Viktor Orbán’s rubber bones? No, his master plan

I thought this morning that I would be original if I wrote about a favorite word of both the Hungarian media and the opposition. The word is “gumicsont,” a dog toy made out of solid rubber or sometimes nylon. “Gumicsont” is used as a metaphor for a communication device that is designed to distract the attention of the public from something much more important. Almost everything that happens in Hungarian political life is immediately labelled “gumicsont.”

It seems that I wasn’t the only to find all this talk about “gumicsont” irritating. Almost a year ago Péter Konok, a historian and political commentator, wrote an opinion piece on the subject in HVG. He, like me, thinks that the Orbán government’s constant barraging of the population with political bombshells are not distractions intended to divert attention from something else. No, Konok says, the Orbán government’s chicaneries are genuine because “they are like this.”

Moreover, says Konok, our views on what counts as political distraction depend largely on what we personally consider important. For example, those for whom having stores open on Sunday is important may well think that talk about the size of Antal Rogán’s apartment is trivial, a distraction. Some people were certain that Viktor Orbán’s shocking announcement about the reintroduction of capital punishment was a “gumicsont” to distract attention from the Quaestor scandal.

One could give numerous examples of this Hungarian habit of labeling an action as a kind of sleight of hand to divert public attention from something else. In Konok’s opinion, these so-called artificially created distractions are unfortunately reactions to very real problems. By dismissing them as merely rubber bones to chew on, the Hungarian public fails to acknowledge that the country is in big trouble and that Orbán’s regime is only a symptom of its woes.

I would go further. Almost all of the political strategies introduced by Fidesz and the Orbán government are carefully and methodically prepared ahead of time, having very specific aims in mind. The latest “gumicsont,” according to some journalists, is the attack on the NGOs. This recent “distraction” is allegedly intended to serve up a new enemy since the migrant issue is becoming old hat and has lost its appeal. Dead wrong, I’m afraid. It is, in fact, part and parcel of the same master plan that has been systematically pieced together ever since January 2015.

The Orbán government has been preparing the ground for this move for a very long time. George Soros has been the boogeyman in Fidesz circles at least since 2010. And as far as the NGOs are concerned, Viktor Orbán made it clear in the interview he gave to 888.hu last year that 2017 will be “the year of Soros,” that is, he will get rid of the NGOs one way or the other. A distraction? A rubber bone? Of course not. It is the next step in consolidating his power and bolstering the popularity of his government.

Some observers even called the “migrant question” a rubber bone, which is total nonsense. This was again a policy initiative that Orbán had carefully crafted with a very specific goal in mind. It was designed as a popularity booster which, as Orbán rightly predicted, couldn’t fail. Just as a reminder, Fidesz’s popularity between October 2014 and February 2015 had dropped by 14%.

Orbán is aware that despite all the propaganda, his government is not popular and that it is only the weakness of the splintered opposition that makes his position safe. So, he is ready with contingency plans, the latest being to incite xenophobic Hungarians to turn against organizations that receive money from abroad. Orbán’s advisers have already managed to make Soros’s name a hated household word. Only a couple of days ago Századvég, Fidesz’s think tank, released its findings, according to which “61% of Hungarians have a negative opinion of the businessman.” Eighty-eight percent of the population—on both the right and the left—consider the use of so-called “soft-power” a violation of Hungary’s sovereignty.

The attack on NGOs is a variation on the “migrant” theme. First came boosting xenophobia and simultaneously elevating nationalism. Now the government is impressing on the population that these NGOs are vehicles of foreign political influence and pressure on the Hungarian government, which is a “violation of national sovereignty.”

Another plan Orbán announced yesterday morning was his defiance of the European Union and his fight this time against any “economic interference” of Brussels in Hungary’s affairs. Every time Orbán announces a new fight against this or that, the normal reaction in Hungary is that the man cannot live without battling against someone. That’s his nature. But what if his duels are not merely the results of personal traits but part of a well-designed masterplan which we, the observers, fail to recognize? We naively consign them to the heap of policy “distractions,” claiming that they are just tricks to turn our attention away from healthcare, education, and general poverty. I think it is a big mistake to think in these terms. We must take everything he says with deadly seriousness. No rubber bones here.

Everything Orbán does is designed to ensure the popularity of his government and his own well-being. Since his talents don’t include an aptitude for good governance, he has to rely on the country’s alleged vulnerability as a crutch. The refugees’ arrival in Europe was a godsend to Orbán. The country, he argued, must be defended against the migrants, against Brussels, against George Soros’s “soft power.” I’m afraid that nationalistic Hungarians lap all this up, including even those who wish him straight to hell. As long as Orbán can harness this kind of nationalism, the Hungarian public will never be able to get rid of him. Unfortunately, I’m afraid, Hungarians don’t see the connection between their nationalistic attitudes toward alleged outside enemies and Viktor Orbán’s staying power.

