Anne Applebaum’s encounter with Mária Schmidt

In an inversion of normal practice, the transcript of an interview that Mária Schmidt gave to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum appeared on Schmidt’s blog, Látószög (Viewing Angle). If Schmidt was the interviewee, how could it happen that that she was the one who translated the interview into Hungarian and published it? János Széky, a columnist for Élet és Irodalom, expressed his astonishment on Twitter: “I just don’t get it.” If Applebaum arranges an interview with “Orbánist ideologist Mária Schmidt, spewing govt propaganda, why is it published on Schmidt’s own blog first?” Good question. As far as Anne Applebaum is concerned, the interview, which she initiated, was part of a research project she was planning for next year. In Mária Schmidt’s version, the interview took place because she “wanted to understand the changes in [Applebaum’s] thinking; why the independence and freedom of the region is no longer important to her.”

Schmidt obviously considered the publication of this interview to be politically significant, so she made sure that the right-wing Hungarian media was informed of its impending release. Identical articles appeared in Origo and Pesti Srácok, two of the most extreme right-wing media outlets of the Orbán government, articles which I suspect she herself wrote. Both had the same title: “Mária Schmidt: We are in a war of cultures.” In it we learned that Schmidt and Applebaum used to be good friends, but because Applebaum wrote several articles recently that “attacked the Hungarian government and the region” they became somewhat estranged. She didn’t neglect to mention that Applebaum was the recipient of the Petőfi Prize established by the Public Foundation for the Research of Central and East European History and Society in 2010, when Schmidt was on the board of the foundation. The day after the Origo and Pesti Srácok articles, the official government-edited Híradó, which is distributed to all media outlets, announced the interview’s availability. Naturally, her newly-acquired newspaper, Figyelő, also called attention to it. She made sure that the rather lengthy interview would reach a lot of people.

Anne Applebaum began the interview with her reactions to one of Mária Schmidt’s articles, “The grave digger of the left,” which appeared in April on the same blog in which she published the interview. The grave digger is, of course, George Soros. Applebaum was not exaggerating when she said in the interview that the accusations Schmidt piled on Soros are “absurd”; they have nothing to do with reality. But that’s not the only trouble. As I said in the first installment of my two-part review of this infamous article, “Schmidt’s piece is the result of shockingly bad research” or, even worse, an offering of “alternative historical facts.” There is no need to dissect this deplorable piece of scholarship again, but perhaps a quick read of my summary might be in order.

I must say that I’m not as charitable as Anne Applebaum, who thought highly of Schmidt as a historian, at least until she saw this blog post on Soros. I wouldn’t even call her a historian. She is a propagandist. I have never read anything by her that I consider to be a serious piece of scholarship. She has been working hard for years to come up with an alternative Hungarian history and a newly minted present reality. It is time to give up the idea of finding common ground with the Hungarian far right or, as Anne Applebaum called them, the Hungarian “neo-Bolsheviks.” Almost two years ago, Applebaum gave an interview to a Hungarian journalist whose writings at that time were supportive of the Orbán government. He cornered her at the GLOBSEC Tatra Summit Conference, where she expressed her reluctance to engage in political discussions with supporters of the government who refuse to admit the real nature of the regime. I think her instincts at that time were right. There is no use trying to have a rational conversation with someone like Mária Schmidt.

Anne Applebaum has been under attack ever since her op-ed piece appeared in the November 7 issue of The Washington Post on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. In this article she committed a mortal sin in the eyes of Viktor Orbán’s minions. She included their hero in a group of politicians—Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, and Jarosław Kaczyński—and called them neo-Bolsheviks who “have little to do with the right that has been part of Western politics since World War II, and … have no connection to existing conservative parties.” An accurate description of the current state of affairs.

The Hungarian reaction to this article was swift. Zoltán Kovács, the diligent spokesman for the prime minister’s office, announced that Anne Applebaum is suffering from “irrational Orbanophobia.” Instead of thinking of the one hundred million victims of communism, Applebaum used this date “as an opportunity to disparage democratic political parties and leaders—including Prime Minister Orbán—whom she dislikes, bizarrely comparing them to Bolsheviks.” What a disgrace to call him a neo-Bolshevik when in 1989 he “courageously stood up … to demand that the occupying Soviet troops leave the territory of Hungary.” With this article, Applebaum joins “an illustrious group, including the communist collaborator Paul Lendvai.”

