Below you will find excerpts from two fascinating articles in which Hungary’s current regime is compared with what might be coming to the United States under the presidency of Donald Trump.
The first excerpt is from Masha Gessen’s recent article, “The Putin Paradigm,” which appeared in the December issue of The New York Review of Books. Gessen is a Russian and American journalist, author, and activist known for her opposition to Vladimir Putin. Gessen discovered Bálint Magyar’s Post-Communist Mafia State: The Case of Hungary, published in English this year, which inspired her interpretation of Putin’s Russia and her fear that Trump may introduce the world to a post-democratic mafia state.
The second selection is from Susan Faludi’s “Hungary’s sharp rightward turn is a warning to America,” an opinion piece that appeared in the December 5 issue of The Guardian. Susan Faludi is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of several highly acclaimed books: Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, and The Terror Dream. Her most recent book, In the Darkroom (2016), was chosen by the editors of The New York Times Book Review as one of the ten best books of the year. Susan Faludi is a dual U.S.-Hungarian citizen.
Masha Gessen: “The Putin Paradigm”
“The best available definition of the kind of state Putin has built is provided by the Hungarian sociologist Bálint Magyar, who calls it a mafia state: it’s run like a family by a patriarch who distributes money, power, and favors. Magyar uses the word ‘family’ to mean a clan of people with longstanding associations; it is important that one cannot enter the family unless invited—’adopted,’ in Balint’s terminology—and one cannot leave the family voluntarily. In this model the family is built on loyalty, not blood relations, but Trump is bringing his literal family into the White House. By inviting a few hand-picked people into the areas that interest him personally, he may be creating a mafia state within a state. Like all mafias, this one is driven primarily by greed.
“The complete term Magyar uses is ‘the post-communist mafia state,’ and he argues that it can take root only on the ruins of a totalitarian state. But Trump may introduce the world to the post-democratic mafia state. In this model, he will still be the patriarch who distributes money and power. The patriarch’s immediate circle will comprise his actual family and a few favorites like General Flynn. They will concern themselves with issues of interest to the president, and with enrichment of themselves and their allies. The outer circle will be handed issues in which Trump is less interested. In practical terms, this will mean that the establishment Republicans in the cabinet will be able to pursue a radically conservative program on many areas of policy, without regard to views Trump may or may not hold, and this will keep the Republican Party satisfied with a president it once didn’t want.”
Susan Faludi: “Hungary’s sharp rightward turn is a warning to America”
“’American media should study Hungary’s record,’ Newt Gingrich declared approvingly after a visit to Hungary last summer, lauding a 13ft-high razor-wire border fence that Orban erected against the influx of ‘foreigners’, Syrian refugees. Gingrich tweeted that the nation has ‘proven a fence can stop illegal immigration’. Orban and Trump have established a mutual-admiration society, with the American retweeting the Magyar’s encomiums. The prime minister hailed Trump’s victory as ‘great news’ on Facebook.
“Anyone looking for a crystal ball for the coming Trump administration would do well to ‘study Hungary’s record’. And not just for clues about how a rightist strongman can permanently reorder a society and its institutions once it controls the legislature (as Trump and Orban do) and a judiciary (as Orban does and Trump is about to) – but also for how such a politician continues to consolidate power as his policies fail….
“Last week, Breitbart News, formerly run by Trump’s new chief strategist, Stephen K Bannon, announced that it ‘is preparing a multi-million dollar lawsuit against a major media company for its baseless and defamatory claim that Breitbart News is a “white nationalist website”’. This, despite its hosting articles such as ‘Hoist It High and Proud: the Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage’. Breitbart’s threatened litigation is especially ominous coming after a bevy of suits won by billionaire conservatives against news organizations, as Emily Bazelon chronicled in New York Times Magazine.
“The effects of such actions – presidential demonizing, threats of legal reprisal – are pernicious. As in Hungary, media repression thrives on self-censoring fear to accomplish its own ends. I won’t have to be fined in Hungary to worry about how a media excerpt of my book might be received by the Hungarian government. And I won’t have to be sued or slammed by anyone in the West Wing to know that I live in a less free world of speech. When I return from Hungary to the US next spring, it will be with a certain edge of trepidation. There is no island now.”