January 14, 2017
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Member
The Blind Crowd-Pleaser Biological evolution is often referred to as a “blind watchmaker”: it looks like a planned, purposeful, even creative process, but in fact it’s just blind fumble-and-find. It is also morally blind (indeed, psychopathic): The only thing that succeeds is success: Whatever genetic traits lead to survival and reproduction are the ones that (by definition) make it into the next generation. That — not creative design, not cleverness, not even planning — is the “principle” on which both Orban and Trump survive and succeed. Trump (being himself a primitive — but loaded)-deplorable, knows how to cater to the crowd’s lowest instincts (the same as his own): resentment, loathing, conspiracy theory, revenge, greed. Skinnerian behaviorists showed long ago that you could “shape” someone into doing anything — touch his nose, slump in his chair — by systematically smiling when he moves toward the desired action and not smiling when he does otherwise. The base instincts and cheering of the crowd (not a conscious master-plan) are the smiles that shape Trump’s lowgrade, show-biz-wannabe rhetoric and “policy.” The dance is a bit of a two-step, because the crowd (dazzled by money, power and showmanship) is in turn being shaped by the… Read more »
e-1956
Guest

an objective review from breitbart.
http://www.breitbart.com/jerusalem/2017/01/15/five-anti-israel-offenses-paris-peace-summit-final-declaration/

Hungary needs a patriot like Aaron Klein. He could call for a Paris summit to liberate Hungary from the current regime.

Guest

Orbán’s fight this time against any “economic interference” of Brussels in Hungary’s affairs
Yes, return all those €s that Hungary gets from Brussels!

Sometimes I really wonder what these guys are thinking – if the EU really falls apart (as some are wishing), border controls and other niceties are reintroduced again and Trump’s isolationism lets Putin become the power figure in Europe – what would that mean for all the little uniportant/insignificant countries like Hungary etc?

The larger powers like Germany and France etc could laugh it off – but if Hungarian workers really are returned home and the money flow stops, what then is the importance of all the big words that O is spouting?

Bastiat2
Guest

I believe Orbán has but one master plan: stay in power as long as possible. By whatever means, and making use of the extreme feebleness of the EU, mired in its own inconsistencies and contradictions.

petofi
Guest

@ Bastiat2

Not, “…the extreme feebleness of the EU…” but
the extreme feebleness of the Hungarian mind!

pappp
Guest

Nationalism and hating others together (which creates community) work. They work in Israel as in the US as in Hungary just as in the Philippines. This isn’t a phenomenon unique to Hungarians.

By the way ‘masterplan’ (mesterterv) is a similarly annoying term used by Hungarian journalists all the time. There is no masterplan, there are plans, decisions, ideas, though I agree that nationalism, anti-migrant, anti-Soros, anti-something discourses are part of Orban’s most important tools.

Moreover, hatred is always a much better method in politics because it makes people angry. Without being angry voters don’t care enough.

Which means unless the Hungarian opposition finds a good enough enemy which can be hated or opposed fervently it will lose.

Fidesz opposed MSZP/Gyurcsany with limitless fervor staging stunts every other day and so he could maintain that enthusiasm when election day came.

I don’t see any opposition voter being enthusiastic about anything. They hate Orban but are ready to vote Orban again, better the devil you know…especially the middle classes which want stability above all.

webber
Guest

Are you sure there is no master plan?
I can’t help remembering what Simicska said about Orbán when he split with him – he said there was a plan, and he wasn’t willing to go along with it.
Note, a plan does not mean that there is no improvisation. There has to be room for improvisation as the international and domestic situation changes. A plan is only an idea of how to get from where one is to a certain goal, and the goal is most important.

Guest

Master plan?
Make sure that Fidesz rules forever and a day by establishing your people in every political function including the judiciary without a chance of them ever being “de-elected” …
And then establish yourself as a kind of Napoleon with unlimited powers in lavish surroundings.

webber
Guest

I believe that open alignment with Russia might be part of it: take EU funds as long as possible, do what damage can be done to NATO from the inside, and then flip.

Ferenc
Guest

But what could be the benefit of flipping over to Russia for OV?
What do you think: a final or just temporary flip?

pappp
Guest

Orban is over 50 years of age, how many such long term flips can he engineer?

