Imre Kerényi and Lajos Kósa: boorishness and prejudice in Orbán’s Hungary

A couple of days ago I wasn’t quite sure whether I should mention a distasteful episode in the “cultural life” of Hungary. I use quotation marks here because what I’m going to talk about has nothing to do with culture. In fact, the topic is the total lack of civility and proper behavior. And here I’m not talking about the man on the street but rather about the boorishness and vulgarity of Hungarian politicians and those who are ready to serve them.

I will be focusing on  two public figures here. One is a former theater director who, according to many, is “not quite normal” and therefore cannot be taken seriously. That may be, but he was appointed by Prime Minister Victor Orbán to be his personal representative responsible for cultural matters. So, when he opens his mouth one must assume he speaks in the name of his boss. And that is the problem. Imre Kerényi, the man in question, would be unacceptable in any civilized society, especially as a spokesman for the prime minister of the country. This is not the first time that his words create consternation and dismay in the civilized half of Hungarian society. He comes out with outlandish, often laughable, plans, and unfortunately receives money from the government to execute them. The subject of his ire this time around was the theater world, where he finds the influence of gays intolerable.

The other person is a key Fidesz politician, Lajos Kósa, deputy chairman of Fidesz, member of parliament, and mayor of Debrecen. He is an important man in Fidesz’s inner circle, and now that members of parliament cannot be mayors at the same time, he was persuaded by Viktor Orbán to relinquish his post as mayor despite the fact that he has ruled Debrecen ever since 1998. Viktor Orbán obviously finds him useful to himself and to the party.

A few days ago, in interview on HírTV, he had a few words to say about Jean-Claude Juncker, the candidate for the presidency of the European Commission. The exchange revealed that Kósa knows absolutely nothing about Juncker or what’s going on in Brussels at the moment, but that didn’t prevent him from speaking of the matter in the most boorish, crass, and vulgar manner. The behavior of these two, and they are naturally not alone, is symptomatic of the atmosphere that has been created by the uncouth characters who managed to win an election and who have been working furiously ever since to ensure that they will stay forever and bring the country down to the level where they feel comfortable. In the gutter.

So, let’s start with Kerényi. I have written about him several times, so anyone who’s not familiar with him can easily catch upstarting with my summary of his earlier life. Kerényi, the former communist party member, discovered his real right-wing roots and became an ardent admirer of Viktor Orbán. Those in the theatrical world who do not share his convictions are his enemies who must be purged from the nation’s theaters.  He has outlandish ideas about the theater in general. According to him, 80% of all Hungarian plays are “sacred works” inspired by Christianity, and therefore it is important that the director himself be a Christian. Kerényi finds the present state of affairs abominable. What Hungary needs is “Christian” theater,” whatever that means. He would like to see a Christian Theater Festival. After all, there are festivals galore: Festival of the Mangalica (a hairy Hungarian pig), Jewish Festival, and what not. Therefore, there should be a Christian Theater Festival. The theatrical world should be liberated from the “lobby of the fags.” And while we are at it, why not establish an “anti-college of the performing arts” and let the present one rot.

The reaction was predictable. Several people demanded an explanation from Viktor Orbán. After all, as I said, Kerényi is his personal representative in matters of culture. Well-known actors and the president of the College of the Performing Arts bombarded Orbán with letters demanding an explanation. Some people called for Kerényi to be sacked. To date they have received no answer, although one of the many spokesmen for Fidesz said that Kerényi’s language was not to his liking. When asked whether Kerényi should leave his government post, the spokesman answered that “it is the decision of the person who appointed him.”

Kerényi is not the kind of man who can be easily intimidated. A few days later in an interview he reiterated his opinion on the subject and proudly announced that his opinions coincide with the views of the majority. Well, actually, attitudes toward gays are changing in Hungary, especially among young people. Moreover, what kind of a government is it where one of its members incites base prejudice against a minority? Yes, that kind!

The story was reported in Der Spiegel by Keno Verseck, a German journalist fluent in Hungarian. The title of his article was “Cultural representative stirs up hatred against gays.” As for Kerényi’s style, Verseck compared it to “graffiti in public toilets.”

