Zsófia Mihancsik: “Zero tolerance”–then let’s begin!

This is not the first time that I’ve provided a loose translation of Zsófia Mihancsik’s writing for English-speaking readers because I consider her to be one of the top analysts of Hungarian politics today. She is the editor-in-chief of Galamus, an excellent Internet forum. Galamus, besides offering outstanding op/ed pieces, also publishes Júlia Horváth’s translations of foreign articles in German, English and Russian while Mihancsik does the translations from French about the political situation in Hungary. For example, Professor Kim Scheppele’s articles on the constitution appeared in Hungarian on Galamus immediately after their publications. These translations fill the gap left wide open by MTI, the Hungarian press agency. Galamus also has volunteers from Sweden and Spain who offer their services to the “translation department.”

Mihancsik, in addition to the arduous task of running pretty much a one-woman show, often finds time to contribute articles of her own. The one that appeared today examines the Orbán government’s duplicity on the issue of anti-Semitism. It reveals to the foreign reader the kind of Hungarian reality that is normally closed to outsiders. Even those Hungarian speakers who pay attention to politics and the media may miss a sentence here and a sentence there that speak volumes about the real nature of Viktor Orbán’s Hungary.

* * *

On May 5 Prime Minister Viktor Orbán delivered his opening speech in front of the 14th General Assembly of the World Jewish Congress and stated that “today’s Hungarian Christian Democrat government felt that it was its moral duty … to declare a policy of zero tolerance against anti-Semitism.” On May 9 Péter Feldmájer, the president of MAZSIHISZ, said in an interview that Viktor Orbán’s “speech is satisfactory as a reference point but only time will tell what kinds of decisions will be made as a result.”

Between these two dates, on May 8, the new issue of the Demokrata, a weekly magazine, appeared and in it, on page 42, an op/ed piece by Ádám Pozsonyi entitled “Bacon” that included the following sentences:

I read in Magyar Hírlap that  a miserable fellow called András Gerő–I don’t know his original name–reviled the House of Árpád in some kind of libsi gutter-paper…. Should I get myself wound up about this miserable man who couldn’t adapt and wipes his shoes on the past of the people who gave him shelter? … It just occurred to me, breakfast, Mr. Gerő, don’t you want a little bacon? Please have some. I’ll give you some gladly. [Italics by Zs.M.]

This is what is called anti-Semitic talk. Even if the word “Jewish” is not used. After all, the Hungarian right and far right has a lot of practice in the genre. If Viktor Orbán has no ear for the coded anti-Semitic speech I will translate this passage for him. I don’t know his original name means that we know that this Jew had the temerity to Hungarianize his name. So, Pozsonyi makes sure that everybody understands that Béla Kun’s original name was Kohn, and Mátyás Rákosi’s Rosenfeld. So, they were Jewish.

The word libsi rhymes with bipsi, which means Jewish among the racists. It is the nickname for liberals, primarily used by those who consider everything that is not national and Christian–everything that is liberal/libsi, cosmopolitan, European, etc.–Jewish pollution. (The “libsi” gutter paper, by the way, is the prestigious weekly, Élet és Irodalom.)

This miserable man who couldn’t adapt and wipes his shoes on the past of the people who gave him shelter is a Nazi idea expressed by many. It is a variation of the “Galician vagrants” (galiciai jöttmentek) that was often heard in the last ten years. So, the Jews immigrate from God knows where while the Hungarians give them shelter but the the Jews, because of their character, turn against the accepting Hungarians. (Exactly the same way the left turns against the nation, which is another favorite Orbánite turn of phrase.) The Jews desecrate everything that is holy for the nation, mostly because of their always doubting minds.

Bacon naturally means pork, which an observant Jew cannot have. For the author of Demokrata it is totally irrelevant whether the person in question is Jewish or not, or if he is religious or not. The mention of bacon here is about the humiliation of someone outside of the nation who cannot eat the national food of Hungarians. He was an outsider and he remains an outsider.

So, I think that in the name of “zero tolerance” Orbán must have a little chit-chat with Demokrata‘s author.

Before anyone tells me that it is unfair to expect a reprimand of an anti-Semitic author by the prime minister, let me explain why I think that Viktor Orbán should rise to the occasion and do something. Why? Because we are not talking about an independent publication but a branch publication,  a party paper, a mouth-piece, a hired organ. We are talking about a paper that has a political boss in whose interest it functions and on whom it depends.

Here are three reasons that I believe Viktor Orbán is responsible for what appears in Demokrata. After the lost election in 2002 he did two things. He organized the civil cells and he urged his followers to support media close to Fidesz. He said at the time: “I ask every member [of these cells] to subscribe to Magyar Nemzet, Demokrata, and Heti Válasz. Those of you who are better off should subscribe in the name of a less wealthy friend or acquaintance.” And he gave a website where the supporters could fill out the order forms for the above publications.

