governments the right-wing intellectuals wholeheartedly supported the government just as during the socialist-liberal governments the liberal intellectuals stood solidly behind their favorite government. I think that this claim is inaccurate when it comes to the socialist-liberal members of the intellectual elite because in the last twenty years this group was not entirely homogeneous, as it is not homogeneous now. Some are more to the left, others exhibit more of a liberal persuasion. The supporters of SZDSZ always looked upon MSZP with suspicion and were also critical of its policies and individual members of the party. Often, personal dislikes colored their attitudes. It’s enough to recall, for example, László Kéri and László Lengyel who developed a visceral hatred of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Both men made their feelings clear in interviews and in writings. In brief, the socialist-liberal intellectuals’ support of the Horn, Medgyessy, Gyurcsány, and Bajnai governments was far less solid than the right-wing intellectuals’ support of Fidesz is today.  I would claim that by the end of 2009 the left-liberal intellectual elite abandoned the government altogether.

This has not been the case with the very loyal right-wingers among the intellectuals. They were loyal to Fidesz and Viktor Orbán throughout the eight years in the “wilderness.” It didn’t matter how unacceptable the Fidesz politicians’ behavior was, this group always wholeheartedly supported the party. A good description of their behavior can be found in an op/ed piece by Zsuzsanna Körmendy entitled “Loyalty” that appeared in Magyar Nemzet today.

It seems this loyalty is being tested by the events surrounding President Pál Schmitt’s plagiarism case. The ground for this change was preceded by their disappointment over the attitude of Fidesz concerning the opening of the archives without the current restrictions on the state security documents that would include the list of informers.

But the real test case is this plagiarism case. After all, this is a subject that is close to these academics’ hearts. They must know that Schmitt’s dissertation is perhaps the most blatant plagiarism case attached to a high-level politician that has come to light anywhere in the western world. Also, they must be painfully aware that this scandal casts a shadow on their own scientific accomplishments. Sure, this dissertation was submitted to a university that basically trains gym teachers, but still it is a Hungarian university and most Hungarian academics received their degrees from a university inside the country.

Cautious voices could be heard in the last couple of days coming from the Academy and the Batthyány Circle of Professors indicating that perhaps not all’s well with Schmitt’s dissertation. When I say “cautious” I mean almost cowardly. First the president of the Academy, József Pálinkás, released a statement on March 28. The case, according to Pálinkás, “is surely politically motivated which by now has become an international scandal.” He blames the Kádár regime for Schmitt’s plagiarism even though the president received the degree in 1992, that is after the regime change, because, according to him, Schmitt “received his degree according to procedures that were not without precedent.” In brief, Pálinkás claims that degrees given out during the Kádár regime may be suspect. Not exactly a truthful or a brave statement. However, he did add that the fact finding committee made its opinion public and “the author as well as the readers of the dissertation are responsible.” He emphasized that it is in the common interest of politics and the scientific community that this case is closed as soon as possible because “it does injury to the Hungarian scientific community” and inflicts harm on the country.

A day later, on March 29, came the professors of the Batthyány Circle who most likely were emboldened by Pálinkás’s cautious words. Actually, they were braver than the president of the Academy and even suggested Schmitt’s resignation. They added that it was a mistake to grant the College of Physical Education university status, which happened in 1989. However, the change of status, as far as I know, is not significant here because the Testnevelési Főiskola (College of Physical Education) was able to grant these mini-doctorates even before that date.

One of the members of the Batthyány Circle of Professors who has the reputation of being more moderate than the rest, Frigyes Solymosi, a day earlier expressed his private opinion to György Bolgár of Klubrádió that the president should resign. But even that moderate right-winger described the act of plagiarism in this case as “trickery” or a “prank” (turpisság), a term I think is most inappropriate in this case. This is a serious matter and not some kind of prank. He even had some suggestions for Schmitt’s successor: either József Pálinkás or E. Szilveszter Vizy, the former president of the Academy. Vizy is a very conservative man and a great supporter of Fidesz. Pálinkás is the one who is behind changing the name of Roosevelt Square to Széchenyi Square. I would put Pálinkás squarely in the right wing of Fidesz.

