Donald Trump’s victory made Orbán “the man” in Europe

The study of Hungarian politics can take you to the most unexpected places. Here is, for example, a lengthy interview of Viktor Orbán by Gábor G. Fodor, Hungary’s modern Machiavelli and the recently appointed editor-in-chief of 888.hu, a fiercely pro-government tabloid. The title of the interview is shocking enough: “Ki a faszagyerek?—Orbán Viktor.” It sent me to a slang dictionary to be sure of the meaning of “faszagyerek.” Probably the closest translation would be “swinging dick,” but I wasn’t happy using that phrase in the title of this post. And so, from the slang dictionary I moved on to the American film industry, where I learned that a 2005 movie titled “The Man” is called in the Hungarian dubbed version “A faszagyerek.” Good enough. “The man” he is. G. Fodor must have loved the picture or its character because he has a whole series of “faszagyerekek”–for example, Zsolt Bayer, István Tarlós, and, of all people, Connie Mack. By the end of the interview, we learn from Orbán that his own “faszagyerek” is Öcsi Puskás. Who else?

Some Hungarian observers consider this interview to be as important as Orbán’s infamous “illiberal speech” in Tusnádfürdő/Băile Tușnad on July 26, 2014. That speech made an incredible splash at the time. Western politicians and members of the media began to understand that Viktor Orbán is a man with dangerous ideas and intentions. I doubt that this interview will create the same worldwide sensation for the simple reason that by now the Hungarian prime minister is widely identified as the “pocket Putin.” So his plans to expel the few remaining NGOs from Hungary will not come as a surprise.

Because this is the main message of the interview. The outcome of the U.S. presidential election has emboldened Orbán. He is sure that his time has come and that his vision of Europe will prevail. He is planning to fight the old order with Trump behind him, cheering him on.

Trump’s name came up early in the interview, with Orbán introducing him into the conversation in connection with the “intellectual excitement” that exists in Fidesz, “which comes not from school learning but from character.” This, he said, establishes “some kind of kinship with the just elected American president” in whom “one can sense the mentality of the self-made man.” Just as “Fidesz is a self-made story.”

Using this spurious “self-made” analogy, Orbán found it easy to link the new United States and Hungary. The old European political elite, who no longer have answers to today’s challenges, look upon Trump as they look upon him, except that the United States is larger and therefore they consider Trump more dangerous.

Note Donald Trump’s picture on the wall of 888.hu’s editorial office

In the past Orbán always refrained from verbal attacks on the United States. He left that job to Péter Szijjártó and the journalists running the state media. But now, with the wind of a new era in Washington at his back, he openly complained about Democratic foreign policy not just toward Hungary but toward all Central European countries. American diplomats believe that in this region there are only two kinds of leaders: one kind is corrupt, the other is Putin’s man. Or perhaps both at the same time. Therefore, they have considered it their business to interfere. Their method has been “soft power, which is not just a theory but a devious action plan.” According to Orbán, this American “soft power” has been implemented through NGOs, foundations, civic organizations, and the media. The American government has believed, at least until now, that this “action plan” could be realized through George Soros.

First, a few words about “soft power,” which is not exactly a new concept. Joseph Nye of Harvard University coined it in 1990 and developed it further in a 2004 book, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. The idea behind “soft power” is that, instead of coercion, a smart government uses persuasion. “Soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction…. The currency of soft power is culture, political values, and foreign policies.”

This is exactly what Orbán objects to when he criticizes the few civic organizations that act as defenders of human rights and democratic values. He is certain that the time has come to go against the Soros foundations with full force because Soros has “activated” himself against Trump’s plans to change the American political landscape. After all, it was only about a month ago that Politico reported that “George Soros and other rich liberals who spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect Hillary Clinton are gathering in Washington for a three-day, closed-door meeting to retool the big-money left to fight back against Donald Trump.” After Trump is firmly ensconced in the White House, it will be safe to put an end to all those hated foundations in Hungary that day after day complain about the undemocratic nature of his regime.

