Fidesz reaction to political setback: Continued falsehoods

The standard reference book of Hungarian sayings and proverbs contains dozens of examples related to lies and lying. I would like to single out two that apply to daily politics in today’s Hungary.

The first is an assessment of the fate of a liar. According to the Hungarian proverb, “it is easier to catch a liar than a lame dog.” The second claims that “a man who comes from afar can easily be believed.” As far as the first saying goes, if folk wisdom centuries ago thought that liars cannot fool people for very long this is especially true today after the communication revolution we have witnessed in the last twenty years or so. As for the second, it is less and less true that a person from faraway places can tell tall tales without being found out.

Fidesz politicians, however, are behind the times and keep repeating lies. Lies about the world, about the Hungarian economic situation, about their own earlier statements, and about Hungary’s future prospects. Despite the repeated unveiling of their lies, the lying goes on. I guess they believe that repeated lies stick. Hungarian society is so polarized that the majority of Fidesz voters would never think of reading newspapers or visiting Internet sites that are critical of the government. Repeated lies, as another Hungarian saying asserts, eventually become truth (at least for the party faithful).

In the old days it was fairly cumbersome to fact-check statements about events that happened, let’s say, ten years ago. Today this task is a great deal easier, although in my opinion Internet papers could further assist researchers by expanding their archival search functions. But let’s not complain, because what we have is already splendid in comparison to what we used to have at our disposal.

And now on to the real topic of  today’s post: Antal Rogán’s latest performance. On January 4 Rogán was a guest on Olga Kálmán’s Egyenes beszéd. Kálmán began with a question: how is it that within a few days he changed his mind on the government’s response to the question of voter registration? After all, on December 28, right after the Constitutional Court’s decision that found the so-called “temporary provisions” unconstitutional, he and József Szájer, the “author” of the new constitution, confidently announced their plans to put the “temporary provisions” into the main body of the constitution. That would certainly solve the problem. And now, Kálmán continued, there is a 180° turnabout. Fidesz decided not to circumvent the decision of the court. What is the explanation, she wanted to know.

Rogán didn’t flinch. He outright denied that any such words left his or Szájer’s mouth. No gentle prodding by Kálmán could move him from this position. “This is not what I said. What I said was that we respect the decision of the court and since the objections were only formal objections we  will move the ‘temporary provisions’ into the main body of the constitution.” As for the law on the election procedure, Rogán claimed that he refused to comment on a law that was still under consideration by the court.  Here is an excerpt from the Rogán interview. The complete version can be viewed on ATV’s website.

Well, checking the accuracy of Antal Rogán’s contention was easy enough. YouTube already had the video of the ten-minute Rogán-Szájer press conference online. Szájer used most of the press conference to explain the “historic reasons” for not including the “temporary provisions” in the constitution proper and to outline how the parliament will vote on a bill that will move these provisions into the constitution. That should satisfy the court. And naturally, the law on electoral procedures was one of these “temporary provisions.” At the end of the press conference a reporter asked Rogán about the electoral law. Rogán repeated Szájer’s opinion that they have to address only the court’s formal objections, which can be remedied by incorporating the law into the main body of the constitution. He added that parliament doesn’t have to revisit this law because the objections were formal. Not a word about not wanting to comment on the law that is still under consideration by the court. You can see on the video of the press conference of December 28, 2012.

This particular lie was easy to detect. Another one, I must admit, I didn’t catch, most likely because I have been following Hungarian politics only since 1994-95 and Rogán’s second lie touched on something before that date. It was Zsuzsa Kerekes, a lawyer, who called attention to that lie in Galamus. Rogán called Olga Kálmán’s attention to a grave unconstitutional act by the MSZP-SZDSZ government in 1994 when the government, using its two-thirds majority, put into the constitution a provision that deprived Hungarian citizens of their voting right if they happened to be abroad on the day of the election although the Constitutional Court found this part of the election law to be unconstitutional in March of 1990.

MemoryAs it turned out, the whole story is a typical Fidesz fabrication. In October 1989  the last parliament of the Kádár regime did vote on the electoral law, including this particular provision. The Constitutional Court that was established in October 1989 indeed found in March 1990 that this particular article in the law was unconstitutional. But it wasn’t the MSZP-SZDSZ dominated parliament that put this provision into the constitution but the parliament of the Németh government on March 9, 1990.

