Hungary: Arrogance and ignorance by Karl Pfeifer

A few words by way of introduction. Karl Pfeifer is an Austrian journalist (born in Baden bei Wien) with Hungarian roots. After the Anschluss his family moved to Hungary where he spent the next five years until 1943. He speaks Hungarian and is the correspondent for the weekly Hetek, the publication of the Hít Gyülekezete (Faith Church). I might add that Karl is a regular reader of Hungarian Spectrum.

* * *

It was Timothy Kirkhope, Conservative member of  the British Parliament for Yorkshire and the Humber, who invited his compatriot, the actor Hugh Grant, to publicly state his case on press freedom on June 27th in the European Parliament. Grant, after painful experiences with phone hacking by the now defunct News of the World, did so as the spokesman of the “Hacked Off” Campaign that tries to find a proper balance between restraining tabloid journalism and maintaining the freedom of the press. Grant stated that the new media laws in Hungary were a particularly bad example of the infringement of media freedom in Europe in recent years. The press should control the government – and not the other way round.

The newly appointed Hungarian assistant undersecretary Ferenc Kumin responsible for international communication decided to send the British actor a packet of “reliable information” to prove that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the state of the Hungarian media. He made a big show about the difficulty of finding Hugh Grant’s postal address. The star has of course an office which deals with fan mail, but Kumin seemed to be intent on not being mistaken for an admirer.

István Pálffy, a former journalist and now a member of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (the junior coalition partner of the ruling Fidesz) who is also deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee for culture and the press, remarked that Hugh Grant “seems stuck in his role in the film ‘Love Actually’ (2003) and thinks he is prime minister of Great Britain.”

The movie star could counter with an observation by the American educator Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888), which Grant, of all people, could deliver superbly: “To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.”

* * *

And finally a few footnotes to the above. First about Ferenc Kumin. I “met” him first as an “independent commentator” on ATV, a liberal television station. He did try to be neutral but after a few of his performances I wasn’t at all surprised that he was chosen in 2005 by László Sólyom, the newly elected president, as his most important adviser. I thought that it would be a good fit. And indeed he fiercely defended all, even questionable, decisions of the president.

After five years Sólyom was dropped by Fidesz and Kumin lost his job. However, he safely landed in Századvég, a Fidesz think tank, as a political analyst. After Zoltán Kovács, undersecretary for communications attached to the Ministry of Administration and Justice, turned out to be a liability rather than an asset, the prime minister’s office took over all aspects of communication by appointing first András Giró-Szász, also from Századvég, to head communications as undersecretary and about three weeks ago Ferenc Kumin as assistant undersecretary specifically in charge of international communications.

After listening to an interview with Kumin I had hopes that perhaps Kumin understands the world outside of Hungary better than his predecessor, Zoltán Kovács. However, his mad search for Hugh Grant’s address and the very idea that the Hungarian government would respond in this way to a couple of sentences by the actor on the state of the Hungarian media dashed all hopes that the Orbán government can ever have an acceptable way of handling the country’s communication with the outside world.

And for general amusement here are two videos. One depicts the famous scene where Hugh Grants as prime minister of Great Britain dances in Love Actually.

 The other when Ferenc Gyurcsány at the urging of his staff imitates Hugh Grant.

And finally, I’m happy to announce that the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office was successful. Ferenc Kumin and his six-member team managed to find the proper postal address of  Hugh Grant. The letter is on its way. Another Hungarian embarrassment. 

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Guest
July 9, 2012 3:16 pm

From “Vicky” Kirkhope’s web:
The actor Hugh Grant was here to state his case today as spokesman of the “Hacked Off” Campaign. I organised and chaired a small meeting with him and three other European Parliament MEPs from across the political spectrum to discuss the Parliament’s work on Media Freedom and Pluralism.