During the discussion of Soros’s NGOs and their role as transmitters of American soft power Orbán brought up the Romanian elections in which, according to him, there were no anti-Hungarian voices because the Romanian socialists realized that it’s not the Hungarians who are the enemy but George Soros. “The winners campaigned against the Soros regime; the real opposition is not the small, inconsequential parties but the NGOs and foundations supported by Soros.”

I’m not familiar enough with Romanian affairs to pass judgment, but I am not aware of strong anti-American feelings in that country. On the contrary. However, I did find one article describing an interview that Victor Ponta, the former prime minister, gave to a publication called Stiri pe surse—Cele main oi stiri. There he explained why he had adopted an anti-Soros stance. His reasons seem to be identical to those of Viktor Orbán. Soros through his foundations produces “a certain type of people, pseudo-pseudo democrats for whom other countries’ interests are more important than the interests of Romania.” Doesn’t it sound familiar? How widespread this kind of thinking is among Romanian politicians I can’t say.

In Orbán’s opinion, all governments would do well to get rid of Soros’s foundations. “One can feel that already. They will find out where these monies are coming from, what kinds of connections exist with what kinds of secret service organizations, and what kinds of NGOs represent what kinds of interests.”

In addition to his plans for silencing the NGOs, Orbán sees other opportunities for next year. He is “convinced that 2017 will be the year of revolt, but it is another story whether the evil status quo politicians will repress these revolts or not. In Austria they managed to stop a successful march toward the radical right by rejecting Norbert Hofer as the future president of the country. But in Italy and the United States they couldn’t. Next year there will be elections in Germany, the Netherlands, and France. “A lot of things can happen.” Here Orbán clearly identifies his own party with far right parties: Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) of Frauke Petry, Front National (FN) of Marine Le Pen, and the Partij voor de Vrighelheid (PVV) of Geert Wilders. Orbán is keeping fingers crossed for these ultra-radical parties. I don’t know how often I have to repeat: Orbán’s Fidesz is a far-right radical party which is striving to turn Hungary into a one-party dictatorship.

December 17, 2016
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Guest

Dear Eva, the “lengthy interview” link is wrong the right link: http://888.hu/article-orban-2017-a-lazadas-eve-lesz

Observer
Guest

The little fascists on the march.
Orbán’s babbles don’t surprise me, the blind faith or the ostrich head-in-the sand behaviou by many literate people does. It’s painful to observe a country being robbed and ruined by a bunch of brazen liars and bandits.

Member

The further right people and politicians will lean the closer they will move the World to a new World War.
As poorly as many societies are performing, becoming permissive and decadent, a major upheaval can shake everyone up and turn them back to a more humane and reasonable direction.
It is rather sad, that human weakness, the inability to sustain only the good things that creates worldwide conflicts.
Yet, the winners at the end are always the good people, not the morally corrupt and power hungry people who create the conflicts.
The little viktor is extremely good in manipulating the masses, that won’t think for themselves, yet he is just a corrupt, power hungry, primitiv criminal, ruining his country and parts of Europe.

Istvan
Guest

The Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights office at the US State Department could be for very difficult times under the Trump regime. I do think the Office of International Religious Freedom will be expanded with much larger focus on protecting evangelicals around the world. I also think that some of the NGOs that have been nurtured by the US State Dept to strengthen democratic institutions, reform economies, and fight corruption in Central Europe will be abandoned by ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson who will become the Secretary of State. Worrying about democracy in the countries ExxxonMobil made deals with was not a critical concern to Mr Tillerson.

So Orban is not so far off the mark in his comments to 888.hu on where US policy as it relates to Central Europe could be going.

Observer
Guest

Yes. Neither democracy nor principles dare I add the law, will be the top concerns.
I bet Trump will mess up badly lots of tying. If the US public service and establishment can’t check the tantrums of President Trump an impeachment would be an attractive option.

webber
Guest

Assuming Trump will not change, I wouldn’t be surprised by impeachment, because I’m counting on the majority of Republicans in office being patriots.