Zsuzsa Kerekes found it unfortunate that Olga Kálmán didn’t remember this particular detail. As a result, “as with so many other Fidesz lies it remained unquestioned and uncorrected.” I have to come to Olga Kálmán’s defense. I also occasionally feel that I could have brought up events or points that contradict the “recollections” of Fidesz politicians that were missed by the reporter. But it is one thing to watch a conversation from the outside and something else to be able to react very quickly under pressure. Moreover, unfortunately, we can’t remember everything even under normal circumstances. And since I started with proverbs here is another Hungarian saying: “A fejem nem káptalan” (My head is not a chapter). What can this possibly mean? Help me out!

55 comments

  1. @ Eva Átvitt értelemben, régies, elavult: Ismeretek tárháza.
    Az okos gyereknek káptalan a feje. A jó iskola a hasznos ismeretek káptalanja.
    Eredet: [káptalan < latin: capitulum (fejezet) < caput (fej)]
    Megjegyzés: az elnevezés abból ered, hogy a káptalan gyűlésein a szentírás egy fejezetét olvasták fel.
    Kifejezések: Nem káptalan a feje – (nem tudhat mindent, nem tarthat mindent észben).
    http://wikiszotar.hu/wiki/magyar_ertelmezo_szotar/Káptalan

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  2. Káptalan does not mean chapter, according to the Magyar Ertelmezo” Szo’ta’r (Akademiai Konyvkiado, Budapest 1987) but it is a religious term meaning: “puspokseg, szekesegyhaz stb. mellett mukodo tanacsado papi testulet” or in English a consulting group of priests for a high religious office (such as bishopry).

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  3. Are we speaking about “lying” – which still has some ethical disapproval attached to it – or “newspeak”? If it is newspeak, we are, not surprisingly, on the way to thought control.

    But perhaps it’s only a lunatic asylum where strange speech and hallucinations are common occurrences. Recently I mentioned something about Orbán’s suspected bipolar disorder. Perhaps there is a connection.

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  4. Stalin has murdered Kirov, Trocky, Kamenyev and countless others to stay in power.
    The idiots in the Communits leadership danced to the tunes of the murderous Stalin.
    The lying and terrorizing Orban can do the same with Hungary, while calls himself the true Hungarian, the true Christian, and the true Conservative…
    How will this chapter end?
    How long will the political leaders, the nation, and the world tolerate the Orban terror?

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  5. I would also like to attempt an explanation to the “kaptalan.”
    In its first iteration it means not “chapter,” but chapter house. That is, the building, or institution where the bishopric’s offices, possibly a school, and most of all, it’s records are kept. Indeed a depository of a great deal of knowledge.
    Beyond this, however, following the reestablishment of the Habsburg House and government in Hungary, there were local tax, royalties and accounting offices established in every county as well, which were called the county accounts office that is to say the “kaptalan.” David Angyal, a nineteenth century historian of the economics and governance of the Habsburg monarchy writes extensively about these offices, their activities and calls them consistently “Kaptalan.”

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  6. I wanted to see the press release video on Friday. It was not available on MTV1 homepage. I i thoght that it was my fault that I could not reach it. Now it is not available from here either. Interesting….

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  7. O/T My wife is angry as she found out that the only program that she likes on MTV1 Maradj Talpan is cancelled. http://comment.blog.hu/2013/01/07/megszunik_a_maradj_talpon

    In the same article it is mentioned that also the DTK show was cancelled, as DTK resigned.
    http://index.hu/kultur/media/2013/01/05/felmondott_d._toth_kriszta/

    Apparently, the censorship at MTVA is very thorough.

    Furthermore, I wanted to know about the figures for the various TV Channels, but apparently the Hungarian Media watchdog do not keep or published the latest figures. And Nielsen does not cover everything, at least I could not find the cable channels.