Schmitt gowns2

Maybe one day Scmitt’s dream will become true

However, we don’t have to worry about successors for the moment. Schmitt announced tonight that he has no intention of resigning and in fact is planning to write a brand new dissertation. This time a real one. He will then be able to use the Ph.D. designation that he has already used in English-language publications. Those of us who went through the arduous process of writing a Ph.D. dissertation know that nothing can possibly come of Schmitt’s grandiose plan. He has neither the background nor the ability to write such an opus.

But just in case, perhaps you could suggest possible dissertation topics to Schmitt.

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Member

This is brilliant.
If Dr Pál had followed the regime’s script he would have meekly thrown the hands up and said “Yup, I did wrong, Hajra Orbán, Hajra Magyarország”.
But he he hasn’t- Ho Hum

Guest

Re: ‘turpisság’. As an English speaker, this word sounds close to ‘turpitude’. A word often preceded by ‘moral’. ‘Moral turpitude’ has the meaning of corruption of personal morals, of “inherent baseness or vileness of principle, words or action.” Webster’s International, 2nd edition.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Gretchen: “‘turpisság’. As an English speaker, this word sounds close to ‘turpitude’.”
Thank you Gretchen. You are right. The root is the same except the meaning is quite different. The English meaning that is you quote is quite serious. In Hungarian is almost a joke.

Sandor
Guest

You beg for ideas: “But just in case, perhaps you could suggest possible dissertation topics to Schmitt.”
I took time out from my busy schedule, always ready to help, and came up with a few fascinating, and at the same time suitable proposals. In my estimation Uncle Plagi can easily pick from this delectable smorgasboard.:
Umbulda.
What to whisper and to whom.
Chicanery and Pride
The national tradition of saying one thing and doing its opposite.
The National Entrance
Only fools line up at the front entrance, Hungary, the country of back-doors.
Time and Chance
The statistical likelihood of being caught.
The Man of the People
How to be loved unconditionally by all.
The Theory of General Relativity
All will be well, as long as I can explain it.
The Theory of Special Relativity
I am more entitled than others.
The National Sport of Hungary
Easy does it.
The Prescient President
The importance of clairvoyance and correct spelling in Office.
Mass and Mess
The importance of idiocy and piety in politics.
Puss ‘n Hoots
Exercises in purring and licking in the midst of general derision.
Well, these are just a very few of my recommendations. My list is open to contributions of all kinds.

Minusio
Guest
Honestly, how intellectual and how elite can anyone right-wing really be? Show me just one. To me, right-wing and intellectual are mutually exclusive terms. Sometimes there are even problems with conservatives… The Schmitt desaster came as was to be expected, in every respect. Some Fidesz people vented their anger, Orban noted their names, as he knows that everybody owes him some, and they will all be taken to book. And then it’s business as usual. Schmitt can even sign the next 360 laws with the same ‘Dr. Schmitt Pal’ signature as before, as he now has this honourary doctorate from Seoul. The moral turpitude is systemic and doesn’t come in here as a special factor. This whole thing demonstrated for everyone to see what an autocratic system looks like. As the term implies, it hinges on only one person. So get used to the idea that all the others are underlings and of no importance. This also corroborates an earlier tenet of mine: Autocratic systems tend to have a very low personnel fluctuation. I remember several ministers that were traded as soon to go in August 2010. All of them are still there. Try to get into the kinky mind… Read more »
Member

I would suggest to Schmitt for his dissertation the “Adrogenic-anabolic steroids use in the Olympic Games and its effect on the competing countries reputation”

