When words become action: the case of Vilmos Hanti

In the last few days I have been thinking about the aggressiveness that is spreading rapidly in Hungarian society. It is not new. Even in the Kádár regime I was often struck by the primitive behavior of some people on occasions that didn’t warrant such a reaction. The driving habits of Hungarians clearly show a lack of self-control and easy irritability. The language has also become unbelievably coarse. Curse words are so common that people no longer even notice that the language they speak would exclude them from polite society anywhere else in the world.

But what we see today goes beyond the general impoliteness, rudeness, and coarseness of everyday discourse. Now all that built-up and the over-the-years refined aggressiveness is directed against “anti-Hungarians,” “traitors to the national cause,” the Roma, Jews, gays, and all who don’t agree with them. There have already been victims of this hate: the innocent Roma victims of people who wanted to spark off a civil war. One could say that this was an isolated case involving a relatively small group of people. But today neo-Nazi groups in the hundreds would rush to kill, if they could, anyone “on the other side.” It is enough to look at these people’s faces: their determination is visible. I’m not surprised that fewer and fewer people are ready to stand up to them.

For this state of affairs I consider Viktor Orbán and his fellow hate-mongers responsible. Ever since 2002, when Fidesz lost the elections, verbal attacks on their political opponents were daily fare. The speeches of politicians like János Áder, who was the whip of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation between 2002 and 2006, were studded with hateful phrases. Not witticisms but insults. His successor Tibor Navracsics, who was considered to be a low-keyed and polite fellow, was immediately transformed into a vicious attacker in the Áder style. Orbán himself was rarely seen in parliament, but he spewed his hate at rallies. Meanwhile Hungarian society was cleft into “us” and “them.”

The general aggressiveness of Hungarian society found itself at home in this new political climate. Fidesz politicians fed the innate aggressiveness of society, and at times Fidesz even used these groups to their political ends. Think of the protracted “camping out” on Kossuth Square in 2006. The aggressive right-wing groups received encouragement from Fidesz politicians. They felt justified. After all, important politicians looked at the world  the same way as they did. As for anti-Semitism, Orbán never uttered an unambiguously anti-Semitic sentence. No, his references were coded, but the followers understood.

Fidesz has been engaged in whipping up nationalism ever since 1998, perhaps even before. This nationalism also added to the hatred of everyone these people didn’t consider to be true Hungarians. The Roma and the Jews were the first targets, but one doesn’t have to be Jewish to be considered a Jew. Anyone who doesn’t agree with them is “Jewish.”

Considering all that pent-up hatred, expressed mainly verbally, it was just a question of time before words would become action. In Ákos Kertész’s case it was only verbal attacks, but even they made him feel so insecure that he didn’t stop until he reached Canada. Yesterday Tamás Bauer, formerly SZDSZ MP and now deputy-chairman of Demokratikus Koalíció, said on ATV that on August 18 when the various neo-Nazi groups demonstrated on Heroes’ Square those members of DK who staged a tiny counter-demonstration actually feared for their lives. Besides the 150 or so uniformed neo-Nazis there were about 200-300 sympathizers. These sympathizers spotted the handful of people standing on the side, and they all turned toward them, ready to attack them physically. The only thing the police did was to stand between the would-be attackers and the peaceful demonstrators.

Yesterday Vilmos Hanti, chairman of the Magyar Ellenállók és Antifasiszták Szövetsége (Association of Hungarian Partisans and Anti-Fascists [MEASZ]), organized a demonstration “against anti-Semitism and racism.”  The event began on Deák Square and eventually moved over to Ede Paulay Street where Új Színház is located. There the new theater director had planned but eventually abandoned a performance of István Csurka’s anti-Semitic play The Sixth Coffin.

Hanti managed to get together practically all the democratic forces with the exception of LMP. Representatives of SZDSZ, the Workers’ Party 2006 (a more moderate splinter group of the far-left Workers’ Party that actually supported Fidesz in 2010), the Green Left, MSZP, DK, and the Hungarian Solidarity Movement were all there.

A surprising number of people joined the demonstration. Even Magyar Nemzet thought that about 500 people were present. Others talked about more than a thousand. They patiently listened to a number of speeches when about fifty neo-Nazi counter-demonstrators showed up and tried to penetrate the ranks of the demonstrators. The usual chanting of “filthy Jews” and “the train is going to Auschwitz” followed. When the crowd arrived at the Új Színház, the counter-demonstrators were already waiting for them with the slogan: “The Új Színház belongs to the Hungarians.” Eventually the police managed to push the counter-demonstrators away from the entrance to the theater.