The discussion dealt with Parliament’s critical stance on Italy and Hungary with regard to Media Freedom in recent years, as well as Hugh Grant’s involvement in the Leveson Inquiry. Mr Grant would like the support of our Parliament in future regulatory mechanisms which both limit the size of any individual media company and its control of outlets, as well as laying down new rules as to the ethics of journalism and media ownership.

http://www.kirkhope.org.uk/press_and_photo_gallery/Media2_Jun2012

Guest
July 9, 2012 4:19 pm

Győr Calling! It just amazes me how the desperate some Hungarians are to compare their press with the UK’s. Of course the UK press have been too open – too free – to abuse. Leveson will not clamp down at all on press freedom – he will just ensure a better right of reply and ensure no more illegal practices occur such as phone hacking. If you are going to use ‘Leveson’ you need to have followed proceedings daily – and have a deep understanding of how the press works. Leveson has been uniquely ‘open’ – some say too open – but the prospect of that happening in Hungary? Laughable. LV is clutching at straws – even more laughable. From a media perspective Hungary and the UK are chalk and cheese. Grant asking for Hungarian government support? Do me a favour (1) – even he is much more savvy about Hungary’s strangulation of the press. (So Erik again attempts to justify the bad – with the bad. Do me a favour (2). You just don’t hang around long enough for a debate. You are obviously Fideszbikker blind – we just have to wait for the ‘scales’ to fall from your… Read more »

Guest
Wondercat
July 9, 2012 4:22 pm

If that REALLY was Feri dancing to the Pointer Sisters, then I am frightened, because I find it, oh, God, endearing.

Guest
July 9, 2012 5:32 pm

I don’t believe everything the media tells me…

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
July 10, 2012 1:42 am

Népszava published the following: Dear Mr Grant, I am terribly sorry for putting this message to you through the press. I feel kind of entitled to do so since I have seen many of your films quite many times. You know, you are my wife’s favourite actor. I like the one in which you play the role of the PM but I particularly love that old-sod rock star who almost turns gay at Elton John’s party. I also love the one in which you fall in love with Julia Roberts. My wife just simply couldn’t find the travel bookshop in Notting Hill last weekend. You know she is teaching in England at the moment since we just can’t make ends meet here in Hungary and she is considering the circumstances hopeless. I cannot force her to stay here since she is right. We live in a terrible country where cocksy brutishness and fear ruin and spoil everything. The main source of our impoverishment is that Mr Orban makes the existence of the opposition press impossible – but he doesn’t dare to ban it. I work for a newspaper which has been published for 139 years – which is a real… Read more »

Guest
Odin's Lost Eye
July 10, 2012 6:56 am

CQ…CQ…CQ…DX…CharlieH… Base station Gyor This is base station ‘Odin’s lost eye’ in the Boondocks. Welcome back to Lunitania. Yes the beer is good. Since I live in ‘Mesopotamia’ I only drink beer brewed to the north of me further up the Danube/Tisza. I do not mind paying for beer but I will not rent it. Well what Budapest drank yesterday, Baja/Mohach drinks tomorrow. It is good to know that there is at least one more English man amongst these loonies, it will help keep me sane. My Hungarian tribe (I got them by marriage) and have had to look after them ever since. It has gone Noon they are now all fast asleep, but I am not (though the English are effete they are impervious to heat). I am sorry to hear about your problem with your local Mosquito bites. Long ago and far away I was bitten be every brand of ‘mossie’ found in tropical and arctic climes and the gnat and midge found in the Scottish Highland . The local mosquitoes find my blood so poisonous that they now give me a wide berth. Apart from that my home made mosquito traps ‘do for’ a kilo or so… Read more »

Guest
July 10, 2012 10:04 am

Re the Nepszava letter to Hugh Grant.
Now that you guys ran out of the EU, the EC, the IMF, the ECB to fulfill your desires you came up with the BIG gun: Hugh Grant. He will come to Budapest and solve all your problems.
I hope he won’t be arrested for soliciting like he was in Los Angeles.

