The Orbán regime and culture: oil and water

When I heard that Mária Schmidt was appointed government commissioner in charge of the “Memorial Year of the 1956 Revolution and War of Independence,” I swore that I would refrain from being popping mad every time I heard yet another crime against the memory of those days. I said I would just ignore the whole thing, although I knew this would be difficult given the amount of money–13.5 billion forints ($49,245,000)–that the Orbán government is spending between October 23, 2016 and October 23, 2017 for the sixtieth anniversary of the event.

Ten years ago, at the more important fiftieth anniversary when scores of heads of states gathered in Budapest to commemorate the event, Viktor Orbán made sure that the whole thing ended as a major embarrassment for the government. He cared neither about the country’s reputation nor the memory of 1956. Perhaps, when his followers along with skinheads and football hooligans turned downtown Pest into a veritable battleground, he was dreaming of another revolution. He himself, however, fled from the rally as soon as he delivered his incendiary speech.

Now, for the sixtieth anniversary, the Orbán government will celebrate themselves and their regime for a whole year while rewriting the history of the 1956 uprising to match their own ideological agenda. The work has already begun. As early as January, at a symposium organized by the Foundation of the Sins of Communism, Bence Rétvári, undersecretary of the ministry of human resources, mouthed off about anticommunism being one of the foundations of democracy, in connection with 1956. The only trouble with that interpretation is that the revolution was not an anticommunist uprising. It was a revolt against Stalinism, something we will never hear about in the “Memorial Year.”

I’m sure Viktor Orbán was mighty upset that he wasn’t the prime minister of Hungary in 2006. Although he is trying to compensate now, I can tell him ahead of time that the sixtieth anniversary of an event is nothing like the fiftieth or the hundredth, no matter how much money he throws at the project. Moreover, this government is known for its incompetence, so we can anticipate many mishaps along the way.

The celebrations hadn’t even started when the first blunder came to light. For some reason this government thinks that songs celebrating an event or an idea have a beneficial effect on the population. For example, in 2013 Tibor Navracsics’s ministry of public administration and justice gave its blessing to a theme song for the Day of National Togetherness, June 4, the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Trianon. The song as well as the lyrics turned out to be “horror itself.” Here are a few lines from the lyrics: “I dreamed of a peach tree under which everybody dances / I stood in a large circle with you, in the soft grass on a dewy field / Our hands touch, the soles of our feet step on each other / The light of happiness burns in our eyes./ Join the circle! / Dance as your blood dictates, feel the heart of the earth beating with you because we are all in one together.” At that time Bálint Ablonczy, a right-wing journalist, suggested that the government “should leave that culture thing alone. It is not your thing.” Since then the infamous song has died a quiet death.

Unfortunately Viktor Orbán didn’t listen to Ablonczy. On the spur of the moment during his trip to the United States he asked Desmond Child to write a song celebrating 1956. Child is of Hungarian-Cuban extraction and, although he speaks no Hungarian and has had little to do with the country until now, he decided to become a Hungarian citizen. Child agreed but either was not inspired or was simply lazy. He merely re-orchestrated a song he wrote for the University of Miami Hurricanes in 2007, “The Steps of Champions.” That’s bad enough, but what got the goat of Hungarians was that the Orbán government allegedly paid Child 50 million forints ($182,388) for his work. The Hungarians who negotiated with Child–Mária Schmidt and Gábor Tállai, one of her co-workers at the House of Terror–knew nothing about the background of the song. As for the price, they thought it was dirt cheap. As Tállai said, “anyone who knows anything about this profession will think that it was a steal.”

The Hungarian negotiators claim that they paid Child $182,388, while the composer, who is all upset, claims that he received no money for the re-orchestrated piece, now called in Hungarian “For a Free Country”(Egy Szabad Országért). He did his work gratis. He wrote on Facebook: “I’m extremely surprised and disappointed how a part of the Hungarian media has launched a full-blown and unworthy attack against the project, my person and my family life. I feel especially hurt that they would politicize even this sincere tribute to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution which lives forever in our history to promote their own current agendas.” Considering that Child knows no Hungarian, someone must be feeding him the lines about the antagonistic and unfair media which tries to politicize the sacred anniversary of the revolution. Who is telling the truth? We don’t know.

