Government media on foreign affairs: The British election

For today I chose a topic that may help readers become more familiar with the Hungarian government media’s coverage of foreign news: British Prime Minister Theresa May’s ill-fated snap election that brought political uncertainty to the United Kingdom and that greatly weakened the May-led Conservative Party.

As is often the case, the inspiration for this post came from a friend from Hungary who called my attention to an article in Origo that kept insisting, even after the election results showed that the Conservatives hadn’t achieved a majority, that the Tory victory was spectacular.

The Hungarian government has a clear preference for the Tories. Orbán had excellent relations with David Cameron, and Cameron’s departure after the Brexit vote was a heavy blow to the Hungarian prime minister. He lost a powerful friend in the European Council. Moreover, the Labour Party led by the “Marxist” Corbyn is an anathema as far as the far-right Fidesz is concerned.

Flórián Hecker, a regular op-ed writer of Origo, wrote a wildly optimistic forecast of the election results on June 8 when British newspapers were already full of devastating descriptions of the very poor Tory campaign and the likelihood that there would be an unexpected turnabout in public sentiment. Hecker predicted that “Conservatives are in the home stretch and Labour in the lee,” although he admitted (in a seeming lapse of logic) that the “Jeremy Corbyn-led party had somewhat forged ahead.” In Hecker’s view, the really important issues of the British election were terrorism and migration. The two terrorist attacks and May’s radical reaction were helping the Conservatives. The majority of the Brits are still pro-Brexit and May’s hard Brexit stance also helps May’s chances, while Corbyn’s desire for the U.K. to have access to the EU market is not a popular position in Britain.

After the election Origo announced the results with surprising enthusiasm. “It was the Conservative Party that finished first in the British parliamentary election. The exit polls indicated their victory with 314 seats, which they surpassed by a little.” Yes, this is an exact translation. The article dismissed Labour’s gains by saying: “266 seats were predicted for the Labour party [but] they received a bit fewer.” Moreover, nowhere in the article do we learn outright that the Conservative Party hadn’t won enough seats to form a majority government. The closest the article comes to the hard truth that Theresa May’s gamble failed is the muddled statement that “the Conservatives may be in the majority with the Democratic Unionists.”

A day later, on June 9, another article appeared in Origo, heralding that “the Conservative party has won the snap election with a convincing ascendancy.” This time the “impressive” win was interpreted as a supportive vote on Brexit. Origo consulted a foreign policy expert from Századvég, who said that the number one topic in Great Britain is still the country’s relationship with the European Union. Terrorism and national security, he said, despite the recent terrorist attacks, played a relatively insignificant role in the election results.

Today Magyar Idők ran an editorial by Zoltán Kottász, an old supporter of the British Conservatives, who a couple of months ago predicted a conservative turn from France through Germany all the way to Eastern Europe. This time he admitted that Theresa May made a lot of mistakes, but “the fact is that she won” and her situation is not significantly worse today than it was before the election. As the headline of the op-ed piece read in English: “Business as usual.”

It was difficult to maintain this phony enthusiasm for a great Conservative victory for long. Mariann Őry of Magyar Hírlap admitted today that May had made a bad mistake by calling for a snap election. She cataloged a host of mistakes that May made during the campaign and announced that many Conservatives want her to resign. Her conclusion is that May wanted to be a new Margaret Thatcher, “but according to all signs she is unequivocally not.”

Also today Origo decided to ask an associate professor of Corvinus University for his assessment of the election results. He said that “the results of the snap election have made Britain’s domestic politics unpredictable.” This was translated in the headline to the short article as “Political chaos may await the Brits.” The professor believes that Theresa May will resign shortly after the opening rounds of the negotiation talks. Accompanying the short article was the following photo.

Source Citizenside / Photo: David Whinham

Magyar Idők also eventually decided to recount the real story of the snap election. Instead of relying on MTI reports, Tamara Judi, a regular at the paper, wrote a lengthy article in which, quoting The Telegraph, she reported that the “remain camp took the election as a second referendum and supported those who offered the mildest exit conditions.” This must be difficult for the Orbán government to swallow since it has been a strong supporter of Theresa May’s position on many issues–save, of course, for the status of the half a million Hungarians who live and work in the United Kingdom.

Within two days the key government papers, Origo and Magyar Idők, wrote conflicting (I suppose one could kindly describe them as “evolving”) stories about the British election. Imagine that these papers were your only source of information about the election. Is it any wonder that there is such confusion in Hungarian right-wing heads?