Now let’s move on to another illustrious member of Fidesz, Lajos Kósa. As far as I know, Kósa does not know any foreign languages and therefore his knowledge of the outside world is based solely on the Hungarian media and his party’s interpretation of the news. (An aside, the Hungarian Parliament’s webpage has been redesigned. Earlier we could find out, among other things, what language skills the MPs have. Currently no information of any kind about the members is available.)  Two days ago Kósa was a guest on HírTV’s Friday evening political program called P8. He gave a 45-minute interview in which the conversation turned to, among other things, the nomination of Jean-Claude Juncker for the post of president of the European Commission. Regardless of what one might think of Juncker as a man and as a politician, Kósa’s remarks were unacceptable by any standard.

Sours: commons.wikipedia.org

Source: commons.wikipedia.org

As we know, Viktor Orbán, along with the heads of state of Great Britain, Sweden, and the Netherlands, indicated that he would vote against Juncker’s candidacy. Let’s look at Kósa’s opinion of the man. Not surprisingly, he does not think that Juncker is suitable for the job because he is not a “characteristic” politician. What one needs today is a man of exceptional talent. Someone who can be accepted by all Europeans, from the Portuguese to the Greeks. It was appropriate for Viktor Orbán to raise his voice against Juncker because if “everybody keeps his mouth shut and we keep looking at each other, if we all just ask  ‘Lord Almighty who the hell imposed that joker on us’… Otherwise, this is how things are normally. Let’s take a look at the commissioners. One of them is a greater loser than the next. We have had experience with them. Up and down from Neelie Kroes and through Olli Rhen who after three years admitted that ‘sorry, I was wrong.’  What a great guy and in the meantime Europe goes to shit. Enough of that. What we want to say is that one cannot talk seriously about the European Union as long as everybody shuts up and exports domestically discredited people and acts as if all that was okay.”*

These kinds of people are in charge of Hungarian politics and culture. György Dalos quoted in Der Spiegel is right. Such “tirades are only reflections of the political atmosphere under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.”

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*In the Hungarian original: “Ha mindenki kussol meg nézzük egymást, azt gondoljuk, hogy: Úristen, ezt a jóembert – aki lehet, hogy tényleg jó ember, de – ki a bánat tette a nyakunkra? Egyébként mindig ez van, nézzük ezeket az európai biztosokat, hát egyik nagyobb gáz, mint a másik. Azért volt ebben tapasztalatunk, nem? Neelie Kroestól kezdve lefele-felfele, Olli Rehnen át… és akkor egy európai pénzügyi biztos majd három év múlva azt találja mondani, hogy „bocsi, nem volt igazam”. Hát nagyon jó fej, közben meg Európa gajra megy. Elég volt ebből. Pont azt akarjuk mondani, hogy nem lehet az Európai Unióról komolyan véve beszélni, ha mindenki sumákol és exportálja az otthon már levitézlett embereket és úgy csinálunk, mintha ez nagyon rendben lenne.”

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latefor
Guest

The “gay influence” could be solved easily. There are so many talented gays out there, why don’t they open their own theater, and accommodate their own? I believe that gays have a right to live their lives the way they want it but I don’t think they should be allowed to force the majority (heterosexuals) to approve everything they dish out, to provoke those, who don’t agree with them. Frankly, what kind of a so called “civilized society” is that which allows gay guys to parade around in G-strings, shaking their thingilingi into the faces of shocked passer byes with young children etc. etc. ? If gays want society to accept them, their behavior should be changed first. Treat others with respect and stop name calling when someone dares to speak up to protect the interest of the majority.

Lolmouse
Guest

Talking about gays, is János Lázár gay?

It seems he shared various luxury hotel rooms with his ‘interpreters’?