The comments of Kovács were at least halfway civil, which one couldn’t say about the articles in government papers. According to János Csontos, one of the worst of the bunch at Magyar Idők, “if political baseness were part of the Olympic Games, The Washington Post would receive a gold medal” for allowing Applebaum to publish that article. Her epithet for Orbán and his populist colleagues is not the result of “stupid prejudice” and “intellectual torpidity.” Here “a new tortuous ideology is being prepared.” In another article, a right-wing commentator alleged that “Applebaum’s pills have rolled away,” a turn of phrase indicating that the person in question has lost his/her mind. 888.hu described her article as “massive screaming,” a term most often used to describe pigs just before they are slaughtered. Another article, also in 888.hu, described her as a woman prone to hysterics who “since her husband is no longer foreign minister [of Poland], has been like an offended beast of prey that circulates around the world.” The article referred to her as Mrs. Sikorski (Sikorskiné). It described her article in The Washington Post as a piece of “overarching triteness.”

As you can see, the loyal followers have been rushing to the aid of their leader. They are aghast. It is bad enough that some critics call Orbán a populist, a fascist, a Mafioso, but a Bolshevik? I suspect that Mária Schmidt felt compelled to join the choir and come up with a contribution of her own, which just happened to be an interview which wasn’t hers. This interview with Anne Applebaum was the perfect vehicle to show her loyalty to “the anti-communist hero,” as she calls him in the interview whom Applebaum dared to call a neo-Bolshevik.

November 30, 2017
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Farkas
Guest

Interesting how Applebaum might respond to this provocation by Schmidt, a provocation that is at once low, pathetic and disgusting. But perhaps she won’t respond at all, and leave Schmidt stew in her own juices on the principle of “okos enged, szamár szenved.” However, if that were the case, I think Applebaum would be making a serious mistake. Schmidt must not be allowed to get away with this, not in Hungary and not outside of Hungary. As a historian and journalist, Anne Applebaum is smart enough, intelligent enough. well informed enough and forceful enough to demolish Schmidt thoroughly enough at any time, so as to make Schmidt regret forever having stabbed her in the back with this provocation.

Michael Kaplan
Guest

Dear Professor Balogh, you are 100% correct about Maria Schmidt. She is not recognized as a reputable historian by serious academics outside of Hungary, let alone by many good historians in Hungary. Schmidt is similar to Lenin, she spits out agitprop and confuses that with history. The attacks on Lendvai by Kovacs are nonsense. Pal Lendvai has better credentials than Orban regarding “collaboration”.

Nwo
Guest

Applebaum has established herself as a very serious journalist/historian of post WWII Eastern Europe. The fact she’s also married to Radek Sikorski, former Polish conservative Foreign Minister and Minister of Defense is also interesting. Her criticisms of the Orban regime coming from someone of this pedigree must especially bother the more “international” FIDESZ apologists. Of course, she is correct. Neither POS in Poland nor FIDESZ have anything to do with proper conservatism (unlike the politics of Sikorski). These are radical parties, with limited or no faith in capitalism or the free market that claim the conservative label by hugging tight to their Christianity and their ethnic identification

Marty
Guest
“limited or no faith in capitalism or the free market ” Very good point. This is exactly one of their selling points actually. A huge part of their voters support PiS or Fidesz exactly because of the leftist policies like – in Fidesz’ case – cutting utility prices, in PiS acse introducing child benefits, increasing minimum wage, elderly health care programs etc.. As Slawomir Sierakowski asks Adam Michnik (in a terrible recent interview which revealed the complete cluelessness of the Polish liberals, Sierakowski came across as somewhat wiser but Michnik as a complete moron) why couldn’t the previous government in Poland introduce those? If the left-wing in Hungary or the moderate right-wing in Poland (where there is no substantial nominally left-wing politics) abandons frustrated working class voters, the smart right-wing will take them over. It’s not that capitalism has to be abandoned by the left-wing (it cannot be) but the left-wing must think of so-called “populist” policies which redistribute wealth to average folks (probably invest in public services rather than giving direct welfare, ie. money for nothing in return, for the poor, as this is not tolerated by rural, white people). Fidesz is seen as corrupt (PiS less so) but… Read more »
Hjallmar Egolites
Guest

Michnik is the Father of the rebirth of parties like ONR. He sowed the seeds and the Kremlin then sprinkled the water. But self-reflection was never a quality of those who think themselves intellectual giants.

