Viktor Orbán is not only illiterate when it comes to computers. What about diplomacy?

As you know, I was contemplating writing something about the internet tax, but I felt I had to deal with the further reverberations of Hungary’s shaky relations with the U.S. Now, it seems, the two topics have converged with M. André Goodfriend’s appearance at the demonstration last night.

So, let’s start with the demonstration itself. I considered the crowd very large, especially in comparison to similar gatherings when the issues were purely political. Abstract concepts don’t move crowds in Hungary. The reason might be the low level of political culture and sophistication, the lack of a sustained democratic past, and perhaps even the sinking living standards that force people to concentrate on sheer survival.

I watched the entire demonstration and was impressed with Balázs Gulyás, the organizer and speaker. Although he tried to keep the focus on a single issue, the internet tax, it was clear from the first moment that the demonstration was much more than that. It was a rejection of the kind of life Viktor Orbán and his minions are offering Hungarians, especially young people. I especially liked a phrase in Gulyás’s speech–“we only turned the clock back, not the century”–referring to going off Daylight Savings Time the night before. The demonstrators obviously knew full well that the internet tax is just a symptom of the many anti-modern moves that make the Orbán regime a retrograde construct that can only lead the country to disaster. We are already pretty close.

Another welcome feature of the demonstration was a healthy mix of the young, middle-aged, and old. Yes, I know that young people are not interested in politics, and I wish this weren’t the case, but one must face facts. Unfortunately, by and large this is the situation all over the world. But those young people who went out yesterday realize that this government does not serve their needs. They consider Viktor Orbán a man of the past, an old fuddy-dud who is computer illiterate. Someone who is never seen with a smart phone. Someone who “cannot send an e-mail.” The boys–as longstanding acquaintances call the Fidesz founders–are looking old and tired. Although Orbán is only 50, he is “not with it.” Something happened to these young revolutionaries of the 1980s over the last twenty years. Time has left them behind, and they want to foist their outdated ideas and outlook on life on the new generation.

Balázs Gulyás is telling the truth: not a computer in sight

Balázs Gulyás is telling the truth: not a computer in sight

On the other hand, the American chargé d’affaires, André Goodfriend, seemed to be very much with it as he stood in the crowd with a backpack. As he said in one of his many recent interviews, he spends a great deal of time on the streets of Budapest. A planned demonstration on the internet tax was certainly something he thought he ought to see in person. I’m also sure that he has the State Department’s backing for both his appearances at demonstrations and his presence on Twitter. There a so-called conversation developed between the American chargé and Zoltán Kovács, undersecretary for international communication. I find Kovács unsuited for the job he holds, but perhaps it is fitting that such a man represents the Orbán government abroad. He is a perfect embodiment of this aggressive, crude regime.

Here are a couple of tweets, starting with

Goodfriend:

            “Interesting to see the nature of crowds in Budapest. Internet tax march seemed large & orderly w/good police support.” Then later: “Seeing the news reports of vandalism during the march as well, which I condemn. Not as orderly as it seemed where I stood.”

Kovács:

            “Checkin’ the mood, André?! @a demonstration organized by MSZP and liberals’?! As Chargé d’Affaires? Interesting, Eh?”

Goodfriend:

            “Absolutely. I’ve also checked the mood at the Peace Marches, and at numerous other events organized in Hungary.”

Kovács:

            “Are you sure that’s the wisest thing in this histerically stirred-up atmosphere while you vindicate to be a key actor? Eh?!”

Goodfriend:

            “There’s always a choice between hiding away, & getting out to see what’s happening. I try to hear the full range of perspectives.”

Kovács:

            “Sure ‘hearing’ and influencing does make a large difference.”

Goodfriend:

            “When I want to influence, I speak. Otherwise, I’m listening. Sometimes there’s not enough listening.”

Kovács:

            “That we’ve learned through the past couple of days. Sometimes there’s too much ‘demonstration.'”

Goodfriend:

            “So, now is the time to draw lessons from the discussion, and follow words with constructive, meaningful deeds.”