Or is he just hiding his mistress with his misleading stories?

petofi
Guest

When will people realize that Orban is mocking all Hungarians.
He doesn’t want to be king of Hungary: he wants to be king of Felcsutians…all Felcsutians…

kalmik
Guest
The future. A great article in Hungarian about the tireless activism of Jobbik in rural areas. Can you even imagine a fraction of this activity from Együtt, DK, let alone MSZP? And the young are with Jobbik, so they will be the future. You can’t find young people at DK or MSZP, some bourgeois kids at Együtt, not too many. The left’s undoing is very much its own creation. Leftists thought that rural people were uncool to work with, too much hassle, to many stupid people, when drinking craft beer and playing with your iphone and downloading the newest apps are much cooler. Now that the election system is based on rural voters, the entire left is just speechless. They don’t get it, and never will, as all the leftists who are still with the left (25% of all voters) are mostly from Budapest and a few bigger towns, they just have zero idea about the life in smaller towns and villages. No young people want to associate with the left in any way when all of their friends are Jobbik supporters, who wants to be seen as a loser in a small community? Are you insane? The communists? Who… Read more »
Guest

@latefor, you’ve proved again that you are an idiot – should I call you a subhuman? You’d better be off in place like Brunei …

Guest

At least, most (?) people think differently – here’s an interesting story:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/29/dorchester-boycott-vogue-anna-wintour-fashion

Member

Eva – Just FYI, Kosa was Debrecen mayor since 1998.

BN
Guest

“ezt a jóembert – aki lehet, hogy tényleg jó ember, ” = “that joker”

Today I learned that a sentence can be accurately translated into a single word. Even if that word has nothing to do with the original meaning of the sentence.

Member

“Protecting the interests of the majority” is the usual excuse for intolerance, of any kind. Why is it so difficult for certain people to understand that it is minorities, of any kind, that always need special protection, simply because they are minorities?
Latefor actually echoes Kerényi’s own words (“szemérmesen műveljék a műfajt”, http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20140528-kerenyi-sikeresnek-erzi-a-buzizast.html – that is, “it’s OK as long as they do it behind closed doors”). In other words, same-sex love is something dirty and bad and should be concealed, while there’s nothing wrong with public demonstrations of heterosexual love? Or the sexualised bodies and body parts of (half-)naked women which – targeting the heterosexual desires of male customers – are “shaken into the faces of shocked passers-by” everywhere in the Western world and not just in one single parade on one single day of the year?

latefor
Guest

To wolfi –
Treat others with respect and stop name calling when someone dares to speak up to protect the interest of the majority. And if this is what it takes to be a “sub-human idiot” than I’m proud to be one.
Live and let live!
You are still a relatively small lobby group to allow yourselves to terrorize “simple minded idiots” like myself and get public sympathy from the majority. Wake up from your delusion and learn to respect others, do NOT use force and verbal terror to get your way!
As far as your suggestion re: Brunei is concerned, I would also recommend it to you for your next “Mardi Gras”. Cheers!

latefor
Guest

To Sentrooppa – Santra

I wasn’t talking about gay love. I’m discussing provocative promiscuity, disrespecting the majority. Frankly, I have yet to see heterosexual loves grabbing each-other’s genitals in public places.

HiBoM
Guest

As a matter of interest, “latefor”, have you ever observed the situation with gays in the UK? England is often thought of as a bit conservative in matters like this, but there has been a tremendous revolution in attitudes to gays over the last 30 years. How was this achieved? I think through familiarity. Most of us heterosexuals now know openly gay people in everyday life and surprise surprise, they are no different to us! Indeed, the whole notion of “them” and “us” becomes stupid. Apart from certain sports and among a few religious people, homosexuality has ceased to be an issue. The hottest theatre ticket in town at the moment is Simon Russell Beale’s King Lear. And does anyone care that SRB is gay? No. Is it relevant to anyone? No.

I would say that I don’t think Latefor’s attitudes are so different from many English people’s from 40 years go. But UK prejudices were dispelled by familiarity. And in Hungary, people have been denied that opportunity. So don’t be too hard on him…

Member

Latefor: I don’t like calling other people “subhuman” either, but your “protecting the interests of the majority” doesn’t sound much better, for reasons I tried to explain above. (Speaking of “heterosexual lovers grabbing each other’s genitals – go to any park in any Western city, switch on your TV on any commercial channel some time late in the evening, or take a look at the “gentlemen’s” magazines publicly available in any newspaper stand.)