And then there are the Hungarian lyrics written by Tamás Orbán, editor of light entertainment at Duna Televízió, which is part of MTVA (in English: Media Services and Support Trust Fund), which can best be described as the Orbán news factory. He is perhaps most famous for his Hungarian lyrics for a TV series for children, “The Smurfs,”called “Hupikék törpikék” (Gaudy blue little dwarfs). 444.hu found quite a few hilarious lines, such as “you have been worn away between many fires”; “you don’t need to know the past in order to gain understanding”; “this landscape is not a map”; “neither misfortune nor enemy can tear us apart.”

fishes

The enunciation of the singers is also problematic. The line “Magyarország halld szavunk, hány arc és név” (Hungary, hear our pledge, how many faces and names) sounds very much like “Magyarország, halszagú , hányatsz és mész” (Hungary, fishy smelly, puke and leave). So a lot of people are having loads of fun with this new hymn of the revolution. But don’t worry, this atrocity will soon be forgotten like others before it. There was, for example, the Hymn of the Republic that was supposed to replace the national anthem. I remember that many of its words were either historical or archaic and that we as children had no idea what they meant. One line went: “Hullt a pór, hullt a gyereke” (The peasant fell, and also fell his child). “Pór” is an old-fashioned word for “paraszt,” peasant. Well, we didn’t know “pór” but we knew “por” (dust) and dust falls, doesn’t it? We didn’t bother with the nonsensical “dust’s child.”

No one will remember the lyrics of the tribute to 1956 and no one will sing it, although I’m sure that the state radio station will blare it at least once a day. But it will simply not stick. Orbán and Company should have left “culture” alone. Not their thing.

August 21, 2016
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Istvan
Guest
The Hungarian Embassy in the United States has this announcement regarding commemoration of the 1956 revolution http://washington.kormany.hu/download/e/1e/51000/1956%20Revolution%20Commemoration%20Letter%20FINAL%20VERSION.pdf continuing the historical claim of the anti-communist nature of the uprising we can read in this statement “the Revolution started the breakup of the Soviet Empire and ultimately led to the fall of communism.” If we are arguing for continuity between 1956 and the collapse of the USSR, then maybe it should be the revolt of the East Berlin construction workers in June 1953 that started things off? Or how about the Russian defeat in Afghanistan? Or how about the immense strategic pressure placed on the USSR by President Regan? Or how about all of these factors? There is as yet no announcement of any symposium on the 1956 revolution with PM Orban in attendance at the National Defense University as was rumored in the Hungarian press this week. Nor has the National Defense University listed the event on its calendar. There was a announcement of a “Gala Dinner commemorating 1956 to be held in Washington, D.C. this October.” Ambassador Dr. Réka Szermerkényi read the announcement in a video presentation on the Embassy’s website, but no mention of Orban going to Washington was… Read more »
webber
Guest

By that logic, the 1848-49 Hungarian Revolution started the collapse of Austrian power.

Zsolt
Guest

Or maybe even the fall of communism. It makes you want to puke.

vilike
Guest

The logic is of course false, but it is a myth that is being believed by many Hungarians.

Observer
Guest

Istvan

This kind of mythology confirms the dishonesty streak in Hungarian society.

Further to your note – no one here talks about
– the Polish resistance against communism the armed one in the late 40s and the workers’ later down to the 80s (when close to 100 were killed) Jaruzelski/Walensa.
– the Czech democratization of Dubcek in 1966-7
– Gorbachev, who just let them go.
The lying and self contradicting Fidesz narrative re 1989 ranges from “struggle” for “hard won freedom” (M.Schmid), to “no change took place” (Orban), depending what suited their purpose at the moment.

Popular these days is the equally fallacious myth of Hungary having always been the defense tower of Europe/Christianity.

Yes. Very fishy and it really stinks, from the head.

Member
Between the Peach Tree Song and the revamped “Steps of Champions”, there was a further attempt at a song to unite the Hungarian nation across borders and to mobilize expatriate Hungarians to stick together and to preserve their language and identity. The initiative, entitled “Örökségünk” (’Our Heritage’), and officially supported by the secretary of state for ethnic/national affairs (nemzetpolitika), Árpád Potápi, produced a song of the same name, written by a musician from Paks. (Yes, the nuclear power plant was one of the sponsors.) It is something like an ethno-pop ballad, with two singers and, of course, a children’s choir – in the official video clip, shown in strategic locations in and outside Hungary. You can watch the clip and read the comments on 444.hu. Note the sarcastic title: “OK, now the emigration is over, here’s the wonder weapon of the government!” http://444.hu/2016/01/26/oke-veget-ert-a-kivandorlas-itt-a-kormany-csodafegyvere I wasn’t particularly impressed at the first time. But, compared with the incredibly naïve and tasteless Peach Tree Song and the ridiculously pompous “halszagú” song, “Our Heritage” isn’t actually that bad. And as for this newest thing: I wonder what it is meant for. After the fanfare-like beginning (like a sugary and watered-down version of Copland’s “Fanfare… Read more »
Guest