Kovács:

            “Surely, giving an ultimatum by demonstrators to a govt is no ground for constructivity. Good luck with friends like that…”

Goodfriend:

            “Some people see ‘ultimatum’ others see a proposition awaiting response as part of dialog. Constructive part may be the response.”

An extraordinary exchange in which Zoltán Kovács showed his true colors and the baseness of his discourse.

Meanwhile the likes of Kovács, András Bencsik, and other organizers of the Peace Marches were ready to call their 100,000 followers to defend their leader because the United States may prepare a coup against Orbán just as it did in Ukraine, they claimed. Apparently they were told to cool it because it might be taken as a sign of weakness of the all-powerful prime minister. Just as they were told to scrap a planned demonstration on behalf of the poor Russians suffering under the yoke of sanctions.

But the volume was turned up by members of the government. László Kövér last night on HírTV talked about a verbal cold war and warned the West that further criticism of Hungary might change the positive picture Hungarians have of the United States and Western Europe. He also tried to explain away Hungary’s isolation by saying that Hungary has so few friends because this is the “nature of politics.” And naturally he did not forget about the NGOs that serve foreign interests.

At the same time there are a few voices warning the government that its relations with the United States have reached a dangerous juncture. Péter Boross, prime minister for a few months in 1993-1994, came out with this observation: “The European Union and the European Parliament are terrains where the government and the prime minister can defend their actions. But the United States is different. The United States is a great power and I would not suggest getting into an argument with her. That can be dangerous for Hungary.”

Others share Boross’s view. An opinion piece in HVG was entitled “The country that came into the cold.” In another, which appeared in privatbanker.hu, a journalist is convinced that “the ice is cracking under our feet” and that Hungary’s relations with the West are shattered at their very foundations. Even in the pro-Fidesz Válasz an editorial warned that it is not a smart thing to irritate the lion. The writer found it outlandish that Tamás Deutsch, one of the veteran politicians of Fidesz and a member of the European Parliament, called André Goodfriend a fifth-rate CIA agent. The author also found Kovács’s tweets to the chargé unfortunate. Such a communication style might be acceptable in Syria and Iran, he said, but these countries do not claim to be allies and friends of the United States.

More about this topic tomorrow.

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Csaba K. Zoltani
Guest

Picture of Prime Minister Orban with the caption..”not a computer in sight” – and the remark “fuddy-dud who is computer illiterate”. — maybe, but then photographs of President Obama at his desk do not show any computers. Is he also a “fuddy-dud”?

tappanch
Guest

Passionate and eloquent analysis by a commentator under the name “James T Kirk” at

http://444.hu/2014/10/27/hallatszodjon-vegre-az-ami-eddig-tul-csendes-volt/

Realitycheck
Guest

Csabicka perhaps you do not know about google?

comment image

tappanch
Guest

@csaba

This is what Fidesz Party Secretary [now demoted to Ferencvaros soccer club chairman] Kubatov said about Orban in April 2010:

“Viktor Orban does not really know about computers. There is some progress however – he is now able to send or receive SMS. He also knows what the difference is between a fax and an e-mail”

quoted at 18:39 in
http://index.hu/belfold/2014/10/26/az_internetado_ellen_tuntetnek/orban_viktor_es_az_internet/

Csaba K. Zoltani
Guest

Try googling: White House president’s desk to see how many computers there are.

gdfxx
Guest

Csaba K. Zoltani: “Try googling: White House president’s desk to see how many computers there are.”

You don’t know what you are talking about. I am not an Obama devotee, but everyone knows that his private iPhone had to be taken away from him almost by force by the intelligence people, because it wasn’t safe enough. He is using a government issued safe Blackberry.

Take a look at this site: http://2012.presidential-candidates.org/Obama/Computer-Literacy.php

Realitycheck
Guest

Csaba is slippery. First no computer at his desk, then when it’s clear that is not true, he makes the focus the oval office. Working to get us to forget that it is about Orban’s computer illiteracy and not about which desk Obama’s employs his proficiency with technology. BTW, you can find a picture of President Obama with an iPad on his oval office desk.

