Vicious attacks on critics of the Orbán government: George Kopits and Kim Scheppele

I’m in trouble again. I don’t know where to start because in the last three days an incredible amount of news emerged from the turbulence of Hungarian political life.

But perhaps I should first say a few words about topics we’ve already covered but thanks to the Hungarian penchant for not letting sleeping dogs lie remain in the news. This compulsion on the part of the Hungarian government to answer every criticism usually works against them.  To take but a single instance of how counterproductive these constant counterattacks can be, consider the case of the German children’s show on the Kinder Kanal (KiKa) about the Orbán government’s attitude toward democratic rights. There is no need to describe the details of the case, but the Orbán government took this “affront” so seriously that Viktor Orbán himself felt it necessary to tell the Germans off about “brainwashing” German children. The result? Another cartoon, this time showing Viktor Orbán dressed up as a clown stomping his feet and threatening his critics. Did Hungary need this? Certainly not. And did HírTV, a pro-government television station, have to respond with a primitive cartoon of its own about Angela Merkel who can do anything because Germany has a lot of money? Again, certainly not. In fact, it would have been best to have said nothing.

Well, something similar is going on at the moment but on a much more serious level. The Hungarian government has taken offense at criticisms from sources a bit higher up than a kiddie show in Germany.

In the first instance, the Hungarian National Bank’s new deputy governor decided to write a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal in connection with an opinion piece published in the newspaper by George (György) Kopits, former chairman of Hungary’s Fiscal Council between 2009 and 2011. I wrote about this hard-hitting letter in which Kopits called Viktor Orbán’s newly constructed regime “a constitutional mob rule.”

Newspapers normally give a government or important state institution the opportunity to answer any article it finds objectionable. So The Wall Street Journal had to publish at least part of Ádám Balog’s letter to the editor. Balog, a thirty-two-year-old with no banking experience, gained the favor of his boss in the Ministry of the Economy from where he followed György Matolcsy straight to the Hungarian National Bank. Now, it seems, he’s the bank’s “hit man.”

A very short letter appeared only in the European edition of the paper although Kopits’s piece appeared in the American edition as well. Let me quote the text that The Wall Street Journal decided to publish:

In his recent op-ed, George Kopits urges action against Hungary by international financial markets and the European Union (“Constitutional Mob Rule in Hungary,” March 28). Mr. Kopits criticizes the operations of Hungary’s central bank in particular.

The operation of the National Bank of Hungary is lawful and transparent, contrary to Mr. Kopits’s claims. Under the leadership of new governor Gyorgy Matolcsy, the central bank has replaced an essentially one-person management system with a system based on a broader foundation. During this transition, the turnover in the central bank’s staff, including managers and subordinates, was less than 4%. That means that essentially the same people work at the Hungarian central bank as before.

The real threat to the authority and professionalism of the central bank lies not in such changes to management, but rather in criticisms, like Mr. Kopits’s, that are not supported by facts.

Adam BalogDeputy Governor / National Bank of Hungary

That was published on April 2. Obviously, the leadership of the Hungarian National Bank was dissatisfied with the excised version of Balog’s letter to the editor. They decided to make public the original, which was full of ad hominem attacks against Mr. Kopits.

Here is the original version:

Gyorgy Kopits’s outlash harmful for the interests of Hungary

A discredited person criticizes the Hungarian central bank in the international press

Gyorgy Kopits, a former member of the National Bank of Hungary’s Monetary Policy Council has urged action from international financial markets and the European Union against Hungary. Mr. Kopits heavily criticized Hungary, and the operations of the central bank in particular, in the editorial section of the Wall Street Journal on March 27.

American readers may not be familiar with Mr. Kopits’s career in Budapest. He was a member of the Monetary Policy Council of the National Bank of Hungary between 2004 and 2009. He received the request to fill that post from Zsigmond Jarai, who was finance minister in the first government of the current Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who Mr. Kopits furiously criticized in his article, and then was appointed by the same government to the post of central bank governor.

