“Budapest Analyses”: Fidesz propaganda, 2002-2009

An American academic who is interested in Hungarian affairs was looking for English-language material on UD Zrt. and happened upon a report by a mysterious think-tank called Budapest Analyses. She fired off an e-mail to me asking whether I had ever heard of the group. I had to admit that I hadn’t but promised that I would look into it.

Starting with the Budapest Analyses home page, I could find no way to ascertain who is responsible for this site. The “analyses” done by this mysterious group are available in Hungarian and in fractured English.

Budapest Analyses

Political propaganda in English

Even without reading any of the articles, I immediately sensed that my friend had discovered a publication in some way connected to Fidesz. One tip-off is the list of “media partners” of Budapest Analyses: Heti Válasz, InfoRádió, HírTV and a Dutch immigrant organization called Hollandiai Magyar Szövetség. All right-wing media centers and a right-wing group in the Netherlands.

Budapest Analyses was launched in 2002 “with the collaboration of policy analysts, economists and social scientists, dedicated to sharing, protecting and disseminating a common value system which is closest to the values of the moderate centre-right of the European political palette.” On another site one can find “Analysis #1” on the Slovak parliamentary elections that were held in on September 11 and 12, 2002. Between September 16, 2002 and October 6, 2004 52 analyses appeared on Budapest Analyses. At this point the editors moved all their material to a new site and somewhat confusingly changed the dates of all the articles that appeared between 2002 and 2004 to July 5, 2006, presumably the date when the material was transferred.

As you can see I wandered around quite a bit on the Internet and still didn’t know who was behind these political analyses. Finally, this link revealed that the site was under the direction of the Budapest Fidesz caucus! So much for what the authors and the editors of the publication claimed: ” to publish concise and objective analyses of issues which we believe to be important and timely for those interested in Hungary and in our region.”

But let’s go back to where I started from. The UD Zrt. scandal. Surely, I don’t have to summarize the scandal yet again. We have talked about this case for years. We all know pretty well what happened. If there are people new to Hungarian Spectrum who read this post they should use the handy search bar to find everything they need to know. UD Zrt., a company specializing in computer related activities, including installing spy software on people’s and organization’s computers, was caught red-handed. They were spying on the Hungarian government and on politicians not to the liking of Fidesz.

What did our independent Budapest Analyses have to say about the case? The analysis was written on October 6, 2008, less than a month after the details of UD Zrt.’s spying became public, including the fact that Fidesz was behind the affair. Surely, rapid damage control was necessary. Preferably in English. The title of the article is telling: “New scandal around Hungarian secret services.”  So, the scandal is not Fidesz’s spying on the Hungarian government and politicians but the secret service’s involvement in the case. The English of Budapest Analyses is sometimes close to incomprehensible, but here are a few quotations.

The independent analysts concluded that “the Hungarian Socialist Party may have been the most interested in wrecking UD Zrt. because the executives of the company were connected to some politicians of opposition party Fidesz.”  Moreover, according to the author, it is possible that “Ferenc Gyurcsány prime minister sent a message to the Hungarian big enterprise sphere by breaking the scandal.” The independent analysts also concluded that “because of the confiscation of UD Zrt.’s computers, confidential data may get into unauthorized hands about either OTP or MOL [two companies UD Zrt. worked for], which renders these companies more vulnerable to blackmailing.”

One paragraph at the end of the analysis was devoted to Ibolya Dávid’s case. Ibolya Dávid at the time was the chairman of MDF who refused to cooperate with Fidesz in the 2006 elections and had no intention of doing so in the future either. Therefore, István Stumpf and András Giró-Szász, the owners of Századvég, a Fidesz think-tank, allegedly offered a large sum of money to Kornél Almássy, a young politician in MDF, to challenge Ibolya Dávid at the next party elections. UD Zrt. would be the vehicle for discrediting Dávid.

This is what Budapest Analyses had to say about this very dirty business. Again, sorry about the English: “One of the recordings [taped by the secret service] is a highly peculiar thread of the Hungarian secret services scandal. This records that employees of the company are discussing with other persons how they could collect data about Ibolya David, the chairwoman of the smallest opposition party Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) for her inside the party contestant, Kornel Almassy.” What the independent analysts forgot to mention was that one of “the other persons” was none other than Sándor Csányi, CEO of OTP, the largest Hungarian bank, and a close friend of Viktor Orbán. Judging from the conversation, it seems probable that Csányi might actually have been the secret owner of UD Zrt. The article concludes that “this case further reinforces the impression that MDF has become an indispensable tool for Ferenc Gyurcsány to preserve his fragile authority.” What an interesting twist. The guilty party is MDF and its chairman who is in cohoots with the devil himself, Ferenc Gyurcsány.