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  8. I recommend G. Demszky’s recent auto-biography. Not a big thing, but readable and a rare type of book in Hungary. Apparently, one of Demszky’s realisation now is that Fidesz was doing anything to support Demszky’s leave as head of the national security commitee of the Parliament (as Demszky was elected the first mayor of Budapest) and to allow László Kövér to lead it. At that point he did not give it too much thought, even though Orbán was always sowing oppositions, conflicts, never compromised and was never helpful in anything. In other words, Orbán and Kövér already in 1990, from the very beginning, wanted to set up their secret services aided power system which they could use both for information (even now the old contacts can be utilized) and of course blackmail. I think, even in the current Constitutiiona Court, if you check people’ resumes, you may figure what they did, and how could they do it unless they were, as Martonyi, helping the system from III/whatever. But Pál Schmitt’ backgrond was also very shady, tghough he is out of power (the blogger of Véleményvezer actually twitted before Schmitt’s leave that he heard three rumours and if any one was true, Schmitt would have to leave).

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  9. gdfxx :

    Káptalan does not mean chapter, according to the Magyar Ertelmezo” Szo’ta’r (Akademiai Konyvkiado, Budapest 1987) but it is a religious term meaning: “puspokseg, szekesegyhaz stb. mellett mukodo tanacsado papi testulet” or in English a consulting group of priests for a high religious office (such as bishopry).

    That’s exactly what Chapter means. It designates an eclesiastical body.

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  10. I’ve just got back home after a two week visit to Hungary. Got a chance to talk to my old contacts. General impression is that the poverty and corruption is increasingly visible, on almost every street corner. No one said a single positive thing about Fidesz, either in the capital or the far flung reaches of Eastern Hungary. By the same token, people still recall the MSZP with a fairly general sense of disgust. So not a very happy situation.

    Talking about MTV, my contact there told me hair raising things. Apparently, upper management don’t even sign contracts. All the business deals are being done “out of sight”, and in her estimation, fifty percent of programme budgets for big shows (like the ones recently cancelled) are going straight to Simiscka, who “owns” MTVA. It is embezzlement of state money on an extraordinary scale.

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  11. Kingfisher :
    I’ve just got back home after a two week visit to Hungary. Got a chance to talk to my old contacts. General impression is that the poverty and corruption is increasingly visible, on almost every street corner. No one said a single positive thing about Fidesz, either in the capital or the far flung reaches of Eastern Hungary. By the same token, people still recall the MSZP with a fairly general sense of disgust. So not a very happy situation.
    Talking about MTV, my contact there told me hair raising things. Apparently, upper management don’t even sign contracts. All the business deals are being done “out of sight”, and in her estimation, fifty percent of programme budgets for big shows (like the ones recently cancelled) are going straight to Simiscka, who “owns” MTVA. It is embezzlement of state money on an extraordinary scale.

    Ask me if I’m surprised…

    By the way, don’t be misled by this Simiscka thing: it’s Orban who rules and calls the shots. Simischka, too, is a front, no matter how elaborate a one.

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  12. Real estate deals were created at “hiteles helyek” in the Middle Ages.
    The parties stated their oral agreement at these places, and a written document
    was issued later.

    A “káptalan” was mentioned as a “hiteles hely” already in 1458.

    The saying “nem káptalan a fejem” was first recorded in 1790, meaning my head is not a depository of old documents.

    Source: Etimologiai szotar, edited by Fabor Zaicz, 2006, p. 378

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  13. The best explanation I’ve found is from “szólások és közmondások” Szemerkényi Ágnes (2009, Osiris) p. 717.. Although it does refer to the advisory body to the bishopric, it indirectly refers to the library of archival material that was consulted in order to clarify various issues. Only those materials that were particularly helpful in throwing light on an ecclestistical issue were deamed worthy enough to be housed in such a library. As such the keeper of the library was able to give guidance on many issues. Such a librarian was particularly praised, if there were able to recite from memory the interpretation held in the capitulum documents.

    It reminds me of the medieval Latin quote: “Quod non est in actis, non est in mundo” (roughly, ‘if it is not in the ledger, it does not exist’). Their belief being that all of known human knowledge was held in such libraries, and as such a thing could not exist were there not a record of it.

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  14. There is a very nice site on the Internet: http://www.phrases.org.uk/

    One can sign up for their “Phrase of the Week” here. These weekly explanations of certain sayings are very entertaining. One finds out, for example, that the origins of almost all of the sayings have been explained in various ways over the the years.