The benefit of leaving the EU is that even the very minimal constraints which currently annoy him will be eliminated outside the EU. There’s one thing an autocrat hates and that is constraints, however small, to his power.

For example the budget deficit could be as much as he likes it to be, the Central Bank could openly finance the budget deficit, Orban could engineer inflation and so on.

Hungary will always significantly depend on Russian energy so Orban could always cut some deal with Russia which will happily pay him and his family a portion in order to control him. This is the method how Russian controls resource-poor client states (or at least this is the carrot part).

For Orban that will be enough: it would be a clear billion or two in Euros a year (at least). It’s incomparably easier to obtain than syphoning off the EU monies. Although the EU doesn’t care about the looting, the paperwork is way too much for his people, they are getting tired.

Ferenc
Guest

But how can he ‘sell’ that flip to the Hungarian people?

webber
Guest

He can’t, but if he goes with the Putin system, he doesn’t have to. He’ll never have to worry about popularity again.

petofi
Guest

…keeps the polonium sandwich that much further in the future…

pappp
Guest
It is clearly a part. Yes. But it’s also a very paradoxical situation. “The West” (which is a totally constructed conception) is now politically weak and this is manifested by its inability to force Orban to behave in a pro-EU, pro-West manner. And it is this weakness which annoys Orban and Putin. They hate weaklings and people who compromise. They just hate them. In their mind there is no people worse than those who betray their principles (like the Brussels bureaucrats) by compromises. (The Republicans are also like that, they never compromise and they do win: people laughed that the GOP voted for a repeal of the ACA for more than 50 times under Obama, but lo and behold Obamacare will be repealed in the coming days. There can be no compromise for Republicans and this is one part why Putin and his people likes the Republicans better, they are still “manly and strong”). But the West – Orban, Putin etc. realized – cannot behave in any other way. They are geographically far from Russia so really they are not afraid of Russia and Western people (especially in Europe) have very comfortable lives which they may not have earned themselves… Read more »
webber
Guest

Do you personally know Putin or Orban?

For Putin, my guess is he wants Russia to be as great (большая) as possible. On the way to that, he simply cannot tolerate the idea of any controls on his power. Getting more and more rich is also nice.

For Orban, I think the prime motivation is just staying in power as long as he is alive and getting more and more wealthy.

Other than that, I would not speculate.

petofi
Guest

No, Putin wants to defeat America and the West.

Orban wants to receive the word that he and his family can buy that south seas island and decamp…

webber
Guest

You are projecting what you assume from Orban’s behavior, and the Hungarian system onto the Republicans as a whole. Please stop. It’s a very false analogy.

Recall that the Republican Party is not the monolith that Fidesz is. There is no clear leader for the party (not even the president). Each senator holds his seat independently of the party. It is his. He votes according to his conscience.

It is neither unusual nor surprising for senators to vote against their own party or president. It happens all the time, and always has.

That is unimaginable in Hungary and most other European countries. It happens regularly in the US and causes nothing – there is no government crisis or expulsion from the party.

Presidents’ wills are regularly thwarted by members of their own party, and there is no crisis whatsoever. The system just carries on, regardless.

pappp
Guest

And maybe you don’t want to see similarities because you think the American system is so great. This is really off topic, I put my views in brackets, but I stand by my views. The system is different, but the Republicans are more strategic, more focused, disciplined just like Fidesz is. Fidesz is the best pupil of the Republican Party. It’s also not surprising that not Democrats started to admire Russia but the alt-right and Republicans (same thing now, as the former all vote Republican). They mutually respect each other.

webber
Guest

Apparently you didn’t notice who released the file on Trump. A Republican.

Look a little harder, and you’ll see a lot of this sort of thing.

The party is not unified, by a long shot. Doesn’t have to be.

webber
Guest

P.S. If the Republicans are so damned organized, how did Trump ever get to power? He was NOT the party’s preferred candidate in the primaries.

I think you’re hallucinating about organization there.

petofi
Guest

Don’t be a simpleton, Webber. We can’t be sure who released the file. The Russians are playing the situation like a giucco piano–releasing real, semi-false, and false information at the same time.

webber
Guest

McCain’s office received the file. McCain said he released the file to the FBI. That is my point (simple but not simpleton)

Who had the file before McCain or who made the file are different questions.

The British press are convinced that a Brit did it. They’ve named him.

webber
Guest

I “think the American system is so great”…
Well, comparatively it is, isn’t it. And comparison is the only way to say whether a political system is better than another. More than 200 years of uninterrupted democratic development. Can you beat that? And in all that time there have been several crises. Presidents have died in office, have been murdered, and have done all sorts of awful things, yet the system continues.