Mr. Kopits held his position in the Monetary Policy Council, the top decision-making body of the central bank, in a period when lending in foreign currencies was on the rise. Foreign currency loans continue to place a major burden on tens of thousands of Hungarian families and firms to the very day. The National Bank of Hungary is among those that are now making efforts to mitigate the damages, to lower the impact.

Gyorgy Kopits’s criticism of the central bank—while it harms the prestige of the independent central bank—also lacks credibility. As the president of the Fiscal Council, Mr. Kopits approved Hungary’s 2010 budget, in which revenues were significantly over- and expenditures underestimated. Without immediate measures, the budget deficit of the 2010 budget would have been above 7% of gross domestic product as against the originally planned 3.8% of GDP viewed as attainable by Mr. Kopits.

The operations of the National Bank of Hungary are lawful and transparent. The new central bank’s management under the leadership of [new central bank governor] Gyorgy Matolcsy replaced the essentially one-person management system with a system based on a broader foundation in March. Turnover in the central bank’s staff, including managers and subordinates, was less than 4%. That means that essentially the same people work at the Hungarian central bank as before. Not the changes in central bank positions but rather the malicious writings similar to that of Mr. Kopits, which are not supported by facts but are unfounded, are posing a threat to the authority and the professionalism of the central bank.

Ádám Balog, Deputy Governor, Magyar Nemzeti Bank.

Vicious dog / beardenb / flickr

Vicious dog / beardenb / flickr

You will, I’m sure, notice that the English of the original version leaves a lot to be desired. And, instead of answering Kopits’s criticism, Balog hurls personal attacks on him. He is “a discredited person.”  He is ungrateful because he received his post on the Monetary Council of the Hungarian National Bank thanks to Viktor Orbán whom he now “furiously” criticizes. During his tenure on the Monetary Council wrong decisions were made concerning “lending in foreign currencies,” so he is responsible for the current financial problems of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian families and businesses. Kopits not only “harms the prestige of the independent central bank” but “also lacks credibility” because he was “president of the Fiscal Council” that approved the 2010 budget despite the fact that in that budget “revenues were significantly over- and expenditures underestimated.”

Similar personal attacks were launched against Professor Kim Lane Scheppele the other day by Gergely Gulyás, the great Hungarian “expert” on constitutional law. I am almost certain that the letter was not written by Gulyás. The language of the text and its reasoning points to someone who received his legal training in the United States. Moreover, the author of the letter is thoroughly familiar with laws of individual U.S. states which, with due respect to Gergely Gulyás’s wide ranging knowledge of the law, is probably outside the purview of someone who received his law degree at the Catholic Péter Pázmány University in Budapest.

The ad hominem attacks on Professor Scheppele are similar in tone to those Ádám Balog leveled against Kopits, but they are considerably more sophisticated. The document is worth reading in its entirety, but here are a few choice tidbits: “unfounded allegations,” “factual mistakes,” “academic freedom … does not equal freedom from facts,” “egregious mistakes ,” just to mention a few descriptions in the first couple of paragraphs of a fairly long letter. The author of the letter even accuses Professor Scheppele of misleading Paul Krugman who allowed her to use his blog in The New York Times, because if he knew about all the misinformation in her writing Krugman “would surely object to … using him in such ways.” Body blow after body blow.

I can only surmise that the Orbán government came to the conclusion that they crossed the line with the latest amendments to the constitution, which may have grave consequences for Hungary. Therefore, serious critics like Kopits and Scheppele must be discredited. I expect these attacks on critics of the Orbán government to continue unabated.

My suspicion that the Fidesz political elite fears serious countermeasures from the European Union was only reinforced when I heard Viktor Orbán’s Friday morning interview on Magyar Rádió. According to him, Hungary’s economic performance doesn’t warrant the continuation of the excessive deficit procedure, but he expects no fairness in Brussels toward Hungary. The country must be prepared for the possibility that the European Union will not be satisfied with the current figures and the government’s predictions for 2013. Hungary will be punished unfairly.