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
July 10, 2012 10:42 am

Louis Kovach: This action with Hugh Grant makes the functionaries who want to teach this actor a lesson look a bit foolish. Do you believe that Sache Baron Cohen is making a film about Orbanistan and Grant will get the role of Viktor Orbán?

Guest
LwiiH
July 10, 2012 11:18 am

Hey Louis, who said everything is set and done with the EC/EU, IMF?

Guest
July 10, 2012 11:56 am

K. Pfeifer: I consider the Nepszava letter to Hugh Grant also perfect for a SBC movie.

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
July 10, 2012 12:40 pm

Louis Kovach: Do you imply Orbán & Co to be Hearing Impaired?
In the meantime, Hungarian functionaries make a fool of themselves by trying to give lesson to all those who critizise Absurdistan. And many Hungarians come just now to the conclusion: Extra Hungariam est vita.
Probably Sacha Baron Cohen will make his next film about Orbanistan? Would be a good idea.

Guest
Odin's Lost Eye
July 10, 2012 12:55 pm

Ah Karl… Yes indeed ‘Extra Hungariam est vita’ (or as my old Latin master would have corrected me ‘Extra Hungariam vita est’). Most of the younger ones know this and that is why they wish to go where there is a chance of a real life. I dare say that when the Government and its hangers on will also go when they have scraped, conned and thieved every last Filar from poor old Hungaria.

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
July 10, 2012 1:26 pm

Thanks Odin’s Lost Eye. I had Latin only four years and forgot a lot.
I am afraid, that the Government and its hangers on will continue until the moment when they will not be able anymore dazzle their people with national symbols and rhetoric.

Guest
jozan-esz-101
July 10, 2012 1:29 pm

What is killing good many Hungarians? Frustration, pain, anger?
The nation is a good candidate for anger management.
The West is mild, The East is wild.
Brainsurgery needed.
The decent people can not wait longer.
The Ferenc Kumin type confused aggressors are ruining all hope.
It is a challenge to peel off even the disappointed voters from the FIDESZ/Jobbik trend.
Their meek existence drives them into the eternal trap again.

Guest
g0g0
July 10, 2012 1:39 pm

Extra Hungariam non est vita, si est vita, non est ita.

Off course there is a better life outside of Hungary.

Unless a replay of the Ferenc Deak era will pop up one day.

Guest
July 10, 2012 2:14 pm

g0g0: “Unless a replay of the Ferenc Deak era will pop up one day.”

Please lets consider that for some strata of society those were the upward mobile wonder days…BUT millions of peasants got so disillusioned that they emigrated to the USA.

Guest
petofi
July 10, 2012 3:05 pm

Louis Kovach :
Re the Nepszava letter to Hugh Grant.
Now that you guys ran out of the EU, the EC, the IMF, the ECB to fulfill your desires you came up with the BIG gun: Hugh Grant. He will come to Budapest and solve all your problems.
I hope he won’t be arrested for soliciting like he was in Los Angeles.

Yeah, right, he might hit on that rascal in drag who wrote that marvelous piece of work you
call an ‘alaptorveny’…or constitution…or whatever. But you know who I mean, right Louis?
One of your prime examples of Hungarian constitutional authority.

Member
July 10, 2012 3:07 pm

Louis Kovach :
He will come to Budapest and solve all your problems.

What problems, Kovach? Like … lack of media freedom? High budget deficit? Curtailed freedom of speech? Destruction of the judciary? Recession? Idelogical terror? Theocracy? Fixed voting system? Incompetent government? Lying flip-flopping prime minister? Nazis in the curriculum? Which one of “our problems” could Hugh Grant fix? Can you be just once more specific? I understand that the BJ he got in LA 17 years ago when he got busted with that hooker is more important to you but that’s not really an opinion.

By the way the girl made more than a million bucks later with interviews. Despite of the arrogant dumb letters, your hero, Orban the 5th, is about to do the same to the EU very soon, whether you like it or not, Kovach.