As for “verbal terror” vs. “live and let live” – this is precisely what Eva’s excellent post was about. What Kerényi does is verbal terror and putative discrimination against people who are not terrorising anybody or forcing “provocative promiscuity” on anyone. In his paranoic world, gay people, and being gay means being obsessed with aggressive and ostentatious sexuality, are pulling the strings in the world of cultural institutions and transforming Hungarian theatre into a gigantic Love Parade. Where, pray, do things like this actually happen?

In other words: Kerényi sounds like a raving lunatic, and his behaviour, as an official representative of the government in cultural affairs, would be completely unacceptable in any civilised Western country.

latefor
Guest

HiboM – You don’t get it, do you? This is NOT about “Us ” and “Them”, this is about RESPECT the view and beliefs of others.

You can find my recently released book on Amazon.com./kindle, title: Arty, Crafty, Nasty (few nasty reviews would be greatly appreciated).

HiBoM
Guest

But what is a belief worth if it is can’t be challenged and questioned? And the beliefs of people like Kerényi are rooted in factual nonsense

Guest

@all:

Thanks for trying to show latefor the error of his (her?) ways …

A bit OT:

Have you read the horror stories about BBC moderator Jimmy Savile ? Of course, he was a heterosexual …

Member

As for Kerényi’s behaviour: he seems to play the role of the court jester. Let me quote what I wrote in my blog in connection with the (attempted) founding of the notorious “Magyar Krónika”, the magazine which would write about the good and beautiful things – and was, reportedly, called off by PM Orbán himself:

Childish, ridiculous populist political kitsch always finds its place. And it needs to have this place shown to it time and again, to remind everybody of who is in command. The most naïve whackos will follow anyway. Those slightly less stupid, in turn, will be strengthened in their loyalty when the PM publicly reminds of the fact that he is not quite as stupid as one could believe judging by the deeds of the most childish kitsch-makers. This gives rise to a mechanism which reminds of the “perpetuum mobile of right-wing populism” as recently described by Ruth Wodak.

ambator
Guest

About Kerenyi I can serve with a few interesting tidbits that are not quite known.
He was a professor of the now derided Theatrical Academy. (It is called a university now, but has a continuous history of 149 years of excellence.)
He wasn’t only a professor, but had his own class as well and I have a first hand report from one of his former students what happened there. Already in the first year the students realized that their professor completely ignored them and in desperation they were forced to phone and ask privately other professors, (some of the greatest actors in the Hungarian theatre), to teach them privately, lest their entire year would be wasted.
Of the eight students of this class two attempted suicide, one of them flung himself from the sixth floor balcony of the class room in desperation. And today none, except one of his students is still working in the profession, the others all left in disgust.

latefor
Guest

To wolfi – and what is the error of my ways, if I may ask? Would you please kindly itemize it. Please enlighten me. Cheers, from the Land of Kangaroos. (We are very backward in here. This is the “ass end of the world”, according to our ex Labour PM)

buddy
Guest

@Sentrooppa-Santra

Index reported in April that Magyar Krónika will indeed come out, and in fact the first copy is expected this weekend! http://index.hu/kultur/media/2014/04/18/megis_elindul_kerenyi_magyar_kronikaja/

Re: Kerényi and Kósa, they talk this way of course because they know there will be no repercussions to what they say. They know they can’t be touched, so they demonstrate it to the rest of by making remarks they know will be inflammatory while everyone else just gnashes their teeth (same thing with Bayer).

And… in the pot calling the kettle black dept, Fidesz politician and noted buffoon Tamás Deutsch actually criticized Kerényi for his comments. Reminds me of one lunatic in the insane asylum calling another one crazy…

Deak, Jesus, Rawls
Guest

LATEFOR – INSTEAD OF DISPENSING advice to us, I beg you to start reading enlightened works, Kant, John Rawls, Shakespeare, Jesus, Geza Vermes, Akos Kertesz,,,,,

It is time for you to go back to Ferenc Deak, and to erase all traces of the Horthy, Rakosi, Kadar, Orban cultures.