Member

@Some1 “anabolic steroids use in the Olympic Games”
Hehe, this is good. But I’m afraid anything related to moral and character would cause great difficulties to our ex-Dr.
If we touched on sportsmanship and self sacrifice, it’s very puzzling how can a double olympic medallist go this low. I always thought that these people know the best what does it take to get to the top. I guess there are exceptions when the sport doesn’t develop character.
I remember when the “peace camp” boycotted the LA olympic games how shocked the young Hungarian athletes were. They sacrificed their life to train for the olympics and it was all gone. In gymnastics 4 years is a lot you don’t get a second chance most of the time. Schmitt’s wife Katalin Makray should know, she competed in gymnastics.
Of course a few people still did go to LA to represent the country. Yes, you guessed it. Schmitt was one of them.

Lutra lutra
Guest

I think something like “the moral and philosophical implications of what I did on my holidays” would be more up Schmitt’s strasse, in terms of his new PhD topic. Simple (ish) and totally irrelevant, a bit like the man himself.
If he gives me a few million I’ll even write it for him.
Ooops…

Leo
Guest

It looks like Orbán lost control over the Presidential Mansion. That must be a surprise. His man there was so lithe, moved with every political turn and now this! A disappointment.
But as Tarlós pointed out already: it’s all the fault of the enemy. Of those responsible for making Schmitt’s fraud public. What a damage they did to the fatherland!

Kingfisher
Guest

Eva, if you are on the Hungarian “right” and take a different view to Fidesz, you don’t get the opportunity to write or be quoted in Magyar Nemzet, you don’t become a member of the Professor’s Circle, and so I think it is an illusion that they are somehow more unified. I don’t believe that was the case in the Antal years. There is such an acute lack of pluralism in both the media and society in Hungary that it is very hard to gauge the true range of opinions from the media or what people say in public.

petofi1
Guest

WORDS WITHOUT MEANING
While watching the Schmitt interview–which originally was called a ‘press conference’–I marveled at the ease with which Schmitt Pal
lied. He never blinked; he never stumbled. His voice bore conviction. How could this be?
Well, it occurred to me that Schmitt was practiced in the art of using ‘words without content’, or put in another way, ‘words for effect’. That he would dare the monstrous
lie that he would now do a PhD was simply a case of the actor letting his enthusiastic performance get away from him. That claim jarred me awake, but I’m sure the mustachioed countrymen just continued twirling their mustache and nodding their heads as they watched and listened. And Catholic priests around the country, digesting the evening’s repast, were, perhaps, dabbing the corner of their greedy…no, make that greasy lips… and allowed themselves just a hint of a knowing smile.
All is well in Orban’s Hungary.

Kingfisher
Guest

The interviewer, Obersovszky Péter, is a friend of a friend and was perfectly normal until the first Orbán government. And then he suddenly traded in his brains for a career in the Fidesz supported media and it is embarrassing to see just how he has degenerated. What an abject performance. He was not like this at all when I knew him.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

Oh me Oh my! A land whose president has had his doctorate struck off. But it does not surprise me. It was reported by CNN that an ex Romanian Prime Minister has been found guilty of blackmail. So Hungary is in good company.
Some of the reported comments have shown that much blame and opprobrium is being heaped on those who revealed the President’s little ‘prank’. Such comments blame the ‘perpetrators’ of the revelation as being evil people who only wanted to bring shame and degradation on their ‘Fatherland’ Hungary.
All is not lost Mr President. Long ago and far away I was ashore in Bombay (as I knew it). There I spotted a nice little office of a ‘letter writer’. It had 4 or 5 staff that wrote letters and filled in forms for people. Over the shop front was the name of the owner it read “Krishner Murari BA Calcutta (Failed)”!
Take a leaf from his book Mr President Call yourself ‘Professor’ Schmitt PhD (withdrawn). Oh the title ‘Professor’ well you are the top man of a ‘Flea Circus’ so the title is yours by long custom and practice.