June 10, 2017
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David North
Guest

Reading this post the most striking feature is the the Orwellian nature of the coverage:black is white. To be sure, the result came out of the blue, but that’s only a partial excuse. There is still a strong smell of propaganda. The important message to Hungary is that the politics of hope struck such a chord with voters. The Tory excuse for cutting the heart out of the social fabric of the country: that there was no money, was finally exposed as the fraud it always was. Momentum has a similar attitude. Fidesz beware!

Guest

David, you took the words right out of my mouth!

Of course it’s nothing new that Fidesz is practicing Orwell’s 1984 (and Animal Farm too – they are even better there …) but to show their idiocy so openly is almost a new dimension!

PS and not too much OT:
Mariann Őry of Magyar Hírlap has often been quoted on politics.hu with her remarks on twitter – they are even worse than Trump’s!
Is she also a fascist/antisemite/racist like Bayer Zsolt? Some of her tweets were really stomach turning …

exTor
Guest
An Essex-born Toronto-resident friend wrote to his Lancashire-birthed interlocutor that he felt that within a year Jeremy Corbyn will be PM, May having resigned long before then, having been replaced by someone other than BoJo [Boris Johnson]. My friend also stated that Brexit, “a nonstarter from now on”, will quietly be abandoned. Given that there was an agist split on Brexit –the young mostly proEU, the old more antiEU– and given the increased youth involvement in this election, I think that the push to stay in the European Union will intensify. Wolfi wrote that it is naive to think that Momentum can do much against Viktor Orbán in 2018. I agree. While there was a fundamental youth move toward Bernie Sanders in the US election that was somewhat mirrored in the youth move toward Jeremy Corbyn in the UK election, there is a major impediment that Momentum must overcome: its relative newness. Sanders, an Independent, tapped into the existing Democratic Party, while Corbyn was the leader of the existing Labour Party, both of which had tons of people of all ages working within it. The collective wisdom in each party was huge. There is no such collective wisdom in Momentum,… Read more »
Guest

Yes, that’s one of the “problems” of democracy:
It always takes longer than you think – but when the time is ripe, some decisions by the people work immediately!
The typical dictatorship/autocracy (whether Trump, Orbán, May or many others) can be characterised on the other hand:

Decisions are clear, concise, fast, without opposition in the party – and usually wrong!

PS and not too much OT:
When I was part of the students’ movement 50 years ago there were of course those who wanted results fast – the extremists in the SDS and of course the RAF (with their shootings) but logically they could not succeed.

I don’t remember who coined the expression “march through the institutions” – but that’s what we did, invade the existing parties (liberals and socialists and even the CDU) and found a new party: The Greens and 20 years later there were Green ministers, 30 years later we had Green Mayors in some university towns and 40 years later there was a Green Prime Minister in the really conservative home of us Schwabs in Stuttgart.

Of course the reunification of Germany later helped – it showed that really unexpected things can still happen.

aida
Guest
My dear friend Wolfi, Just a few points. The student movement of 1968. We were around then. We worked hard and wanted to make progress. We would not have pissed on the student movement if it was on fire. We were not some fast gang. We wanted to work to pay the rent and to put a meal on our table 2x or 3x a day. We did not have the time or the means to go on marches. What did you do? The BBC, like all organisations is irritating at times and also gets it wrong. I have followed its coverage of the last election and the one before that and the referendum. I criticised them for not playing Liar Liar. They were right. Even more people heard it on line. Also I follow its non political output. I cannot imagine what your friends do not like. Where you are you cannot download the iPlayer for TV, but the BBC radio player is available and I recommend. If you are awake early you can hear a daily tweet of the most magical birdsong. Current affairs, culture, music, literature, history. Just switch it on, sit back and enjoy your retirement.… Read more »
aida
Guest

Correction: for “fast gang” read “fascist”

Member

I do wonder about the motivation of the “journalists” working for the Fidesz propaganda rags.
Purely financial? Like the fat dictator himself and so many others in Orban`s Hungary- they would sell their grandmothers into prostitution if it meant them earning an extra 100 HUFs?

Ideological?
They actually do believe the fascist drivel they are ordered to print?

Or, and this is the most unlikely of all, they genuinely see themselves as media professionals and believe they are doing a professional job?

Whatever. Like the Maffia Kormany and the brain-dead who still support it, they are true traitors to the nation who will, I hope, one day pay dearly for their crimes

wrfree
Guest

From Prof’s piece, Magyar ‘journalism’ really has to be considered an oxymoron. It’s practice appears to stifle the writers as a source of credibility and accuracy and simply substitute the ‘spin’ which perhaps looks to be the defining characteristic in the news environment. ‘If you can spin, your in’. It is apparent they themselves wish to be the so-called ‘newsmakers’ and the shapers of news.

