The Hungarian media and the local Harvey Weinstein case

Enemies of globalization have been fighting a losing battle. The world is indeed a big village where a Hollywood scandal can easily spark a very similar reaction in far-away Hungary. This is exactly what happened. Only a few days after the news broke about Harvey Weinstein’s 30 years of abuse in Hollywood, Lilla Sárosdi, an actress in Budapest, accused a very famous theater director of trying to take advantage of her 20 years earlier when she was still a naïve admirer of the already famous László Marton.

Marton began his career in 1968 as a stage director for Vígszinház, a highly regarded theater in the Hungarian capital. In addition, he became an instructor at Színház- és Filművészeti Egyetem (Drama School). He is well known in theatrical circles abroad, both as a director and as an instructor. He is the recipient of all sorts of prizes, including the Kossuth and Mari Jászai Prizes. So, accusing him of sexual abuse is a serious affair. Sárosdi first told her story on Facebook, on October 14, without mentioning the sex offender’s name. Five days later, on October 19, she revealed his name as well.

The reaction was instantaneous. Within hours, Marton’s theater issued a statement, from which it was well nigh impossible to determine whether they condemned the accuser or the accused. Soon afterward, the Drama School issued a communiqué which basically said that “as long as an independent authority does not take cognizance of a legal infraction, the university has no right to proceed in the case.” However, the students and some of the faculty members of the university thought otherwise. They demanded the suspension of Marton’s activities at the university until the case is settled.

László Marton / Source: Origo / Photo: Gyula Czimbal

Meanwhile, television producers were madly looking for people from the theater world to comment on the general state of the profession. István Verebes, a former director, told the audience of ATV about the incredible power directors have over the actors. But he added that “László Marton cannot be suspended because he was the theater director of Vígszinház; he is an excellent stage director; and a lot of actors must thank him for their careers.” Verebes was not the only one to suggest that fame and/or talent is a license for sexual abuse. This was the excuse in the case of László Kiss, the famous swimming coach, a few years ago. As the Hungarian cliché goes, this or that man “already put something down on the table,” and therefore he is untouchable.

Marton’s first reaction was denial. He called Sárosdi’s accusation slander and promised to sue her. But within hours he changed his mind and suspended his professorship at the university. A day later he announced that he would step down from Vígszinház while his case is pending.

On October 21 Lilla Sárosdi was the guest on Alinda Veiszer’s show on HírTV. By that time there were two other women who, anonymously, told their stories via telephone. By early morning today, seven women had contacted 444.hu saying they were ready to share, in vivid detail, their experiences with László Marton.

All of the above is background for what I really want to talk about, which is how the centrally manipulated Hungarian pro-government media handles a case of this sort. Let’s start with the official news agency, MTI. It hasn’t published anything about the case. Not a word. Consequently, the state television’s news hasn’t carried the item either. Interestingly, Magyar Idők, however belatedly (about three days late), repeated Marton’s threat of a suit against Sárosdi and made reference to Marton’s temporary retirement from Vígszinház.

One pro-government internet site, however, has been lapping up the story. Since the story broke, Origo has published four articles about László Marton. During the summer, Ádám Matolcsy, son of György Matolcsy, chairman of Hungary’s central bank, purchased Origo, but for a while he left the old CEO in place. Six days ago Ádám Matolcsy took over the management of the publication. I don’t know whether Origo’s somewhat independent handling of the Marton affair has anything to do with the management change, but Origo doesn’t seem to care about the lack of “official news” from MTI.

In Origo the scandal is portrayed as a purely political affair. “Who is László Marton really?” Origo wants to know. He is described as a typical theater director of the Kádár regime. The author admits that, given the times, the theater under Marton’s direction was “upright,” although perhaps not as brave as it had been during the tenure of his predecessors. But the article admits that “Marton couldn’t be accused of fawning.”

From the second article, published this morning, we learn that “people on the liberal side are perceptibly unhappy about the fall of the sex offender.” Some of those who talked about the issue “consider it a great loss of a well-known hyper-liberal man.” Without mentioning names, the author accuses a number of well-known liberal commentators of trying to defend Marton by talking about “the defense of human dignity, the liberals’ favorite topic.” The article points out that only left-liberal governments showered prizes and awards on Marton. After giving a partial list of cases against Marton, the article ends with “This is László Marton, a great liberal theater director. That’s all. An ordinary sex offender. Period.”