    The one I like best in case of “káptalan” is the one that goes back to the monasteries of the early Middle Ages when the members of “capitulum” had to recite a chapter of the order every day, That certainly would have meant a lot of memorization.

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  15. Eva S. Balogh :
    Thank you for the title of Gábor Zaich’s dictionary. I didn’t know about it. I will look around whether it is still available or not. I’m terribly interested in such things.

    ISBN 963 7094 01 6, Publisher: Tinta kiado.

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  16. Gretchen :
    OT–I just tried to get Klubradio on my computer–nothing. The other stations were loud and clear. Does anybody know anything?

    Situation at 8:49 AM ET:
    Android: –
    Windows: –
    Radio FM: +

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  17. Gretchen :
    OT–I just tried to get Klubradio on my computer–nothing. The other stations were loud and clear. Does anybody know anything?

    Ahh, the genius of the twisted Hungarian mind! Chalk me up as a victim. I don’t know about online, but Klubradio has now been attacked in the most surreptitious manner: a new station–Danko Radio–has been placed on the dial a fraction past the Klub frequency. Since Danko plays operetta/slager, nostalgic favorites with no commercials, it’s hard to hit
    a romantic ‘memory’… and go back to finding the Klub station. I have succumbed: Georgy Bolgar will henceforth get fewer visits from me.

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  18. tappanch :
    Situation at 8:49 AM ET:
    Android: –
    Windows: –
    Radio FM: +

    With TuneIn on my iPhone it worked the whole morning (EST). I was listening to it in my car. I’m not sure what the url for the stream is, but TuneIn has a web site (tunein.com).

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  19. tappanch :

    Gretchen :
    OT–I just tried to get Klubradio on my computer–nothing. The other stations were loud and clear. Does anybody know anything?

    Situation at 8:49 AM ET:
    Android: –
    Windows: –
    Radio FM: +

    On Windows Media Player a message about the server may not be available appears. My Internet radio cannot connect either.

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  20. Eva S. Balogh :

    gdfxx :
    Káptalan does not mean chapter, according to the Magyar Ertelmezo” Szo’ta’r (Akademiai Konyvkiado, Budapest 1987) but it is a religious term meaning: “puspokseg, szekesegyhaz stb. mellett mukodo tanacsado papi testulet” or in English a consulting group of priests for a high religious office (such as bishopry).

    That’s exactly what Chapter means. It designates an eclesiastical body.

    I love this blog. Never heard of this meaning of the word, thanks. I guess it shows my lack of familiarity with religious orders…

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  21. Meanwhile on Planet Hungary …

    Rozsa Hoffman, undersecretary of education, continues her crusade against foreign languages. Now she came up with the genius plan to make Latin mandatory in the eight year high schools.

    Explanation: “teaching Latin will establish the pursuit of national and social cohesion and the common good”.

    I guess she figured out that the immigration to the ancient Rome by fresh graduates is pretty low.

    Futue te ipsum Rosa!

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  22. Two pieces of news worth noticing
    1. The local referendum in Gyömrő against renaming “Freedom” square to “Horthy” square has failed, since the turnout was below 50% (it was just 18%). What I do not understand, Fidesz just made a law banning street names of personalities that contributed to the establishment of 20th century dictatorships in Hungary. They want to rename Leo Frankel street (he died in the 19th century) to the (bad) King Sigismund street using this law.

    Horthy, on the other hand, was the creator of the right-wing dictatorship himself, but he seems to be kosher. That is double standard!

    2. The Sukoro trial started today. The judge refused to dismiss the venue of the case.
    The Chief of Judiciary, Orban’s personal friend, changed the venue to Szolnok, where the government can expect friendly outcome. The law permitting this was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, but the local judge [and the Orban gov’t in the background] dismissed their verdict, stating that they overturned the law by using formal argument and not substantial argument.

    This what I call tyranny.

    The whole trial is a show trial. They charge officials from the previous gov’t for making a disadvantageous real estate deal with American-Israeli investors. But the whole investment deal was never finalized, so there was no financial loss to Hungary caused by these officials to start with.