All in all the profession has fallen far from having any semblance of balance. Would be interesting to what extent the electorate agreed or disagreed with their ‘stories’. It could be a clue on how far the electorate is in succumbing to journalistic ‘smoothing’ in its pieces and communications.

Guest

For many years my wife hasn’t watched most Hungarian tv news (I still remember 10 years ago when she called Hirtv: Orbantv) and read newspapers – what should you choose when you have Blick, Bors and Magyar Fidesznik? And since 2010 we switch on the tv only for Spectrum, National Geographic and some German programs like 3SAT, sometimes a cooking show or an old movie …
Index and 444 are her sources on the net.

PS and very OT:
Our granddaughter wanted to watch some children’s programs (she’s six years old) and I was horrified that even there you had regular ads for medicine! Do they want children to tell their parents: I need these pills? The tv says they’re good …

Ferenc
Guest

re: Hungarian healthcare and medicine/pills
After some experience with the Hungarian healthcare system, i.e. main aim to give people first of all pills instead of finding out what’s their health problem and curing that, I started to give the pharmacies a nickname: candy-store (in Hungarian: édesség- vagy cukorkábolt)

wrfree
Guest

You know when I visit countries I’m a sucker for taking home something to remember it by. So in my book of remembrances I still have a yellowed copy of that publication which you could find at almost every kiosk for newspapers in Kadar days. And that was Pravda.

Funny but looking at the molding of public opinion nowadays with its mixture of bs, mendacity, weak and incorrect translations, etc etc to the extent that maybe nobody knows what the hell is going on I thought Pravda was refreshing in light of current events. With each and every issue you got the ‘unadulterated’ news courtesy of the Presidium. No muss no fuss. At that time among Russian and Magyars there was no question as to what the ‘news’ was. Certainly there was no excuse for er… being uninformed.

bimbi
Guest

Since the Hungarian public is essentially a captive audience to the Fidesz-dominated press, they can write what they like – and do, even though the result is (as quoted in the blog) silly, stupid and inaccurate.

However, the sad part is that Mrs. May’s determination to cling to power (the Conservatives often remind me of the Orban regime) will, it appears be achieved through active cooperation of the political wing of a Northern Irish (Ulster) terrorist group.

One would have thought, “Strange bed-fellows”, but Control and ‘Strong and Stable’ trump the shame of PM May’s dismal performance at the polls. Her time will come ere long.

Istvan
Guest
Off topic but of interest to American Hungarians. Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis visited with President Trump last week in Washington DC. They want a visa waiver like Hungary has and apparently the visit was in part a reward for Romania’s hitting the 2% GDP defense NATO defense spending limit. At a press conference several Romanian journalists asked Trump about his thoughts on the battle against political corruption in Romania. Trump seemed completely oblivious to the reality that in Romania the pro-U.S. caucus in Romanian parliament is also the faction of Liviu Dragnea (Social Democrat) president of the Romanian parliament’s chamber of deputies. Dragnea is the real power in Romanian politics and many consider Iohannis to be under his indirect control. Dragnea, who has a two-year suspended prison sentence for vote rigging also passed laws decriminalizing official misconduct if the funds involved are less than 200,000 lei ($47,800). Critics say the measure helps government allies and other officials facing corruption charges get out of prison or clear their records and claim it will encourage more officials to steal on the job. This sparked mass demonstrations in Romania, but Dragnea still retains power. I have not had the chance to look at… Read more »
7wiw
Guest

Interestingly Mariann Őry (working at Magyar Hírlap) was originally called Thürmer being the daughter of the IMO-educated Gyula Thürmer who has been leading the pro-Russian, Hungarian Labour (communist) Party.

7wiw
Guest

It’s not that with the departure of Cameron Orban lost a powerful friend but rather with the departure of the UK from the EU eurosceptic (trolling) politicians such as Orban or whoever is leading the Czech Republic will lose a reliable and powerful supporter. The UK was a constant nuisance and without it the EU will be more united.

In my view the UK’s leaving of the EU is a net benefit to the EU because it leaves Hungary, the Czech Republic without an influential mentor – though Germany’s appeasement policy will still enable them to continue to work against the EU from within in line with Russia’s strategies. But on balance they will be less influential within the EU than would be the case if UK had decided to stay.

aida
Guest

Brexit is potentially catastrophic for the UK if it goes through and hugely damaging to the EU and to the free world. We do not want ignorant under achieving xenohobes dictating what we do. But we are fighting back

7wiw
Guest

You misunderstand Brexit at your peril. Brexit just as the rise of Trump was a symptom of deeper problems, problems associated with globalized capitalism (free trade). The EU is a quintessential capitalist project born in the post-1945 golden age of capitalism when it seemed that growth will last forever. It’s not totally surprising that people who are losers of that system now want out or at least would vote for people who seem to understand their problems. I don’t care how an average voter will be affected by Brexit but politically UK’s departure was a net positive to the cohesion of he EU. If the EU has problems those have nothing to do with the UK – they have everything to do with tensions within the capitalist system which tensions affect Italy or France or Hungary in complex ways which are often not beneficial to masses of voters.

aida
Guest

You may be right. I have no idea. The decision is catastrophic. We must do our best to reverse the vote and to confront the Brexiteers.