Vilmos Hanti this morning on ATV

But what happened afterward is really outrageous. On his way home Vilmos Hanti turned into a relatively quiet street off Andrássy Boulevard when he noticed a group of 15-20 youngsters in their twenties approaching. One of them recognized him. Thereupon the group surrounded him and shoved him against the wall of one the buildings. One of the brave ones with a clenched fist hit Hanti, a man well over sixty, in the face. An ambulance took him away. Hanti was especially worried about his right eye. Today I saw an interview with him, and I must say he was darned lucky. If  he had been hit just a little to the left he would have had a serious problem with his eye.

Hanti told the reporter that he feared for his life. These guys were in a lynching mood. Hanti, who in civilian life is a teacher, just couldn’t believe that young boys would actually hit an elderly gentleman who could perhaps be their grandfather.

It would be time for the police to do more than simply stand between the two groups and treat each side equally: the peaceful demonstrators and the screaming counter-demonstrators in a lynching mood.

Barikád, the official organ of Jobbik, didn’t have much sympathy for Hanti. Basically their article suggested that Hanti got what he deserved. Moreover, he was a coward because he ran away crying for help. I guess, according to the editors of Barikád, he should have waited until their friends and comrades killed him. But kuruc.info went even further. They claimed in an article entitled “The drunken antifa[scist] punched himself” that “our great anti-fascist hit himself in the face and started to scream for help. But the pedestrians realized that he is not quite normal and nobody paid any attention to his hysterics… Our colleague offered help and called an ambulance, but the one-man army of the Association of Hungarian Partisans and Anti-fascists didn’t accept the help.”

These are the kinds of people who are rampaging across Hungary while the government makes no attempt to stop their activities with more forceful measures. Yes, the police prevent them from attacking peaceful demonstrators at public events. But there are the dark side streets. Really awful things can happen there when the police are nowhere nearby.

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Zsuzsa
Guest
August 30, 2012 4:41 pm

Thank you for this article. This topic has been eating me up inside for several weeks.

I made my life in B.C. since 1967. My family remained in Budapest. I used to enjoy chatting with them on the phone. Lately less so. I cringe at every “budos zsido”, “rohadt cigany” es “diszno buzi”. I tried telling them this kind of talk offends me, but they can’t seem to stop. Last time one of my brothers told me it does not matter what he says, what matters is what he does. And that he could never hurt another human being. I tried to tell him “you are adding to the hatred in the country and indeed you do hurting people with that. The spoken word has creating power.” My brother is a good man. How can a good man hate?

Guest
August 30, 2012 5:23 pm
London Calling! Yes Eva. What we are seeing is unfettered Anti-Semitism, Racism and Homophobia (My partner translated Zsuzsa for me!) – and Zenophobia no doubt. And it seems to be Hungarian on Hungarian too. I am still seeing the ‘enraged’ Tesco manger in my mind’s eye on my recent visit and the general rudeness and unhelpfulness of everyone in the service industries. (But it would be unfair to characterise them all as such – there were some pockets of politeness!) My partner just received a call from her friend in Hungary to tell her that a colleague’s car had broken down on the road and she was subjected to every expletive imaginable. No help of course. Contrast this with my partner in England who innocently stopped in a country lane in Surrey – (to take photos!) – and at least two cars stopped to check she was ok as they thought she had broken down and wanted to help. (And of course most driver’s will stop for you at Zebra (road) crossings here – whereas Hungarian drivers use them as target practice). I am convinced that it is because such behaviour stems from the ingrained attitudes of all members of… Read more »
petofi
Guest
petofi
August 30, 2012 5:50 pm

Sorry, Charlie, but the problem goes deeper than that, much deeper. Consider that the facism in the Hungarian police department has survived 45 years of communism. That should tell you something: facism
has been around Hungary way before the 2nd war.
It’s ingrained. Want to know how? Examine the Catholic church and it’s teachings in Hungary, and with
that, the influence of the church on primary education.

The jews have always been the target of choice for
opportunistic politicians: “they steal your money; they
charge you high interest; they band together to deprive
you of jobs; they’re communists who’ve sold out the country and will continue to do so”. Nothing like having a useful target to whip up the believers.

The laziness and shoddy work of Hungarians today is
every apparent. I was shocked by it. But Fidesz
politicians humor their supporters by blaming all the country’s ills on their enemies, and it’s comforting to
believe that.