Istvan
Guest

If André Goodfriend Is a fifth-rate CIA agent then Deutsch and other supporters of the Orban government are in really deep trouble. Because Goodfriend is right now running circles around Fidesz with such ease that if they were ever faced with a first rate CIA agent who specialized in regieme change and true destabilization they would be doomed. Goodfriend’s power is to be found in his restrained understated manner, which simply is destroying the pomposity of the Fidesz operatives.

I so wish that a dipolmat of Mr Goodfriend quality had been appointed by President Bush as ambessador/ head of the coalition provisional authority for Iraq instead of Brenner who did not know how to listen and helped create the disaster we are now faced with. I am deeply impressed with the skills of Mr Goodfriend and unfortunately the American people don’t even know about this super star dipolmat. I feel that my tax dollars have been well spent when I watch Mr Goodfriend in action.

gdfxx
Guest

Istvan:” I feel that my tax dollars have been well spent when I watch Mr Goodfriend in action.”

Definitely better than seeing wealthy political donor socialites dancing circles in foreign capitals at their own ambassadorial soirées (at least that’s my viewpoint).

gdfxx
Guest

Maybe this comment should be in the About section of this blog.

It would be nice if this site had a feature I like on The New York Times’ site: readers can mark comments they like and a feature I like on The Wall Street Journal’s site: readers can reply to other readers’ comments. Both features are done with one click and the replies appear embedded below the original comment.

onlyjustwords
Guest

Well- Looks like you got your Yankees Eva. I agree you deserve a column for this material if you can sustain the momentum.

LwiiH
Guest
There is no need for Mr. Kovács to listen, What could he possibly learn the commoners… and it’s laughable that Mr. Goodfriend would dirty himself by intermixing with them. Completely OT but it’s been discussed so… A historical point that I found after reading a bit by Andreas Simonyi in the Huffington post ( for anyone interested.. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andras-simonyi/sweden-nato-membership_b_6014188.html) From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raoul_Wallenberg I found this summary interesting in that it places total blame for the deportations on the occupying force. “Following the catastrophic Axis defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad (in which Hungarian troops fighting alongside German forces suffered a staggering 84% casualty rate) the regime of Miklos Horthy began secretly pursuing peace talks with the United States and the United Kingdom. Upon learning of Horthy’s duplicity, Adolf Hitler ordered the occupation of Hungary by German troops in March 1944. The Wehrmacht quickly took control of the country and placed Horthy under house arrest. A pro-German puppet government was installed in Budapest, with actual power resting with the German military governor, SS-Brigadefuhrer Edmund Veesenmayer. With the Nazis now in control, the relative security from the Holocaust enjoyed by the Jews of Hungary came to an end. In April and May 1944 the… Read more »
Fertő
Guest

Orban’s computer illiteracy is a carefully managed image issue.

Hungary is no silicon valley and most of his voters appreciate his image of a football-loving, sausage making, palinka drinking fickós manly man with a pot belly (ie. that of a country bumpkin).

Computer illiteracy is part of that.

“Let those computer things and facetube for the kids and urban people, we are fine without it”.

“All these urban liberals are demonstrating, but real Hungarian people know that this tax is not such a big deal, in fact if something hurts those liberals and communists, it means we are doing something right”.

Since 40% of the people essentially never (1-2 times a month or less) use internet and they live in rural areas where his popularity is over 70% (calculated from the votes Fidesz won), this is a great image trait.

And everybody believes it apparently.

Guest

From Lwiih’s wiki link:

“he Nazi regime and its accomplices began the mass deportation of Hungary’s Jews to extermination camps ”

The Nazis occupiers are mentioned with their names (Eichmann, Veesenmayer etc) but the Hungarian accomplices are anonymous – interesting, isn’t it?

Those few German soldiers couldn’t have managed that task all by themselves, so helped them? And another question:

Who took all of the Jews’ possessions and valuables? Did the Germans transport them home?