Between September 16, 2002 and July 5, 2009, 222 articles were written by nameless experts. At this point the editors of the site decided to stop the publication of analyses on Hungarian affairs. In fact, the publication became dormant. It was only a year later that the site revived but with a different emphasis. The people involved republished articles from English-language publications. They covered practically the whole world: the Near East, Eastern Europe, the European Union, and the Americas.

Why did Fidesz decide to stop publishing articles on Hungarian affairs? Most likely because by mid-2009 it became clear that Fidesz would win the elections and there would be no need for anti-government propaganda that was deemed so useful while in opposition.

How effective was this kind of propaganda? Hard to tell. In my opinion it had to be apparent to readers with some knowledge of Hungarian politics that these articles were coming from somewhere close to the party of Viktor Orbán. On the other hand, the Fidesz leadership obviously figured that the money was well spent. Otherwise they wouldn’t have kept up Budapest Analyses for seven years.

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petofi
Guest

What is also apparent is the persistence of the disinformation, and that really suggests the involvement of these with a secrecy-type backgrounds. Would Kover and Pinter be a bad guess?

Member

Maybe the Budapest Analyses came from our regular Fidesz Fan Club member visitors Johnny Boy and Vandorlo. They always wanted some “concise and objective analyses” on Gyurcsany for example. THe site seems to perfectly fir the Fidesz style “concise and objective” as we know it. Vandorlo and Johnny Boy finally can be happy Eva, for your wonderful quotes straight from the horse’s mouth.

petofi
Guest

More and more I believe that the fundamental problem is with the average Hungarina, his lacking the ability and self-confidence to determine things on his own; the need to be told how things are. And now we’re back to Heller Agens and Kertesz–or, in other words, the ‘genetically inferior’, and ‘the sheep’.
What will it take for Hungarians to have a wake up call?
The complete destruction that will come with Fidesz
machinations?

Member

@ petofi, I still believe in what I posted before. There are only two kinds of Fidesz fans, the one who some way benefit from Fidesz robbing the country or the misinformed, who for whatever reason doe not get the full picture. THere are no third group as Fidesz has no real program or alternative, so there is nothing to believe in. They also made up from ex-communist sympathizers, so that cannot be the key either.

Member

The site is hosted by the Varmegye Media Ltd. These guys took a cool 4 million for hosting Orban’s web site ( orbanviktor.hu ) in 2010 for 5 (!) months:
The domain is registered by a certain Toleráns Társadalmakért Kelet-Európában Alapítvány (For Tolerant Societies in Eastern-Europe Foundation). Go figure.
http://www.stop.hu/belfold/szazmillios-uzlet-orban-viktornak-tanacsokat-adni-itt-a-lista/842709/
This article is from march 2011. It listing the the “partners” the prime minister’s office was using in 2010.
Looky, looky … Among the lucky ones there was His Excellency György Szapary, Hungary’s ambassador who took home 6 million for advising Orban the 5th for a few month before he landed in our embassy in DC. Gooood, boooy!
There is also Zsuzsa Hegedűs, the “chicken woman”, the loony, who was giving out chicks and seed to people and suggested that the young Hungarian women should go and clean houses in western Europe or collect blackberries or start sewing. She shares her infinite wisdom with the fuhrer for more then 10 million a year.
And list goes on and on … Like creating photos of the great leader for 1 million a month.

Gábor
Guest

Budapest Analyses was founded by Iván Bába with some renowned acadmics dealing with issues of foreign rlations (I know one, Gáspár Bíró) not late after Fidesz was ousted in 2002 and Bába laid off as administrative secretary of state in he Foreign Ministry. (I happened to be at a conference where Bába made the announcement, justified it with the necessity to offer classic 500-1000 word long policy analyses, something still missing from the Hungarian landscape. And invited everyone, especially the younger participants there to join if they wish.
As for possible contributors, you an safely guess that most of the “young conservatives” (Jobbklikk, Mandinder, Konervatórium, the new generation of journalists from Heti Válasz) were among them, jst as (so-called) poliical scienists from Századvég but I only know one with (almost) certainty: Anita Orbán, who wrote on issues of energy security and was fielded as a candidate for the parliamentay constituency in the XI. district against then-mayor Gyula Molnár in 2010, but suddenly withdrawn.