After this article Origo published two more. One was a simple rehash of 444.hu’s article on the stories of the seven women who had so far come forward. A few hours later the paper reported that it had gotten in touch with the police. They wanted to know whether anyone had filed charges against Marton. The Budapest police refused to answer, referring to the law on the right of informational self-determination and the freedom of information. So, Origo gleefully remarked that “on the basis of the answer, we cannot rule out that, yes, the police are already following the case.” As, I would add, well they should.

October 22, 2017
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Aida
Guest

“Trying to take advantage of her 20 years earlier”. I have not seen the details of this lady’s accusation. Clearly the sensible course was for Marton to leave his posts, for the time being at leas.The response in the Hungarian media is predictable.

There will be a large number of similar stories of varying degrees of seriousness and credibility before the circus move on to new pastures. We should be careful to keep our sense of proportion. I do not want to take up space and your time by rehearsing the rather obvious pitfalls of doing otherwise.

Observer
Guest

Max

Pls be careful with the use of right wing. I hate to see the Adenauer, De Gal, Heath, Tatcher, Chirac, Merkel, etc being mixed up with the Orban fascists and Mafiosi.

Max
Guest

One of the main reasons MTI and the government-controlled media are so quiet about the case is that, Marton is actually a full fledged member of ‘Magyar Művészeti Akadémia’ (Hungarian Academy of Arts).

http://szinhaz.hu/2015/05/29/marton_laszlo_is_az_mma_tagja_lett

This is really embarrassing for the government as this so-called Academy has only properly vetted right-wingers and Fidesz-loyalists as members.

Now, – MTI might ask – how to handle a right winger sexual beast?

Member

“Now, – MTI might ask – how to handle a right winger sexual beast”

The Catholic Church, despite their disgusting record on pedophilia, have been given carte blanche by Orban to continue their crimes on another generation of innocents….so safe to say the answer to your question is “Ignore it, it doesnt fit the regimes narrative”.

Marty
Guest

Quite interesting that Marton is a member. I don’t think many people knew that. I mean he never was political and he indeed was an emblematic Kadar-era cultural bigwig.

Since he’s quite old he didn’t have to participate in this Fidesznik Academy. But he’s apparently still a conformist foremost (he had to be to succeed in the Kadar-Aczel cultural era) and so he applied for membership.

Ferenc
Guest

Following the Ocseny case there was started a petition – Protect Together the Boundaries of Humane Society! – https://www.peticiok.com/emberseges_tarsadalom (currently ‘only’ 8.846 signatures).
Following this case two petitions could be started:
1.Against Sexual Harassment and Abuse – Speak Out and Against to Avoid More, so about the case at hand.
2.Against Media Abusing Cases for Political Purposes – Do Not Accept, from Nobody, so about the Fid media (again) doing the most disgusting. Not focus on the subject at hand. But turn it in whatever way they like to (ab)use it for their own political gain.

Having watched least weeks’ 23hr M1 news, I can confirm that there was nothing-zero-nulla reports about this case (nor Weinstein’s).
What is for sometime going on (blown out of proportion) in M1 news is the Czeglédy case, about students not getting paid for work. On M1 News have seen various reports trying to link first MSZP and lately mostly Gyurcsany (because of given loans) to the case, even in parliament OV&Co have brought it up.
To me this seems a Disgusting Abuse of a Criminal Case for Political Purposes by you know who have been liking this method…

tappanch
Guest

Orban is lucky again – demonstrations are cancelled today due to the heavy rains.

So I have time to calculate.

The number of people who donated 1% of their personal income tax to one of the 31 Fidesz-recognized religious denominations or churches dropped by 12.5% last year.

2016 tax year: 968,169
[2015 tax year: 1,106,081] tax payers.

Roman & Greek Catholic: 55.47% [56.78%]

Calvinist: 21.72% [21.09%]
Lutheran: 5.95% [ 5.76%]
“Hit” 1.90% [ 3.54%] – “Hit” took a big hit.
10 other Protestant churches: 5.82% [ 5.75%]

Hare Krishna: 4.20% [ 3.58%] – Krishna is popular

5 Buddhist denominations: 3.11% [ 2.54%]
3 Jewish denominations: 1.04% [ 0.95%]
6 Orthodox Christian churches: 0.41% [ 0.37%]
2 Muslim denominations: 0.12% [ 0.09%]

tappanch
Guest

Further calculations.