Who wrote that entry – some “Hungarian apologist”? Always the same wailing:

We were forced to do it …

Samba
Guest
Fidesz will with all available means escalate further. There’s no downside for Fidesz. Orban has zero respect for people like Boross, who would already give in just because a country (the US) is supposed to be powerful. As long as he is safe from the drones, Orban defecates on the US from high above. Plus this is the element of Orban’s, he is afraid of the calm, the silence, it’s scary. The bigger the anger, the more easily fideszniks can fire up their own voters who are anyway fired up, believe me — in the meantime people are preoccupied with the internet tax, when dozens of other important rearrangements are made in the budget and elsewhere. This is a gumi csont (rubber bone for the dogs) of the highest order. Boross and some columnist in Heti Válasz have zero influence on the thinking of Orban and his minions. Good old days when affectionately and somewhat manneredly they were called the “boys”, ie, the boys (because there are practically no women among them) from the Bibo College. These mafiosi will really become the widely hated, burnt out, corrupt dictators they – once thought they – fought against, which is the usual… Read more »
Webber
Guest

@LwiiH – What in God’s name does WWII have to do with all of this? It’s nice when people learn about other nations’ histories, but that is irrelevant to the issue at hand. If you wrote that for Kormos’s edification, then great, though I hope he’s/she’s learned to look at Wikipedia on his/her own.

Webber
Guest

I would not be the least bit surprised if a rent-a-hooligan mob were attack people at the demonstration planned for today. This government has used them before. If “patriotic” heavies show up, demonstrators should try to get pictures of all of them to identify them if possible. In the past, their ranks have included some off-duty policemen.

garfield
Guest

@Istvan
“If André Goodfriend Is a fifth-rate CIA agent then Deutsch and other supporters of the Orban government are in really deep trouble. Because Goodfriend is right now running circles around Fidesz with such ease that if they were ever faced with a first rate CIA agent…”

Istvan, you raise the question whether André Goodfriend is a CIA agent. But if he is one, could that be a problem? For example Germany a few months ago expelled the most high ranking CIA leader from Germany because of his role in the massive anti-German spy activity generated by the United States. Germany for years put up with the American spying against Germany, but there was a point where Merkel said: enough is enough. A possible contributing factor was that the Americans clearly treated Germany as the enemy and instituted mass surveillance and mass wiretapping against German citizens (which is a high crime according to German laws).

Including wiretapping chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone, which she reportedly used quite a lot to discuss sensitive matters.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest
Fertő: Orban’s computer illiteracy is a carefully managed image issue. I tend to agree. Moreover, the level of geekness of leaders themselves is still hardly a major issue for voters, including in the U.S. For instance, Sen. McCain is a self-confessed computer illiterate. However, McCain never proposed to tax the Internet by the byte … which brings up the question of a leaders’ entourage. How come none of Orbán’s advisors told him how stupid this was? Or if someone did, why weren’t they listened to ? Fertő: Since 40% of the people essentially never (1-2 times a month or less) use internet … In 2011 it was more like 30% – with 60% using it once to several times a day (Eurostat); more than in Spain, Portugal or Italy. Incidentally, since the tax concerns every GB started, every connected household will be at least subject to a yearly 1,800Ft (150×12) levy. Just for connecting their equipment once to the network. Surely that’s not much, however even the non-connected or seldom-connected people have children, for which they tend to want a better future. Just how arresting the development of Internet connectivity in Hungary is going to help in this matter, that’s… Read more »
Laszlo Sipos
Guest

This is why I stopped trying to teach English to Hungarians.The vast majority used this sarcastic or plain nasty tone even when they were in the wrong,which was almost always.Who needs this abuse ? I have former students who are now members of Parliament (sadly) who said there were 48 states,the capital of the USA is New York City,Canada is a state and countless other stupid things.They love the word “stupid” to insult people.I never used that word until after I was called this countless times.So I really do not care what a Hungarian says.This is painful for those us who were once proud to be Hungarian.This was beaten out of me by Hungarians who live here.