Re memorials for ’56: On Kossuth tér there is a small underground memorial to the Kossuth tér massacre. Nicely modern museum display, with text in Hungarian and English. Nowhere did I find any text describing the context of the event. People came and left pretty quickly

Guest

The uprising might have been midwifed by the anti-Stalinist/anti-Rákosist activities of young communist intellectuals in the Petőfi Circle over a number of months in 1956, but in my personal experience on the Astoria barricades and barricades elsewhere in the university precinct late October and early November 1956, all of the men and women, guys and girls on the barricades that I have met were vehemently and loudly anti-communist, rejecting even national communism. Politically they mostly wanted social democracy for Hungary, with (if at all possible) the communists and Jews chased out of the country, and with Hungary out of the Warsaw Pact and neutral like neighboring Austria.

desi
Guest

-Give back the money!
-No money was involved you stupid proletar! So nothing to give back!

Observer
Guest

Eva,

I think you should leave these to show their selves. This way it will be easier for everyone to see what they are.
E.g. the quotation of the BZs poison was very effective.

And then we can have a shot at them too.

chi
Guest

This was a real excerpt from the facebook page of Child, two idiots “arguing”.

webber
Guest

The “game” Eva doesn’t like is one person using a variety of pseudonyms to appear as if s/he were several people. I don’t like it either.

Observer
Guest

The high points of Orban’s cultural life is popping sunflower seeds at the provincial soccer stadium.

The story is exemplary re the Orban regime:

– Went around to buy their own promotion and propaganda on public expense
– Stole a big chunk of the public funds
– Came up with a dubious product
– Used blatant lies (title on CD “For a Free Country” while they destroyed the Hungarian).

Reminds me of the pun on the Midas touch:
the Orban touch turns everything is something softer, darker and with no value at all.

vilike
Guest

Observer,

“the high points of Orban’s cultural life is popping sunflower seeds at the provincial soccer stadium.”

This may be true.

But unless you can embrace average Hungarians, unless a politician can embrace such szotyizós, overweight country bumpkins they will fail. Orban is like tha in reality (although he was very good at fooling clueless foreign diplomats and politicians), but he also realized that this image works too. It’s genuine.

The election system is based on provincial, rural voters and rural voters like people who are like them and they hate urban, effeminate smartasses who preach about culture and the EU that is people who are not like them.

Liberals looked down on such people because they were so cultured so they lost. Now they’re gone for good, I’m afraid never to return.

Bowen
Guest

Gone for good, never to return? You are obviously unaware that there is life outside Hungary. A responsible leader would want to drag Hungary out of being a horrible kind of retarded 1975 theme park, full of troglodytes, stuck in the middle of 21st century Europe. But if that’s how you like life, carry on.

Observer
Guest

Fidesz agitprop terms and messages aside, you trolls ptetend to admit how uncivilized , bad the regime may be, but…..
Isn’t the contination of this course a slowly developing catastrophe for the Hungarians. Is this worth the crumbs you are being paid, or the little scratch of your complex – burdened ego? This is not even 30 silver.

vili
Guest

There is no trolling here. It’s like when Obama said certain bitter people “cling to guns and religion” and it was not too popular.

Average Hungarian voters are who they are, but you must be very politically correct with them, people can get offended very easily and they are the majority. Orban orchestrated a revenge of the people from the country against the leftist/liberal urbanites, a very thorough defeat.

As long as the approach is that they are stupid triglodytes, uncultured, racists people from the provinces (vidékiek) the haughty educated liberals questioning their habits of drinking pálinka and eating szotyi and smelly home made sausage they will lose out. That’s what we are seeing by the way. Urban phenomenons like LMP? Együtt or PM are nowhere in polls. People just don’t like intellectuals smartasses who look down on them.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/apr/14/barackobama.uselections2008

Observer
Guest

You have a point here about dealing with “the people” (zemberek).
I’m not very good at that personally, but I know how the game is played and make allowances for some hypocrisy.

Don’t forget that in 2014 Fidesz won only 2.25 mil votes out of 8, their lowest since 1998 and the trend is down.