Critics must be discredited one way or another.  Just as the Austrian paper, Der Standard, said the other day: “Fidesz politicians are bloodthirsty, unscrupulous, and vindictive.”

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Member

“The Wall Street Journal had to publish at least part of Ádám Balog’s letter to the editor. Balog, a thirty-two-year-old with no banking experience, gained the favor of his boss in the Ministry of the Economy from where he followed György Matolcsy straight to the Hungarian National Bank. ”
No experience? Fits right into Fidesz.

Member

Our boy, Gulyas, the pretty face next to Ader during the hearing, wrote the following in the Hungarian letter to Professor Scheppele:

“Your continued efforts to paint Hungary as a tyrannical Frankeinstein leads me to believe that your academic assessments are colored by personal preferences”

http://bit.ly/Y6ZEV1

Here is the full letter in English:

http://static.fidesz.hu/download/201304/Gergely_Gulyas_open_letter_1623.pdf

Why did take so long? The PR guys in England didn’t get the check??

b b b
Guest

Who cares?
Nobody in Hungary will read the Balog or Gulyas letters.
It is only important to Orban, who thinks that he has a battle to fight with the West.
A total of 2 West European Orban allies will use these letters to side with the disgraced Orban.
I am continuing to call on all Hungarians to go on the barricades and dismiss the tyrants of this regime including the vonas, morvays…

petofi
Guest

Walter B. Mann of blessed memory told us, his grade 10 English class, that the assassination of John F. Kennedy signalled the revenge of the low-brow and unintelligent. Well, Mr. Mann, with your advance warning one is now able to recognize the aggressive attack of the mediocre, uncomprehending, simple-minded Hungarians taking on learned opponents far and wide armed only in their belief of the superiority of their abysmal simple-mindedness. Their idiocy is buttressed by their total moral decrepitude.

...
Guest

Darling Petofi, you are brave. Hungary needs such man. I love you. …

petofi
Guest

:
Darling Petofi, you are brave. Hungary needs such man. I love you. …

I am probably foolish (that’s my Hungarian side), but I am angry
(that’s my mother’s Serbian side); and the love of law, decency, and my overflowing,righteous indignation is from my jewish heritage.

oneill
Guest

“Critics must be discredited one way or another.”

Well, that’s what *they* think because that it’s how it operates in the policy-free world of Hungarian politics. The kind of responses covered above are instinctive, knee-jerk but not very clever in the modern world of normal democratic -politics as practised outside Orbanistan.

Two facts; very few people in Hungary are aware how the regime is perceived in democratic circles elsewhere. By writing a response and publicising it in the poodle media in Hungary, it alerts the factto those still unaware that Orban and his cronies are being criticised elsewhere.

Secondly, the kind of schoolyard personal insults which might work in the likes of Magyar Hirlap do not achieve anything with those who, presumably, the regime is trying to influence abroad. It just makes them look the thick, ignorant bullying boors that they are. I

Max
Guest

Mutt :
Our boy, Gulyas, the pretty face next to Ader during the hearing, wrote the following in the Hungarian letter to Professor Scheppele:
“Your continued efforts to paint Hungary as a tyrannical Frankeinstein leads me to believe that your academic assessments are colored by personal preferences”
http://bit.ly/Y6ZEV1
Here is the full letter in English:
http://static.fidesz.hu/download/201304/Gergely_Gulyas_open_letter_1623.pdf
Why did take so long? The PR guys in England didn’t get the check??