Cicmic
Guest

And Geert WIlders’ wife is Hungarian so you have the Hungarian connection there.

Richard Ray
Guest

I would be less certain about Trump/American support. If one looks at early Trump supporters: Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie…all have received nothing in return. You are only valuable to Trump if he can use you. Once you are no longer useful to him, good-bye..

Istvan
Guest
The first test of the new Trump government’s perspectives on supporting democracy in Central Europe will likely be in Poland, and I expect the Trump administration to do nothing or worse. Mariusz Blaszczak, Poland’s interior minister this weekend said of opposition MPs who staged a protest on the floor of parliament’s plenary hall over media bans in the halls of parliament by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party: “In my opinion, yesterday’s events were an illegal attempt to seize power.” There were also thousands of protesters in the streets outside of parliament led by the Committee for the Defense of Democracy and they were attacked by riot police and cleared out from the reports I have read. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo also attacked the opposition stating: “The move by the opposition to ignite extreme political emotions … has nothing to do with the actual condition of the country. On the contrary, it is due to the helplessness, the frustration, of those who have lost the power and who have no idea how to convince Poles of their views.”Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the president of PiS made veiled references to actions against the minority in parliament for their demonstration. As I have… Read more »
Warsaw guest
Guest

You have good knowledge about Poland. However: “they were attacked by riot police and cleared out from the reports I have read” – you can say a lot of things about PIS, but they are very careful not to use violence against any protesters, as they know it would make their position much more difficult. If they were really attacked and people were hurt in the process, it’d be all over the media now in Poland, and all I can find is MPs complaining about… well it seems there was a little bit of a fight between the opposition and PIS MPs…

webber
Guest

Nobody but diehard Fideszniks believe Hungarian government press these days.

Ferenc
Guest

Are they any polls/surveys about trust of individual media?
If not, they should be organised!!

webber
Guest

None that I know of, but there is plenty of data on which t.v. shows people watch, and which papers they read, and Fidesz-controlled ones are at the bottom of the list. Fidesz has demolished the viewership/readership if nearly everything it has acquired. Nobody is even slightly curious about their message any longer. Tuning out and turning off has again become a national habit, just as it was under socialism.

Guest

We haven’t watched Magyar TV news this year at all …

And even our neighbours speak of “Orbán-TV” which they don’t consider reliable!

Most of them watch only those “shows” – whether it’s about cooking, “reality”, song and dance or just those stupid series from abroad …

Ferenc
Guest

Which TV news are you watching (and trusting)?
Happen to know the neighbours stance in this also?

Guest

I’ve said it before – we don’t watch any news on tv, my wife reads index etc on her smartphone/tablet and I rely on the internet too:
The same goes for our young ones.

Besides HS (thanks once more, Eva!) politics.hu, portfolio and BBJ and sometimes Budapest Beacon etc – the sites that HS gives links to.
Re our neighbours in the village:
I think they have given up – for them it’s the local paper and Blick/Bors, that’s enough …

Observer
Guest

The regime made tuning out easier by grabbing the first places in the cable/ satellite program lists – I just skip the first page.

TKT
Guest

That is only 2/3 of the country.

Guest

Fidesz and its Catholic appendix only got 44% of the votes in 2014 – that is two thirds in your calculation?

You loonies are really funny in a way …

webber
Guest

You might add that 44% of votes cast is not 44% of the population.