Csoda. Kegy
Guest

Eva “An American academic who is interested in Hungarian affairs”
You did not mention whether your friend was taken in by the apparently balanced style of the site. Presumably not because they referred it to you.
For myself, even without considering the leanings of the sponsors, it clearly pushes a position: the absence of a menu bar with an “About us” link and the negativity towards government initiatives are obvious give-aways to a remotely thinking person.

Eva Balogh
Guest

Gábor: “Budapest Analyses was founded by Iván Bába with some renowned acadmics dealing with issues of foreign rlations (I know one, Gáspár Bíró) not late after Fidesz was ousted in 2002 and Bába laid off as administrative secretary of state in he Foreign Ministry.”
Thank you, Gábor. I read a little bit on him just now. According to all what I read he seems to be a shining light of Fidesz. Writer, literary guru, foreign policy expert who speaks four or five languages. (He majored in English!) Politically he started off as a smallholder, moved on to MDF and naturally ended up in Fidesz.
He was also accused of being an informer which he naturally denied.
If this is what Fidesz can come up with as one of the best minds around they are in trouble.

Eva Balogh
Guest

Csoda. Kegy: “You did not mention whether your friend was taken in by the apparently balanced style of the site.”
No, she wasn’t. Mostly she was baffled by the incomprehensible story she was reading.

Member

woww, the information that was digged up so fast by the readers of your blog. I cannot wait for Vandorlo and Johnny Boy to comment on how Hungary’s ambassador for the USA completes his job that was just coincidently launched just after advising Orban for a few thousand of dollars. Maybe he advised him to make him and ambassador. That advise worth the money as we know.
It certainly worth to be the bobble head in Orban’s circle, as the payout is just keeps coming as long as Orban runs the country. Certainly there is no conflict of interest amongst the beneficiaries if they have to choose between the country or voting for Orban.
How van anyone take any of those seriously who speak of for Orban. Most of them already got paid out or their number is just about to come up with some nice contract (Pinter) brought to you by EU money, cushy jobs (Schmitt, Szapary) from retirement money stolen by the government, great lands, fantastic cars, and the list juts goes on…..

Eva Balogh
Guest

some1: “woww, the information that was digged up so fast by the readers of your blog.”
Yes, great bunch of people!

petofi
Guest

Analyze this:
In a recent survey 80% of the young believe that the way to happiness is to lie and cheat–now, that’s not a Fidesz creation but they certainly ‘sharpened the pencil’. Regarding education, no amount of horseback riding and gun-toting is going to solve that. But that’s how sick Hungarian society is,
and probably has been for a long time…

Pete H.
Guest

Petofi, are you referring to the Transparency Hungary report?
http://www.transparency.hu/uploads/docs/Youth_Integrity_Survey_Hungary_EN_final.pdf
Because if you are that is not what the report says. From a quick read of the summary, 80% think corruption is prevalent in society and on a positive note youth do not look to politicians, businessmen, media figurers, etc., for examples of how to live morally but rather look to their families. And the sad part of the report is that most young people don’t think there is any use in reporting corruption because as young people they will not be heard and because they fear the consequences of reporting.
Rather then suggesting that Hungary is society sick beyond redemption, this report suggests that the younger generation would be respective to positive changes that decrease corruption. There’s hope in this report.

Guest

Yes, I did want to know where petofi got the very sad information. If he doesn’t respond to your question, Pete H., then I will accept Transparency’s much better news instead.

Pete H.
Guest

Gretchen, the report is a mixed bag, but it does not suggest that the sky is falling. You can read the report yourself and make up your own mind.

Guest

Yes, on page 19: “Nearly 80 percent of youngsters between 15 and 29 years of age thin that people who lie, cheat, and steal have better chances to get along, while 16 percent of interviewees dismissed this statement.” @petofi’s contribution–but the whole report is best looked at to get a more balanced view.

Pete H.
Guest

Gretchen, it one thing to say that this how the system is set up and youth recognize corruption, it is another to say they believe that it is way to happiness. The way Petofi worded it, he made it sound like youth were embracing this path. That’s not what I get from the report.

Guest

Pete H.: You are right. My wording was inconclusive, not strong enough.

petofi
Guest

I read a report in Nepszava and it was a one liner quote to the effect that 80% of the young thought that cheating and lying was the best way to get ahead.

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