Mutt: You surely mean Szájer, not Áder..

petofi
Guest

Mutt :
Our boy, Gulyas, the pretty face next to Ader during the hearing, wrote the following in the Hungarian letter to Professor Scheppele:
“Your continued efforts to paint Hungary as a tyrannical Frankeinstein leads me to believe that your academic assessments are colored by personal preferences”
http://bit.ly/Y6ZEV1
Here is the full letter in English:
http://static.fidesz.hu/download/201304/Gergely_Gulyas_open_letter_1623.pdf
Why did take so long? The PR guys in England didn’t get the check??

Thanks for the link, Mutt.
I only glanced through it, but even then, the horse manure was all over my hands.
How about the nerve of the guy trying to slip this gem by:

“As a legal scholar, you surely know the difference between a “one party government” and a government lead by two parties, which is Hungary’s case. Fidesz and KDNP…”

Yeah, really. As if KDNP was a significant partner! Gimme a break. But in typical Orban-fashion, he tries to get a half-truth by us. Scheppele, of course, knows better but many readers will not, and the Fidesz tactic is always to influence the unknowing.

I doubt Scheppele will answer this nonsense.

Member

Today, Fidesz parliament plans to ban again political advertisement in commercial radio and television. This goes directly against the recent ruling of the Constitutional Court.

Major parties will get equal, but very limited time in the Fidesz-controlled “public” media. On the other hand, government announcements will not count as Fidesz party propaganda.

We will also see whether they count Fidesz and KDNP as two parties to provide double time for Fidesz.

petofi
Guest

Hey! I got it!!
Question: “Do you know why Hungarians tell half-truths?”

….Because that’s all they can afford !!! (For now and the foreseeable future.)

Member

The last non-Fidesz appointee member of the monetary council of the National Bank, Julia Kiraly, resigned today.

http://nol.hu/media/file/attach/71/14/00/000001471-8496.pdf
http://nol.hu/media/file/attach/73/14/00/000001473-3814.pdf

She writes that the new leadership of the bank lacks professional experience, endangers the prestige of the bank, and made decisions in the last month causing grave damage to the Hungarian economy in the long run.

Member

tappanch :
Today, Fidesz parliament plans to ban again political advertisement in commercial radio and television. This goes directly against the recent ruling of the Constitutional Court.
Major parties will get equal, but very limited time in the Fidesz-controlled “public” media. On the other hand, government announcements will not count as Fidesz party propaganda.
We will also see whether they count Fidesz and KDNP as two parties to provide double time for Fidesz.

For sure all the Fidesz lowered prices on this and that will be heard 24/7. There is not a thing that Fidesz will not overrule that does not fit their agenda.
tappanch, I hope your friends are ready and not tired yet to go out to the streets and let the world know that there is an opposition. You guys are the only hope. You are the ones who do not only speak and fire up eavj other, but in fact show your dissatisfaction. It is so very important!

Member

each other, not evj other

Vilmos
Guest

tappanch :
Today, Fidesz parliament plans to ban again political advertisement in commercial radio and television. This goes directly against the recent ruling of the Constitutional Court.
Major parties will get equal, but very limited time in the Fidesz-controlled “public” media. On the other hand, government announcements will not count as Fidesz party propaganda.
We will also see whether they count Fidesz and KDNP as two parties to provide double time for Fidesz.

And speaking of government announcements, over the past week I’ve noticed that government “information” posters are now plastered all over trumpeting the “successes” of the current government. Perhaps it cheers up the gangs of unemployed who are put to work street-cleaning to learn that things are going so well!

***
Guest

Our weakness is, we can’t help.
We also can not stop loving Hungary.
Most of its people are decent.
Deak loved the law.
Deak made an impact on the Hungarian conscience.
Half truths lead to lies.
The Hungarians are taking the half truths, because they are packaged in sweet patriotic colors.
It seems that the Kadar era ended too soon.
The economical stabilization was not finished.
The rest is history.
Orban will commit big crimes.
Whether he and his handlers will end up jail?
Grey areas.

Member

Here is an interview with the last of the “greats” in Hungary:

http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=635978

@Some1
I am just a single, sometimes shouting observer at the demos.