Guest
July 10, 2012 3:17 pm

MuttD:
“Despite of the arrogant dumb letters, your hero, Orban the 5th, is about to do the same to the EU very soon, whether you like it or not, Kovach.”

Well, if according to you Orban will make millions by being solicited by the EU, then there will be additional funds to decrease the deficit.
I am sorry that I upset you so much that you can’t compose.

Member
July 10, 2012 3:22 pm

Well, the FIDESZ way. Be proud of it.

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
July 10, 2012 3:27 pm

It is my gut feeling that we’ll see more foolish actions of Hungarian Government. With actions like the tourism with Nyirö’s ashes and letter to Hugh Grant the Hungarian Government hopes to deflect attention from the failure of their economic policy.

Guest
Kirsten
July 10, 2012 5:18 pm

Karl Pfeifer :
It is my gut feeling that we’ll see more foolish actions of Hungarian Government. With actions like the tourism with Nyirö’s ashes and letter to Hugh Grant the Hungarian Government hopes to deflect attention from the failure of their economic policy.

Yes, but what is most amazing is that even with blatantly foolish and amateurish behaviour and without outright force it seems impossible to threaten OV’s and Fidesz’ position. But last week showed that we need not believe that the countries in the vicinity are doing so much better.

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
July 11, 2012 1:39 am

Kirsten I do agree, however it reminds me of the Kádár period, when communist functionaries used to point out to western journalist, that in Romania the situation is much worse. A good friend of mine the historian Miklós Szabó who died a few years ago used to answer. “That is true, but no Hungarian would have compared his country with Romania during the monarchy or Horthy period. Hungarians looked westward and compared their country with Austria”
So the last events in Romanian politics are cold comfort. If Hungary continues to go the way Orbán-Matolcsy lead it then in short time it will be probably compared with Zimbabwe?

Guest
July 11, 2012 10:16 am

Dr Balogh. “Most of them came the Slovak inhabited areas because of the poor conditions there and a lot of them actually were Slovaks although they were called Hunkies because they came from Hungary.”

There were many Slovaks but even more Hungarians. In Ohio you can still see abandoned cemeteries in the old mining districts with dozens of Hungarian names (all dead on same day! in mining accidents) like in Congo. The Hungarian immigration of those days is well covered by Dr Bela Vardi and others. My ex-wife’s family in both side came in those days to the USA. One side form Baranya and the other from Bekes region and Laszlo” and “Szeretoe” are NOT slavic names! If you count up the old churches formed in those days, you will fined more Hungarian than Slovak in most areas.

Member
Some1
July 11, 2012 10:43 am

Louis Kovach :
Re the Nepszava letter to Hugh Grant.
Now that you guys ran out of the EU, the EC, the IMF, the ECB to fulfill your desires you came up with the BIG gun: Hugh Grant. He will come to Budapest and solve all your problems.
I hope he won’t be arrested for soliciting like he was in Los Angeles.

Are you into conspiracy theory Louis? You seemed slightly more intelligent to begin with, although Orban did too. LOL

p.s.: No one had to go to to the EU, EC, IMF, ECB, High Grant, as Fidesz does an incredible job on its own to discredit and make a laughing stock itself. (Just like you do lately.)

Member
July 11, 2012 10:48 am

I can’t find any census data for the 19th century (Deak era) that breaks down the immigrant population by language spoken or region of birth. The earliest I’ve found (1920, 1930) states that roughly equal numbers of Slovaks and Hungarians (by language spoken) immigrated.
One thing is sure: at the beginning of the 20th century Cleveland had the biggest Slovak community in the world.
I believe Hungarians settled down mostly in Pennsylvania first then migrated to Ohio later.

Guest
Karl Pfeifer
July 11, 2012 11:19 am

I lived only about four years from summer 1938 until January 1943 in Hungary. At that time people spoke about the tót, meaning in a pejorative way the Slovaks. Now the Slovaks have a higher standard of living and despite all the machinations of Fidesz, most Hungarians vote for Most-Hid a bi-national party.

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