From left to right: Gábor Széles, András Bencsik, and Zsolt Bayer / fnhir24.hu

From left to right: Gábor Széles, András Bencsik, and Zsolt Bayer / fnhir24.hu

In an article that appeared in Magyar Narancs (April 20, 2012) we could read that Fidesz-led municipalities gave 26 million forints in the previous five years to Demokrata.  Another article that also appeared in Magyar Narancs (April 23, 2012) concentrated on the incredible amount of state-ordered advertisements these right-wing papers receive. Given the centralized nature of Fidesz and Viktor Orbán’s individual leadership style, one can assume that the largess these papers receive depends on “performance.” If they “behave” the money comes; if not, the money supply dries up.

Another reason to assume that the relationship between Demokrata and Fidesz is close is the fact that the paper’s editor-in-chief, András Bencsik, is one of the chief organizers of the “Peace Marches” that were supposed to show the world the incredible support Viktor Orbán has. But in addition to Bencsik, one could find among the organizers Ádám Pozsonyi, the author of the article on “Bacon”; István Stefka, editor-in-chief of Magyar Hírlap; Zsolt Bayer, senior editor of Magyar Hírlap; and Gábor Széles, Magyar Hírlap‘s owner

So, given the cozy relationship between Viktor Orbán and the extremist journalists serving him, it would be the easiest thing for Orbán if he were really serious about this new-fangled “zero tolerance” to say: “Boys, if once more you make anti-Semitic propaganda in your paper or on your television station there will be no more financial assistance. Moreover, you will not receive 3.2 billion forints for organizing peace marches. You will not receive any ads from state companies, and the municipalities will be told to stop payment. In a word, you will starve to death.”*

Moreover, I go further. That message shouldn’t just be whispered into the ears of the journalists at these newspapers but should be announced loud and clear to the Hungarian public.Everybody should understand what will happen to him if  he goes against “our Hungarian Christian Democratic politics.”

When that actually happens Ronald S. Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, can make an apology with good reason. If not, then only the shame remains–for us.

*Demokrata sold only 12,000 copies in November 2011.

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Minusio
Guest
Minusio
May 10, 2013 6:34 pm

“After the lost election in 2002 he did two things. He organized the civil cells…”

Éva you may have wanted to point out as well that these “civic cells” (or circles) were what was to become Jobbik. So basically Orbán is a co-founder of Jobbik.

Minusio
Guest
Minusio
May 10, 2013 6:44 pm

Corrigendum: Zsófia Mihancsik should have pointed out…

Minusio
Guest
Minusio
May 10, 2013 6:46 pm

@ Éva. Yes, very good. Thank you.

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
May 10, 2013 6:52 pm

Telling quotes from Pozsonyi’s blog:

“Old, happy times

Order. Discipline. Laws. Rigid and firm frameworks for society that cannot be breached by every idiot. Walls that cannot be broken by the plebs [the poor]…”

below:

“Fortunately, I reject Darwinism, I believe in the inequality of people – the other, the alien causes prejudice and aversion in me”

http://pozsonyiadam.blogspot.hu/

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
May 10, 2013 7:32 pm

The more I read his blog the more I think Pozsonyi ridicules his “reactionary” audience from which he earns his living.

http://pozsonyiadam.blogspot.hu/2011/05/pozsonyi-adam-konyvheten.html

Törpilla
Guest
Törpilla
May 11, 2013 5:11 am
Zsofia MIhancsik is a talented journalist and translator but it seems she does not have the slightest affinity to politcs. This is exactly why liberals are doomed in Hungary. She can serve as a case study. Orbán did not start to organise civic circles: he started to organise a political community on a grass roots basis. He was told to do so by Republican advisors who – prior to Obama – built out the most formidable GOTV organisation ever, with a detaild data base, legions of activists and most importantly a loyal and disciplined party base (including financial donors). Until the left can be similar (like Obama’s organisation was) it is doomed, especially becuase the election system in Hungary is such now that a national network of party is needed. You can not win from the liberal and open minden Budapest, you need a well-organised rural support base (talent pool from which to select candidates, information on your supporters etc.). Orbán and Jobbik did what any sane party organiser would naturally do. Meanswhile the left was content and thought that Budapest will always compansate for the rural disadvantage. Bad luck. It will never compansate for it. Now we have a… Read more »
latefor
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latefor
May 11, 2013 5:36 am

Dearest Eva, for old times sake, may I promote my book?
Title: Arty, Crafty, Nasty – by Melanie Zuben -available on Amazon.com/Kindle
Thank you!