The only time I felt that a demonstration came close to the strength of a revolution
was at the Opera House on January 2, 2012.

But as Tamas Ungvary remarked in his “Ubu Roi” article above, the time of a revolution cannot be predicted.

Cakewalk
Guest

tappanch, Ungáry Tamás is “one of the greats”????? Great at what? Being III/III? Earning the nickname “the bubonic plagiarist”? This is the man who ruthlessly exploited his Party contacts for his own financial gain for years and years (check out the 10% royalty he earns for his “translation” of “My Fair Lady” compared to the pittance the non-Party Zsuti got for doing all the lyrics, i.e. the vast majority it!) a man who thought nothing of translating Sunday Times articles and presenting them as his own (when no one else had access to catch him out…)

Yes, an entertainer, a great speaker of English, very learned but a “great” man??? Give us a break. He was a Kádár era operator of a rather sinister and all too familiar kind.

Member

@Cakewalk
I have not found a single reference in my quick search for any connection between Tamas Ungvary and iii/iii. It is not NICE to write down libelous statements…

I am open to any link!

Lecso
Guest

Absolutely terrible result in Monor, MSzP-DK received 15% of the vote, Jobbik got 29%, and Fidesz got 56%.

Juj
Guest

HVG had a good article about MSZP’s current situation.

They are bleeding from dozens of (partly self-inflicted) wounds. The big nihil, that’s what they have.

Meanwhile Bajnai talks like a boring Socialist (technocrat) from the 1970’s. People hate (but even if they don’t hate them they cannot like) self-proclaimed professionals like Mario Monti. They want leaders and want to dream and want to deal with the politicians like if he/she was a reality show actor. Noone cares about Bajnai much less about Mesterházy.

I wonder if they end up like the Polish left?

Member

@Lecso

In the same district of Monor in the Fall of 2010:
Fidesz 47.3%
Jobbik 18.0%
MSzP 10.2%

So Monor has never been a left-wing bastion.

Quiz: who was the representative from Monor during WW2?

Johnny Boy
Guest

“Fidesz politicians are bloodthirsty, unscrupulous, and vindictive.”

Isn’t this an ad hominem type attack? Isn’t “Der Standard” a Vicious Dog?

Ron
Guest

tappanch :
Quiz: who was the representative from Monor during WW2?

Tamás Matolcsy

petofi
Guest

“The Past is a guide to the Future”, so said someone once.

My summer reading has just arrived and I’ve already dipped into the eye-popping account of one Filip Muller,
who wrote, “Eyewitness Auschwitz–Three Years in the Gas Chambers”.

Mr. Muller was a Slovak from Sered, and no doubt cognizant of that great art collector and war criminal,
Mr. Csatary–poster boy of Fidesz and the Interior Ministry. While Mr. Csatary basks in the pleasures of the Buda hills, Mr Sered has the entertaining prospect of nightly nightmares of Auschwitz.

Sic transit Hungaricum.

If Mss Morvai or Mr. Vonai wish, I can send their disbelieving eyes this memoir , free of charge.

bbabba
Guest

It is true that Monor is strongly right wing.

But that is the trick.

See, in order for the opposition to win they have to win in places where no non-right politician has ever won. Such is the advantage of Fidesz based on the elections laws.

But how do wou win in District XII or Hodmezóvásárhely or Sopron?

That is more than a tall order. It’s like the chances for Democrats in Texas or Repubicans in California.

Member

Johnny Boy :
“Fidesz politicians are bloodthirsty, unscrupulous, and vindictive.”
Isn’t this an ad hominem type attack? Isn’t “Der Standard” a Vicious Dog?

Yay!! Johnny’s back! We’ve been missing you so much!!

To answer your question, no, it’s a fact.

Guest

London via Gyor (still!) Calling!

Hello Johhny Boy!

Not Ad hominem

…………..Ad rem.

Regards

Charlie

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