Bowen
Guest

Excuse me for linking to another person’s source material, but this will be of interest to many here.
Schmitt’s interview in English:
http://thecontrarianhungarian.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/it-was-honest-manly-work-hungarian-president-pal-schmitt-refuses-to-resign/
Here you can read the extreme grilling he was subjected to. Poor man. (I’m being sarcastic.)

LwiiH
Guest

Given Kim’s enlightened comments yesterday I think we should work hard to keep him in office. If he resigns we won’t be rid of the lot of them in one shot!!!!

florian
Guest

Just an idea, but if any of you are thinking of indulging maybe you should run your work by this:
http://www.grammarly.com/?q=plagiarism&gclid=CJfj3v7ekK8CFYIu3wodjFVKzw

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Some1: “”Adrogenic-anabolic steroids use in the Olympic Games and its effect on the competing countries reputation”
That’s a good one. He said he would resign from the presidency of the Hungarian Olympic Committee if anyone of the team was found using steroids. 25% did. He didn’t resign.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Leo: “But as Tarlós pointed out already: it’s all the fault of the enemy. Of those responsible for making Schmitt’s fraud public. What a damage they did to the fatherland!”
That Tarlós is a piece of work. I always disliked him and I couldn’t figure it out who would ever vote for this crude bastard. But eventually they did. They are sorry now. MSZP actually is leading in Budapest.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kingfisher: “The interviewer, Obersovszky Péter, is a friend of a friend and was perfectly normal until the first Orbán government.”
I want to write about his performance perhaps today. It was disgusting. I talked to a former superior of his at MTV who told me that he is “one of his greatest disappointments.”

Kingfisher
Guest

25% of athletes who failed drugs tests at the 2004 Olympics were Hungarian. Not 25% of Hungarian athletes at the games! (Although steroid taking in Hungarian sport is or was rife)

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kingfisher: “Not 25% of Hungarian athletes at the games! (Although steroid taking in Hungarian sport is or was rife)”
Sorry, that was very unclear.
Other topic. Just finished reading Gábor Kuncze’s piece in Galamus about an imaginary interview with Schmitt. I laughed my head off. http://tiny.cc/t430bw

Member

A must see on youtube for those who speak Hungarian. ” Nehez a doktorsagtol bucsut venni” (Apostol)


Kingfisher
Guest

I have just read that six or seven thousand people are marching to the Sándor palota to demand Schmitt resignation.
OK, it’s good to see. But how many people marched when the government stole 3 million people’s private pensions? I don’t recall anyone marching. So although I’m delighted to see civic society enraged by the Schmitt affair, it is still a little disappointing that people will take something far more outrageous (and the looting of the pensions was exactly a thousands times worse than the Schmitt affair) lying down.

Kingfisher
Guest

I really should read what I write before posting. It should read “the pensions was a thousands times worse”. I’m not nutty enough to believe that x is exactly 1000 times worse than y! Honest!

Bowen
Guest

@ Kingfisher: I happened to be around the Sandor Palace this afternoon. Unfortunately, there only seemed to be a couple of hundred demonstrators, rather than thousands.
Huge police and patrol car presence, however, and the palace was fenced off so no-one could get near it.
Overall, I think there were a greater number of tourists.
On the bright side, I overheard one tour guide explaining what all the fuss was about, in English, to her group: “Oh, it is the shame of Hungary, the President cheated to get his PhD, that is why they are demonstrating …”

Úr Dr Schmitt Pál PhD (withdrawn)
Guest
Úr Dr Schmitt Pál PhD (withdrawn)

Well, here in Kósa’s Debrecen, the reaction seems to be “what’s all the fuss about? That’s what everyone did in those days.”.
Actually, I lie, there seems to be hardly any reaction at all.
The people here seem to be blissfully unaware that the outside world looks upon Hungary and shakes its head in bewilderment.
I loved that ‘interview’ though, it reminded me of the way they used to ‘interview’ Princess Di on TV. Did they show him looking up through modestly lowered eyes, blinking away the tears?

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