Have you read even one of the speeches of Ferenc Deak?

Deak Jesus Rawls
Guest

LATEFOR – INSTEAD OF DISPENSING advice to us, I beg you to start reading enlightened works, Kant, John Rawls, Shakespeare, Jesus, Geza Vermes, Akos Kertesz,,,,,

It is time for you to go back to Ferenc Deak, and to erase all traces of the Horthy, Rakosi, Kadar, Orban cultures.

Have you read even one of the speeches of Ferenc Deak?

Istvan
Guest

Reading this discussion makes me realize how non-western Hungary can be. Yesterday here in Illinois was the first day for legal same sex marriage. Various highly prejudicial laws against gay, lesbian, and transgender people are being struct down all over the USA. Yet I am reading about a major figure in Hungary publicly carrying out an anti-gay rant that would result even in the Republican Party here in the USA of a comparable figure being shunned for fear of the consequences.

What is more obvious is that there is a reasonable basis for significant public figures to believe that the majority of Hungarians share these prejudicial perspectives. I do think that the situation here in the USA is evolving to the point where fundamentalist Christians who share these extreme hostile perspectives are becoming more and more isolated. Eventually in order to continue to recruit to their churches they will de-emphasize the homophobic aspects of their theology, this is already happening with the Catholic Church in many dioceses in the USA.

latefor
Guest

Deak Jesus Rawls –
No, I’ve never even heard of any of the people you’ve mentioned. Are they rock stars or something? In the “genetically inferior moron” circles, we only read the Kama Sutra and leave the thinking for more noble minds. BTW, how was I “dispensing advice” to you? In my view, I’ve taken part in a discussion….unless I’m delusional?

Member
latefor June 2, 2014 at 4:15 am Live and let live! Exactly! So , why would you deny the same rights form others based on sexual or (and in Hungary often) religious “orientation”? You also wrote There are so many talented gays out there, why don’t they open their own theatre I would say let people vote with their legs or money, and in fact they did. The National THeatre under the direction of Alfoldi was a full success story. WOuld you disagree? So, why was it necessary to take way the theatre from him? How about the far-right director of one of Budapest’s leading theatres, Uj Szinhaz? THir opening number was so far-right that even the Fidesz friendly major of Budapest had to step in stopping the pre-production stage? Kerenyi is so wrong that even Tamas Deutsch (the “author” of the Twitter lime “Who the f*ck is Thomas Melia) stepped in and told him to back off. “Kerényi Imrével nem stílusproblémák vannak. Kerényi Imre állításai elfogadhatatlanok. Amit mondott, nettó gyalázat. Ő kérte, hát: Megírom? ” There are no stylistic issues with Kerenyi. His statements are unexceptable. What he said is simply a disgrace. He asked for it, so I… Read more »
Guest

Re latefor’s very telling first comment on this topic:

I can think of several sites where it would draw a lot of applause.

Kuruc.info

Putin’s Russia today

The Westboro Baptist Church : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westboro_Baptist_Church
Just look at their site’s name: http://www.godhatesfags.com/

Many Muslim sites

Some orthodox Jewish sites

Now what else do these people have in common?

PS:

As Istvan wrote here that kind of rhetoric as we get from latefor is even too strong for some conservative Christians in the USA – so there is hope!

latefor
Guest

Some1 – how about the rights and the needs of the heterosexual community? We have no more rights, we cannot have opinions without being called the “denier of gay rights” or “People with prejudices” or “sub-human idiots”? Maybe we should just all lie down and die without a good fight to accommodate you all?
I’d say: Bring the Pussy Back to Fashion!

tappanch
Guest

Laszlo L Simon has submitted the bill about overtaxing the remaining independent media.
(tax on commercials and ads)

But it has no body yet, as of 3 PM.

Perhaps Orban wants a 98% tax rate, but his advisers are pushing him to make do with 75%.
🙂

tappanch
Guest

It is here!

If your “tax base” is, say, 60 billion forints (200 million euros)
your effective tax will be 31.7%

The highest tax bracket is 40%.

http://www.parlament.hu/irom40/00154/00154.pdf

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