Hjallmar Egolites
Guest

A lot of people “hug their ethnic identification”. Just look at BLM in this country – it’s not just about police brutality, at least not anymore. What do you think is the mission of places like ADL today? It surprises you that Eastern Europeans are huggers too? There is even a PADL there already. The only difference is that they haven’t evolved yet to get rid of caricatures of the past like ONR. But that is because someone else is making sure that caricature stays alive and well.

Ferenc
Guest

Frau Schmidt, as a true Court Hysterian, comment image
is only lying.
Like the rest of the bunch she feels comfortable with.

Marty
Guest

Orban is actually neo-Bolshevit. Orban is a pro-Russian, anti-liberal radical, a real anti-liberal revolutionary who tolerates private property because he’s not like those puritan Russians but he in reality he loves planned and dictated economy.

petofi
Guest

Forget political philosophy: Orban likes Control and Manipulation.
Substance is immaterial.

petofi
Guest

re: “…followers …rushing to the aid of their leader…”

Not quite so.
Let’s say, “Followers rushing to earn their keep,” shall we.

ambator
Member

I am sorry, but cannot help wondering if this distasteful wench is really worth all this fracas.

petofi
Guest

AND,
the Hungaricoes haven’t even started in on the fact that Applebaum is Jewish!
Oj vay tzurelai!

HAJRA BUNKO MAGYAROK!!!

petofi
Guest

I just went through Applebaum’s accreditation and professorial connections…

What on earth is she doing sitting down with Schmidt???

petofi
Guest

The words of my old teacher, Walter B. Mann, come flooding back: he maintained, already in 1966, that the world is engaged in a struggle between the idiots and the intelligent. We now know the result–the idiots are winning. In fact, their latest strategy is to pin the label FAKE on anything and everything they don’t understand or agree with.

Hjallmar Egolites
Guest

If you think that, chances are you are an idiot doing an intelligent person’s bidding against another idiot working for another representative of the intelligent.

petofi
Guest

It’s startling to note the similarities between Trump and Orban…

Hjallmar Egolites
Guest

Orban is much more intelligent. Trump is a bundle of emotions to be played by whoever tries. Perhaps I am wrong but if so then this would be the biggest con I’d at least have seen.

petofi
Guest

Every now and then I enjoy revisiting things Hungarico–it so reminds me of monkeys sitting high up in a tree, grooming one another!

Istvan
Guest
Applebaum has done an effective job on explaining to the intellectually inclined higher income American public some of the vicissitudes of Central Europe and Russia. Her new book on Stalin’s policies towards Ukraine has many insights. But her analysis of the evolution of the Putin regime is not in my opinion deep economically, she also tends to rah rah western democracy in a manner reflective of her elite upbringing attending one of the most expensive private east coast prep-schools, Sidwell Friends School, going on immediately to the Ivy League Yale and never looking back. It is very clear that American democracy and contemporary capitalism has worked for her and she sees that as being extended to Central Europe. It was amazing to me that she took Polish citizenship. Just two weeks ago she wrote for the Washington Post an article titled: “WHY NEO-FASCISTS ARE MAKING A SHOCKING SURGE IN POLAND.” Her conclusions had not one comment on the failures of the transition to a market economy in Poland, she blamed the Polish Catholic Church, the Trump administration in the USA, and far right groups supported by Russia. While those factors are clearly legitimate concerns, to not discuss how capitalism has… Read more »
Hjallmar Egolites
Guest

Laying the blame on the capitalist transition would implicate people too close to home and her politics. Also, I think she is right, this is not about economics. Further, the “right wing” parties of the Western Europe are only “right wing” by comparison with the “left wing” parties of Western Europe. This is a kind of a projection of Western standards (or, rather, Western elite/media standards) onto other countries.