When you think Trump, think of what happened to Nixon.

pappp
Guest

Yes, but I was thinking more of a psychological issue. The greatness of the nation is so ingrained in Americans that this often makes it hard for Americans to criticize certain political issues (obviously many American people just hate the government as such and will say so, but to criticize “the Nation”, be critical about the sacred Constitution etc. are very rare). Whereas Hungarians like to complain and be cynical all the time anyway so they are more open to find some problem (that is when they dare to speak at all).

The US system worked fine until now, but it’s also true that Fidesz has a lot in common with the Republicans – even if the GOP is of course fundamentally different from Fidesz. You either see that similarity or you don’t. I do.

webber
Guest

America has been through something similar before. I think if you do a course on American presidential history, you’ll find that there are parallels to Trump.
Nixon is one. Andrew Jackson is another. Of the two, I think Jackson is closest to Trump.

pappp
Guest
Ok, it’s maybe my opposition this annoying word. Nationalism, hating “Soros” (the eternal figure of the evil, scheming Jew) are part of the methods with which Orban stays in power. However, there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Orban has been working for Russia and is working to undermine the EU, NATO and the West’s soft power with each and every possible tool at his disposal. That’s his clear goal and anybody who is denying that is delusional or paid by Russia. A long term dictatorship such as Russia or China (or Hungary) is in an infinitely better position to achieve its goals because its goals are set once and then rarely change for decades whereas in the West administrations come and go, sooner or later you bound to encounter a lunatic and corrupt administration that will help you. Orban and the Fidesznik elite have been consistently anti-West, anti-liberal for at least 15 years now, but he was able to fool influential Western people that he’s their man. So, there’s a plan if you will indeed: Orban is binding Hungary as much as possible to Russia and Russians via loans, Paks2, energy agreements, joint ventures (MET, MOL etc.),… Read more »
Ferenc
Guest

There are even Wizzair planes in olympic BUD design now (the Wizz name not so obvious even on those planes):
http://budapesttimes.hu/2016/12/03/flying-colours-back-olympic-bid/
From the point of Wizzair I can image their support.
But from the past vaguely remember that there wasn’t a really friendly relationship between Wizzair and OV/Fidesz. Do I remember it wrong, was there a change? Does anybody know the current (financial/power) relationship?

petofi
Guest

Obviously that the master plan, since Simicska is a true patriot, had to do with some sort of subjugation of Hungary in the long term…

Ferenc
Guest

No masterplan? My feeling is that the follow exists (and call it what you want):
-master goal (possibly only in OV’s head)
-master milestones (could be idem)
-actual milestones (known to the actual main vassals)
-actual actions (known to all actual vassals)
The actual milestones are periodically updated (based on the master milestones), and tried to achieve along the way of staying in power by whatever means (e.g.improvisations) can be applied under the actual circumstances.
I can even imagine, that in case of losing power (which is not impossible of course), there is set of back-up master milestones, paving the way how to get it back.
As arguments for the above I mention:
-OV since 1990 in charge of ‘his’ party
-grip by ‘his’ party on society continuously increasing (with sometimes some temporary setbacks, but that is normal)
-main direction visible over a longer period of time

Ferenc
Guest

One arguamnet I forgot:
-the change in vassals, both for main and actual ones (they seem to have limited ‘lifetime’, only a few for more than 10 years)

Istvan
Guest
As much as I appreciate the positions of George Soros on immigration and many other issues his supported NGOs have done in Central Europe, his own support for the rapid transformation of the command economies to private property and capitalism led directly to the existing Mafia state in Russia. The Harvard Institute for International Development and Soros played a significant role in promoting massive state enterprises in Russia to be bought up by Boris Yeltsin’s designated oligarchs who were facilitated by then Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, along with Yegor Gaidar and his plan of “shock therapy.” In 1995, Chubais-organized insider auctions of prime national properties, known as loans-for-shares, the Harvard Management Company (H.M.C.), which invests the university’s endowment, and George Soros were the only foreign entities allowed to participate. H.M.C. and Soros became significant shareholders in Novolipetsk, Russia’s second-largest steel mill, and Sidanko Oil, whose reserves exceed those of Mobil. H.M.C. and Soros also invested in Russia’s high-yielding, I.M.F.-subsidized domestic bond market. Soros even in July 1997 purchased of 24 percent of Sviazinvest, the telecommunications giant, in partnership with Uneximbank’s Vladimir Potanin. It was later learned that shortly before this purchase Soros had tided over Yeltsin’s government… Read more »
Guest

Orbán “undermining the EU, NATO” – come on, how?