An
Guest
An
August 30, 2012 6:12 pm

As a Hungarian, I am just so ashamed of this incident, of the general intolerance and hatred that have sprung up in full force, and of all what is going on in the country right now.

Zsuzsa
Guest
August 30, 2012 6:17 pm

I agree with Petofi. Fascism never went out of fashion in Hungary. My own family is a sad example of that. My brother is like our father and like his father was before him. I was once told I would think differently if I stayed. I would have stayed if I thought differently, but I didn’t. Therein lays the difference.

Member
Some1
August 30, 2012 6:56 pm
The interviewer asked why it is that government politicians never join a demonstrations against antisemitism and racism. Ákos Balogh’s answer was that this would be impossible because they hate MSZP as much as they hate Jobbik. If you ask me, I think that actually they hate MSZP and Gyurcsány’s DK much more than they hate Jobbik. They seem to be quite cozy with the far-right. Wow So, here it is the exact problem. If you are against antisemitism or racism you are labelled by even from the moderate right as being member of a party, like MSZP. It is not about what is wright and what is wrong, but if you sympathize with Jews you will be called an MSZP supporter as some kind of insult . THis is where the problem stems. Orban, his gang and publications like Mandiner cannot stand up for the Jews and gypsies because God forbid someone will call them MSZP friends? Dirty, filthy people who think like that. I do not care if you are moderate, educated or whatever, this kind of thinking feeds the scums and shows that you are a member of the scum group because you try to please them. Nice… Read more »
petofi
Guest
petofi
August 30, 2012 6:57 pm

Eva S. Balogh :

Zsuzsa :
I agree with Petofi. Fascism never went out of fashion in Hungary. My own family is a sad example of that. My brother is like our father and like his father was before him. I was once told I would think differently if I stayed. I would have stayed if I thought differently, but I didn’t. Therein lays the difference.

I’m also convinced that family tradition and upbringing have a lot to do with all that. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that István Csurka’s father was also a man of far-right views. Of course, there are exceptions. I have a very close American friend whose parents hated blacks and hated everything Franklin Roosevelt stood for. Yet, today she normally votes democratic and an absolutely open-minded person about race relations and everything else.

Yes, Eva, but a couple of jokers in the pack: one, education is far more objective and balanced in North America; two, the society is growing ever more tolerant (as witness the election
of the first black man).

petofi
Guest
petofi
August 30, 2012 7:07 pm
Zsuzsa : Thank you for this article. This topic has been eating me up inside for several weeks. I made my life in B.C. since 1967. My family remained in Budapest. I used to enjoy chatting with them on the phone. Lately less so. I cringe at every “budos zsido”, “rohadt cigany” es “diszno buzi”. I tried telling them this kind of talk offends me, but they can’t seem to stop. Last time one of my brothers told me it does not matter what he says, what matters is what he does. And that he could never hurt another human being. I tried to tell him “you are adding to the hatred in the country and indeed you do hurting people with that. The spoken word has creating power.” My brother is a good man. How can a good man hate? “…it does not matter what he says, what matters is what he does..” Oh my god, the words of Orban as dogma! This is truly frightening. Zsuzsa, does your bother know he’s parroting Orban word for word? “..he could never hurt another human being.” Well, have another look at the movie The Judgement at Nuremburg and pay attention to… Read more »
gdfxx
Guest
gdfxx
August 30, 2012 7:16 pm

Eva: “The interviewer asked why it is that government politicians never join a demonstrations against antisemitism and racism. Ákos Balogh’s answer was that this would be impossible because they hate MSZP as much as they hate Jobbik. If you ask me, I think that actually they hate MSZP and Gyurcsány’s DK much more than they hate Jobbik. They seem to be quite cozy with the far-right.”

This is hogwash. If this were the only reason, they could demonstrate against these grave ills of the Hungarian society on their own. Or at least they could raise their voices against them in the media and elsewhere. But they never do.

petofi
Guest
petofi
August 30, 2012 7:21 pm

Zsuzsa :
Thank you for this article. This topic has been eating me up inside for several weeks.
I made my life in B.C. since 1967. My family remained in Budapest. I used to enjoy chatting with them on the phone. Lately less so. I cringe at every “budos zsido”, “rohadt cigany” es “diszno buzi”. I tried telling them this kind of talk offends me, but they can’t seem to stop. Last time one of my brothers told me it does not matter what he says, what matters is what he does. And that he could never hurt another human being. I tried to tell him “you are adding to the hatred in the country and indeed you do hurting people with that. The spoken word has creating power.” My brother is a good man. How can a good man hate?