The inept “central planning” approach and “political” decisions together with the huge corruption keep dragging the country down. Sooner rather than later the dupes will realize they’ve been screwed badly and the mood will turn like in 1989, i.e. anyone but this gang.

Guest

Re: ‘anyone but this gang’

Careful I’d say as the ill wind blows. Magyarorszag has to do better all around. If the trend is going down I hope the action stays in the voting booths. Some people then could be in a very bad mood.

Bowen
Guest

OT.
George Schopflin, faithful Fidesz MEP, has had his Twitter account suspended. This comes after he called for pigs heads to be placed on the Hungarian border fence, to deter refugees.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/muslim-refugees-pigs-heads-border-fences-hungarian-mep-islam-comments-a7202651.html

Observer
Guest

And he is one of the “best” fideszniks, although in my book there is no good fidesznik/fascist/robber.

Guest

Re: Mr. Schopflin and the pigs heads

He must have gotten the idea from the film ‘Planet of the Apes’ where the powers that be Simians used scarecrow type objects as a ‘watch out’ for the scrungy humans. Life imitating art as Schopflin sure takes a page from Simian culture.

Member

This is incredible.
In the Finnish “immigration debate”, the so-called “migration critics”, that is, the dumbest racists, are often openly ridiculed for confusing Muslims with vampires and pork with garlic. I have seen incredible expressions of this stupidity in social media. A woman proudly describing how she rearranged the contents of the refrigerator in the local supermarket, placing packages of bacon on top of packages of halal meat to fend off Muslim customers. Another lady in an anti-immigration rally (among a dozen freaks and five times as many counter-demonstrators) wearing a pig mask and believing that it will shock the Muslims rather than make her look ridiculous. Or a guy planning to get a spray bottle and fill it with pig’s blood: spraying it on Muslims will make them run away in panic, he believes. (And after the anti-immigration rally, these people will go to a pizza restaurant where, very probably, the ham on their pizzas has been placed there by Muslim immigrants.)
But these people are our less fortunate brethren, less well educated and less informed. Never in my life would I have expected this from an academic with lots of international experience and contacts.

e-2016
Guest

Santra, thanks for the report from Finland. There has been a weaponization of Muslims and Syrians by Moscow. It is a moral duty to assist the refugees, while we have to develop a strategic pressure on Moscow to cease terrorizing the Muslims, and the West. In spite of most views on the Balogh Blog, maybe, the Trump movement can provide the best platform for such an operation.

Member

Does anyone else find this promo spot that MTVA created to cheer on Hungarians at the Olympics to be rather creepy?

In both tone and message (“VICTORY WILL BE OURS!!!”) it has the feel of propaganda from Hungary’s communist past:

http://24.hu/kozelet/2016/08/15/orban-szavaival-koszoni-meg-az-olimpikonoknak-a-kozteve/

Guest

Got the Jobbik propaganda Hazai Pálya again today in our postbox – filled with examples of Fidesz corruption.

There they are right – but how do people react to this?

“It’s only corruption when I’m not involved” – poor Hungary!

webber
Guest

Yes, on corruption Jobbik is right. It could even be that they would be less corrupt in office than Fidesz (a hard act to follow, or rather an easy one, as it’s so awful). I trust we will never find out.
What is the great difference between Fidesz and Jobbik? Please let me know, because I don’t see it, and haven’t seen it for some time.
Fidesz (Bayer and many others) is every bit as foul, racist and anti-semitic as Jobbik. The only difference is Fidesz is in power.

There is a chance that Hungarians will turn against the right en masse after this – and THAT is a real shame (speaking as a conservative). But Fidesz (and Jobbik) has spent so much time badmouthing the left – my enemy’s enemy is my friend.

Observer
Guest

Webber

To quote Tamás Bauer, not the Jobbik, but Fidesz is the extreme right (for Jobbik spring from and was nurtured and supported by Fidesz and wouldn’t exist if Orban didn’t want it to.

Someone posted a photo with a Jobbik poster announcing 10 points of their program, where 6 or 7 had been already implemented by Fidesz. s
The ultras in Jobbik have been pushed to the back seats and the official party tone has changed (not so much the local and supporters’ one). Bayer and MH outdo any Jobbik prominent.

The institutionalized Orban corruption can’t be beaten, it doesn’t get any worse than asking 90% kickbacks. Petty corruption is low, just as petty crime in mafia land/state.

Hence the “anyone but the Orban gang”.

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