Istvan
Guest

Well massive automation/robotics could have evolved under a global socialist system too. Actually if I recall my Karl Marx correctly he predicted ever increasing leaisure time under the magical state of communism due to machines. But he never invisioned a world where his and Adam Smith’s labor theory of value could be meaningless and it could take zero human labor to make a product, where much intellectual labor could be automated. Marx did envision a world with more leisure due to machines.

We are in a crisis of something far deeper than just capitalism 7wiw as we have known it. Possibly Wolfi one of our bloggers who is a devotee of science fiction can provide us with an appropriate novel to fit this evolving world we live in. But you are right Brexit and Trump are about deeper things.

Guest
From reading thousands of science fiction books I can tell you that the future never develops as expected! The quick success of mobile phones e g has not been expected! I remember being in Bejing in 1991 when everybody was talking about the Iridium project – satellite phones which turned out later to be and stay much too expensive … But I have a funny story to tell (think I reported on this already): Ercih Hanke, a real Communist, economy prof and friend of East Germany’s boss Honecker wrote a book “Ins nächste Jahrtausend” (Into the next Millennium) which was published in the early 1980s. In this book he extrapolated the economic numbers for East Europe aka the “Socialist Nations” – and made a lot of forecast: The production of the USSR would overtake the USA before the year 2000 … The Eastern Block would then pass the Capitalist West soon and maybe reach even “Real Communism” in 2025! He claimed that progress was fantastic when everybody knew that East Europe was surviving economically only by getting large transfusions of money from the West and was ecologically a catastrophe – their environment would be polluted beyond relief if they had… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Yes.
Witness findings of T.Piketi, comments/position of Buffet, Soros and other super rich warning of the consequences if the mainly economic/inequality problems are left to fester causing grave political ones. The Trump, Brexit etc episodes mentioned confirm.

Member

No one has mentioned it yet, but support for UKIP also collapsed in this election. They failed to pick up a single parliamentary seat, and their total votes dropped from 3.9 million in 2015 to 0.6 million this year. So much for the rise of far right-wing parties in Europe. Anyone know if this was even mentioned in the government-supported media in Hungary?

Guest

On the other hand the support for the DUP in Northern Ireland grew (never heard about them before) which look to me worse than Jobbik – just their ideas on sexuality (no abortions, no same sex relations, no sexual education …) are enough to make me throw up!
And Crazy May is thinking about collaboration with them!

aida
Guest
Wolfi, at our age one should be calm and be wise. Christ and his church set out rules which were rooted in the 10 Commandments. Tread with care before you claim some moral authority to override them. Thousands of years of moral teaching makes you throw up? The DUP is part of the North of Ireland. You probably do not understand its history. When the Catholic majority in Ireland wanted a Republic independent of Britain they came up against a fanatical Protestant British Establishment and the supporters of their outpost, Northern Irish Protestants. The British cut a deal by dividing Ireland. The North was to have a permanent Protestant majority. Those Catholics who lived there were second class and impoverished. Any expressions of dissent were crushed by the paramilitary Protestant B specials. In the 60s the Catholics restarted their war against the British. It was only when Major and Blair dicieded to take it seriously and talked to the IRA that there was a meaningful peace process. The supporters of the present day DUP are descendants of the Protestant community who did not have a much better time than the Catholics. Thank the earlier Brits. The problem with May’s latest… Read more »
Guest

Aida, if that is part of your Christian education:
their ideas on sexuality (no abortions, no same sex relations, no sexual education …)
Then I feel sorry for you …

PS:
On facebook one of my Englsih friends showed a DUP election poster from 40 or 50 years ago (can’t find it right now) – real clerical fascists imho …

PPS: From their wikipedia entry a few gems:
The party maintains that it is “pro-life” and members have campaigned strongly against any extension of abortion rights to the country, unanimously opposing a bill by Labour MP Diane Johnson to protect women in England and Wales from criminal prosecution if they ended a pregnancy using pills bought online.[87][88] They have opposed extra funding for international family planning programmes.
Some prominent DUP elected representatives have called for creationism to be taught in schools,

aida
Guest

Yes, I understand you do not agree with them. They are a perfectly Democratic Party. I would not want to be near them as I would not the Tories.

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