István Gusztos, who often writes opinion pieces for gepnarancs.hu, pointed out a few days ago that, although one cannot equate Fidesz with its media empire “mostly financed from taxpayers’ money,” one cannot help thinking that the conspiracy theories propagated by Magyar Idők, Magyar Hírlap, Echo TV, Lánchid Rádió, and 888.hu cannot be separated from the “official” position of the party and the government. It might be the case that some of the reporters at these media outlets go too far, but by and large Fidesz and its media work hand in hand. We know from one of the reporters at HírTV how pleasant life has been around the station since Viktor Orbán and his once favorite oligarch parted ways. No longer do they get weekly instructions from Fidesz headquarters telling them what they have to write about.
Lately George Soros has frequently been invoked by Viktor Orbán and other Fidesz politicians as the real culprit behind the refugee crisis. In fact, in this case the pro-government media anticipated and prepared the ground for official anti-Soros pronouncements. Magyar Idők began excoriating Soros in late September, when János Csontos wrote an op-ed piece about the “outrageous suggestions” of George Soros concerning the refugee crisis. By the time Viktor Orbán joined in, a month later, the accusation had spread far and wide that Soros was actually funding individual asylum seekers in their quest to reach Europe. For anti-Semites, of course, Soros’s name is code for the “evil influence of Jews and Jewish capital.”
By mid-November two favorite conspiracy theories circulated in Hungary. One was that the whole refugee exodus is a Zionist conspiracy; Jews and the Israeli state are jointly responsible for the crisis. The other theory, which I heard from Mária Schmidt, the director of the House of Terror and Viktor Orbán’s adviser on matters concerning history, claims that rich Arab countries are providing loans to the migrants, who will have to pay the money back from “the generous aid provided by European governments.” I don’t think I need comment on this nonsense from the learned historian.
Viktor Orbán and his fellow politicians reinforce the ignorant public’s outlandish theories, which then gain legitimacy by their repetition. It is therefore not at all surprising that Fidesz officials can occasionally be caught expressing totally unacceptable thoughts that derive from the party’s own more subtle anti-Semitism. One will never catch Viktor Orbán saying anything that can definitively be labelled anti-Semitic. He knows exactly how far he can go. Instead, as István Gusztos aptly said, party officials hand off their anti-Semitic propaganda “as contract work” to Fidesz media outlets. And they, in turn, “plant” anti-Semitic ideas into the heads of ordinary local Fidesz politicians, like the mayor of Szentgotthárd (population 10,000) at the Austro-Hungarian border.
An internet news site called nyugat.hu got hold of a recording of the Szentgotthárd local council meeting at which the mayor, Gábor Huszár, said: “Everybody should accept from me that what happened in Paris is clear proof that certain business circles–and here I can state that the Jewish state is behind [the attack] because it wants to turn Christian Europe against Islam.” This leaked anti-Semitic comment was especially embarrassing, coming as it did after Péter Szijjártó’s visit to Israel, where he kept referring to the excellent relationship between the Israeli and the Hungarian governments.
Naturally, the Israeli embassy in Budapest immediately responded. Gábor Huszár’s words “are proof that there are still those who haven’t learned from history and still repeat negative views on the Jewish state, Israel, and Jewish people.” The embassy finds it unfortunate that “a public figure, the mayor of Szentgotthárd who should be a model in his electoral district, puts forth such untrue and ridiculous claims.” Official Fidesz could only muster the lame response that Gábor Huszár expressed his anti-Semitic views as “a private person.” It was Lajos Kósa, the newly appointed leader of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus, who came up with this brilliant reply. How could Huszár be a “private person” while presiding over a Fidesz-majority city council?
Behind the scenes, however, Fidesz most likely moved with lightning speed. Although Huszár himself was unreachable when ATV wanted to find out more about his opinion on Israel’s role in staging the terror attacks in Paris, his secretary assured the television station that a statement would be released soon about the incident. And indeed, after a few hours Huszár apologized for “the unfortunate phrasing.” Opposition parties demanded the man’s resignation. DK was the most direct in its condemnation of Fidesz as the source of the general approval in rightist circles of the various conspiracy theories.
There is no question that Viktor Orbán’s accusations against Soros are linked, even if indirectly, to the Zionist conspiracy theories. And yet, despite the mayor’s apology, the attacks on Soros continue. Yesterday both Lajos Kósa and Antal Rogán railed against him in parliament, this time charging him with being responsible for the citizens’ initiative accepted by the European Commission.