Minusio
Guest

I’d still have liked to read the incriminated interview in the first place because there is something I cannot understand: “Anne Applebaum […] thought highly of Schmidt as a historian, at least until she saw this blog post on Soros.” That was apparently as late as last April. With serious historians, though, Mária Schmid has never had any standing whatsoever.

Frankly, there is nothing charitable about Applebaum’s view if, in fact, true. Quite and utterly incomprehensible to me.

Istvan
Guest
Well one needs to understand that Applebaum and Schmidt share something. That something is being writers of popularized history. Although Applebaum is far more accomplished and in my opinion ideologically acceptable than Schmidt. For the most part Applebaum does not write for historical journals and her books are not targeted at professional Central European experts. Just so you all don’t think I am taking cheap shots at Applebaum look at Sheila Fitzpatrick’s review of Applebaum’s newest book Red Famine. ( https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/aug/25/red-famine-stalins-war-on-ukraine-anne-applebaum-review ) Fitzpatrick wrote an academic history of Soviet policy towards peasants during Stalin’s rule. She treats Applebaum as a highly skilled popular historian, Schmidt is a largely unskilled popularizer of history, and in some cases maybe a falsifier of history. But both Schmidt and Applebaum want to create a politized historical narrative out of what they look at. I am more often than not in agreement with Ms Applebaum, but she is what she is. They both use history as a sword for political purposes. For example if you read our host Eva’s study: The road to isolation: Hungary, the great powers, and the successor states, 1919-1920 you find massive detail, historical fact, and synthesis. It was not a… Read more »
wrfee
Guest
Re: Applebaum vs the cadre of the S & K school of 21st century Eastern propaganda. The tenacious historian Applebaum in battle now with Schmidt and Kovacs and the rest of those new ‘thinkers’ represents the future realities of speaking truth to power and mendacity in the 21st. It looks to be a difficult battle on the ability to direct what kind of ‘information’ will flow in nations and communities. And whether or not that information is true or false. We will increasingly need dogged historians like Applebaum and informed citizens to confront the challenges the S&K’s of the world represent as more and more historians of the right, alt right, far right etc etc seek to use ‘facts’ that propagate stories that move on to become etched in stone like myth and legend. That for them will stand for what is ‘true’ in historical investigation. After what we have done after the War and what was accomplished it would appear the Schmidt and Kovacs school of history is bringing back the generation of that ‘dark’ information that has to be attacked for what it is with by all free societies. To let it go would give more impetus for… Read more »
Jean P
Guest

We are supposed to learn from history. What can we learn from fake history?

wrfee
Guest

Just my take Jean…

That there are those who have learned that they can put many things over on seeming fools who suck up anything put before them while being taught infeniously and nefariously to believe what is consistently drummed into them. After that even if truths hit them square in the face their discriminatory system is in fail mode , out of commission.
The mind then becomes a vestigial organ.

wrfee
Guest

Sorry fast fingers.. pls make that ‘ingeniously’

Minusio
Guest

“… dogged historians like Applebaum… : I thought we had just established that Applebaum is not a historian, at least not a scholarly one in the academic sense.

wrfee
Guest

Re: Applebaum not a historian

You know at bottom anybody can be a ‘historian’. One does not technically need a degree to explore and create stories of the past.

Of course there are degrees to which ‘historians’ are believed. The ancient historian Herodotus has the moniker the ‘Father of Lies’. But we’ve learned though to separate the wheat from the chaff on ‘historians’ namely some bs more than others when the critical eye bores in.

Ferenc
Guest

OT
‘Local media are simply disappearing’: how financial pressures are killing independent media
From Poland and Hungary to parts of Africa and South America, states are using commercial ruses to squeeze out liberal media.
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/nov/30/closure-of-nepszabadsag-hungarian-daily-highlights-threat-to-independent-media
(note: special Hungarian attention to the url!!)

Hjallmar Egolites
Guest

I am confused. Why do you think that the state should have to shell out $ to require public institutions to purchase a particular paper? Further, why do you think that the state should be required to advertise in your paper? The motivation of the state is irrelevant here. I find it offensive that you think that a newspaper – with a particular point of view – has, in fact, the right to be supported by public funds. Free press is important but as long as the government is not banning the press or ostracizing its readers, let the market decide whose papers sell and whose do not. Some of these papers had lived a very comfortable life at the teet of prior governments – perhaps it is time to see if they can survive on their own. Putting aside the fact that many receive foreign aid via various foundations, grants, etc.

