I’m going to talk about a topic some people might consider totally irrelevant, Viktor Orbán’s nonexistent dog Nárcisz (Daffodil). Nonexistent dog? Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. Viktor Orbán doesn’t have a dog, and the fanciful story he told about the family dog’s happy life in Felcsút is one big fat lie. His penchant for telling lies has always been a problem, but lying about a nonexistent dog may mark a new low.
How did Nárcisz get into the picture? On February 20 about 6,000 people gathered in Budapest to demonstrate against animal cruelty. In a country where it is very difficult to convince people to demonstrate, the size of the crowd indicated that a lot of Hungarians feel very strongly about the brutal treatment of animals which occurs far too often, especially in the countryside. Organizations against animal cruelty are also dissatisfied with the response of the police and the courts when dealing with cases of animal abuse.
Four days later a heartwarming article appeared in Blikk, a tabloid through which Orbán often sends messages to his people, about Nárcisz. Orbán told the reporter that six years ago Nárcisz was found half dead in the backyard of their house in Felcsút. The Orbán family’s vet managed to save her life. She lost an eye, but otherwise she is fine. In fact, a short while ago Nárcisz had a litter of twelve puppies. Orbán added that he himself will do everything he can to respond to the questions and suggestions of the animal welfare organizations. In fact, he said, he had already talked to the minister of justice about the problem. After all, he had, through Nárcisz, personally experienced the dreadful deeds committed by cruel men against innocent animals. For good measure his publicists made sure that Orbán together with Nárcisz made it to his Facebook page with the following caption in both Hungarian and English: “Both Nárcisz and I agree with the goals of animal rights activists.” The picture seems to have been taken specifically for the occasion.
The official “state news,” hirado.hu, a couple of hours later picked up the story of Nárcisz: “Viktor Orbán stands by animal rights activists together with his own dog.” But the problem is that no one managed to find any other picture of Nárcisz, who has allegedly been living in Felcsút for the last six years. Reporters found two or three pictures on which one could see Orbán together with dogs, but none of them was Nárcisz. In fact, in 2013 Orbán told Bors, another tabloid, that he would like to have a dog but a dog needs a lot of attention and he simply doesn’t have the time.
Eventually it was discovered that the registered owner of the dog is Gáspár Orbán, the son of the prime minister, who has been living on his own in a Budapest apartment at least since 2013 (I hope not sharing it with a litter of twelve). As a puppy Nárcisz was badly injured, but it is unlikely that some strange man managed to get into the backyard of Orbán’s “fortified” residence. A more plausible scenario is that she was run over by a car.
The long and the short of it is that Viktor Orbán doesn’t own a dog and the animal doesn’t live in Felcsút, as he claimed. What motivates this man to lie constantly? Especially about such a banal topic as the presence of a dog in the household? Why is he risking being unmasked? Why is he adding to the general perception that he is an inveterate liar or, even worse, a pathological one? Why do his advisors allow him to engage in these dangerous games? Don’t they warn him of the dangers involved in his constant lying? Are they that afraid of him?
Orbán plays fast and loose with the truth, especially when he gives interviews to foreign correspondents. In Hungary he has an easy time. He simply doesn’t allow reporters to ask him questions and he doesn’t give interviews, because his appearances on Fridays in the studio of the state radio station cannot be called interviews. During his first administration he was quite open about the fact that he would sit down with only one particular reporter. Naturally, it was someone who wouldn’t ask him anything that might be difficult to answer.
When he talks to foreign correspondents, however, he is in his element. He knows that no matter how well prepared the journalist is, he doesn’t know the ins and outs of Hungarian affairs. There are a few foreign correspondents who have been living in Hungary for years and who can speak the language, but he avoids them because they could question such statements as “there are one million [Ukrainian refugees] in Poland and almost 100,000 in Hungary. Nobody is talking about that anymore in the EU,” as he told Kai Diekmann of Bild-Zeitung. Ukrainian refugees in Hungary? Where are they? Of course, Diekmann didn’t question the veracity of this claim because it was highly unlikely that he knew the exact status of these so-called Ukrainian refugees. It is true that Ukrainian-Hungarians who lived next to the border area took advantage of the opportunity to become Hungarian citizens, but with their new Hungarian passports they moved farther west. These ethnic Hungarians became “economic migrants.” As for the numbers, the whole Hungarian population of Carpatho-Ukraine is about 200,000. So the figure Orbán cited is simply unimaginable. But do the readers of Bild or Business Insider know this? Of course not.
Not only does the boss lie, his underlings do too. In September 2015 Zoltán Balog, minister of human resources, claimed at a conference in Paris that Hungary had given shelter to 1,000 Coptic Christians from Egypt. This is how he tried clear Hungary’s name in connection with the country’s steadfast refusal to admit any refugees. The problem was that the small Coptic community in Hungary knew nothing about these people. Nonetheless, a few days later Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó repeated the lie.
Péter Györkös, the new Hungarian ambassador to Germany, came out with perhaps the biggest lie of all on German public television station. Györkös was installed in his new post only a few months ago, allegedly because his predecessor wasn’t “aggressive” enough. Györkös was a bit more modest than Viktor Orbán when he referred to the “tens of thousands” of Ukrainian refugees who are currently in Hungary. But what really raised eyebrows in Hungary was his claim that Hungary has a whopping 20% ethnic minority, which is burden enough on the country. This was his excuse for refusing to allow any refugees into the country.
It is a well-known fact that Hungary is an overwhelmingly monolingual country. Ninety-nine percent of the 9,896,333 inhabitants speak Hungarian. As for nationalities, there are 38,574 Romanians, 16,987 Germans, 11,820 Ukrainians, 8,852 Chinese, and 8,246 Slovaks. In brief, insignificant numbers. What Györkös did was to pull a totally false figure out of his hat when he claimed that the Roma population of Hungary is close to 20% of the population. First of all, according to the 2011 census fewer than 190,000 people declared themselves to be Gypsies. That is 2% of the population. The rest consider themselves to be Hungarians. As for the total number of people of Roma background there are only guesses, but it is unlikely to be more than 7% of the population. Klubrádió called the ambassador’s lies hair-raising, while DK said that the new ambassador brought shame to the country. The Roma community was equally if not more outraged. After all, they were offered as an excuse for Hungary’s inability to help the refugees.
Most likely the vast majority of his German listeners had no idea that the “aggressive” new Hungarian ambassador was lying. So he got away with it. In the “means justify the ends” world of Viktor Orbán, lying is an effective strategy for promoting his policies, one that the prime minister and his government will continue to pursue unless the opposition and the media fact check their every statement and counter all their falsehoods.