“My brother is a good man.”

Sure, but has he learned to think for himself?

Piroska Markus
Guest
Piroska Markus
August 30, 2012 7:23 pm

Good article about an increasingly frightening reality

konga hunga
Guest
konga hunga
August 30, 2012 8:46 pm

Send donations to (Association of Hungarian Partisans and Anti-Fascists [MEASZ]
http://www.antifasiszta.hu/hirek.php/1238

Petofi1
Guest
Petofi1
August 30, 2012 10:51 pm

konga hunga :
Send donations to (Association of Hungarian Partisans and Anti-Fascists [MEASZ]
http://www.antifasiszta.hu/hirek.php/1238

What’s with the donations?

Hungary is the only country I know where a radio station asks the listeners to vote…
at $1.50 a pop. (Klubradio…even the good guys can be schmucks.)

Member
Some1
August 30, 2012 11:49 pm

konga hunga :
Send donations to (Association of Hungarian Partisans and Anti-Fascists [MEASZ]
http://www.antifasiszta.hu/hirek.php/1238

Well konga hunga, It would of been nice if with your donation request you would of include a few lines. I do not remember you ever posting here, and although I wholeheartedly wish to support your organization, I feel you are doing a disservice with this kind of spamming.
If you wish to tell something to the readership of this blog, and if you are asking for donations, you should have some courtesy and at least provide some English language summary here about the website you are linking to. THis is a Blog in English, and there are a very few visitors who do not understand Hungarian.
Regards.

Ron
Guest
Ron
August 31, 2012 1:05 am

It is not only about words become action, but also about non-action or even refund of money. Apparently, the government agreed with Jewish organization compensation of USD 21 million payable over 5 years in 2007. Hungary stopped paying in 2010 (after VO came into power), and ask now refund of the money in the amount of USD 12.6 (including interest).

http://www.politics.hu/20120829/hungary-demands-refund-of-state-support-paid-to-claims-conference/
http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/hungary-claims-conference-exchange-blows-over-holocaust-reparation-funds-1.461496

oneill
Guest
oneill
August 31, 2012 1:57 am
It’s just a question of time before Orban’s bastard offspring murder someone and the only question is whether it will be a Jew, Roma or “just” a leftie or liberal. What concerns me is how long the patience of those under attack directly from the nazis and indirectly from the Orban regime lasts. Just to give one example is the situation in the 7th district in the area between the Varosliget and Keleti station which is an area populated both by a lot of Roma and foreigners (Turks, Chinese, Arabs etc). Everytime there is a nazi demo close to the park, either at Hosok Tere or Felvonulasi marauding bands of the blackshirts are abusing Roma women and children (never the men, for the obvious reason) who are misfortunate enough to be living in the neighbourhood. it’s just a question day the patience of the local Roma men will snap and the nazis will get what they are after and that is quite possibly the start of their civil war against the “anti/Hungarians”. When that happens, then the blood will be fairly and squarely on the hands of one man and that is the spiritual leader of present-day Hungarian fascism, Viktor… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest
Karl Pfeifer
August 31, 2012 2:34 am


gdfxx :
Eva: “The interviewer asked why it is that government politicians never join a demonstrations against antisemitism and racism. Ákos Balogh’s answer was that this would be impossible because they hate MSZP as much as they hate Jobbik. If you ask me, I think that actually they hate MSZP and Gyurcsány’s DK much more than they hate Jobbik. They seem to be quite cozy with the far-right.”

Look at Orbán and Vona how they participate at the same table at an event and you’ll know that it is a round lie.
http://fsp.nolblog.hu/archives/2012/08/13/Fidesz_Jobbik__ket_jo_barat/

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
Karl Pfeifer
August 31, 2012 2:35 am

I meant the answer of Ákos Balogh to be a round lie.

enufff
Guest
August 31, 2012 2:43 am

Thanks for the article, Eva .

We are living in a ticking time bomb!
The govt. refuse to do anything as this is playing into their favour.
One of these days all hell will break loose and the govt. would’ve wished they’d done something earlier.