Observer
Guest

HE
Your are VERY confused (I suspect you’ll be proven a troll soon).
Nobody says that a newspaper should “be supported by public funds”, so cut the “find it offensive” nonsense.
However the Orban mafia IS supporting their media empire with public funds (credits and advertising) as well as using the public media as a party one, the latter being misappropriation. This support runs in the billions completely distorting the market and is unmatched in the democratic world, e.g. the foreign aid you mentioned is in the millions (FYI – 1000 times smaller).
Finally, the Orban regime is eliminating all critical media by redistributing frequencies, pressuring advertisers to stay away, harassing journalists, withholding, manipulating or even falsifying information e.g. the “burning churches, bloody riots and mass murders in Finnland” piece last week.

Hjallmar Egolites
Guest

Your obnoxious and inspid response does not deserve a response in return other than to say the obvious: you sound like a frothing idiot and any point you were trying to make is lost in the blather.

Lumpy Lang
Guest

‘Bolshevik’ – the worst insult rightwing liberals and rightwing conservatives can think of to hurl at each other. 🙂

Hjallmar Egolites
Guest

Orban and Kaczynski are not Bolsheviks. Bolsheviks were actually a minority.

Guest

You spew too much nonsense here …
Actually Fidesz voters are/were also a minority – 40% of the votes mysteriously turned into a two thirds majority i parliament, ain’t it cute ?
Before you continue be advised that the readers here are not stupid Hungarians but people from all over the world!

Hjallmar Egolites
Guest

Every Hungarian I’ve met was quite intelligent. That readers here are “people from all over the world”, I have no doubt of.

Jean P
Guest
Guest

My wife who’s Hungarian thinks otherwise – she say that at least 70% of her “compatriots” are “bunko paraszt” – uneducated (not all their own fault) living in a glorious past.
Not too much OT:
The educated ones are leaving.
Just yesterday I talked to a member of my family (here in Germany) who has visited us often in Hungary. He works for the Deutsche Post and told me that he has half a dozen new colleagues who drive trucks for the mail service and are from Hungary.
They worked here for a few months in the summer of 2016 and now returned for permanent jobs – their employer and they are happy, they have official papers, job security and good living quarters.
He talked to one of them who was a teacher (!) in Hungary but got depressed by the job and the current government’s ideas – that he makes much more money as a truck driver and has a secure job with the post is an additional bonus for him …

Observer
Guest
I’m not enthralled with AA’s analyses of E.Europe, Polish connection or not. I remember my shock to see a Washington Post article of hers in late 2010. She was sharply critical of the Hun Socialist governments up to 2010 repeating the Fidesz media panels that: “Hungary’s Socialists ran up debt, evaded reforms..” as if there was no growth of 4-5%, or education reform under Mr. Magyar Bálint, or the Molnár healthcare reform plan, or the budget deficit cuts by the Gyrcsány gov in 2006/7. She also wrote that gov people “.. squirreled away money in foreign bank accounts.” Whatever she had in mind, it doesn’t qualify for comparison with the Orban mafia’s orgy of corruption after 2010. Didn’t she know about Simicska, Silver Ship, Happy End, Josip Tóth, Kaya Ibrahim, Csaba Schlecht from the 1998-2002 period? It good to see the AA has come around to see what was pretty obvious in 2010, when she wrote than that “In fact, the real problem with this (Orban) government is not its “fascism” but its uncontrolled contempt for its “liberal elite” and its “mainstream media.” A bit naive, wasn’t it? I sent her a mail (December 2010) along the above lines, also… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Eva,
I’m just as puzzled as you. Perhaps it’s the way public media works – they launch set of personalities, experts, talking heads and then have to use them for a time.
I would have many of these for breakfast. There are some smart pol analysts like Zoltan Lakner, Zoltan Ceglèdi, Robert Broun, not to forget the solid and witty Gabor Kuncze. But I often fear my blood pressure listening to TGM, Gabor Fodor and others who can’t separate the desirable from the possible. Only Làszlò Kèri admitted how wrong he was.
I wasn’t, except for the extent of the corruption to come, which went beyond my worst expectations.
I’ll send u my mail to AA.