Not to mention the horrible things they say about you because they think you do not speak Hungarian.When confronted about these insults,THEY get upset.I can count on one fingure the times someone apologized to to me in ten years.

Laszlo Sipos
Guest

Oops,I meant finger,not fingure.

Webber
Guest

@garfield. Istvan did not raise the question of whether Goodfriend is a CIA agent. He was making it clear that the idea is laughable. The fellow is the “face” of the embassy. He hold press conferences. His picture is featured on the Embassy’s website. All of Hungary knows what he looks like. There’s nothing secret about him.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Hungarian government pretended that Goodfriend is some sort of agent (shock, horror!) and used that as an excuse to expel him.
As to that – it is no secret that every single embassy, including the Hungarian Embassy in Washington (and the British one, and the German one, etc.), has its own intelligence officers. That has been standard practice for a very long time. Hungary collects intelligence in the US, America collects intelligence in Hungary. So what?

petofi
Guest

@Wolfi & LwiiH

Notice that in LwiiH’s entry there is the sly reference to 12,000 deportations per day…suggesting that all deportations were ordered by the Germans. But, it’s been widely reported that the Germans had only asked for the deportation of 100,000 Hungarian jews and the avid Hungarians provided 600,000. Why didn’t LwiiH mention that?

tappanch
Guest

Re: internet tax

Indeed, there are several ways to interpret the text of the bill and its amendment.

Unfortunately, my interpretation is supported by the internet providers themselves:

http://nol.hu/gazdasag/a-fel-orszag-sotetbe-fog-borulni-az-internetado-miatt-1495047

They think they have to pay 150 forint/GB to the government in tax, while they can collect only 700 forints from the subscribers.

They either go broke, or have to replace the current unlimited plans to per GB plans.

With the per GB plans, the users will pay the full extent of the tax.

Webber
Guest
@ Marcel Dé – you wrote> “every connected household will be at least subject to a yearly 1,800Ft (150×12) levy. Just for connecting their equipment once to the network. Surely that’s not much.” Unfortunately, it is. The levy against internet providers, set at GB, will add up to much more than that, and they will have to build it into their prices. At the moment, users in Hungary can pay a fairly low flat rate for an unlimited amount of data. Providers are going to have to start charging by usage again (we all remember what that was like), the more GB one consumes, the more one will pay. Want to organize a demonstration via FB? You’ll pay for every second you’re on it. Want to watch opposition t.v. online, or read opposition views? You’ll pay. People are going to have to restrict their internet use. It doesn’t matter that the government says the max. individuals will pay in tax is 700 ft. Providers will have to pass on the charges, or go bankrupt. N.B. – (a slightly different topic) Since a company associated with the government took over Nepszabadsag, the only opposition daily left is Nepszava which is small,… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Now, about “arresting the development of Internet connectivity in Hungary”.

One way to see it is the portfolio.hu calculations, according to which the tax would likely represent 44% of last years Internet providers’ global profits after tax (global meaning not only the profits generated by their IP activities, but their other branches also).

Another way to see it is to notice that a basic broadband subscription is at 2,800 Ft/month excluding VAT. Since most, if not all, broadband users are extremely likely to consume at least 4GB a month, it means that suddenly the gov’t plans to take 25% of the gross revenue per subscriber. For life.

How can you compete, how can you invest and offer lower prices, and better services, under these conditions? The fate of the utilities companies come to mind. In a market where already the lack of competition means very high prices, some will be forced out, meaning higher prices or lower service levels. Or both.

Maybe these satirical signs with ‘nemzeti ADSL’ weren’t a joke after all.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Webber

I disagree with your interpretation of the amendment (and tappanch’s), and will stick with that of Portfolio.hu and the WSJ for the time being.

Of course, that may be because I still naively think that the gov’t isn’t silly enough to kill entirely the Internet as a widely available commodity, and all business models based on this, in the country (which will surely happen, should the tax be enforced as you think it will be).

tappanch
Guest
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