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  23. Klubrádió – loud and clear on my iPhone too, tested on four different apps/players, one better than the other, but still alive and kicking, nonetheless.

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  24. OT:

    Look what I just found in wiki:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horthy

    “Horthy married with Magdolna Purgly in Arad in 1901. The Purgly family (Originally: Wodianer family) was of Jewish origin. The Purgly family babtized and converted to Calvinism in the late 19th century.[4]”

    Someone put this in – with the same grammatical and spelling errors as before in the entry on the wife …

    Ain’t life strange ?

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  25. “Fidesz politicians, however, are behind the times and keep repeating lies. Lies about the world, about the Hungarian economic situation, about their own earlier statements, and about Hungary’s future prospects. Despite the repeated unveiling of their lies, the lying goes on. I guess they believe that repeated lies stick. Hungarian society is so polarized that the majority of Fidesz voters would never think of reading newspapers or visiting Internet sites that are critical of the government. Repeated lies, as another Hungarian saying asserts, eventually become truth (at least for the party faithful).

    The bad news is, that repeated lies do stick!
    Proof positive, that the almighty leader of the faithful masses called Viktor Orbán.
    Of course, another necessary ingredient, the mindless blind faith comes handy too, and there is no shortage in that feature either – after all, we are talking about Hungarians, aren’t we..?

    The only hope over there lays once again by the youth – apparently they are determined not to give in to the orbanist BS., – thumbs up and best wishes!

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  26. tappanch :

    Horthy, on the other hand, was the creator of the right-wing dictatorship himself, but he seems to be kosher. That is double standard!

    Sorry, but in what way was he a dictator? As I understand, there were elections during that time, and Horthy was pretty much a fairly powerless figurehead, like the president is today.

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  27. Mutt :
    Meanwhile on Planet Hungary …
    Rozsa Hoffman, undersecretary of education, continues her crusade against foreign languages. Now she came up with the genius plan to make Latin mandatory in the eight year high schools.
    Explanation: “teaching Latin will establish the pursuit of national and social cohesion and the common good”.
    I guess she figured out that the immigration to the ancient Rome by fresh graduates is pretty low.
    Futue te ipsum Rosa!

    I wouldn’t be too quick to discount Latin. Of all my high school subjects, the two that had lasting usefulness were, typing and Latin.

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  28. petofi :
    I wouldn’t be too quick to discount Latin. Of all my high school subjects, the two that had lasting usefulness were, typing and Latin.

    They WERE useful in the past, no doubt. But today English and computer knowledge beat them.

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    1. @ Mutt. If you aren’t kidding, I’d have to say that this is the most minimalist educational philosophy I ever heard of. Computer knowledge, typing, driving license are not subjects but auxiliary skills you obtain on the way. My kids and I had Latin, Greek, English, French apart from our mother tongue, In addition, higher maths, physics, chemistry, biology, a lot of literature and history – just the normal curriculum of a school that you finish with a certificate that makes you fit for enrolling at a university. None of us would want to have missed any of those subjects.

      Seven years ago I moved into a region where they only speak Italian. So I learned that, too (after I had turned 60). It’s fun, believe me!

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  29. Mutt :

    petofi :
    I wouldn’t be too quick to discount Latin. Of all my high school subjects, the two that had lasting usefulness were, typing and Latin.

    They WERE useful in the past, no doubt. But today English and computer knowledge beat them.

    For computers..you need typing skills; for English you need knowledge of Latin.

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  30. wolfi :
    OT:
    Look what I just found in wiki:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horthy
    “Horthy married with Magdolna Purgly in Arad in 1901. The Purgly family (Originally: Wodianer family) was of Jewish origin. The Purgly family babtized and converted to Calvinism in the late 19th century.[4]”
    Someone put this in – with the same grammatical and spelling errors as before in the entry on the wife …
    Ain’t life strange ?

    This was just a lie the Arrow Cross spread about Horthy’s wife in 1944 to put pressure on him. Their slogan was “Rebecca, out of your palace”.

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  31. I attempted to add the facts about the post-2010 situation to the wiki article “History of Hungary” several times a year ago, but 2-3 vigilant guards erased my contributions very quickly, so I gave up this futile effort.