Ovidiu
Guest
“….Orbán brought up the Romanian elections in which, according to him, there were no anti-Hungarian voices because the Romanian socialists realized that it’s not the Hungarians who are the enemy but George Soros. “The winners campaigned against the Soros regime; the real opposition is not the small, inconsequential parties but the NGOs and foundations supported by Soros.”…” Orban is mixing contradictory reasons here. The lack of anti-Hungarian rhetoric in Romanian politics is not something new. It has been adopted by the Romanian political elites (save some fringe voices) since Romania joined NATO and EU. It is a part of the pro-EU, “One-Europe”, non-nationalist, consensus among elites. On the other hand, and right since he came to power in 2010, Orban keeps provoking Romania through his actions and declarations hoping precisely to trigger an angry response and thus to stress the supremacy of the nation-state and the disunity of EU. Up to now he has failed to trigger such a response but he seems determined to keep trying. An yet, Orban is right that the last elections (11 December) have shown that this strong pro-EU, pro-Western, position is weakening. The confidence in EU, while still high by comparison with the rest… Read more »
Ndy
Guest

Trump and Orban have mighty similar characters, along with Putin.
I dunno where the hell these folk might lead us but just contemplating it already turns my stomach inside out.

Ndy
Guest

Methinks doomzzdaayy is lurking on da horizon.

Wondering what would happen if in an odd moment some faction of the Trump family get their hands on da doooooooooomzday button, and they decide to do a live Reality Show for us on World-TV…

Woudnt beeee too funny, eh….?

Guest

The question is how long has the Soros-funded Central European University got before Orbán boots it out of Hungary.

Alex Kuli
Guest

My 63-year-old, Fidesz-hating cleaning lady just asked me why Trump considers Orban “the leader of the European Union,” and did Americans really view Orban as such.
Turns out she was repeating something she had heard Connie Mack say on Orbanite TV. Mack indeed praised his financial benefactor as the “leader of the EU,” but was rather liberal in his use of weasel words such as “may” and “should.”
I then had to explain to my cleaning lady what a “lobbyist” was, because the Orbanites refer to Mack as “a politikus.”

András B. Göllner
Guest

Dear Éva. I hate to have to come to your aid in as delicate a subject matter as finding an appropriate English equivalent for the Hungarian slang expression “faszagyerek”. This phrase exists in the visceral, as opposed to the cerebral dictionary. Academics tend to rely, overwhelmingly, on cerebral rather than visceral language, hence your difficulty. I happen to be bilingual, a so called exception that proves the rule, (which, I may add, causes me no end of trouble among my academic peers. 🙂
Mr. Trump is not an academic, but he is a master of visceral language. According to his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, it is Trump’s ability to communicate in visceral language, that catapulted him to the Presidency in November. An excellent example of the mobilizational or persuasive efficacy of the visceral language used by Mr Trump in the political arena is the phrase: “Grab’em by the pussy”. As for „faszagyerek” – in visceral English it’s ” funky-mothafucka”.

Melanie Zuben
Guest

I couldn’t stop laughing at Eva’s translation of ‘faszagyerek”. ( brought tears to my eyes) What “hanging dick” actually means/translates to? Hmm . . . how about “top gun”? Just a thought.

Member

Orban is 100% reliant upon the EU for maintaining the countries Gdp + Fidesz corruption levels, everything he says is only intended for the rural Hungarian market, and Transylvania; the voters, that keep him in power.

The fact he never acknowledges the importance of foreign investment or EU subsidies hi-lights his duplicity. The EU block and international businesses see through this easily. An untrained dog on a leash is easy to control, so he barks.

When Trump looks at who pays what into Nato, Orban may not feel so happy with bright new future alliance.

Andrew
Guest

I thought Nigel Farage of UKIP was Trump’s man in Europe.

Tyrker
Guest

You are correct in assuming that the title of the interview is a pop-cultural reference, but not to the American film you mentioned.

Actually, it almost certainly refers to this Ganxsta Zolee hit:

TKT
Guest

Liberals have already emancipated virtually everyone: slaves, women, non-Caucasian races, homosexuals, atheists, non-Christians, various sects and cults, etc. There is no gas left in the engine. Who else is left to emancipate or “liberate”? Now the agenda is human rights to transvestites. All right. We will build separate restrooms for men, women, lesbians, gays, transvestites… Whats is left after that? Human rights to all sexually deviant people: necrophiliacs? Robot rights? Liberalism is dead.

Guest

You obviously have a big problem – why don’t you go and emancipate yourself, silly creature?

wpDiscuz