Whatever the Fidesz government has done has “only” been detrimental to Hungary’s people – the large majority of the EU isn’t touched by their idiocies!

If say, Germany had problems because of Hungary there would be an outcry but actually we profit from cheap labour, inexpensive tourist destinations, qualified Hungarian immigrants etc – so what? The few billion € we pay into the EU coffers are no problem at all.

The fact that Hungarians now live in an illiberal almost dictatorship is rather irrelevant to the average German – as we say: Das geht mir glatt am Arsch vorbei! (I don’t give a shit!)

And the same goes for the other Western EU democracies.

Ferenc
Guest

But notice now an increase in by you linked articles in German press about Hungary. So there more interest in Germany for situation in Hungary?

Guest

I wouldn’t say that the number of articles on Hungary in the German press has increased – it’s more a question of filling pages by reporting on the crazy small Balkan countries, where some people might say:

I told you that nothing much has changed since we were on holiday there 30 years ago in Kadar times! It’s still corruption, corruption …

Pole
Guest

Taking about Master plan what about changing borders. If NATO and EU crambles there will be space it for Russia’s ally.

petofi
Guest

Not sure what this meant, but the only country that needs ‘living space’ is China; so if I was a Russky, I wouldn’t be too sure of China’s partnership while the southerners are actually casting fond glances at the barren vastness of Siberia…

Jean P.
Guest

“…the only country that needs ‘living space’ is China…”

I can think of several coutries along the Mediterranean that are in worse need of living space than China. For most of them occupying neighbouring empty territories is not feasible.

Ferenc
Guest

Sidenote about China: most you hear is the so many (more than 1 billion) Chinese, but most people forget (myself included, till I checked some data) India:
China: 1,376,049,000 people (2015 est.) – 145/km2
India: 1,293,057,000 people (2016 est.) – 391/km2
And remember both states are not really friendly towards each other, still no agreed borderline in certain areas (basically in the Himalaya).
Wondering when the Indian economy will start booming like the Chinese has done recently. One thing which might hinder their development is their main religion.

webber
Guest

With a GDP growth rate of over 7% for the past two years, I would say India’s economy is doing well enough.
http://www.tradingeconomics.com/india/gdp-growth-annual

Ferenc
Guest

I didn’t say that India’s economy isn’t doing well or not growing. I meant mostly: when will it have starting serious impact on the global economy?

webber
Guest

Who says it’s not playing a role? It is extremely significant. India has the seventh largest economy in the world in raw GDP terms, or the fifth largest if we consider the EU to be a single economy.
Ranking: 1. US, 2. EU, 3. China, 4. Japan, 5 India.
Or: 1. US, 2. China, 3. Japan, 4. Germany, 5. UK, 6. France, 7. India, 8. Italy.

If India were to collapse, that would cause an enormous crisis in the world economy.

Guest

Re India and China:

I was only once in China (Jan 1991 – it was bitter cold at the Great Wall :)) but even then I was astonished about the intellectual level of our business partners there.

And my granddaughter (with her hippie partner) have already been to India twice – the dynamics of the country are fantastic!

A s afrien from India said: we have 300 million young ones – even if only 1 % are excellent, the number dwarfs anything that Europe and the USA have to offer.

So weshould realise/accept thatthe time of US/EU/Russian hegemony will come to an end soon – which is nothing bad imho.

And again, the crazy behaviour of some silly Balkan governments are totally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things – as my wife just said:
Hungary (or any othe country …) is like a piece of flea shit on a wall …

webber
Guest
For Pappp, on Republicans already opposing Trump -. from The Guardian (tell me again about Republican discipline!) “Senator John McCain, the party’s 2008 nominee for president and a Republican who abandoned Trump late in the 2016 race, has lead calls for a congressional investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election. Citing intelligence chiefs’ conclusions that Russia orchestrated hacks on the Democratic party to sow confusion and help Trump’s candidacy, McCain has insisted he will organize an investigation even if his party’s leaders in the Senate do not join. McCain has also acknowledged that he passed an unsubstantiated dossier, alleging links between the Kremlin and Trump’s campaign, to the FBI last year.” “Senators Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio have also actively criticized the president-elect’s steadfast interest in making Russian president Vladimir Putin a friend of the Trump White House.” “Senator Rand Paul, who like Rubio was defeated by Trump in the Republican primary, has suggested he will oppose the president-elect on certain cabinet picks. The libertarian-tinged senator was also the only Senate Republican to vote against a rapid repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law.” “Five other Republicans have also resisted the immediate repeal of Obamacare:… Read more »
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