oneill
Guest
oneill
May 11, 2013 5:44 am
Most of us on here agree that this regime is incredibly damaging for Hungary. Most of us agree Orban is a borderline psychotic and more importantly a dictator in the making. Yet, yet… In a free and legal election tomorrow he would win easily, albeit with not the majority he garnered last time. He controls completely not only his mafia/movement (“party” is no longer an adequate term to describe Fidesz) but also now the nation. He controls the parliament, the president, the legal process and, most importantly, the flow of information by which the vast majority of the population *learn* about the news. Complaining that Orban isn’t strong enough on anti-semitism or anti-Roma racism misses the point. He couldn’t give a stuff about Jews or Roma being attacked because he knows his target electorate well. He also knows the Hungarian mass media will tell Hungarians exactly what he wants them to hear on the subject. So, the problem faced by Ms Mihancsik is not proving that he is apathetic on or even an apologist for racism, anti-semitism, homophobia etc etc. He quite clearly is. The much more difficult job is first of all getting that message to the vast majority… Read more »
latefor
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latefor
May 11, 2013 6:10 am

Ok…OK…it should be read for old times’ sake…Arty, Crafy, Nasty (Amazon.com/Kindle)
Thanks.

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
May 11, 2013 6:16 am

The result of the government mandated 10% utility price CUTS in my own bills.
The average of the same last months, 2013 vs 2012.
There was no change in usage patterns, the same # of people live here.

Electricity= 4.33% INCREASE.

District heating+hot water= 9.52% increase

Cold water+sewage+garbage+cooking gas= 17.83% increase

So much for the 10% propaganda.

Ivan
Guest
Ivan
May 11, 2013 6:36 am

And it’s truly extraordinary how the general public just don’t understand how blanket 10% utility cuts benefit only the rich … and, ultimately, will leave them with higher bills (one way or another) – same with flat taxes etc.

petofi
Guest
petofi
May 11, 2013 7:54 am

‘The core of Hungary’s ills at the moment’…is the weak-mindedness of the electorate which has finally come home to roost: you can only take weak education and the mis-education of the church, so far. The electorate cannot distinguish between ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ only between ‘the lesser harm-to-me’. The Hungarian electorate is the 10-year old version of a responsible citizenry. Hence the success of these emotional, out-dated issues such as Nationalism, Identity, Honour, Past–all nonsense in the modern world of the 21st century.

Törpilla
Guest
Törpilla
May 11, 2013 11:37 am
Törpilla here, I confess I wanted to be a bit provocative. She is a political journalist, dealing with current events. It is distinct from being a politician, surely, but still she is affecting politics (she perhaps even intends to), after all she is part of the fourth estate (or in Hungarian rather the fourth branch of government/power – Fidesz certainly sees media that way). In any case, I did not want to attack her personally, but rather wanted to show that liberal journalists seemingly find certain issues more important than others and that has uninteded consequences, ie the perception of leftist/liberal politics. I am pretty sure that she as her colleagues at Galamus or 168 Óra wrote five times more articles about anti-semitism than about the lives of unemployed people, the effects of capitalism on the lives of rural as well as on urban people (not about the economy in general), about the plight of people with foreign exchange loans etc. In short, what I wanted to say was that the liberal media (what is left of it) seems – to the masses (I mean the people who accidentally bump into it from time to time) – to be preoccupied… Read more »
tappanch
Guest
tappanch
May 11, 2013 1:31 pm

Orban celebrates the late KGB chief of Azerbaijan:

Postage stamp commemorating national leader Heydar Aliyev issued in Hungary

http://www.news.az/articles/society/79557

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
May 11, 2013 1:39 pm

From the same source:

While Fidesz is on the Azeri-Turkish bandwagon,

Jobbik sticks to Iran.

http://www.news.az/articles/politics/79619

Explanation:
1. Armenia is allied to Iran.
2. Vona of Jobbik was born in Gyöngyös.

http://vonagabor.hu/content/irániakkal-találkoztam
The mayor of Gyöngyös was present at Vona’s meeting with Iranians.

Guest
May 11, 2013 1:41 pm

Compared to the situation in my homeland (Germany) I find this left/right situation in Hungary extremely strange – I’d call Fidesz just a populist regime that has more similarity with Chavez than with central/western European conservative parties.

And as the name “populist” implies it’s very difficult to get rid of a regime like that – the usual way is a revolution, an economic breakdown (followed by a kind of revolution) or an intervention from outside.

Poor Hungary!

OT(Totally!) but maybe interesting for those living in Hungary:

We bought this week asparagus (white) produced by the German family company Vetter here in Hungary (somewhere near Kecskemét) – and it was fantastic!

At first we were a bit sceptical because it was so thin but it seems they export the thick ones to Germany – the thin ones are used for soup etc usually but these were really excellent!

We got them at the local market – and at Tesco which was really a surprise, their vegetables often are no good.