Ferenc
Guest

I’m wondering if AA ever wrote about why first she ‘fell’ for OV&Co, later ‘fell out’ with giving the reasons and reflecting back on how she feels and thinks now about that first phase.
Such a writing could help people somewhere stuck on ‘the same journey’ by reaching asap the latest ‘real eyes open’ phase.

Observer
Guest

Ferenc
I attribute this to the combination of
– the naivite and simplistic approach of many Americans – good guys bad guys, and
– her being in the conservative milieu in Poland.

Observer
Guest

Russiangate aka the War Against Truth

Things seem to be heating up for Trump and his inglorious bastards.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/29/politics/randy-credico-roger-stone-wikileaks/index.html

Ferenc
Guest

OT – climate change and djT
Research has been done at the University of Freiburg about migration, in the 19th century more than 5 million Germans went to the United States. They fled for poverty, war and revolution, but also for the consequences of an unsettled climate. The climate change was caused by the enormous eruption of Mount Tambora, a volcano in Indonesia, and the period is labeled as “Little Ice Age”. One of the German emigrants was Friedrich Trump, the grandfather of djT, who arrived in New York in 1885 as a sixteen-year-old. The scientists estimate that the climate problems in that period are responsible for about 30 percent of the massive migration from Baden-Württemberg, in the south of Germany. So perhaps (30% chance) grandpa Trump was a 19th century climate refugee!!

Guest

Found the article here:
https://www.clim-past.net/13/1573/2017/cp-13-1573-2017.pdf
A lot of statistics …
Though this was just a “small wave” of emigration compared to the huge number of Irish which left because of the potato famine in the 19th Century.

And “little ice ages” happened before – the 30 years war was probably also based on this problem:
Not enough food …
Some people in Europe, the USA etc don’t know how lucky we are living in an age of unlimited food – though they only have to look to other continents to realise it!

Guest

It’s funny in a way:
If you look at the Fidesz policies then besides the corruption you find two ideas:
Nationalism and a kind of Neo-Bolshwism i e Socialism – if you combine those two …

PS and rather OT:

Today we visited another hospital. Looking as a visitor for a restroom near the cafeteria I found first just a sign “closed” but then was informed by some friendly person that I just had to go in one of the medical buildings which again looked rather run down but surprise:
They had toilet paper and paper towels!
Maybe that was because of its nearness to the Austrian border …

Observer
Guest

Wolfi , Guys
Illiberal, far right, Neil Bolshevicks, radicals, etc.

Why beat about the bush, the deeds and statements of this gang places them closest to fascists (definition by Prof. Robert Paxton) or more specific B.Magyar’s post communist mafia state.

petofi
Guest

Trump & the Jews:

Last January, I was on a cruise for a week. In the evening, we were sat at a table of four with jews from Toronto. The husband–the wife following–were rabid Trump followers for no better reason than that he was ‘good for Israel’. I was flabbergasted. I told them they’ll live to regret their support because Trump is the type who will bail and dump others when need be…

(And, of course, the same goes for the little pig-farmer.)

1956
Guest

I hope that Petofi is wrong regarding Trump. Use a little sympathetic understanding.

All people should unite to defend us from the aggression of the Kremlin.

No more leftist or rightist appeasement for the Kremlin.

Observer
Guest

1956
What Kremlin aggression? It’s our own crook who’s busy selling Hu interests to Putin. First of all Hun has to get rid of Orbán.

1956
Guest

Before Viktor Mihály Orbán or Kaczyński, there was the massive Active Measure agency in all eternity. See the events of 1956. The Kremlin manipulated us masterfully.

Even after Orban, we will be under attack.

Logically, all of us should ask why we are not united to the last newborn against the Kremlin.

It is not Don Quijoteish Orban, but the Kremlin that suffocates us.

Observer
Guest

Pls don’t offend the idealistic and honest to the bone if a bit crazy Don Quixote by comparing him to the thieving, lying deplorable.

Your Kremlin theme smacks of the someone else to blame syndrome – the Russians probe in many places, I suppose, but in few places have they succeeded like in Hun, because they found a very, very corrupt prick/s here ready to sell anything and everything.