Today’s post is an update (and a pretty juicy one at that) on what has happened in the Zsolt Semjén plagiarism case since I last wrote about it on November 19. Just as I suspected at the time, HVG had more information than the first articles led us believe. In good journalistic fashion they dragged the story out for a while and released information in bits and pieces.
The Christian Democrats responded to HVG‘s revelations by calling them attacks on Christianity itself and the Hungarian right rushed to Semjén’s defense. Zsolt Bayer in his typical fashion called the people who discovered the plagiarism “hyenas'” who should “be done in.” A day later, on November 21, Zsolt Semjén demanded an official apology from HVG, which the paper refused. Two days later the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences of ELTE announced that there is simply no Semjén case. All this is no more than a political attack. It seems that ELTE didn’t consider the submission of basically the same text at two different universities an issue.
But then came HVG again. When the accusation first surfaced, Semjén willingly made his transcripts and dissertations, including his senior paper written for the sociology department of ELTE, available. That was his downfall. It turned out that the copy of the senior paper he provided was different from the one HVG had managed to acquire. In fact, it was designated a “second revised edition.” I remember my total amazement at the time. I’ve seen a lot of dissertations and senior papers in my life but never one that bore the designation second revised edition.
On November 26 another article appeared in HVG with the title “New suspicious texts in Semjén’s paper: culprit or victim?” It turned out that the revisions in the “second edition” were copied from an article by his adviser, Attila Károly Molnár, which appeared a year later (1993) in Valóság, a well respected monthly.
Semjén had to revise his senior paper because the reader flunked him on his first effort, even though his obliging adviser gave him an A. At this point Attila Molnár must have lent Semjén a helping hand by sharing with him his article, still in manuscript form. Semjén dutifully copied out Molnár’s text word for word.
A few days later there was a short article about Attila Károly Molnár’s outraged statement that he never plagiarized from his students’ works. Now that is really laughable because no one could possibly think that he copied from Semjén. Rather Semjén, presumably with Molnár’s knowledge, copied from him.
Well, at this point the dean of the faculty of social sciences at ELTE who only three days earlier had said that there was no case to investigate named a three-member panel to take a look at the senior paper. HVG decided to be helpful to the members of the investigation. On November 29 it published another article which revealed new portions of the text that could be traced to another article of Attila Molnár entitled “Religion and Politics in Our Time” written in 1992 but published only in 1998 as part of a collection of essays.
After studying the Semjén plagiarism case, the members of the panel couldn’t come to any other conclusion but that Semjén plagiarized. As Katalin Tausz, the dean of the faculty, said, Semjén “made a serious professional and ethical mistake.” Past and present rules and regulations concerning such situations, however, don’t allow the university to take legal action, especially after the fact. She added that if Semjén were caught using his adviser’s works today, he would fail and would be called before the executive committee to face disciplinary action.
This verdict didn’t shake Zsolt Semjén’s confidence, as can be seen on the video. He was an excellent student and if he did something wrong his professors should have told him so. As far as he is concerned, the case is closed.
And now let’s return to Attila Károly Molnár. It seems that ELTE cannot bring disciplinary action against him either. Most likely because of the same fuzzy regulations that apply to student plagiarism. But I’m sure that a number of people in the faculty of social sciences wouldn’t mind at all if Molnár got what he most likely deserves in this case. Because Molnár has a history.
In December 2011 a blogger discovered a comment by someone who called himself “Tölgy” (Oak). The remark was made during a discussion of the fate of Attila Petschauer, a famous fencer who received two gold medals and one silver medal in 1928 and 1932 at the Olympic games. He was Jewish and ended up in a labor battalion where he died a terrible death. “The guards shouted: ‘You, Olympic fencing medal winner . . . let’s see how you can climb trees.’ It was midwinter and bitter cold, but they ordered him to undress, then climb a tree. The amused guards ordered him to crow like a rooster, and sprayed him with water. Frozen from the water, he died shortly after.”
And here is the comment by Tölgy. “This poor guy was hazed and he died. Ugly, no question. How many of you have served in the army? You know, the duty of every democrat and supporter of the republic. If you find someone who did serve in the army, he will tell you how the soldiers used to haze each other. Indeed companies of men are like that. Your example is nothing else but a rough hazing that ended badly. Otherwise I am still waiting for all those stories about how Hungarian soldiers were methodically and purposefully killing those serving in the labor battalions.”
Tölgy turned out to be Attila Károly Molnár who at this point, in addition to his full time job at ELTE, also taught part time at the Péter Pázmány University. Molnár admitted that he used the name “Tölgy” but claimed that the comment above came from someone else who stole his IP address. The editors of Mandiner, the moderate conservative online paper where the comment appeared, believe in absolute freedom of expression and as a result the most awful comments appear on that site. The dean of Pázmány’s faculty of social sciences couldn’t prove that Tölgy was Molnár but thought that his presence there was undesirable. He lost his job.
By mid-January forty-two faculty members of ELTE signed a declaration distancing themselves from the “person whoever he is” and this man’s unacceptable views. Far-right sites immediately labelled them anti-Hungarians who didn’t appreciate Tölgy’s “historically correct comments” and who are “the enemies of free speech.” Moreover, they are the ones who falsify history.
Normally, I don’t read Hungarian comments, but this time I went through some of those that mentioned Molnár. According to one by “weiner” in Népszabadság, a Hungarian paper should pay some attention to Molnár one day. “weiner” sees a connection between Molnár’s giving help in 1992 to Semjén during his difficulties with the senior paper and the former adviser’s getting a job a couple of years later at Pázmány. Another commenter, “jotunder” (orulunkvincent), seems to know that everybody in ELTE’s sociology department was aware that Attila Károly Molnár after the 2010 elections desperately wanted a job at one of the ministries as undersecretary or department head. He had to be disappointed. Some of the commenters are certain that neither Semjén’s nor Molnár’s troubles are over.