Average monthly GROSS income of the taxpayers who donated 1% of their personal income taxes to churches:

2015: 217204 Ft = 700 euros = $747
2016: 236808 Ft = 760 euros = $808

tappanch
Guest

Compare the data above with the KSH “gross monthly earnings of employees”:

2015: 247924
2016: 263171

http://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xstadat/xstadat_eves/i_qli012b.html

Janet Kelley
Guest

Thank you for reporting on this story.

Observer
Guest
Back to the subject at hand : Aida Note that one of the cases involving Márton is reportedly two years old. I’m certain this has been his practice for decades and with pretty high scoring rates. Picture this handsome and eloquent man, a high priest in the intangible world of arts with lots of wild eyed wannabes around. The current situation must be pretty bad in my model: – the sex harassment is basically an abuse of power, – it is encouraged in a political environment where the powers cannot be questioned, let alone held accountable, – the status, role model of women is a lower, inferior one – the media is mum about anything uncomfortable, – society is too politicized to acknowledge and address even basic human problems. Need proofs? Witness the gender inequality policies, numbers in Fid political circles, the voting down of the international gender equality regulations, the Fid toleration of appalling violence and abuse (e.g. the bashing of wife’s head against a banister by a Fid politician), the equally appalling rationalizing of the violence – “..a woman has first to earn respect by bearing three, four children …”. I bet that there are many “career couches”… Read more »
Aida
Guest
I made it clear I knew nothing about the alleged abuse in this case. .i have pleaded for proportionate response. But since abuse of power by men seems to excite so much attention may I mention a small point? I would commend you to watch Salome, an opera by Richard Strauss. The libretto was almost entirely Oscar Wilde’s play, in French, translated into German. It is about a woman who is clearly guilty of a revolting piece of sexual harassment. When her assertive sexual advances were rejected by St John the Baptist,she performs a lewd dance for her step father to persuade him to fall in with her wishes to revenge kill “Jonatan”. When she has the poor man’s head brought to her she kisses his bloodsoacked frozen lips. Her step father, for whom this much liberation was a tad over the top, orders her to be killed. Vide: the painting by Caravaggio in St John’s Cathedral in Valletta. The modern commentary on BBC of this repulsive story is that it is an early example of the liberation of women movement, because she is so assertive. Are there different standards for female sexual harassment and for the male variety? In… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Aida
You astonished me now, how can u limit the criteria of sexual abuse (and harassment?) to 1. underage and 2. violence or threat of violence?
Do I really leave out the majority of cases in the developed world which take place in the workplace/power structure?

On Matron: I supposed right, more women have comes out in his case.

Salome/Strauss – try the production with Maria Ewing, smashing, dramatic play and singing. The O.Wilde piece has nothing to do with women’s rights, role in society, imho.

Aida
Guest

Observer,
I did not limit the criteria, but ask for a sense of proportion. Incidentally, by spending time and media attention on the trivial or the almost trivial we take our eyes of the ball where it matters: children and sex coupled with violence on the victim?
Salome is a clear case of grotesque sexual harrassment perpetrated by a powerful if immature woman. It has something to do by men’s rights not to be murdered for not submitting to her sexual advances. I would expect that interpretation to be accepted without dissent, since it is obvious. However when last evening I watched a summary of the opera on BBC the commentary was that this work was a significant staging post in the advancement of women because of the hugely welcome assertiveness of the little bitch.
Du calm, mes amis.

Observer
Guest

Sorry

…do you really leave out …

wrfree
Guest

Re: Mr. Marton ..theater director

It would appear his own art will give him pointed reflection perhaps directing himself to ruminate on the responsibilties of power not only outside of himself but also within. As a critic of one of his plays noted ‘words uttered publically have elemental power , and that is why people in power, of all times, dread them’.

Observer
Guest

Tappanch. Economy

Orban was unlucky, his tricks in calculating the Gov Debt were rejected by Eurostat and now the regime has to include the debt in the various sub gov levels, e.g. Eximbank, MNB Foundations, etc. I’m sure there’s more hidden in the state healthcare, edu, etc subsystems, but even with this compromise the GGD will be officially 76+% GDP,
BUT only after the 2018 elections!

Hungary’s debt balance is much worse now than in 2010, taking into account the confiscated 2500 billion pension funds adding 9% to the net debt and the abolished contributions adding another 1+%.
Under the pre 2010 conditions the GGD would have been more than 90% GDP.

Mark
Guest

I used to believe the way news was handled in Hungary was typical of authoritarian regimes in countries like this one, but unfortunately these days it seems more and more similar to the way it’s handled in the US, too.

Thereality
Guest

Here is an excellent Hungarian discussion show about the case:

wpDiscuz