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  32. Minusio :
    @ Mutt. If you aren’t kidding, I’d have to say that this is the most minimalist educational philosophy I ever heard of

    Oh, no … I’m always serious.

    Well I didn’t want to go this deep. I’m just saying that for the average Joe, Latin is useless as tits on the boar hog. So making it mandatory (and this is what I’m objecting to) is a bad idea. If we can teach them one living language somehow that would be great.

    For me Math and Phys Ed had most lasting effect in high school.

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    1. @ Mutt. Although I was leaning towards languages, I loved maths (and was good at it). In the penultimate school I attended we had Phys Ed every day – and I loved it (even won a regional championship in long jump and sprint when I was 15 :-) ).

      But this whole discussion went off on a tangent… which is fun in a way, too.

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  33. wolfi :
    OT:
    Look what I just found in wiki:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horthy
    “Horthy married with Magdolna Purgly in Arad in 1901. The Purgly family (Originally: Wodianer family) was of Jewish origin. The Purgly family babtized and converted to Calvinism in the late 19th century.[4]”
    Someone put this in – with the same grammatical and spelling errors as before in the entry on the wife …
    Ain’t life strange ?

    Nope, I’ve since deleted that canard — but expect it to be reinstated periodically by “Check Mate” and his fellow purglers under various creative noms de brume…

    (I’ve left in the “married with,” though, as a kind of sentimental gesture…)

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  34. Mutt: “Well I didn’t want to go this deep. I’m just saying that for the average Joe, Latin is useless as tits on the boar hog. So making it mandatory (and this is what I’m objecting to) is a bad idea. If we can teach them one living language somehow that would be great.”

    Totally agree. I learned latin in high school for 4 years. It was fun I liked it a lot, learned a lot of Roman history which I always loved, it really is a logical language that’s fun to play with. But was it useful? Hardly. I only remember a few proverbs and saying in Latin which is a cool party trick, but I’m pretty sure speaking e.g. Spanish or French on a communication level (which is can be easily achieved in 3×45 mins a week for four years) would be an even better one.

    I think all this is just a childish rebellion against the Anglo-saxon cultural expansion, that is perceived by many (wrongly I think) as a globalization related threat against national identity.

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  35. AP published a rather meaningless article about the Bayer affair that appeared in the Washington Post

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/outrage-in-hungary-over-anti-roma-article-by-journalist-member-of-governing-fidesz-party/2013/01/08/4f16e162-59b4-11e2-b8b2-0d18a64c8dfa_story.html

    “kgyd, a physicist from Hungary” wrote this comment:

    “The title falsely suggests that Mr. Bayer, the writer of the criticized column, is closely associated with the Hungarian government, therefore his statements reflect the opinion of the government. This is the sole interest and the only justification of WP’s story. A racist column in a Hungarian daily close to the extreme right “Jobbik” party (circulation about 10000) has little interest for the reader in the US. A racist government in Europe is outrageous and threatening. Even though 25 years ago Mr. Bayer was founding member of Fidesz, the governing centre-right party, he left Fidesz in the early 1990’s and has no ties with the government. Therefore this is a false and fabricated story.

    The WP’s journalist could only dig out one sign of present tie between Mr. Bayer and the government: Mr. Bayer was one of the “organizers” (whatever it means) of a recent pro-government demonstration. The agenda of that demonstration was not internal politics but Brussels’ interference with Hungarian internal politics, mostly on details of how the government should restore macroeconomic stability. The demonstrators felt that Brussels’ requirements of specific measures such as lowering pensions is interference with Hungary’s sovereignty. The relation of Brussels’ central power and the sovereignty of the member states is a central issue of the extreme right. No wonder Mr. Bayer called his readers to participate in this demonstration. However, by no means this justifies a claim of strong ties between Mr. Bayer and the government.”

    Amazing how some people can distort facts. Magyar Hirlap, for example, became a paper of Jobbik and Bayer’s only recent connection with Orbán Viktor is the organization of the Peace March which, according to kgyd, had no domestic importance. It was about two weeks ago that Orbán specifically thanked the organizers because without the Peace March he wouldn’t be the prime minister of the country today.

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