Wondercat
Guest
Wondercat
August 31, 2012 3:52 am

Off-topic: Boris KALNOKY has today published in DIE WELT a respectful exposition of OV’s goals in re-structuring the Hungarian economy, asking if it might serve as a model for what Greece requires. Of course the question can also be asked: How long before Hungary becomes Greece?

http://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/article108888632/Ist-Ungarn-ein-Vorbild-fuer-Griechenland.html?wtmc=nl.wdwbwirtschaft

Guest
August 31, 2012 4:44 am

That article in the “WELT” also clearly says that there is rampant anti-Roma racism abounding in Hungary – but the solution ?

Put all those out of work into work camps ? What kind of work is available for them and will they accept it ? No clear answers for these questions …

Tyrker
Guest
Tyrker
August 31, 2012 6:23 am

“The driving habits of Hungarians clearly show a lack of self-control and easy irritability.”

You could, of course, say the same about Italians, Greeks and dozens of other nations around the world (and it wouldn’t be any truer or any less true) but hey, this is Hungarian Spectrum, never one to miss an opportunity for a little generalised Hungarian-bashing, right?

“The language has also become unbelievably coarse. Curse words are so common that people no longer even notice that the language they speak would exclude them from polite society anywhere else in the world.”

Correct. Gyurcsány’s Balatonőszöd address is a case in point. Where else would a freshly re-elected Prime Minister refer to his nation as “this bitch of a country,” to mention but one of the many obscenities found in that speech.

Prisca
Guest
Prisca
August 31, 2012 6:39 am

Member
Some1
August 31, 2012 8:04 am
Tyrker : “The driving habits of Hungarians clearly show a lack of self-control and easy irritability.” You could, of course, say the same about Italians, Greeks and dozens of other nations around the world (and it wouldn’t be any truer or any less true) but hey, this is Hungarian Spectrum, never one to miss an opportunity for a little generalised Hungarian-bashing, right? “The language has also become unbelievably coarse. Curse words are so common that people no longer even notice that the language they speak would exclude them from polite society anywhere else in the world.” Correct. Gyurcsány’s Balatonőszöd address is a case in point. Where else would a freshly re-elected Prime Minister refer to his nation as “this bitch of a country,” to mention but one of the many obscenities found in that speech. You are right! This IS the HUNGARIAN Spectrum. You are a great observer. The criticism is about Hungary and the Hungarian behavior in general. As far as driving goes, yes dynamic driving is present in many countries civilized or non-civilized (so is camel riding), but the how aggressive it is, and I mean that people would call out to each other with such a coarse… Read more »
Member
August 31, 2012 8:09 am

Dregs of a nation …

The only thing that would shut these blackshirts up is big crowd of normal people. In front of few hundred angry protesters these roaches would be a lot more quieter. These protesters have all my respect for their courage. They are the best of us – the real Hungarians.

These sub-Hungarians remind me on Edward Norton’s character in the American History X. It’s a must see movie.

Member
Some1
August 31, 2012 8:11 am

Ron :
It is not only about words become action, but also about non-action or even refund of money. Apparently, the government agreed with Jewish organization compensation of USD 21 million payable over 5 years in 2007. Hungary stopped paying in 2010 (after VO came into power), and ask now refund of the money in the amount of USD 12.6 (including interest).
http://www.politics.hu/20120829/hungary-demands-refund-of-state-support-paid-to-claims-conference/
http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/hungary-claims-conference-exchange-blows-over-holocaust-reparation-funds-1.461496

Hi Ron,
I would be careful with the interpretation of this issues. THis has nothing to do with anti-semitism, and for that matter the NY Claims Conference have their issues. THis issue does not effect the Jews living in Hungary, but Jews living oversees. THere were lots of irregularities and proof (from the NY Claims Conference financial papers) that the money was not spent on Hungarian Jews. THe Hungarians simply want to handle the distribution of the money from now on, so it will go to the intended targets. I know the whole deal is way more complicated, but this is the issue in a nutshell. (The money they want back is not the money they already distributed to Hungarian Jews, but money is still awaiting for distribution or was spent irregular ways.)

Member
August 31, 2012 8:25 am

Tyrker :
“The driving habits of Hungarians clearly show a lack of self-control and easy irritability.”
You could, of course, say the same about Italians, Greeks and dozens of other nations around the world (and it wouldn’t be any truer or any less true) but hey, this is Hungarian Spectrum, never one to miss an opportunity for a little generalised Hungarian-bashing, right?

Right. Why don’t we say the Greeks are bad drivers? That would help our country a lot. Hungarian unorthodox patriotism. Shoot the messenger.

You can just simply disagree, like no, please, the Hungarians are very polite on the roads. But, wait! That’s not true .. now what?

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