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
May 11, 2013 1:48 pm

My mistake. Gyöngyös is friendly with the exiled Azeri leaders of Shusha, not with the Armenians now living in Shusha as I thought.

Csaba K. Zoltani
Guest
Csaba K. Zoltani
May 11, 2013 2:16 pm
sam fowler ..aka the MOLE !!
Guest
May 11, 2013 2:39 pm

and I thought only America was going backwards !

Guest
May 11, 2013 4:00 pm
petofi : ‘The core of Hungary’s ills at the moment’…is the weak-mindedness of the electorate which has finally come home to roost: you can only take weak education and the mis-education of the church, so far. The electorate cannot distinguish between ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ only between ‘the lesser harm-to-me’. The Hungarian electorate is the 10-year old version of a responsible citizenry. Hence the success of these emotional, out-dated issues such as Nationalism, Identity, Honour, Past–all nonsense in the modern world of the 21st century. I have had the good luck to grow up and live a long life in a mature Western democracy. When I compare the political scene in Hungary with that of my own country I do not reach the same conclusion as Petöfi and some other HS regulars. I do not believe that the problems in Hungary are due to the weak-mindedness of the electorate, low standard of education, short-sighted self-interest and so on. We have plenty of that also in my country. I think that the situation in Hungary can be better explained by educational and moral deficiencies of the politicians. The problem is not at the bottom. It is at the top. The way to… Read more »
petofi
Guest
petofi
May 11, 2013 4:55 pm

@ Jean P

I don’t disagree; but sadly, the populace has been befuddled by the continuous lying and corruption of both Fidesz and MSZP. Still, able-thinking people ought to be able to distinguish sound policy with such ridiculousness as the 10% reduction–which is nowhere near 10%, either–of utilities. Can no one understand
that companies will just cut back on repairs and the like, not on their profit margin? The populace has allowed Fidesz so many ‘benefits-of-the-doubt’ on the most spurious of excuses, usually a complete deflection of attention because of some imaginary attack on the country. Stuff for children, yet the people accept it.

As for the political culture…I’ve been saying all along that one thing and one thing alone is needed for the opposition to win–a PROBITY CLAUSE for all members of parliament with stiff financial penalties and jail time for proven corruption. And in ‘financial penalties’ I would include the possible loss of the family home–let’s put the wives in charge of their husband’s
behaviour, and the consequences thereof.

oneill
Guest
oneill
May 11, 2013 5:02 pm

“What Fidesz does is nothing but lying to the Hungarian people who are ignorant enough to believe him”

Again, I would have no argument with you there.
But in the world that we do live in how do we persuade those people that Fidesz are lyimg to them?
I would love that people made their voting decision on the basis of fighting anti-semitism or protecting free-speech or defending the independence of the judiciary. But in Hungary it looks like they don’t. So what next?
And don’t take this as an aggressive attack on you, most of us on here are fighting on the same side.

petofi
Guest
petofi
May 11, 2013 5:15 pm

@Oneill

And there are plenty of topics to pick from but somehow (can it be their own share of the spoils?) MSZP never broach these subjects. One that pops into mind is the needlessly high cost of government borrowing, while the government insists on building useless soccer stadiums and parking lots. Why is this not being hammered home weekly, daily by the opposition??

Kirsten
Guest
Kirsten
May 11, 2013 5:20 pm

Petöfi, because, as I also wrote in the other thread, the opposition does not have a uniform answer to what to do about it, and also to what to replace this Fidesztan with. Which is why people will get “more of it” until the answers about what to do about it will become more focused. To this, Eva’s blog can make a (small) contribution because it is read by some. And before I read here again that it is preaching to the converted, my answer is: perhaps as regards the intentions, but not necessarily as regards the HOW TO.

petofi
Guest
petofi
May 11, 2013 5:21 pm

Csaba K. Zoltani :
For a different perspective:
http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/05/11/jonas-5/

Zoli, you’re such a card! Where have you been? I’ve been missing you in my ‘laughing room’.

Jonas is just sharpening his right-wing credentials by his often-ignorant, comments on Hungary. (Sweeping victory? No. Garnering a majority on getting 68% of the 53% of the voting public is not sweeping.) But I won’t rehash other nonsense. Obviously, Jonas has fallen for several of Orban’s adroitly maneuvered canards; and based on that, he’s holding forth. Well, Jonas has to eat, too, I guess. (In time, when some Canadian Hungarians will enlighten him, it’ll be some measure of crow.)

And you, Zoli, as always, are grasping at straws…or feathers, and very often, shitty ones.

petofi
Guest
petofi
May 11, 2013 5:25 pm

By the way, while I missed the boat on commenting on the performance of the WJC and the Hungarian jewish community….but pray tell, how did Orban escape mention of that sterling example of Hungaricum–
Laszlo Csatary?

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